And she (Yvonne) climbed into the carriage, alongside her husband (The Solar King of the Crystal Palace). Just as they were leaving, her brothers asked:
__ 'Where can we find our sister, when we want to visit her?'
__ 'At the Crystal Palace, on the other side of the Black Sea,' replied the Prince as they left.
About a year later, as the six brothers had no news of their sister, and as they were curious to know how she was getting on with her new husband, they resolved to go in search of her. The five eldest ones mounted fine horses, and set out. Their younger brother Yvon had also wished to go with them, but they had made him stay at home.
They rode and they rode, always towards the rising sun, and they asked everywhere for the Crystal Palace; but no one knew where it was. At last, after having crossed many countries, they came one day to the edge of a great forest which was at least fifty leagues in circumference. They asked on old woodman if he could tell them the way to the Crystal Palace. He replied:
__ 'There is a great ride in the forest called Crytal Palace Lane; perhaps it goes there, but I've never been there myself.'
The five brothers went into the forest. They had not gone far, when they heard a great noise above their heads, like a thunderstorm passing over the tree-tops, with thunder and lightning. they were scared, and their horses also, to the point where they had difficulty restraining them; but the noise and flashes of lightning soon stopped, and they went on their way. Night was approaching, and they were worried, for the forest abounded in all kinds of wild beasts. One of them climbed a tree, to see if he could see the Crsytal Palace, or some other dwelling.
__ 'Can you see anything?' his brothers asked from below.
__ 'Only trees, trees,. . . . everywhere as far as I can see.'
He climbed down and they continued on their way. But night came upon them and they could no longer see their way. Once more, one of them climbed a tree.
__ 'Can you see anything?' asked his brothers.
__ 'Yes there is a big fire, over there.'
__ 'Throw your hat in the same direction, and come down.'
And they went in the direction of the fire, believing there must be some human dwelling there; then again they heard a great noise above their heads, louder than the first time. Trees clashed against each other and creaked, and broken branches and splinters of wood fell on all sides. And what thunder! . . . . What lightning! . . . . It was terrifying! . . . . Then, all of a sudden, silence returned and the night became calm and serene.
They continued on their way and reached the fire. A bearded old woman, with long rattling teeth, was busy throwing wood on it. They went up to her, and the eldest brother said:
__ 'Good evening, grandmother. Can you tell us the way to the Crystal Palace?'
__ 'Yes, truly,' replied the old woman; 'but wait until my eldest son comes back; he goes there every day, and he'll give you the latest news from there. He's been away just now, but he'll soon be back. Perhaps you have seen him in the forest?'
__ 'We haven't seen anyone, grandmother.'
__ 'But you must have heard heard him, for one generally hears him when he passes by . . . . Hold on! Here he comes __ can you hear him?'
And they heard an uproar similar to what they had heard twice in the forest, but still more frightening.
__ 'Hide yourselves, quickly __ there under the tree branches,' said the old woman, 'for my son's always very hungry when he comes back, and I fear he might eat you.'
The five brothers his themselves the best they could, and a giant came down from the sky, and, as soon as he touched the ground, he started sniffing and said:
__ 'There's a smell of Christians here, mother, and I must eat them, for I'm very hungry.'
The old woman took a large cudgel, and showing it to the giant, said;
__ 'You always want to eat everything, you! But watch out for my cudgel! If you do the slightest harm to my nephews, my sister's sons, such fine and good children, who've come to see me.'
The giant trembled in fear at the old woman's threat, and promised not to harm his cousins.
Then the old woman told the five brothers they could show themselves, and she introduced them to her son, who said;
__ 'My cousins are very nice, but aren't they small mother!'
After, as all they were cousins, he wouldn't want to eat them!
__ 'Not only must you not harm them, but you must also do them a favour,' said the mother.
__ 'What sort of favour must I do for them?'
__ 'They want to go to see their sister at the Crystal Palace, and you must lead them there.'
__ 'I can't lead them that far, but I'll willingly lead them a good way, and set them on the right road.'
__ 'Thanks cousin, we couldn't ask for more,' they said.
__ 'Well now! Lie down by the fire and sleep, for we must be off early in the morning. I'll wake you when it's time.'
The five brothers lay down in their overcoats and pretended to sleep; but they couldn't sleep, for they had not too much confidence in the giant's promise. The latter ate his supper, and he swallowed a whole sheep at every mouthful.
Towards midnight, he woke the five brothers, and said:
__ 'Let's go! get up, cousins; it's time to leave.'
He spread a large black sheet on the ground,near the fire, and told the five brothers to go on it mounted on their horses. Then the giant went into the fire, and his mother threw wood on it. As the fire steadily increased, they heard a gradually increasing noise, like the one they had heard in the forest, and, little by little, the sheet lifted the brothers and their horses off the ground. When the giant's clothing was consumed, he rose up in the air as an enormous ball of flame. The black sheet followed, carrying the brothers and their horses through the air. After some time they they landed on a great plain. Half of this plain was arid and burnt, the other half was fertile and covered in thick, tall grass. There was a herd of shiny, strong horses on the arid part; where the grass was was thick and tall, there was on the contrary, a herd of horses so thin and emaciated they coiuld scarcely stand on their feel, and they were fighting and trying to eat one another.
