Places: Yvain

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First transcribed: Yvain: Ou, Le Chevalier au lion, c. 1170 (English translation, c. 1300)

Type of work: Poetry

Type of plot: Arthurian romance

Time of work: Sixth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Carlisle Castle

*Carlisle YvainCastle (CAHR-lil). Castle of King Arthur where Calogrenant narrates the tale of his own disgrace. The knight Yvain wishes to avenge Calogrenant and decides to take on this task as a personal challenge. As with Chrétien’s other romances, this castle represents chivalry and grandeur–a place at once mystical and real that still exists in the great border city between England and Scotland.


Spring. Yvain mortally wounds the knight who guards it. He returns later, only to find the maiden who saved him imprisoned there. It is a place of circumstances that defy logic and appeal to the imagination. It is a part of the world, yet it is enigmatic.


Forest. Sylvan location in which Yvain goes mad after breaking his promise to his beloved. The setting is analogous to Yvain’s mind: Just as he exists in a state of madness here, the forest represents the instability of life and a mind that is not functioning properly. The deep woods also seem to reflect the inner workings of Yvain’s mind. In the context of the work, a battle in the deep woods signifies the struggle between good and evil, or stability and madness, with the lion symbolizing the first image and the dragon, the latter. The honorable knight chooses to help the lion that repays him with much loyalty.


Tower. Setting of the “Dire Adventure,” in which Yvain, with the help of his trusted companion the lion, vanquishes the two evil beings that guard the young women in the tower. The setting is of unknown origin.

BibliographyFrappier, Jean. “Chrétien de Troyes.” In Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, edited by Roger Sherman Loomis. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1959. A good starting point for a study of Chrétien. Deals mainly with sources and characterization.Lacy, Norris J. The Craft of Chrétien de Troyes. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1980. Describes all of Chrétien’s romances and argues that the meaning can be determined by a comparison of similar episodes. Chapter 3, which covers characterization and symbolism, suggests that the lion in Yvain is a symbol of Christ.Loomis, Roger Sherman. Arthurian Tradition and Chrétien de Troyes. New York: Columbia University Press, 1949. Shows how Chrétien’s romances were influenced by Irish and Welsh mythology. Although Loomis’ conclusions have been challenged, his work is still very stimulating.Noble, Peter S. Love and Marriage in Chrétien de Troyes. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1982. Examines the theme of love and marriage in all of Chrétien’s romances, concluding that Yvain’s situation is different from that of Erec in Chrétien’s earlier romance. Laudine is not at fault; rather, Yvain is entirely blameworthy, and he must undergo his trials alone–he, not the marriage, needs testing.Topsfield, L. T. Chrétien de Troyes: A Study of the Arthurian Romances. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1981. This allegorical or symbolic interpretation of Chrétien’s work shows how Yvain’s first quest is successfully accomplished when love makes him whole. The tension in the poem is not between knighthood and love, but between the rival worlds of Laudine and Arthur.
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