Le Chevalier Au Lion, Knight with the Lion
Ewain Le Blanchemains, Ewein the Grete, Owain, Owen, Uwain, Uwaine, Yewains, Yvain, Yvains li Granz; Yvonet le Grand, - li Grans, - le Grant, - le Graunde, - le Graunte; Ywain Lionel, - Loenel
When Ywaine ran mad because he had lost his wife's love by staying away from her too long, he seized bow and arrows from a serving-lad and lived in the woods on raw meat alone until he happend upon the hut of a poor hermit.
This man reacted with both fear and charity, fleeing into his house but setting out a pitcher of pure water and some of his own very coarse barley bread. Maddened though he was, Ywaine promptly fell into the habit of returning to the hermit's house every day and leaving a slain beast in return for his bread and water.
The good man probably ate the meat and certainly sold the skins and bought better bread. He sounds like a practical fellow, and may have been a bit sorry when Ywaine was found and restored to sanity.
D.D.R. Owen suggests that this noble beast may have been derived from the lion befriended by Androcles. It seems remarkably humanesque in its intelligence: even though Ywaine must sever a piece of its tail in saving it from the serpent, it remains his loyal helper for life; at one point, supposing Ywaine dead, it almost kills itself by deliberately running on Ywaine's sword.
The lion's size looks a little problematical. Early on their first night together, it kills a deer and finishes off the whole creature except for Ywaine's single piece of loin. Later, when the lion has been wounded in battle with Laudine's seneschal and his brothers, Ywaine lines his shield with bracken and moss, lays the beast on it at length, and carries him on his horse, which may more nearly suggest the size of a large hound.
It has apparently recovered completely by the time Ywaine must battle the giant demons of Pesme Avanture: at their insistence, he shuts it away in a small room, but, driven frantic by the sounds of fighting, it breaks out and accounts for one of the pair, enabling Ywaine to finish the other.
Ywaine and the lion make formidable fighting team. It is as well for Gawaine, even if it does seem a bit conventient for the author of the romance, that Ywaine and the younger daughter of the lord of Noire Espine have the foresight to slip away and leave the loyal beast where they have spent the night, so that the man can fight this one battle alone, the lion catching up only after it is finished.
When Ywaine made up his mind to slip away and reach the marvelous spring in Broceliande Forest without first seeking his sovereign's permission, he relied on a trusty squire to help him keep his departure secret.
Though Ywaine did not take him with him, and though he accompanied his instructions with a mild threat, he is described as concealing nothing from this squire. The relationship looks deep and filled with mutual respect; one feels surprised to see so little of the squire, who disappears from the story after this one episode.