The giant, or the ball of fire, had continued on his way, after having said to the brothers: 'Now your'e on the right road for the Crystal Palace; do your best from now on, for I can't take you any further.'
(told by Louis Le Braz, weaver, Prat [Côtes-du-Nord] 1873)
Luzel, F. M., trans. Bryce, D., Celtic Folk-tales from Armorica, Llanerch Publishers: Felinfach, 1992 (1985), pp8-11, 16.
The story saith that King Arthur goeth his way and Lancelot and Messire Gawain with him, and they had ridden so far one day that night came on in a forest and they might find no hold. Messire Gawain marvelled him much that they had ridden the day long without finding neither hold nor hermitage. Night was come and he sky was dark and the forest full of gloom. They knew not witherward to turn to pass the night. 'Lords,' saith the King, 'Where may we be able to alight tonight?' 'Sir, we know not, for this forest is right wearisome.' They make the squire climb up a tall tree and tell him to look as far as he may to try whether he may espy any hold or house where they may lodge. The squire looketh on all sides, and then telleth them he seeth a fire a long way off as if it were in a waste house, but that he seeth nought there save the fire and the house. 'Take good heed,' saith Lancelot, ' in which quarter it is, so that you may know well how to lead us thither.' He saith that right eath may he lead them.
With that he cometh down and mounteth again on his hackney, and they go forward a great pace and ride until they espy the fire and the hold. They pass over a bridge of wattles, and find the courtyard all deserted and the house from within great and high and hideous. But there was a great fire within whereof the heat might be felt from afar. They alight of their horses, and the squire draweth them on one side amidst the hall, and the knights set them beside the fire all armed. The squire seeth a chamber in the house and entereth thereinto to see if he may find any meat for the horses, but he cometh forth again the swiftest he may and crieth right sweetly on the Mother of the Saviour. They ask him what aileth him, and he saith that he hath found the most treacherous chamber ever he found yet, for he felt there, what with heads and what with hands, more than two hundred men dead, and saith that never yet felt he so sore afeared. Lancelot went into the chamber to see whether he spake true, and felt the men that lay dead, and groped among them from head to head and felt that there was a great heap of them there, and came back and sate at the fire all laughing. the King asketh whether the squire had told truth. Lancelot answereth him yea, and that never yet had he found so many dead men together. 'Methinketh,' saith Messire Gawain, 'Sith that they are dead we have nought to fear of them, but God protect us from the living.'
While they were talking thus, behold you a damsel that cometh into the dwelling on foot and all alone, and she cometh lamenting right grievously. 'Ha, god!' saith she, 'How long a penance is this for me, and when will it come to an end?' She seeth the knights sitting in the midst of the house. 'Fair Lord God,' saith she, 'Is there within through whom I an to escape from this great dolour?' The knights hearken to her in great wonderment. They look and see her enter within the door, and her kirtle was all torn with thorns and briars in the forest. Her feet were all bleeding for that she was unshod. She had a face of exceeding great beauty. She carried the half of a dead man, and cast it into the chamber with the others. She knew Lancelot again as soon as she saw him. 'Ha, God!' saith she, 'I am quit of my penance! 'Sir,' saith she, 'Welcome may you be, you and your company!' Lancelot looketh at her in wonderment. 'Damsel,' saith he, 'Are you a thing on God's behalf?' 'Certes, Sir,' saith she, 'Yea! nor are ye adread of nought! I am the Damsel of the Castle of Beards, that was wont to deal with knights so passing foully as you have seen. You did away with that toll that was levied on the knights that passed by, and you lay in the castle that demanded it of them that passed through the demesne thereof. But you had me in covenant that so the Holy Graal should appear unto you, you would come back to me, for otherwise never should I have been willing to let you go. You returned not, for that you saw not the Graal. For the shame that I did to knights was this penance laid upon me in this forest and this manor, to last until such time as you should come. For the cruelty I did them was sore grievous, for never was knight brought to me but I made his nose be cut off or his eyes thrust out, and some were there as you saw that had their feet or their hands stricken off. Now have I paid full dear thereof since, for needs must I carry into this chamber all the knights that are slain in this forest, and within this manor must I cast them according to the custom thereof, alone, without company; and this knight that I carried in but now hath lain so long in the forest that wild beasts have eaten half of his body. Now I am quit of this foul penance, thanks to God and to you, save only that I must go back when it shalll be daylight in like manner as I came here.'
'Damsel,' saith Lancelot, Right glad am I that we should have come to lodge the night here within, for love of you, for never saw I damsel that might do so cruel penance.' 'Sir,' saith she, 'You know not yet what it is, but you will know it ere long this night, both you and your fellows, and the Lord God shield you from death and from mischief! Every night cometh a rout of knights that are black and foul and hideous, albeit none knoweth whence they come, and they do battle right sore the one against other, and the stour endureth of a right long while; but one knight that came within yonder by chance, the first night I came hither, in like manner as you have come, made a circle round me with his sword, and I sate within it as soon as I saw them coming, and so had I no dread of them, for I had in remembrance the Saviour of the World and His passing sweet Mother. And you will do the same, and you believe me herein, for these are knights fiends.' Lancelot draweth his sword and maketh a great circle round the house-place, and they were within.
