The Joys of Old French

Tristan and Iseult



  • Lacroix, Daniel and Philippe Walter, eds. Tristan et Iseut: Les poèmes français – La saga norroise. Paris: Livre de Poche coll. “Lettres Gothiques,” 1989.
    Comprising: Béroul’s version, Marie de France’s Lai du Chievrefoil, the Thomas a.k.a. “of Britain” version (fragments reconstituted from the Carlisle, Douce, Sneyd, Strassburg, and Turin mss), the Folie Tristan d’Oxford, the Folie Tristan de Berne, and the Donnei des amants



[ Dates are very approximate, and you will find many others, as well as more precise ones: medieval literature is uncertainties, and I tend to err on the side of caution (= a flat-footed insistence on hard evidence + a rationalist scepticism). The dates here below indicate a possible period of composition tied to known activity period of a certain poet (bearing in mind  that composition may extend over years or decades),  a time-span encompassing all hypothetical suggestions for dates, or a broad period (especially when there is very incomplete manuscript presence and patchy known transmission). ]

… the “in the air” influences, infusions, and/or versions …

  • Ovid, Pyrrhamus and Thisbe (and many Medieval versions thereof)
  • A Pictish “Drust” (allegedly; Scotland); Cornish, Breton, and variously Brythonic/British sources
  • Vis u Ramin (11th c.; Persian)
  • Dhiarmada agus Gráinne (mss 16th c. and later, but some material as early as 10th c.; Old Irish)
  • The Welsh Triads (earliest mss: c. late 13th c.) and Mabinogion, esp. Culhwch and Olwen(??? date of composition everywhere between 1060s and 1210s)

… the versions proprement dits: NB issues of who-influenced-whom with the first two …

  • Béroul (possibly c. 1170; and c. 1150-90; French)
  • Eilhart von Oberge (possible similar time of composition to Béroul, possibly earlier; maybe 1170s-80s, latest around 1200; German)
  • Marie de France, Lai du Chievrefoil (c. 1160-70: French)
  • Thomas aka “of Britain” (c. 1173; French)
  • Folie Tristan d’Oxford (supposed to be close to but later than Thomas; French)
  • Folie Tristan de Berne (supposed to be close to but later than Thomas; French)
  • Donnei des amants (13th c.; French)
  • Gottfried von Straβburg (1210s; left unfinished on the poet’s death; German)
  • “Brother Robert,” Tristrams saga ok Ísöndar (1226; Norse; Robert possibly an Anglo-Norman)
  • Appears in Le Roman de Jaufré (c. early 13th c.; possibly earlier – has been suggested as prior to Chrétien de Troyes; Occitan)
  • Prose Tristan (c. 1230s-40s; French)
  • Ulrich von Türheim (1243; continuation of Gottfried; German)
  • Heinrich von Freiberg (c. 1290s; continuation of Gottfried; German)
  • 14th-15th c. variants and versions (throughout Europe): Arthurian or otherwise chivalric prose romances being popular, well-loved, and/or fashionable, there is a fairly strong manuscript tradition in these, their spin-offs, and more of the same or similar (ex. Perceforest, the prequel / prehistory to the Perceval narrative family). With some further elaboration, modernisation (or the articifical reverse) of the language, addition of new episodes, associated narratives, and cross-corpus inter-textual links (+ links to the Renart narrative family, going both ways).
  • Malory,  Le Morte Darthur (1469)



  • Malory. Le Morte Darthur (many paperback editions available, and online)
  • Béroul. The Romance of Tristan. Ed. and trans. Alan Fedrick (Penguin)
  • —. Ed. and trans. Renee L. Curtis (Oxford World’s Classics)
  • Marie de France. Lais. Ed. and trans. Keith Busby and Glyn Burgess (Penguin)





  • 1865: Richard Wagner, Tristram und Isolde (1865)
  • 1900: Joseph Bédier, Le Roman de Tristan
  • 1911: Tristan et Yseult d’Albert Capellani,
  • 1920: Tristan et Yseult de Maurice Mariaud, scénario de Franz Toussaint en collaboration avec Jean-Louis Bouquet
  • 1943: L’Éternel Retour de Jean Delannoy, écrit par Jean Cocteau, avec Jean Marais et Madeleine Sologne
  • 1972: Tristan et Iseult d’Yvan Lagrange (durée 1 heure)
  • 2002: Tristan et Iseut, film d’animation de Thierry Schiel
  • 2006: Tristan et Yseult de Kevin Reynolds, avec James Franco et Sophia Myles, produit par Ridley Scott et Tony Scott

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