Title page of an Amadís de Gaula romance of 1533
"Yvain rescues the lion", from Garrett MS 125, an illustrated manuscript of Chrétien de Troyes' Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion, dated to ca. 1295.

Figure of medieval chivalric romance literature.

- Knight-errant

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Don Quixote

Spanish epic novel by Miguel de Cervantes.

Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605, first edition)
Illustration by Gustave Doré depicting the famous windmill scene
First editions of the first and second parts
Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré.
Illustration to The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Volume II.
Don Quixote on a 1951 1 Peseta banknote.
Don Quixote by Honoré Daumier (1868)
Don Quixote, his horse Rocinante and his squire Sancho Panza after an unsuccessful attack on a windmill. By Gustave Doré.
Illustration to Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes (the edition translated by Charles Jarvis)
Don Quixote. Close up of Illustration.
Bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, at the Plaza de España in Madrid.
Collage of the engravings of The Adventures of Don Quixote by Gustave Doré
Don Quixote goes mad from his reading of books of chivalry. Engraving by Gustave Doré.
Don Quichote And Sancho Panza by Louis Anquetin

The plot revolves around the adventures of a member of the lowest nobility, an hidalgo ("Son of Something") from La Mancha named Alonso Quijano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he either loses or pretends to have lost his mind in order to become a knight-errant (caballero errante) to revive chivalry and serve his nation, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha (in modern-day Spanish, spelled Quijote).


Journey toward a specific mission or a goal.

"Soria Moria" by Theodor Kittelsen: a hero glimpses the end of his quest.
A Knight at the Crossroads by Viktor Vasnetsov
Vision of the Holy Grail (1890) by William Morris

The term "Knight-errant" sprang from this, as errant meant "roving" or "wandering".

Damsel in distress

Recurring narrative device in which one or more men must rescue a woman who has either been kidnapped or placed in general peril.

Frank Bernard Dicksee's 1885 painting Chivalry
Rembrandt's Andromeda chained to the rock – a late-Renaissance damsel in distress from Greek mythology.
Paolo Uccello's depiction of Saint George and the dragon, c. 1470, a classic image of a damsel in distress.
John Everett Millais' The Knight Errant of 1870 saves a damsel in distress and underlines the erotic subtext of the genre.
Jungle girl Nyoka, played by Kay Aldridge, frequently found herself in distress in Perils of Nyoka
"Barney Oldfield's A Race for a Life" [1913] with left to right:Hank Mann; Ford Serling; At St John and in foreground Mabel Normand
Gloria Swanson in "Teddy at the Throttle" (1917)
A poster for The Perils of Pauline (1914)
Romania as a helpless "damsel in distress" threatened by the brutal Imperial Germany, in a French World War I caricature
A U.S. World War I poster (Harry R. Hopps; 1917) invites prospective recruits to symbolically save a "damsel in distress" from the monstrous Germans

It can be traced back to the knight-errant of Medieval songs and tales, who regarded protection of women as an essential part of the chivalric code, which includes a notion of honour and nobility.

Chivalric romance

Type of prose and verse narrative that was popular in the noble courts of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe.

Yvain fighting Gawain in order to regain the love of his lady Laudine. Medieval illumination from Chrétien de Troyes's romance, Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion
Holger Danske, or Ogier the Dane, from the Matter of France
A knight rescues a lady from a dragon.

They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a chivalric knight-errant portrayed as having heroic qualities, who goes on a quest.

Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Arthurian romance by French poet Chrétien de Troyes.

Yvain rescues the lion (Garrett MS 125 fol. 37r, c. 1295)
The opening lines of the Welsh version, Owain (pre 1382) from Jesus College, Oxford (MS 111).

It is a story of knight-errantry, in which the protagonist Yvain is first rejected by his lady for breaking a very important promise, and subsequently performs a number of heroic deeds in order to regain her favour.


Character in some versions of Arthurian legend, where he is typically depicted as King Arthur's close companion and one of the greatest Knights of the Round Table.