Thereupon, behold you the knights that come through the forest with such a rushing as it seemed they would rend it all up by the roots. Afterward they enter into the manor and snatch great blazing firebrands and fling them at one another. They enter the house battling together, and are keen to fall upon the knights, but they may not. They hurl the firebrands at them from afar, but they are holding their shields and their swords naked. Lancelot maketh semblant as though he would leap towards them, and sore great cowardize it seemeth him not to go against them. 'Sir,' saith the damsel, 'Take heed that you go go not forth of the circle, for you will be in sore jeopardy of death, for well you see what evil folk be these.' Lancelot was not minded to hold himself back, but that he would go toward them sword drawn, and they run upon him on all sides, but he defendeth him stoutly and smiteth the burning firebrands so maketh red-hot charcoal fly, and thrusteth his sword amidst their faces. King Arthur and Messire Gawain leap up to help Lancelot and smite upon these evil folk and cut them limb from limb, and they bellow like fiends so that the whole forest resoundeth thereof. And when they fell to the ground, they may no longer endure, but become fiends and ashes, and their bodies and their horses become devils all black in the shape of ravens that come forth of their bodies. They marvel right sore what this may be, and say such hostel is right grievous.
When they had put them all to the worse, they sate them down again and rested; but scarce were they seated or ever another rout of yet blacker folk came about them, and they bare spears burning and flaming, and many of them carried dead knights that they had slain in the forest, and dropped them in the midst of the house, and then bid the damsel carry and set them with the others. Howbeit she answereth that she is quit of their commandment and service, nor no longer is forced to do nought for them sith that she hath done her penance. They thrust forward their spears toward the King and the two knights, as though they were come to avenge their companions; but they all three leapt up together and attacked them right stoutly. But this rout was greater and of knights more hideous. They began to press the King and his knights hard, and they might not put them to the worse as they did the others. And while they were thus in the thickest of the conflict, they heard the stroke of a bell sounding, and forthwith the knight fiends departed and hurried away a great pace. 'Lords,' saith the damsel, 'Had this sound not been heard, scarce might you have endured, for yet another huge rout of this folk was coming in such sort as that none might have withstood them, and this sound have I heard every night, whereby my life hath been saved.
Josephus telleth us that as at this time was there no bell neither in Greater Britain nor in Lesser; but folk were called together by a horn, and in many places there were sheets of steel, and in other places clappers of wood. King Arthur marvelled him much of this sound, so clear and sweet was it, and it well seemed him that it came on God's behalf, and right fain was he to see a bell and so he might. they were the night until the morrow in the house, as I tell you. The damsel took leave of them and so departed. As they came forth of the hold, they met three hermits that told them they were going to search for the bodies that were in this manor so that they might bury them in a waste chapel that was hard by, for such knights had lain there as that henceforward the haunting of the evil folk would be stayed in such sort as that they would have no more power to do hurt to any, wherefore they would set therewithin a worshipful hermit that should build up the place in holiness for the service of God. the King was right joyful thereof, and told them that it had been too perilous.
the High History of the Holy Grail, trans., Evans, S, James Clarke & co., Cambridge, pp. 236-40.
Meanwhile the news was brought to Arthur that a giant of monstrous size had emerged from certain regions in Spain. This giant had snatched Helena, the niece of Duke Hoel, from the hands of her guardians and had fled with her to the top of what is now called the Mont-Saint-Michel. The knights of the district had pursued the giant, but they had been able to do nothing against him. It made no difference whether they attacked him by sea or by land, for he either sank their ships with huge rocks or else killed them with a variety of weapons. Those whom he captured, and they were quite a few, he ate while they were still half alive.
The next night, at two o'clock, Arthur came out from the tents without telling his companions, roused his Seneschal Kay and his Cup-bearer Bedevere and set out for the Mount. Being a man of such outstanding courage, he had no need to lead a whole army against monsters of this sort. Not only was he himself strong enough to destroy them, but by doing so he wanted to inspire his men.
When they came near to the Mount, they saw a fire gleaming on the top and a second fire ablaze on a smaller peak. Bedevere the Cup-bearer was ordered by the King to make his way to this second fire by boat. He could not have reached it in any other way, for the hill rose straight up from the sea. As Bedevere began to climb up to the summit, he heard a woman's screams come from above him. This terrified him at first, for he was afraid that the monster was there. His courage soon returned, however, and he drew his sword from its scabbard and climbed up the hillside. On the top he could see nothing at all, except the great fire which he had observed before. Then he made out a newly-made tumulus nearby, and at its side an old woman who was weeping and wailing. The moment she saw him the old woman stopped weeping and begain to speak to him instead. 'Unhappy man!' said she. 'What ill fortune has brought you to this spot? I pity you for you are about to suffer death by the most unspeakable tortures. This very night a foul monster will destroy the flower of your youth. The most odious of all giants will come here. Cursed be his name! It is he who carried the Duke's niece off to this mountain. I have just buried her in this very spot. With her he brought me, her nurse. Without a moments hesitation he will destroy you too, by some unheard-of form of death. How hideous the fate of my fairest nurseling was! When this foul fiend took her in his arms, fear flooded her tender breast and so she ended a life which was worthy of a longer span. Since he was unable to befoul with his filthy lust this child who was my sister soul, my second self, the joy and happiness of my life, in the madness of his bestial desire he raped me against my will, as I swear by God and my own old age. Flee my dear sir! Flee! If he comes, as he usually does, to have intercourse with me, he will find you here and tear you to pieces and destroy you miserably!'
