Chretien de Troyes - Lancelot: The Knight of the Cart

Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet who flourished in the late 12th century was probably the greatest medieval writer of Arthurian Romances.  He died around 1185.

Little is known of his life, but he seems to have been from Troyes, or at least intimately connected with it, and between 1160 and 1172 he served at the court of his patroness Countess Marie de Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, perhaps as herald-at-arms.  His work on Arthurian subjects represents some of the best of medieval literature.

Chrétien also has the distinction of being the first writer to mention the Holy Grail and the love affair between Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot.

Chrétien has been termed “the inventor of the modern novel”.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  This very method of having a three definite parts including the build in the middle leading to the climax of the story is in large part why Chrétien is seen to be a writer of novels six centuries before novels existed.


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From Audio Literature Odyssey:

 1aLancelot: The Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes (13 parts)

 1b.  Lancelot, or The Knight of the Cart (another Audio Version)

When Queen Guinevere is abducted by the villain Meleagant, Lancelot races to rescue her.  He suffers many trials, fights countless foes, and risks his reputation for the woman he loves more than his own life.  Will he survive and save his Queen?


Lancelot was one of four Arthurian Romances written by the twelfth century poet Chrétien de Troyes about 1170.  Chrétien borrowed the story of Arthur from Celtic mythology and set his legendary court in his time.  This work was originally written in French and was translated by W.W. Comfort into English in 1914.  Comfort introduces the literary landscape of the French poet de Troyes in order to reveal how much those of the Round Table were steeped in a chivalric code, which was more idealistic than realistic, but still fascinates nonetheless.


The story begins with a discussion of courtly love and chivalry and how they impact the story. Also contrasts the two heroic knights Gawain, who is rational, and Lancelot, who is emotional. Both are renowned in battle and beloved of King Arthur, yet Lancelot is love sick for Queen Guinevere. Gawain is not willing to debase himself in order to save the Queen, whereas Lancelot will do anything.


From LibriVox: 

2.  Yvan or the Knight with the Lion by Chretien de Troyes (9 sections)


In one of his King Arthur stories, Chrétien de Troies tells about Yvain, the Knight with the Lion.

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.