Yde et Olive

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Yde et Olive is a thirteenth-century Old French chanson de geste. It is a sequel to Huon de Bordeaux and follows the Chanson d'Esclarmonde, the story of Huon's wife, and Clarisse et Florent, the story of Yde's parents, in the cycle. The poem is punctuated by a poem titled Croissant, which some scholars have named a separate chanson and which tells the story of Yde and Olive's son, after which the main story of Yde et Olive picks up again, it is perhaps the earliest Old French adaptation of the myth of Iphis. This myth is found in Ovid's Metamorphoses (Ipthis and Ianthe) but other ancient Indian sources and no sources at all have also been suggested for the chanson.[1] Yde et Olive is a relatively unstudied chanson, with only one critically edited published text, Max Schweigel's from 1889, one unpublished edition from a 1977 dissertation by Barbara Anne Brewka at Vanderbilt University, a recent unpublished edition and translation into modern English from a 2015 MA thesis by Mounawar Abbouchi at The University of Georgia.

The story of Yde and Olive was worked into dramatic form in the Miracle de la fille d'un roy (1454), it does not significantly deviate from the chanson except in its finale. In the early sixteenth century it was printed as part of Les prouesses et faictz merveilleux du noble huon de bordeaulx, which was translated into English and printed as The Boke of Duke Huon of Burdeux by John Bourchier, Lord Berners, for Francis Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, early in the century, to be printed twice more, c. 1570 and in 1601.

There are two extant manuscripts: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 1451, f. 225r |N| (short résumé of the text); Turin, Biblioteca nazionale universitaria, L. II. 14, f. 389va-395va et 397rb-399va |N|


The marriage of Florent to Clarisse is briefly recounted. A triumphant Florent returns to Aragon and is crowned king after the death of his father, Garin. Shortly after, Clarisse finds herself with child, but fears her pregnancy, and with good reason as the queen dies giving birth to a daughter named Yde. Florent goes into prolongued mourning, ignoring his king and fatherly duties, and refusing to remarry in order to produce a male heir. However, as Yde grows into a young woman much like her mother, her father falls in love with her and plans to marry her. Horrified by the prospect, Yde disguises herself as a man, steals her father's horse, and flees the country, she embarks on a series of chivalric adventures that eventually land her in Rome, where she begins to serve the king, Oton. Impressed by her valour, Oton decides to marry Yde to his one and only daughter, Olive, and make her his heir. Though she initially opposes the idea, Yde surrenders to wed Olive, the couple practice abstinence for fifteen days after their wedding, but Yde finally finds herself unable to resist her wife's urging that they consummate the marriage and confesses her secret to Olive. The latter reassures her that her secret is safe, but their conversation is overheard and reported to the king, who vows to have them both burned if the story is true; in order to learn the truth, Oton summons Yde to bathe with him. The two girls believe that all is lost and pray for salvation, and at the last minute, an angel descends from heaven to appeal to the king not to test such a tried and true vassal, the angel then announces that Yde is now a man, that Oton will die eight days hence, and that Yde and Olive will conceive a child who will be named Croissant that very night.

The episode some scholars have called Croissant follows telling of the deeds of Yde and Olive's son, the Yde et Olvie narrative then picks up with Florent dead and Yde returning to Aragon as the rightful heir to claim his throne.

Sources and Further Readings[edit]

Editions & Translation

  • Abbouchi, Mounawar. “Yde et Olive: Edition and Translation of the Text in Ms. Turin L. II. 14.” MA Thesis. University of Georgia, 2015.
  • Brewka, Barbara Anne. “Esclarmonde, Clarisse et Florent, Yde et Olive I, Croissant, Yde et Olive II, Huon et les Géants, Sequels to Huon de Bordeaux, as Contained in Turin MS. L.II.14: an Edition.” PhD Diss. Vanderbilt University, 1977.
  • Schweigel, Max, ed. Esclarmonde, Clarisse et Florent, Yde et Olive: Drei Fortsetzungen der chanson von Huon de Bordeaux, nach der einzigen Turiner Handschrift. Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1889.



  • Les prouesses et faicts du trespreux noble et vaillant Huon de Bordeaux, pair de France et duc de Guyenne. Lyon: Benoit Gigaud, 1587.

English Prose

  • Lee, S. L., ed. The Boke of Duke Huon de Bordeux. Done into English by Sir John Bourchier, Lord Berners, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde about 1534 A.D. 3 Parts. Edited from the unique copy of the first edition. Early English Text Society. Original Series 40, 41, 43. London: N. Trübner, 1884; New York: Kraus Reprint, 1975, 1981.

Miracle Play

  • Paris, Gaston and Ulysse Robert, eds. “Le miracle de la fille d’un roy.” Les miracles de Nostre Dames par personnages. Vol. 7. Paris: Librairie de Firmin Didot et Cie, 1883.


  • Archibald, Elizabeth (1999). “The Ide et Olive Episode in Lord Berners’ Huon of Bordeux.” Tradition and Transformation in Medieval Romance. Ed. Rosalind Field. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  • Cazanave, Caroline. D’Esclarmonde à Croissant: Huon de Bordeaux, l’épique médiéval et l’esprit de suite. France: Presse universitaire de Franche-Comté, 2007.
  • Clark, Robert L. A. “A Heroine’s Sexual Itinerary: Incest, Transvestism, and Same-Sex Marriage in Yde et Olive.” Gender Transgressions: Crossing the Normative Barrier in Old French Literature. Ed. Karen J. Taylor. New York and London: Garland, 1998.
  • De Weever, Jacqueline. “The Lady, the Knight, and the Lover: Androgyny and Integration in La Chason d’Yde et Olive.” Romanic Review 82.4 (1991): pp. 371–391.
  • Dietzman, Sara Jane. “En guize d'omme: Female Cross-Dressing and Gender Reversal in Four Medieval French Texts.” PhD Diss. University of Virginia, 2005.
  • Durling, Nancy Vine. "Rewriting Gender: Yde et Olive and Ovidian Myth." Romance Languages Association (1989), Purdue University.
  • Perret, Michèle. “Travesties et Transsexuelles: Yde, Silence, Grisandole, Blanchandine.” Romance Review 25.3 (1985): pp. 328–340.
  • Robins, William. “Three Tales of Female Same-Sex Marriage: Ovid’s “Iphis and Ianthe,” the Old French Yde et Olive, and Antonio Pucci’s Reina d’Oriente.” Exemplaria 21.1 (2009): pp. 43-62.
  • Walter, Marguerite C. “Cross-Gender Transformation and the Female Body in La Chanson d’Yde et Olive,” Mediaevalia 22.2 (1999): 307-322.
  • Watt, Diane. "Behaving Like a Man? Incest, Lesbian Desire, and Gender Play in Yde et Olive and its Adaptations." Comparative Literature, 50:4 (1998), pp. 265–285.


  1. ^ Keith V. Sinclair denies Ovidian influence and suggests ancient Indian sources, as does Alexandre Haggerty Krappe for the related Tristan de Nanteuil. Barbara Brewka on the other hand finds "no specific model" at all. See Durling, note 2.