Bedevere was as much moved as it is possible for a human being to be. He soothed the old woman with kind words, comforted her with the promise of speedy help and returned to Arthur to tell him all he that had discovered. Arthur grieved for the fate of the girl and ordered the other two to leave him to attack the monster alone. Should the need arise, they were to come to his assistance as smartly as they knew how and attack the giant in their turn. They then made their way to the taller of the two peaks. There they handed their horses over to their squires and began to clamber to the top, Arthur going on ahead.
At that moment the inhuman monster was standing by his fire. His face was smeared with the clotted blood of a number of pigs at which he had been gnawing. He had swallowed bits of them while he was roasting the rest over the live embers on the spits to which he had fixed them. The moment he saw the newcomers, nothing then being farther from his thoughts, he rushed to snatch up his club, which two young men would have found difficulty in lifting off the ground. The King drew his sword from its scabbard, held his shield in front of him and rushed forward at full speed to prevent the giant from seizing his club. The giant was quite aware of the advantage Arthur was hoping to gain. He took up his club and dealt the King such a mighty blow on his shield that he filled the shore in either direction with the reverberation of the impact and deafened Arthur's ears completely. the King grew white-hot in the fierceness of his rage. He stuck the giant on the forehead with his sword and gave him such a blow that, although it was not mortal, all the same the blood ran down his face and into his eyes and prevented him from seeing. The giant had warded off the blow with his club and in this way had protected his forehead from a mortal wound. Blinded as he was by the blood which was gushing out, he rushed forward all the more fiercely. Just as a boar hurls itself at the huntsman, despite the latter's boar-spear, so the giant rushed against the King's sword. He seized Arthur round the middle and forced him to the ground on his knees. Arthur gathered his strength and quickly slipped out of the giant's clutches. Moving like lightning, he struck th giant repeatedly with his sword, first in this place and then in that, giving him no respite until he had dealt him a lethal blow by driving the whole length of the blade into his head just where his brain was protected by his skull. At this the evil creature gave one great shriek and toppled to the ground with a mighty crash, like some oak torn form its roots by the fury of the winds. The King laughed with relief. He ordered Bedevere to saw off the giant's head and to hand it over to one of his squires, so that it might be carried to the camp for all to go and stare at.
Arthur said he had not come into contact with anyone so strong since the time he had killed the giant Retho on Mount Arvaius, after the latter had challenged him to single combat. Retho had made for himself a fur cloak from the beards of the kings whom he had slain. He sent a message to Arthur, telling him to rip his own beard off his face and when it was torn off to send it to him. Since Arthur was more distinguished than any of the other kings, Retho promised in his honour to sew his beard higher up the cloak than the others. If Arthur would not do this, then Retho challenged him to a duel, saying that whoever proved the stronger should have the fur cloak as a trophy and also the beard of the man he had beaten. Soon after the battle began, Arthur was victorious. He took the giant's beard and the trophy too. From that day on, as he had just said, he had met nobody stronger than Retho.
When they had won their victory, as I have told you, the three returned to their tents with the head, just as dawn was succeeding to night. All their men crowded round them to gape at it and praise the man who had freed the country from such a voracious monster. Hoel, however, grieved over the fate of his niece. He ordered a chapel to be built above her grave on the mountain-top where she had been buried. The peak took its name from the girl's burial-place, and to this very day it is called Helena's Tomb.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, trans. Thorpe, L., Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1983 (1966), pp. 237-241.
