Read in English
It is the day of Pentecost and all of Charlemagne’s1 barons are assembled at his court except for Herpin de Bourges earning him an accusation of
disloyalty towards the emperor from Ganelon’s uncle, Clariant. Herpin is furious and kills Clariant. This leads to his exile from court ordered by Charlemagne himself. Before his departure, Herpin vows that if the child his wife, Alis is carrying is a son who will return to Bourges in order to claim what is his. When he does, he will blow the horn kept in the palace of Bourges which can only be blown by the rightful heir.
During their journey, Alis gives birth to a son in the absence of Herpin who is still in search of a midwife. The child bears a red cross on his right shoulder, the sign of his noble origins. Before Herpin returns, Alis is abducted by bandits who abandon the child. Four fairies find the child and pronounce spells of prowess, renown, fortune, and protection over him before they leave him in the care of a lioness.
Herpin returns to the place where he had left Alis behind. Her disappearance cast him in a period of desperation before he sets out for the city of Florence. During a hunting party, Bauduyn de Monclin discovers the child in the lioness’ den and recognizes the red cross on his shoulder. He decides to raise him as his son giving him the name ‘Lion’ in memory of the lioness that fed him. Meanwhile, the bandits that had abducted Alis kill each other in their attempt to gain favours from her. She, in turn, takes advantage of the situation and embarks on a vessel in her efforts to find Herpin. En route, the vessel lands in Spain after a storm. Alis arrives in Toledo where she finds work as a kitchen aid.
Herpin stays at an abbey close to Florence. The abbot who recognizes him leads him to a forest near Rome where he founds a hermitage. Lion grows into a young boy at Monclin and begins to develop a great enthusiasm for jousting and games reducing Bauduyn to poverty. Henceforth, Lion is forced to take part in jousts by himself without his customary army of followers. A prestigious joust leads him to Sicily where the price is the hand of the king’s daughter and sole heiress to the throne.
Alis, in turn, still in disguise as a man, takes the name of Ballian d’Aragonne, learns Arabic and continues to work as a kitchen aid in Toledo for eighteen years. Marsilie, Roland’s enemy at Rencevaux, lays siege to Toledo with his giant Lucien. No one dares to fight him until Ballian learns in a dream that she has been chosen to defeat him. She kills him and quickly returns to her kitchen, just at the moment when a knight presents the giant’s head claiming the award promised to the one who would kill Lucien.
1All French spellings and versions of proper names have been kept in the summaries. (Previous page)
Et Herpin se demante qui moult de dollour a.
Vollantier paisseroie en la terre doubtee.
Se lou [plux] preux n’avoit qu’elle puist veyr.