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The Lion, Yvain, and the Lesson

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Oklahoma State University


Word Count: 1505

Alexa Hernandez

HONR 1000

Dr. Weimer

March 5, 2019

        In Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, by Chrétien de Troyes, the main character, Yvain, undergoes a big psychological transformation throughout the novel, and the main reason is due to the Lion he meets on his journey. The young, careless, thrill-seeking Yvain is transformed into an adult and a knight that undertakes a major responsibility while all the while taking care of others. Through his many trials and tribulations, such as being ridiculed by his fellow knights and still feeling inferior even after defeating many antagonists, the Lion is the only one that effectively teaches Yvain what it means to be a true knight.

When Yvain was first introduced into the story it can be very easily determined that he is a young, up and coming knight ready to make a name for himself. While hearing the story of his good friend and successful knight, Calgrenant, being defeated by another knight, he vows to avenge his fallen comrade despite the amount of work and grit it would take. Yvain seems more determined and eager than anyone else in the town to go off to battle. He has such high hopes and expectations of how his life is going to change once he goes and becomes a true knight in battle, not realizing that beating someone does not automatically equal a true knight. However, his moment of excitement is quickly met with ridicule by Sir Kay, an older knight, who tells him that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a true knight. “Are you leaving tonight or tomorrow? Do let us know, fair sir, just when you begin this ordeal, so we all can escort you. And if your dreams are bad tonight, Perhaps you'd better stay home" (600-610). He is physically capable of being a knight but yet somehow he was singled out by the other knights. Upon hearing Sir Kay’s comment, Yvain takes it to mean that he is not strong enough, but later on, he learns the true meaning of his statement. It becomes apparent that Yvain is seen as a little brother in the eyes of his fellow knights despite the fact that he is of the same age and ability as others. These feelings of inferiority that he has due to this experience leads him to do whatever he can to prove his worth, including sneaking off in the night to go about becoming a true knight alone. This is the first indication that young Yvain isn't emotionally and mentally mature. This is apparent since sneaking off in the middle of the night to engage in combat without prior planning or preparation just to prove a point is not a very mature choice. Yvain's pride and self-esteem is heavily predicated on how he is viewed by others.

After successfully venturing out by himself and killing the knight who defeated Calgrenant, Yvain marries Calgrenant’s wife and takes over the land; which are responsibilities that he is not ready for due to his lack of self-worth and confidence. Soon after his victory, the knights of King Arthur's court come to challenge The Lord of the land, unbeknown to them that it is now Yvain. Yvain quickly defeats Sir Kay and then reveals his new identity to his fellow knights boastfully. He has now gained the approval and recognition of his peers that he so desperately craved at first. However, that is not enough for Yvain. He is convinced by Sir Gawain that "a woman can easily fall out of love and there's nothing wrong in hating anyone who turns worthless as soon as he's lord of the realm. You shouldn't be lazy, but throw yourself into tournaments” (2494-2507). The other knights agree and say that a knight is not a knight if they are not loyal and pleasing to their wives. Now with the fear of being seen as a coward weighing on him yet again, Yvain feels the need to prove himself to his peers again and now his wife. She eventually agrees to let him go venture out again on the condition that he returns no later than a year’s time, warning him that "My love will turn to hate...and this is the truth, I'll tell you no lies. You can break your word. I'll keep mine” (2564-2569). Yvain, being the feeble minded, man-child that he is, doesn't understand the importance of keeping his word, fails to return home in time. It is very clear that Yvain needs to be respected by others in order to be satisfied but he can only obtain that through brutality and fear, whereas a true leader is respected for loyalty and responsibility and needs no recognition or praise at all. Although Yvain had many victories in battle, gained a kingdom to himself and became the Lord of the Land, he still felt inferior because of his subconscious need to please his wife.



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