THEN came to him an husbandman of the country, and told him how there was in the country of Constantine, beside Brittany, a great giant which had slain, murdered and devoured much people of the country, and had been sustained seven year with the children of the commons of that land, insomuch that all the children be all slain and destroyed; and now late he hath taken the Duchess of Brittany as she rode with her meyne, and hath led her to his lodging which is in a mountain, for to ravish and lie by her to her life's end, and many people followed her, more than five hundred, but they might not rescue her, but they left her shrieking and crying lamentably, wherefore I suppose that he hath slain her on fulfilling his foul lust of lechery. She was wife unto thy cousin Sir Howell, whom we call full nigh of thy blood. Now, as thou art a rightful king, have pity on this lady, and revenge us all as thou art a noble conqueror. Alas, said King Arthur, this is a great mischief, I had lever than the best realm that I have that I had been a furlong way tofore him for to have rescued that lady. Now, fellow, said King Arthur, canst thou bring me thereas this giant haunteth? Yea, Sir, said the good man, look yonder whereas thou seest those two great fires, there shalt thou find him, and more treasure than I suppose is in all France. When the king has understood this piteous case, he returned into his tent. Then he called to him Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere, and commanded them secretly to make ready horse and harness for himself an them twain; for after evensong he would ride on pilgrimage with them two only unto Saint Michael's mount. And then anon he made him ready, and armed him at all points, and took his horse and his shield. And so they three departed thence and rode forth as fast as ever they might till that they came to the forbond of that mount. And there they alighted, and the king commanded them to tarry there, for he would himself go up into that mount. And so he ascended up into that hill till he came to a great fire, and there he found a careful widow wringing her hands and making great sorrow, sitting by a grave new made. And then King Arthur saluted her, and demanded of her wherefore she made such lamentation, to whom she answered and said, Sir knight, speak soft, for yonder is a devil, if he hear thee speak he will come and destroy thee; I hold thee unhappy; what dost thou here in this mountain? for if ye were such fifty as ye be, ye were not able to make resistance against this devil: here lieth a duchess dead, the which was the fairest of all the world, wife to Sir Howell, Duke of Brittany, he hath murdered in forcing her, and hath slit her unto the navel. Dame, said the king, I come form the noble conqueror King Arthur, for to treat with that tyrant for his liege people. Fie on such treaties, said she, he setteth not by the king nor by no man else; but an if thou have brought Arthur's wife, dame Gwenever, he shall be gladder than thou hadst given to him half France. Beware, approach him not too nigh, for he hath vanquished fifteen kings, and hath made him a coat full of precious stones embroidered with their beards, which they sent him to have his love for salvation of their people at this last Christmas. And if thou thou wilt, speak with him at yonder great fire at supper. Well, said Arthur, I will accomplish my message for all your fearful words; and went forth by the crest of that hill, and saw where he sat gnawing on a limb of a man, baking his broad limbs by the fire, and breechless, and three fair damosels turning three broaches whereon were broached twelve young children late born, like young birds. When King Arthur beheld that piteous sight he had great compassion on them, so that his heart bled for sorrow, and hailed him saying in this wise: He that all the world wieldeth give thee short life and shameful death; and the devil have thy soul; why hast thou murdered these young innocent children, and murdered this duchess? Therefore arise and dress thee, thou glutton, for this day day shalt thou die of my hand. Then the glutton anon started up, and took a great club in his hand and smote at the king that his coronal fell to the earth. And the king hit him again that he carve his belly and cut off his genytours, that his guts and his entrails fell down to the ground. Then the giant threw away his club, and caught the king in his arms that he crushed his ribs. Then the three maidens kneeled down and called to Christ for help and comfort of Arthur. And then Arthur weltered and wrung that he was other while under and another time above. And so weltering and wallowing they rolled down the hill till they came to the sea mark, and ever as they so weltered Arthur smote him with his dagger. And it fortuned they came to the place whereas the two knights were and kept Arthur's horse; then when they saw the king fast in the giant's arms they came and loosed him. And then the king commanded Sir Kay to smite off the giant's head, and to set it upon a truncheon of a spear, and bear it to Sir Howell, and tell him that his enemy was slain; and after let this head be bounden to a barbican that all the people may see and behold it; and go ye two up to the mountain, and fetch me my shield, my sword, and the club of iron; and as for the treasure, take ye it, for ye shall find there goods out of number; so I have the kirtle and the club I desire no more. This was the fiercest giant that ever I met with, save one in the mount of Araby, which I overcame, but this was greater and fiercer. Then the knights fetched the club and the kirtle, and some of the treasure they took to themselves, and returned again to the host. And anon this was known through all the country, wherefore the people came and thanked the king. And he said again, Give the thanks to God, and depart the goods among you. And after that King Arthur said and commanded his cousin Howell, that he should ordain for a church to be builded on the same hill in the worship of Saint Michael.
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur, Dent: London, 1953 (1906), pp. 135-138.
This High History saith that Messire Gawain and Lancelot were repaired to the court of King Arthur from the quest they had achieved. The King made great joy thereof and the Queen. King Arthur sate one day at meat by the side of the Queen, and they had been served of the first meats. Thereupon come two knights all armed, and each bore a dead knight before him, and the knights were still armed as they had been when their bodies were alive. 'Sir,' say the knights, 'This shame and this mischief is yours. in like mannner will you lose all your knights betimes and God not love you well enough to give counsel herein forthwith of his mercy.' 'Lords,' saith the King, 'How came these knights to be in so evil case?' 'Sir,' say they, 'It is right good you ought to know. The Knight of the Fiery Dragon is entered into the head of your land, and is destroying knights and castles and whatsoever he may lay hands on, in such sort tha none durst contend against him, for he is taller by a foot than any knight you ever had, and of grisly cheer, and so is his sword three times bigger than the sword of every another knight, and his spear is well as heavy as a man may carry. Two knights may lightly cover them of his shield, and it hath on the outer side the head of a dragon that casteth forth fire and flame whensoever he will, so eager and biting that none may long endure his encounter..
