Although he didn't invent the Round Table or the tales of its fellowship, the twelfth-century poet Chrétien de Troyes was the first to recount in verse the adventures of Arthur's knights. He is also chiefly responsible for establishing the importance of the Arthurian legend in European literature and assuring its survival into modern times. This sensitive translation of Chrétien's verse narratives features four romances, including those of Erec and Enide, Cligés, Yvain, and Lancelot.
Erec and Enide's tale illustrates how honor can be restored to a troubled relationship through acts of public duty. Cligés' tale involves a forbidden relationship, in which a knight falls in love with his queen—who is also his uncle's wife. The story of Yvain explores the effects of long-term absence on a questing knight's marriage. Lancelot's adventure, the rescue of Guinevere, is Chrétien's enduring contribution to the tradition of Arthurian myth. The version included is a principal source of Mallory's popular Le Morte d'Arthur. Lively and accessible, these four romances form the most complete expression of the ideals of French chivalry by a single author.