Fairy damsels met in forest wide
By knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
Lancelot or Pelleas, or Pellenore.
Chivalric Romance is the original romance genre, back from the days when "romance
"work written in the vernacular". If you're looking for the sort of romance you might find in a Chivalric Romance, see Courtly Love
; the association is what produced the current commonest meaning of romance.
Plentifully supplied with kings and queens
, knights doing noble deeds on the behalf of
the beautiful Damsel in Distress
, wandering the lands in search of quests
, fighting dragons
, wild men of the woods
, or other knights
(often in tourneys
, with the prize being the hand of the princess
Though they differ wildly in their realism, many of them include fantastical elements. The later ones start to turn into the genre Fantasy
, in that they include tropes that were not believed in by the writer or audience — not even as possibilities in a far-off land.
Ones about King Arthur
and his knights (the Matter of Britain) are among the best known, but in medieval times, there were also those about Charlemagne (the Matter of France) and Alexander the Great
(the Matter of Rome). The association could be rather loose, with tales from the Trojan War
falling into the Matter of Rome, and despite the claim that these encompassed all romances, in fact there were "non-cyclical", independent romances, such as the Constance
tales (all with the same basic plot as Geoffrey Chaucer
used), and the tales of El Cid Campeador, the national hero of Spain. If the era was earlier, do not expect any resemblence to the actual earlier society; Alexander the Great invariably appeared as a feudal king. This is how King Arthur ended up a Knight in Shining Armor
They obviously are Older Than Print
and found only in manuscripts. This has produced a great deal of variation in the texts. Recognizably the same tale appears with great changes in locations and even the names of the characters.
was written as a Deconstruction
of the genre and is the sole memorial of quite a number of these once famous knights.
Many tales later collected as Fairy Tales
or ballads are first found in romances, although we do not know how close they are to the Oral Tradition
of their own times. This usage is also the root of the names Ruritanian Romance
, and Planetary Romance
, and is why the term is sometimes used for tales of magic and larger than life character, such as Shakespeare's late comedies, which are sometimes called his romances.
Chivalric romances having their own pages
Tropes found in chivalric romances:
- Animal Companion: Knights who help a lion often acquire it as a companion.
- Anachronism Stew: A few — very few — authors notice that maybe customs weren't the same in The Middle Ages as in the time when the romance was set, but that never influences their writing. This is why King Arthur and his knights got to be Knights in Shining Armor, but the biggest impact may have been on the Matter of Rome. Wooing and warfare during The Trojan War featured knights and Courtly Love; Alexander the Great is a feudal king; the empress of Rome dresses like a medieval queen. In the romance Octavian, the Emperor Augustus and his wife have difficulty conceiving, so they build an abbey to the Virgin Mary.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: As a corollary, the names of the gods might have been preserved, but the religious practices are Christian.
- Arranged Marriage: Arranging for the heroine to marry a kitchen boy can backfire if he's a rightful king in hiding.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Wishing for a child from God or the Devil is a mistake.
- Bears Are Bad News: One monster you can meet in the woods.
- Blue Blood: Many, many, many characters. That was, after all, the target audience, since romances were written for the literate.
- Butt Monkey: Porters. Other officials who keep minstrels from the court and its rewards.
- Cain and Abel
- Changing of the Guard: Sons after fathers, or brothers after brothers, to keep the story going
- Cool Horse: Sometimes magical, sometimes just powerful
- Cool Sword: being handed it from a lake is particularly good, but that one gets a lot of competition.
- Courtly Love: A constant theme, especially in King Arthur.
- Damsel Errant: She knows where the problems are; the knight needs to know. A perfect combination!
- Dreaming of Things to Come: used for Foreshadowing
- Due to the Dead: Arranging for a dead man's funeral can win you a companion White Knight.
- The Fair Folk: Possibly their nastiest in Sir Orfeo, but the fairies in romances are always magical, powerful, capricious, and hedged about with taboos to act as Forbidden Fruit.
- Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: The Man Tried by Fate often loses everything and has to take a menial position, such as The Blacksmith.
- Forbidden Fruit: See Fair Folk.
- Healing Hands: The heroines of the Crescentia romances
- I Gave My Word: King Orfeo wins a reward from the King of Faerie, who has to admit that if the reward is unfitting, breaking his word is still less so.
- Impoverished Patrician: Many a spend-thrift knight has spent all he owns.
- I Will Wait for You: Leaving one's beloved in order to win the name that will let you marry her may require this.
- King Incognito: King Orfeo disguises himself as a minstrel.
- Knighting: Many young heroes are knighted to start them off.
- Knight Errant: Necessary to reach all those adventures.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Main character, usually.
- Lady and Knight
- The Lady's Favour: Many carry it with them.
- The Lost Woods: The normal location for the knight to go on his quest.
- Love at First Sight: Sir Degrevant.
- Malicious Slander: Rebuffed lovers specialize in this.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Innocent wives charged with adultery are fairly often charged with having borne children to a man other than their husband.
- Merciful Minion: How Havelock survived his father's throne being usurped.
- Mineral MacGuffin: Glowing gemstones are particularly popular
- Moses in the Bullrushes: Usually princes sent away to save from usurpers.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Many romances praise giving gifts to minstrels, and abuse the porter, who could keep minstrels out of the hall.
- The Mourning After
- Our Ghosts Are Different: They're White Knights coming to the aid of the man who saw to their burial.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: They're princes enchanted by their Wicked Stepmother into that form.
- The Pardon: Gamelyn
- Parental Incest
- Peerless Love Interest: The lady, as is only suitable in Courtly Love.
- The Promise: Making, and keeping, oaths is of enormous importance in chivalry.
- Rags to Royalty: Both heroes and heroines have a tendency to marry up — at least from their apparent station.
- Random Events Plot: Especially in those stories known as the Man Tried By Fate.
- Religion of Evil
- Rightful King Returns: Many young princes adventure until they have to claim the throne.
- Royal Blood: The knight can be the king, or adventure on his behalf.
- Secret Identity: More than one hero took advantage of the face-concealing armor to show up at the tourney or battle without revealing his identity to those who knew him as a menial servant.
- Series Continuity Error: After the smash success of The Song of Roland, Roland had a lot more tales told about him and his magical sword Durendal. Durendal is completely unbreakable - in Song of Roland, Roland attempts to smash it to pieces on a mountain so the Saracens can't get it, but even that doesn't work. In a poem written later but set earlier than Song, The Sultan of Babylon, Roland breaks Durendal in the middle of a battle by accident.
- Shapeshifting Lover: Some brides are clearly swan maidens.
- Standard Hero Reward: After the first century of them, the authors instead of having a love for a married woman, let them marry their beloveds.
- Standard Royal Court: Often the starting place.
- Swans A Swimming: The Swan Children, in all their variants, are turned to swans. The Swan Knight is accompanied by one.
- Textile Work Is Feminine: Needlework. How else can a heroine in humble circumstances eat?
- The Tourney: Where else would you show off in front of the ladies?
- Trial by Combat: Often to defend the honor of innocent, accused queens.
- Wicked Stepmother: William of Palerne's friend/sidekick was enchanted into a wolf by his.
- Woman Scorned: Would-be lovers, both male and female, frequently accuse those who have refused them of adultery (if the person is female) or rape (if male).
- Wonder Child: Wishing for a child from God or the Devil will work — alas.
- You Have Waited Long Enough