'None other, how strong soever he be, may stand against him, even as you see, hath he burnt and evil-treated all other knights that have withstood him.' 'From what land hath come such manner of man?' 'Sir,' say the knights, 'He is come from Giant's castle, and he warreth upon you for the love of Logrin the Giant, whose head Mesire Kay brought you into your court, nor never, saith he, will he have joy until such time as he shall have avenged him on your body or upon the knight that you love best.' 'Our Lord God,' saith the King, 'will defend us from so evil a man.' He is risen from the table, all scared, and maketh carry the two dead knights to be buried, and the others turn back again when they have told their message. The King calleth Messire Gawain and Lancelot and asketh them what he shall do of this knight that is entered into his land? 'By my head, I know not what to say, save you give counsel herein.' 'Sir,' saith Lancelot, 'We will go against him, so please you, I and Messire Gawain between us.' 'By my head,' saith the King, 'I would not let you go for a kingdom, for such man as is this is no knight but a devil and a fiend that hath issued form the borders of Hell. I say not but that it were great worship and prize to slay and conquer him, but he that should go against him should set his own life in right sore jeopardy and run great hazard of being in as bad a plight as these two knights I have seen.' the King was in such dismay that he knew not neither what to say nor to do, and so was all the court likewise in such sort as no knight neither one nor another was minded to go to battle with him, and so remained the courtin great dismay.
........So as the King sate one day at meat, there came four knights into the hall, and each one of them bore before him a dead knight. And their feet and arms had been stricken off, but their bodies were still all armed, and the habergeons thereon were all black as though they had been blasted by lightning. They laid the knights in the midst of the hall. 'Sir,' say they to the King, 'Once more is manifest this shame that is done you that is not yet amended. The Knight of the Dragon destroyeth you your land and slayeth your men and cometh as nigh us as he may, and saith that in your court shall never be found knight so hardy that he durst abide him or assault him.' Right sore shame hath the King at these tidings, and Messire Gawain and Lancelot likewise. Right sorrowful are they of heart for that the King will not allow them to go thither. The four knights turn back again and leave the dead knights in the hall, but the King maketh them be buried with the others.
A great murmuring ariseth amongst the knights in the hall, and the most part say plainly that they have never heard tell of none that slew knights in such cruel sort, nor so many as did he; and that neither Messire Gawain or Lancelot ought to be blamed for that they went not thither, for no knight in the world might conquer such a man and our Lord God did not, for he casteth forth flame and fire from his shield whensoever him listeth. And while this murmur was going on between the knights all round about the hall, behold you therewithal the Damsel that made bear the knight in the horse-bier and cometh before the King. 'Sir,' saith she, 'I pray and beseech you that you do me right in your court. See, here is Messire Gawain that was at the assembly in the Red Launde where were many knights, and among them the son of the Widow Lady (Perceval), that I see sitting beside you. He and Messire Gawain were they that won the most prize of the assembly. This knight had white arms, and they of the assembly said that he had better done than Messire Gawain, for that he had been first in the assembly. It had been granted me, before the assembly began, that he that should do best thereat, should avenge the knight. Sir, I have sought for him until I have now found him at your court. Wherefore I pray and beseech you that you bid him do so much herein as that he be not blamed, for Messire Gawain well knoweth that I have spoken true. But the knight departed so soon from the assembly, that I knew not what had become of him, and Messire Gawain was right heavy for that he had departed, for he was in quest of him, but knew him not.
'Damsel,' saith Messire Gawain, 'Truth it is that he it was that did best at the assembly in the Red Launde, and moreover please God, well will fulfil his covenant towards you.' 'Messire Gawain,' saith Perceval, 'Meseemeth you did best above all other.' 'By my faith,' saith Messire Gawain,'You speak of your courtesy, but howsoever I or other may have done, you had the prize therein by the judgement of the knights. Of so much may I well call upon the damsel to bear witness.' 'Sir,' she saith, 'Gramercy! He ought not to deny me that I require of him. For the knight that I have so long followed about and borne on a bier was son of his uncle Elinant of Escavalon.'
'Damsel,' saith Perceval, 'Take care that you speak truth. I know very well that Elinant of Escavalon was my uncle on my father's side, but of his son know I nought.'Sir,' saith she, 'Of his deeds well deserved he to be known, for by his great valour and hardiment he came by his death, and he had to name Alein of Escavalon. The Damsel of the Circlet of Gold loved of him passing great love with all her might. The comliest knight that was ever seen of his age was he, and had he lived longer would have been one of the best knights known, and of the great love she had in him made she his body be embalmed when the Knight of the Dragon had slain him, he that is so cruel and maketh desolate all the lands and all the islands. The Damsel of the Circlet of Gold hath he defied in such sort that already hath he slain great part of her knights, and she is held fast in her castle, so that she durst not issue forth, insomuch that all the knights that are there say, and the Lady of the castle also, that he that shall avenge this knight shall have the Circlet of Gold, that never before was she willing to part withal, and the fairest guerdon will that be that any knight may have.
'Sir,'saith she, 'Well behoveth you, therefore, to do your best endeavour to avenge your uncle's son, and to win the Circlet of Gold, for, and you slay the knight, you will have saved the land of King Arthur that he threateneth to make desolate, and all the lands that march with his own, for no King hateth he so much as King Arthur on account of the head of the Giant (the giant Logrin) whereof he made such joy at his court.' 'Damsel,' saith Perceval, 'Where is the Knight of the Dragon?' 'Sir,' saith she, 'He is in the Isles of the Elephants that wont to be the fairest land and the richest in the world. Now hath he made it all desolate, they say, in such sort that none durst inhabit there, and the island where he abideth is over against the castle of the Damsel of the Golden Circlet, so that everyday she seeth him carry off knights bodily from the forest, that he slayeth and smiteth limb form limb, wherof hath she right sore grief at heart.
