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Huon of Bordeaux

Huon of Bordeaux is the title character of a 13th century French romance (chanson de geste). He is a knight who, after unwittingly killing the son of Emperor Charlemagne, is given a reprieve from death on condition that he fulfill a number of seemingly impossible tasks: he must travel to the court of the Amir in Babylon and return with a handful of the amir's hair and teeth, kill the Amir's mightiest knight, and kiss the Amir's daughter. All these Huon eventually achieves with the assistance of the fairy king Oberon.

The Charlot of the story has been identified by A Longnon (Romania viii.) with Charles l'Enfant, one of the sons of Charles the Bald and Irmintrude, who died in 866 in consequence of wounds inflicted by a certain Aubouin in precisely similar circumstances to those related in the romance. The godfather of Huon may safely be identified with Seguin, who was count of Bordeaux under Louis the Pious in 839, and died fighting against the Normans six years later.

A Turin manuscript of the romance contains a prologue in the shape of a separate romance of Auberon, and four sequels, the Chanson d'Esclarmonde, the Chanson de Clarisse et Florent, the Chanson d'Ide et d'Olive and the Chanson de Godin. The same manuscript contains in the romance of Les Lorrains a summary in seventeen lines of another version of the story, according to which Huon's exile is due to his having slain a count in the emperor's palace.

The poem exists in a later version in alexandrines, and, with its continuations, was put into prose in 1454 and printed by Michel le Noir in 1516, since when it has appeared in many forms, notably in a beautifully printed and illustrated adaptation (1898) in modern French by Gaston Paris. The romance had a great vogue in England through the translation (c. 1540) of John Bourchier, Lord Berners, as Huon of Burdeuxe. The tale was dramatized and produced in Paris by the Confrérie de la Passion in 1557, and in Philip Henslowe's diary there is a note of a performance of a play, Hewen of Burdocize, on December 28 1593.