One of the most extraordinary and memorable episodes of the crusading era, the Children’s Crusade (1212) was medieval Europe’s first youth movement. Young people (pueri), shepherds and peasants primarily, took part in a futile venture to regain the Holy Land and the True Cross. Contrary to the views of a revisionist historian, youths did indeed compose the core group of this popular crusade revival, although at a later stage adults—men, women, young mothers, the elderly—joined it as well. This paper argues that one possible way of interpreting the Children’s Crusade is according to the schema laid down in the anthropological classic Les rites de passage (1908) by the French ethnographer and folklorist Arnold van Gennep. The Children’s Crusade exemplifies the problem of coming of age in the Middle Ages, especially for peasant youths, who lacked access to the rituals of knighthood available to the chivalric aristocracy.