Perceval heareth this that the damsel telleth him, and marvelleth much thereat, and taketh thought within himself, sith that the adventure is thus thrown upon him, that great blame will he have thereof and he achieveth it not. He taketh his leave of the King and Queen, and so goeth his way and departeth from the Court. Messire Gawain departeth and Lancelot with him, and say they will bear him company with him to the piece of ground, and they may go thither. Perceval holdeth their fellowship right dear. The King and Queen have great pity of Perceval, and say all that never until now no knight went into jeopardy so sore, and that sore to the world will it be if there he should die. They send to all the hermits and worshipful men in the forest of Cardoil and bid them pray for Perceval that God defend him from this enemy with whom he goeth forth to do battle. Lancelot and Messire Gawain go with him by the strange forests and by the islands, and found the forests all void and desolate and wasted in place after place. The Damsel followeth them together with the dead knight......(here is interpolated the adventure of the Turning Castle)
Right glad is Perceval when he seeth the people of the castle (The Turning Castle) turn to the holy faith of the Saviour, and the damsel saith to him, 'Sir, right well have you speeded thus far on your way; nought is there to be done but to finish that which remaineth. For never may they that are within issue forth so long as the Knight of the Dragon is on live. Here you may not tarry, for the longer you tarry, the more lands will be desolate and the more folk will he slay. Perceval taketh leave of them of the castle, that make much joy of him, but sore misgiving have they of him on account of the knight with whom he goeth to do battle, and they say that if he will conquer him, never yet befell knight so fair adventure. They have heard mass before that he departeth, and make rich offerings for him in the name of the Saviour and His sweet Mother. The damsel goeth before, for that she knew the place where the evil knight had his repair. The ride until they come into the Island of Elephants. The knight was alighted under an olive tree, and had but now since slain four knights that were of the castle of the Queen of the Golden Circlet. She was at the windows of her castle and saw her Knights dead, whereof made she great dole. 'Ha, God,' saith she 'Shall I never see none that will avenge me of this evildoer that slayeth my men and destroyeth my land in this wise? She looketh up and seeth Perceval come and the damsel. 'Sir Knight, and you not have force and help and valour in you more than is in four knights, come not nigh this devil! Howbeit, and you feel you may so do battle as to overcome and vanquish him, I will give you the Golden Circlet that is within, and will hold with the new law (the Chrisian message) that hath of late been established. For I see well by your shield that you are a Christian, and, so you may conquer him, then ought I to be assured that your law availeth more than doth ours, and that God was born of the Virgin.'
Right joyous is Perceval of this that he heareth her say. He crosseth and blesseth himself, and commendeth himself to God and His sweet Mother; and is pricked of wath and hardiment like a lion. He seeth the Knight of the Dragon mounted, and looketh at him in wonderment, for that he was so big that never had he seen any man so big of his body. He seeth the shield at his neck, that was right black and huge and hideous. He seeth the Dragon's head in the midst thereof, that casteth out fire and flame in great plenty, so foul and hideous and horrible that all the field stank thereof. The damsel draweth her toward the castle and leaveth the knight on the horse-bier nigh the plain.
'Sir,' saith she to Perceval, 'On this level plot was slain your uncle's son whom I leave, for I have brought him far enough. Now avenge him as best you may, I render and give him over to you, for so much have I done herein as that none have right to blame me.' With that she departeth. The Knight of the Dragon removeth and seeth Perceval coming all alone, whereof hath he great scorn of him and deigneth not to take his spear, but rather cometh at him with his drawn sword, that was right long and red as a burning brand. Perceval seeth him coming and goeth against him, spear in rest, as hard as his horse may carry him, thinking to smite him through the breast. But the Knight setteth his shield between, and the flame that issued from the Dragon burnt the shaft thereof to his hand. And the Knight smiteth him on the top of his helmet, but Perceval covereth him of his shield, whereof had he great affiance that the sword of the foeman knight might not harm it. Josephus witnesseth us that Joseph of Abarimacie had made be sealed in the boss of the shield some of the blood of Our Lord and a piece of His garment.
When the Knight seeth that he hath not hurt Perceval's shield great marvel hath he thereof, for never aforetime had he smitten knight but he had dealt him his death-blow. He turneth the head of the Dragon towards Perceval's shield, but the flame that issued from the Dragon's head turned back again as it had been blown of the wind, so that it might not come nigh him. The Knight is right wroth thereof, and passeth beyond and cometh to the bier of the dead knight and turneth his shield with the dragon's head against him. He scorcheth and burneth all to ashes the bodies of the knight and the horses. Saith he to Perceval, 'Are you quit as for this knight's burial?' 'Certes,' saith Perceval, 'You say true, and much misliketh me therof, but please God I shall amend it.'
