Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Yvain rescues the lion

Yvain, the Knight with the Lion (French: Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion) is a romance by Chrétien de Troyes. It was probably written in the 1170s simultaneously with Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, and includes several references to the action in that poem. The main character, Yvain, is derived from the historical Owain mab Urien.



In the poem, Yvain seeks to avenge his cousin Calogrenant who had been defeated by an otherworldly knight Esclados beside a magical storm-making stone in the forest of Brocéliande. Yvain defeats Esclados and falls in love with his widow Laudine. With the aid of Laudine's servant Lunete, Yvain wins his lady and marries her, but Gawain convinces him to embark on chivalric adventure. Laudine assents but demands he return after one year, but he becomes so enthralled in his knightly exploits that he forgets his lady, and she bars him from returning. Yvain goes mad with grief, is cured by a noblewoman, and decides to rediscover himself and a way to win back his Laudine. A lion he rescues from a serpent proves to be a loyal companion and a symbol of knightly virtue, and helps him defeat both a mighty giant and three fierce knights. After rescuing Lunete from being burned at the stake, she helps Yvain win back his wife, who allows him to return with his lion.

Yvain and his lion defeat the dragon, (French, 15th century)


Chrétien's source for the poem is unknown, but the story bears a number of similarities to the hagiographical Life of Saint Mungo (also known as Saint Kentigern), which claims Owain mab Urien as the father of the saint by Denw, daughter of Lot of Lothian. The similarities suggest the works had a common Latin or Celtic source.[1] Yvain survives in seven manuscripts and two fragments. It comprises 6,808 octosyllables in rhymed couplets. The first modern edition was published in 1887 by Wendelin Foerster.

Yvain had a huge impact on the literary world; German poet Hartmann von Aue used it as the basis for his masterpiece Ywein, and the author of Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain, one of the Welsh Romances included in the Mabinogion, recast the work back into its Welsh setting. The poem exists in several versions in different languages, including the Middle English Ywain and Gawain.


  1. ^ Duggan, Joseph J. (1987). In Chrétien de Troyes; Burton Raffel, Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, pp. 214–216. Yale University Press.


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