Erec and Enide: heroism

For the study of this text, Erec and Enide, we will use the edition of Jean-Marie Fritz, according to the manuscript BN. En 1376, The book de Poche, “Gothic Letters” No. 4526, 1992. Here is the fifth part of the study: Heroism and anti-heroism.

erec and enid Heroism and anti-heroism

The novel of chivalry, of which Erec and Enidus is the first example, features an eponymous hero, characterized by a set of heroic qualities that make him an ideal.

A "given" heroism

Erech is an exemplary knight, first of all by birth: he is “the Lac son” (v. 19); that is enough to define it. Even before having accomplished any feat whatsoever, he is esteemed by the court and considered a valiant:

      De la Tauble Reonde estoit,
      Mout grant los en la cort avoit.
      Of so much con it i ot esté,
      Isn't a knight more bored;
      And was both beax and nule terre
      It is no longer beautiful to quarrel with him.
      Mout estoit beax and prouz and genz,
      Did not have .xxv. anz.
      Onques nuns hom de son aage
      Ne fu de greignor vasselage.

Moral quality is therefore not acquired; it is present from birth, naturally; it manifests itself in physical beauty, as in Homeric antiquity ; one cannot be both counterfeit and heroic at the same time (Guivret le petit could be a counterexample…), nor beautiful and wicked at the same time…

A heroism to conquer

If it is a "given", heroism is also perpetually to be proven and improved. Erech must first fight the proud knight, and obtain the hawk for the vavasseur's daughter, Aenidus. The fight always takes place in the same way: the challenge, the attack on horseback with the spear; then the sword duel. Such a fight, which can last for hours, requires both exceptional physical resistance - the heroes, often wounded, lose bloodshed and the blows dealt are terrible - and moral and intellectual qualities: composure, lucidity. , but also courtesy. You do not kill a devastated adversary; one does not humiliate a vanquished. Moreover, the vanquished submits without the slightest reluctance to the demands of the victor: he tells him his name, and admits his defeat. Respect for the word given is also a categorical imperative.

But nothing is ever acquired definitively: witness the knight Ydier, son of Nut, who believed that he had acquired possession of the hawk for his lady, and had to renounce it; witness Mabonagrain, who after so many victories, had to bow to Erec ...

Erec himself almost forgot this law: it is the period of "recreating".

Only the King, perhaps, has nothing more to prove: Arthur never fights himself, and Erec's adventure ends with his coronation.

Heroes and anti-heroes

during his adventures, Erec will meet two kinds of adversaries:

  • other knights, who share his values and respect them, even if they may, for a time, oppose him: this is the case with Ydier, Guivret or Mabonagrain. Once defeated, but not killed, they admit their defeat, and join the Court.
  • Opponents who in no way respect the values of chivalry; these are generally doomed to death because they cannot be recovered.

The "good" opponents

  • Ydier, victim of his pride
  • The three pillaging knights: they do not attack him together, because
          So is costume and us
          That dui knight has a dawn
          Should only have one join,
          That if he was invaded,
          See how he was betrayed.

    This will not prevent Erec from killing them one after the other ...
  • Count Galoain sins first out of pride, believing himself to be the most beautiful (v. 3227-3228), then coveting his host's wife (v. 3289); and finally out of foolishness, allowing himself to be deceived by Enidus… Last but not least, he sends an entire army in pursuit of the couple when they escape…
    But he will be touched by remorse when he is injured (v. 3628-3652).
  • Guivret is at first extremely aggressive and violent; but, defeated by Erech, he becomes his unwavering friend ...
  • Finally, Mabonagrain

The "bad" opponents

  • The five knights; these combine greed, violence, and cowardice; Erec will not hesitate to kill them, except the last one, who is fleeing.
  • The giants who attacked the "virgin of the forest" and her friend. The first sign of their barbarity is that they do not have the knight's arms:
          The rim did not hope
          Escuz, do not espées esmolues,
          As long as they are only built,
          and corgies andui held out ...

    In the meantime, Erec challenges the giants, and kills them one after the other.
  • The count of Limors wants to take advantage of Erec's injury to marry Enid, without her consent. And when she resists, he does not hesitate to strike her (v. 4820 and 4836). Faced with such brutality, Erec, coming to himself, no longer has to respect any of the rules of chivalry:
          This leaves cort where he sees her,
          And proud among [the chief] the tale
          If he escervates her and confronts her
          Li sans and the brains fly.


Chivalrous heroism, made up of physical courage, moral uprightness and altruism, therefore comes under a code of honor; it will be noted that such values are here perfectly profane; at the very moment when the 1time and th Crusades, where we ended with the Cathar heresy, Christian values seem strangely marginal in chivalrous ideology ...