Study Guide

Ogrin in The Romance of Tristan

Ogrin

The hermit Ogrin is the conscience of The Romance of Tristan. He represents the views of the Catholic Church concerning adultery, even when no one else in the story seems to consider them at all. Like many medieval hermits, Ogrin lives a frugal, solitary existence on the outskirts of society, a lifestyle that many religious people believed brought a person closer to God. This position is what gives Ogrin the authority to chastise Tristan and Yseut for their sinful love and counsel them to repent.

Ogrin is truly overjoyed when they decide to repent, suggesting that he is sincere about his sorrow for their sins. Ogrin acts in a wholly unholy manner, however, when he encourages Tristan to lie to Mark about the extent of his relationship with Yseut. As he tells Tristan, "to escape the shame and to cover up the wrong we shall have to think of some suitable falsehoods" (12.100). Maybe Ogrin thinks Tristan and Yseut have already suffered enough penance, or maybe he simply doesn't allow his piety to overrule his practicality. Hermit he may be, but in his decision to be politic when it comes to Tristan and Yseut's affair, he's also a man of the world.