Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2014
Just before the climactic battle in the Chanson d'Antioche, the author breaks off into a hundred-line account about a donkey. The animal belongs to Eurvin de Créel. One morning Eurvin goes off to Mass. His best friend Pierre Postel is watching narrowly. He has several squires to feed and nothing to give them. End of the road for the donkey, which is turned into kebabs. Eurvin returns to find no donkey and a smell of roasting meat. There is a quarrel with Pierre followed by a tearful reconciliation. The two go into the battle as best friends and we hear nothing more of them.
This is a particularly striking example of the anecdotes contained in crusade sources, where a particular episode and/or character stands out for a moment against the collectivized heroism of the crusade. Anecdotes are found from the earliest sources for the crusade through to its depiction in the Old French Crusade Cycle in the early years of the thirteenth century. It is hard to tie these anecdotes down to any one source, and it is tempting to assign them to a loosely defined category known as ‘personal anecdote and tradition’. This paper offers some thoughts on what anecdotes are and how valuable or otherwise they are to our understanding of the events and perceptions of the First Crusade. There are three parts. The first offers a definition of anecdotes and sets out a typology of their use in First Crusade sources.