The tale is, in its essence, a variation of the legend of Cupid and Psyche. Partenopeus is represented as having lived in the days of Clovis, king of France. He is seized while hunting in the Ardennes, and carried off to a mysterious castle with invisible inhabitants. Melior, empress of Constantinople, comes to him at night, stipulating that he must not attempt to see her for two and a half years. After successfully fighting against the Saracens, led by Sornegur, king of Denmark, he returns to the castle, armed with an enchanted lantern that breaks the spell. The consequent misfortunes have a happy ending.
The tale had a continuation giving the adventures of Fursin or Anselet, the nephew of Sornegur. The name of Partonopeus or Partonopex is generally assumed to be a corruption of Parthenopaeus, one of the Seven against Thebes.
It has been suggested that the word might be derived from Partenay, a supposition colored by the points of similarity between this story and the legend of Melusine (see Jean d'Arras) attached to the house of Lusignan, as the lords of these two places were connected.