Article published in:Reinardus: Yearbook of the International Reynard Society
Edited by Richard Trachsler and Baudouin Van den Abeele
[Reinardus 29] 2017
► pp. 120–141
Hawks and knights
(De)constructing knightly identity through animals in French chivalric literature (12th–13th century)
This article explores the role of hunting birds in the definition of the knight in twelfth- and thirteenth-century French chivalric literature. After some introductory remarks on the identity-shaping role of hawks in the hunting practices of medieval aristocracy, the article focuses on the multi-faceted identity correlation between knights and hawks across romance and chansons de geste. The analysis of episodes drawn from various texts provides evidence of three levels of this human/animal relationship: the use of hawks as aristocratic and chivalric badges (Octavian, Enfances Vivien, Guillaume d’Angleterre); the use of hawks as visual doubles of knights (Anseÿs de Metz, Erec et Enide, Lai de Yonec); the representation of the link between knight and hawk as a flow of actions and values going in both directions of the human/animal divide (Jean Renart’s L’Escoufle). Through this analysis, the study demonstrates that chivalric literature established between knights and hawks a multi-layered and two-fold identity shift, which contributed to convey the ambiguities of the chivalric ethical model.
Published online: 26 April 2018