Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Erec and Enide -- mystery solved!

Today in my seminar on Chivalry we were discussing Chretien de Troyes' romance Erec and Enide. I asked my students to explain a famous episode in the romance, in which Erec, an accomplished knight now slacking off because he is happily married, decides to go on quest to prove himself, and drags his wife Enide along with him. Erec, in what appears to be some obscure test of loyalty, requires Enide to remain entirely silent, and gets upset when she does perfectly natural things like warn him of approaching enemies.

What is he doing, I asked?

One student supplied a very convincing answer: "It's like today when a man and woman are in a car and get lost, and the woman suggests that they stop and ask them for directions and the man refuses."

A bolt of enlightenment! My reaction was that if they had roadmaps in the 12th century, Chretien could have inserted it into the narrative and we would perfectly understand what was going on.

Image: The cover from a recent translation published by Yale.

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