Initially transcribed sometime around 1164, Erec and Enide is not just the first of the great Chivalric Romances by Chretien de Troyes, it is one of the earliest poems about King Arthur and is usually regarded as the first Arthurian work to introduce the Round Table as an essential element of the legend.
The composition of Erec and Enide is nearly 7,000 lines of rhymed couplets divided into three distinct segments. The first part draws a parallel between Arthur and Erec through accounts of each’s hunting expedition. Following the marriage of Erec and Enide, the second section devises a series of conflicts which are designed to test their passion and fidelity. The literary triptych ends with the Joy of the Court in which, having provide their love, the couple take their place among the courtly society, the only hindrance to happiness now being Erec's requirement to engage in battle with sort of the Arthurian version of Vlad the Impaler.
The poem, comprising 6,878 lines of rhymed couplets, can be divided into three sections: Arthur’s and Erec’s parallel hunts, which culminate in the marriage of Erec and Énide; the series of tests which Erec and Énide must endure to prove their love; and the Joy of the Court episode, which establishes their love ﬁrmly within their social setting. Integrated into these episodes are folkloric elements which were extremely popular in the oral tradition of the time.
The most notable contribution to the Arthurian literary tradition of Erec and Enide is transformation of the knights and knighthood from its Celtic past and into the almost full-fledged British environment of sophisticated chivalry courtesy of extensive and newly detailed descriptions of jousting, the architecture and fashion of the times and, most important, the beginnings of the development of hierarchical placement among knights and their ladies through the incorporation of the superlative adjective. Indeed, it might be said that here is where the competition begin to become noblest and truest knight of the Round Table.