The world’s greatest knight wins the hand of the world’s most beautiful woman. They are married in King Arthur’s castle and set out to live happily ever after. That would be the end of most modern love stories. But a wedding is only the beginning of this medieval legend.
Erec gives up knightly deeds to spend time with Enide. When Enide learns that Erec’s subjects no longer respect him as a knight, Erec demands that Enide join him on a quest.
Erec wants to prove his manliness to his wife. Enide struggles to earn back the affection she thinks she has lost. But while fighting recreant knights, lecherous counts, and terrible giants, each learns to give what the other needs and receive what the other offers.
Erec craves his wife’s respect.
Enide tells Erec, “Your subjects don’t respect you.” He hears her say, “I don’t respect you.” He impulsively undertakes a quest to prove he is still a great man. He takes only Enide with him because she is the only person whose opinion he truly values.
As they journey, he commands Enide not to speak to him—even to warn him of danger. When she disobeys to tell him that enemies are all around, he severely chastises her. By trying to protect him, Enide questions his ability to take care of himself.
Enide craves her husband’s affection.
Enide is startled by her husband’s reaction. She meant to help Erec protect his reputation. Instead, she has deeply insulted him. When he drags her off into the woods, she thinks Erec is rejecting her.
As they journey, Enide constantly rebukes herself for being ungrateful and disrespectful. She is certain that the man she loves more than anything else is going to abandon her.
Erec tells her not to speak to him during the quest and she cannot understand why. He has surely ceased to love her.
Erec and Enide’s needs are different.
Enide doesn’t feel Erec’s need for respect. When a jealous count asks her to leave Erec, he tells her Erec doesn’t esteem her. Enide isn’t tempted by the count’s words. She values her husband’s love more than his respect.
Erec doesn’t feel the same need for affection that Enide does. Throughout their quest, Erec never doubts that Enide “loves him above all else.” He wants to protect Enide because he loves her so much.
Erec and Enide learn to meet each other’s emotional needs.
Toward the end of their quest, Erec and Enide find themselves in terrible trouble. Erec hides Enide in a forest while he fights off a knight and his hundred companions. Because he is tired and injured from the long journey, Erec is no match for his opponent.
Just when the challenger is about to kill Erec, Enide bursts from her hiding place. She rebukes the knight, telling him how confident she is that Erec would defeat him in a fair fight. Enide has disobeyed Erec and come to his rescue. But the way she describes Erec’s bravery and strength finally demonstrates her respect.
By the end of the romance, Erec begins to understand his wife. He vows to be entirely at her command. He is willing to spend all of his time with her again, even if it means losing the respect of his subjects. But after all they have been through, Enide is excited for her husband to be a valiant knight again. Erec gives her what she needs: his affection and love.
When the quest begins, Erec thinks Enide respects him only when she trusts him to protect her all by himself. And Enide thinks Erec loves her only when he devotes all of his time to her happiness. By undertaking a quest together, they learn not only about each other, but also about themselves.
That’s what marriage is all about: a journey two people undertake together. Marriage works best when we communicate clearly about our needs and strive to love our husbands the way they crave to be loved.
Why did this book change my life?
When I first read Erec and Enide, my boyfriend and I had been dating for about five years and were beginning to think about marriage. I loved the story for reminding me that marriage only begins with a wedding. (I even started a blog about my engagement based loosely on the story.)
Almost three years after I married my own handsome prince, Erec and Enide reminds me that marriage isn’t “happily ever after,” but a journey that requires teamwork and love.