By Donald W. Tappan
The Rice University Studies, Volume 53, Number 4 (1967)
Introduction: By studying the approaches of two authors to the same historical event, we can learn something of their respective manners of comprehending the world and representing reality in literary form. The anonymous author of the Recits d’un menestrel de Reims au XIIIe siecle and Saint Louis’s biographer, Joinville, were contemporaries, natives of Champagne, and skillful writers of prose. Although the me’aestrel begins his work with fanciful anecdotes involving historical persons of the twelfth century, he turns to the present in Paragraph 336: Ci vous lairons esteir des morz, et parlerons des vis. From this point on the Recits become less fictional and more accurately historical in their depiction of factual events – many of the same events treated by Joinville in the Histoire de Saint Louis. A detailed analysis of a few passages of the Recits and a comparison with Joinville’s treatment of the same material will help us understand the point of view and the literary art of the menestrel de Reims. The two authors’ accounts of the events between Louis’s illness and his taking of the cross in 1244 and the crusaders’ departure in 1248 will serve our purpose. In Joinville’s text they occupy Chapters XXIV-XXVI and in the Recits, Paragraphs 367-371.