Lancelot slays the dragon of Corbenic in Arthur Rackham's illustration for Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard (1917)
James Archer's Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere (1864)
Lancelot fighting the two dragons guarding the entrance to Morgan's Val Without Return in an illumination of a 15th-century French Lancelot-Grail manuscript. The arms attributed to him: argent with three bendlets gules
The Earthly Paradise (Sir Lancelot at the Chapel of the Holy Grail) by Edward Burne-Jones (1890s)
Howard Pyle's illustration for The Story of the Champions of the Round Table (1905): "The Lady Nymue beareth away Launcelot into the Lakes."
An illustration for Tales of the Round Table, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Andrew Lang (1908): "Sir Lancelot did not stop, and the archers shot his horse with many arrows, but he jumped from its back and ran past them deeper into the wood."
N. C. Wyeth's illustration for The Boy's King Arthur, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Sidney Lanier (1922): "He rode his way with the Queen unto Joyous Gard."
Lancelot Brings Guenevere to Arthur, an illustration for Andrew Lang's The Book of Romance (1902)
Morgan, Sebile and two other witch-queens find Lancelot sleeping in William Henry Margetson's illustration for Legends of King Arthur and His Knights, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Janet MacDonald Clark (1914)
Seduction of Lancelot in the Livre de Lancelot du Lac (c. 1401–1425)
Lancelot's rescue of Guinevere from the stake in Henry Justice Ford's illustration for Andrew Lang's Tales of the Round Table (1908)
A 1962 publicity photo of Robert Goulet as Lancelot and Janet Pavek as Guenevere in the musical Camelot
"How Lancelot fought the six knights of Chastel d'Uter to save the knight of the badly-cut coat." (Tristan en prose c. 1479–1480)
Lancelot, dressed in brown, living with his companions in a hermit hut at the end of his life (Tristan en prose c. 1450–1460)
Facing Turquine: "I am Sir Launcelot du Lake, King Ban's son of Benwick."
"Sir Mador's spear broke all to pieces, but his spear held."
"[Lancelot] ever ran wild wood from place to place"
"Launcelot saw her visage, he wept not greatly, but sighed."

Lancelot's initial knight-errant style adventures from the Vulgate Cycle that have been included in Malory's compilation range from proving victorious in a tournament fighting on behalf of King Bagdemagus, through slaying the mighty villain Turquine who had been holding several of Arthur's knights prisoner, to overcoming a damsel's betrayal and defending himself unarmed against her husband Phelot.


Three of the most famous bogatyrs, Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich, appear together in Victor Vasnetsov's 1898 painting Bogatyrs.
Photo of bogatyr definition from Vasmer Russian Etymological Dictionary, depicting the derivations
Knight at the Crossroads, Viktor Vasnetsov (1882)
S.S. Solomko. Russian bogatyr, Nastasya Korolevichna.
Nastasya Mikulichna, daughter of Mikula Selyaninovich (art by A. Ryabushkin,1898)

A bogatyr or vityaz is a stock character in medieval East Slavic legends, akin to a Western European knight-errant.

Ondine (play)

Play written in 1938 by French dramatist Jean Giraudoux, based on the 1811 novella Undine by the German Romantic Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué that tells the story of Hans and Ondine.

Jan Żardecki and Joanna Jedlewska in Ondine, Warsaw, 1965

A knight-errant, Hans von Wittenstein zu Wittenstein, arrives seeking shelter.


Type of ancient Chinese warrior folk hero celebrated in classical Chinese poetry and fictional literature.

It literally means "wandering vigilante", but is commonly translated as "knight-errant" or less commonly as "cavalier", "adventurer", "soldier of fortune" or "underworld stalwart".

Musha shugyō

Samurai warrior's quest or pilgrimage.

Samurai in armor in the 1860s; hand-colored photograph by Felice Beato

The concept is similar to the Chinese Youxia, or Knight Errantry in feudal Europe.