The Knight and the Lion

"The Hermit"

Yvain lived like this for many days, until he came upon a little low house belonging to a hermit. The hermit was outside digging some ground to make himself a garden when he saw the naked Yvain, with wild hair and staring eyes, and quickly guessed that he was not in his right mind. Afraid, he shut himself in the house - but out of kindness he left a piece of bread and some fresh water outside on a narrow window-ledge.

Hungry for the bread, Yvain crept towards the house, snatched it, and gulped it down in one mouthful. It was hard and sour, baked from rotten barley, more like straw than bread, and dry as bark. Hunger makes a delicious sauce for every food, though, and Yvain thought this coarse bread as tasty as any well-made porridge and finished every bit, and drank the good cold water. Then he went back into the trees, and the hermit hiding in his house saw him go and prayed to God to keep such a fearsome-looking madman away.

Yet no one is crazy enough to keep away from a place where they're treated kindly. Every day Yvain would bring a deer or some other wild animal he'd killed and leave it at the hermit's door. The hermit would skin it and cook it, and leave the meat, with bread and water, on the window-ledge.

The good man also took the trouble to sell the skins for money to buy bread baked from good barley or oats and wheat. So Yvain was well provided for, and could have remained there for a long time - if two girls and their mistress had not come upon him one day.

What was a hermit?
Find out about some famous hermits of the Middle Ages.