chapter  7
69 Pages

Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot, or The Knight of the Cart

ByWilliam W. Kibler

Although nearly all of what Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote concerning Arthur is believed to be unsubstantiated and fictional, his contemporaries (and perhaps Geoffrey himself ) believed that he was writing history. Chrétien de Troyes was the first writer who consciously used the myth of Arthur as the basis for long fictional narratives. Lancelot, like most of Chrétien’s works, had its roots in the soil of the British Isles. In particular, it seems related to a Celtic abduction tale, the aithed, in which a mysterious stranger claims a married woman, makes off with her through a ruse or by force, and carries her off to his otherworldly home. Her husband pursues the abductor and, after overcoming seemingly impossible odds, penetrates the mysterious kingdom and rescues his wife. However, this material is only distantly related to the Lancelot as we have it-the role of Lancelot himself, for example, is nowhere to be found-and the precise manner by which the Celtic materials reached the French-speaking world is unclear.