Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

When King Anguyshauns of Ireland saw Sir Gareth fight so well, he wondered who this knight could be, for he seemed to be armed in green, then blue, then in white, then in red and black...

Sir Gawain's brother Sir Gareth has rescued a damsel who was besieged by the Red Knight of the Red Laundes, or red forest glades or clearings, and is spending time with her at a castle in Avalon, nursing an injury. King Arthur has finally learned who this knight is, whom they knew as Bewmaynes and who spent a year in his service as a kitchen boy before defeating the Knight of the Red Launds in single combat. King Arthur sends for the damsel whom Sir Gareth has rescued in order to find out where he is. But Sir Gareth has asked the damsel only to suggest that the King might arrange for a tournament to be held, at which the best knight might win her hand in marriage.

Sir Gareth complains of his injury: I was never thorowly hole [uninjured] syn [since] I was hurte, and the damsel, who has now returned to Avalon from King Arthur’s court, promises to heal him with the help of a magic ointment.

And so the cry was made [that knights] sholde com to the Castell Perelus besyde the Ile of Avylon. But Sir Gareth, now fit and well, asks the damsel and the Red Knight of the Red Launds not to reveal who he is, and to make no more of him than the least knight there.

'I will give you a ring,' replies the damsel, 'so long as you promise to return it to me when the tournament is over, for my beauty depends upon it. The virtue of this ring is that it will turn green into red and red into green and blue into white and white into blue – and so hit woll do of all maner of coloures; also who that beryth this rynge shall lose no bloode.

The day arrives, Sir Gareth rides out onto the tournament field and begins a succession of fierce and successful encounters with other knights. Whan kynge Anguyshauns of Irelonde sawe sir Gareth fare so, he mervayled what knyght he was; for at one tyme he semed grene, an another tyme at his gayne-commying hym semed blewe. And thus at every course that he rode too and fro he chonged whyght to rede and blak...

Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Book of Sir Gareth of Orkney, that was called Bewmaynes by Sir Kay, pp 177–215.

See for yourself

Sir Thomas Malory – Wikipedia

Le Morte d'Arthur – Wikipedia

Gareth – Wikipedia

Sir Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte Darthur' – British Library, online exhibition

King Arthur – Wikipedia


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