Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

Written By M.T. Anderson

Based on the Twelfth-Century Epic by Chrťtien de Troyes

Illustrated By: Andrea Offermann

Published By: Candlewick Press

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I love mythology, whether it be tales of Titans and Gods, Norse deities or British tales of the Knights of the Round Table.  In fact, I have always enjoyed tales about King Arthur and his Knights.  So when an opportunity to check out a graphic novel set in just this period of chivalry, I couldnít resist.

                Yvain: The Knight of the Lion is based on the epic poem written by Chretien de Troyes in the twelfth century.  It follows Sir Yvain as he sets out on an adventure from King Arthur's court and, in a bid for glory, fights a local lord in a battle to the death.  Upon seeing Lady Laudine, wife of the Lord he has slain, Yvain falls deeply in love.  He asks Lunette, her handmaid, to help him win her hand.  Unfortunately, as soon as it is won, Yvain is persuaded to leave her side by the other Knights of the Round Table.  Laudine grants him a yearís leave, but Yvain is gone much longer and his Lady denounces him.

                Yvain falls into a deep depression and is much more like a beast than a man when he comes upon a fierce battle between a lion and a dragon.  The lion puts up a valiant fight, but the dragon is certain to win without Yvainís help.  After the dragon is defeated, the two become inseparable, protecting each other from danger.  Yvain travels from land to land, helping others under the guise of The Knight of the Lion, for once forgoing glory in the name of anonymity. 

                But when his wanderings and aide take him back to King Arthur's kingdom, will Yvain be forced to fight one of his brethren to the death for the honor of a woman he barely knows?  And what of the woman he loves so deeply?  Will Lady Laudine ever accept Yvain back into her life?

                According to notes from the author, extensive research was conducted on this story and its locale, the author even going so far as to pour water on the fabled storm stone and actually achieving a rain shower.  However, it would seem that M.T. Anderson tried to keep as much to the Chretien de Troyes poemís version of Yvain as possible.  This was an excellent choice as many of the tales of King Arthurís Knights show them only as heroic and not as normal human beings who are inevitably fallible.  In this graphic novel, Yvain is not a perfect man, but a man who initially values glory over virtue and makes mistakes that eventually change him into a better man.  This more realistic tale helps the reader to equate with the character better.

                The notes from the illustrator explain how Andrea Offermann came up with ideas for the illustrations of locales, tapestries within the castles and clothing and armor warn by the characters.  The illustrations may seem boxy or sketch-like at times, but I thought the more detailed illustrations very well done.  The color palette was well-chosen, with bright colors during happier times and a steady does of grays, stark whites, browns and blood reds for more desperate times. 

                I enjoyed Yvain: The Knight of the Lion and found both the storyline and the artwork quite entertaining.  I think this would be a perfect way to introduce a teen to the legendary Knights of the Round Table that would probably be a bit more accurate than the myths that hype these people into being somewhat above behaving badly.  We all know that humans are capable of making mistakes and surely not all of Arthurís knights could be that virtuous without learning from past errors in judgment.  Definitely an enjoyable read!


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