Teh damsel that had brought the knight was at the windows of the palace beside the Queen. She crieth out. 'Perceval, fair sir, saith the damsel, 'Now is the shame the greater and the harm the greater, and you amend them not.' Right sorrowful is Perceval of his cousin that is all burnt to a cinder, and he seeth the Knight that beareth the devil with him, but knoweth not how he may do vengeance upon him. He cometh to him sword-drawn and dealeth him a great blow on the shield in such sort that he cleaveth it right to the midst thereof where the dragon's head was, and the flame leapeth forth so burning hot on his sword that it waxed red-hot like as was the Knight's sword. And the damsel crieth to him: 'Now is your sword of the like power as his; now shall it be seen what you will do! I have been told of a truth that the Knight may not be vanquished save by one only and at one blow, but how this is I may not tell, whereof it irketh me.' Perceval looketh and seeth that his sword is all in a flame of fire, whereof much he marvelleth. He smiteth the Knight so passing sore that he maketh his head stoop down over the fore saddle-bow. The Knight righteth him again, sore wrath that he may not put him to the worse. He smiteth him with his sword a blow so heavy that he cleaveth the habergeon and his right shoulder so that he cutteth and burneth the flesh to the bone. As he draweth back his blow, Pwrceval catcheth him and striketh him with such passing strength that he smiteth off his hand, sword and all. The Knight gave a great roar, and the Queen was right joyous thereof. The Knight natheless made no semblant that he was yet conquered, but turneth back toward Percelval at a right great gallop and launched his flame against his shield, but it availeth him nought, for he might not harm it. Perceval seeth the dragon's head, that was broad and long and horrible and aimeth with his sword and thrusteth it up to the hilt into his gullet as straight as ever he may, and the head of the dragon hurleth forth a cry so huge that forest and fell resound thereof as far as two leagues Welsh.
The dragon's head turneth it toward his lord in great wrath, and scorcheth him and burneth him to dust, and thereafter departed up into the sky like lightning. The Queen cometh to Perceval, and all the knights, and see that he is sore hurt in his right shoulder. and the damsel telleth him that never will he be healed thereof save he setteth thereon of the dust of the knight that is dead. and they lead him up to the castle with right great joy. Then they make him to be disarmed, and have his wound washed and tended and some of the knight's dust that was dead set thereon that it might have healing. She maketh send to all the knights of her land: 'Lords,' saith she, 'See here the knight that hath saved my land for me and protected your lives. You know well how it hath been prophesied that the knight with head of gold should come, and through him should you be saved. And now, behold, hath he come hither. The prophecy may not be belied. I will tell you that you do his commandment.' And they said that so would they do right willingly. She bringeth him there where the Circlet of Gold is, and she herself setteth it on his head. After that she bringeth his sword and delivereth it unto him, wherewith he had slain the evil giant devil, both the knight that bare the devil, and the devil that the knight bare in his shield.
The High History of the Holy Grail, trans. Evans, S., Cambrdge: James Clarke & Co., pp. 196-197, 203-206, 209-213.
Sir Gawain is wandering in a forest caught up in his own thoughts and is benighted. He sees a fire in the distance and goes to it. Here he meets a knight and they spend the night together. This is a clear reference to the earthbound sun of the night and the character shows some of the malevolence associated with this entity.
Gawain is next invited to the knights castle and the knight goes ahead to prepare. This allows Gawain to meet some shepherds who warn him that his host has taken many errant knights to his castle, but none have ever emerged. They warn him thus:-
'My lord they say in this region that if anyone contradicts him in anything, whatever it may be, good or bad, he has him killed in his house. We only know of it by hearsay, for no one ever saw anyone who came back from there. If you are willing to believe us, you will not follow him another foot, not if you care for your life. You are such a handsome knight that it would be a pity if he killed you.
Three Arthurian Romances, trans., Arthur, R. G., Dent, London, 1996, P. 89.
Naturally Sir Gawain refuses to listen to this tittle tattle. If he were to run from his host it would affect his reputation for being a courageous knight. Though at his host's castle his natural civility prevents him from contradicting his host. Gawain is also entranced by his host's beautiful daughter and this affection is returned: in fact the father tries to push them together. The daughter, however warns Gawain that any attempt to obtain concrete proof of her love will result in his death, she also warns Gawain not to contradict her father in any way.
The knight proposes that he will sleep in the hall, while Gawain will occupy his bed with his daughter. This bed is very luxurious and is surrounded by twelve burning candles, the extinguishing of which will cause the host great anger. In the bed, Gawain and the daughter, who is naked, embrace and Gawain wants to go further, but the daughter warns him of the sword hanging in the room. This will kill any man who commits a dishonourable act. She tells Gawain of it because she is impressed by his courtliness. Gawain attempts to take the daughter but is wounded by the sword. He is now in a quandary, wondering what will happen to his reputation as a ladykiller if it becomes known that he allowed himself to be restrained by the threat of being killed by the sword. He gazes at the beauty of his bedfellow in the light cast by the twelve candles and resolves to try again. This time the sword strikes him with its flat on the neck and wounds his shoulder. Gawain and the daughter spend the rest of the night in chaste and watchful wakefulness.
In the morning the host is angry at first that Gawain has attempted to make love to his daughter, but relents when Gawain reveals his identity and tells him that the sword has performed it's purpose of choosing the best knight to be his daughters partner and gives him the lordship of his castle. The host now marries Gawain and his daughter
The remainder of the story is not summarised as it is irrelavent to the present discussion.
Three Arthurian Romances, trans., Arthur, R. G., Dent: Lndon, 1996.
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