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Medieval Arthurian Legend

Thomas Chestre: The Fair Unknown

14th century, Middle English, British Museum, Lambeth Palace Library London, Bodleian Library Oxford, Biblioteca Nazionale Naples.

A young man arrives at King Arthur’s court not knowing his own name. King Arthur gives him the title 'The Fair Unknown'.

A young man arrives at King Arthur’s court not knowing his own name. King Arthur gives him the title the Fair Unknown. Although Sir Gawain is present at court, he does not recognise the Fair Unknown as his own son Gingalain, and neither does anybody else.

Gaweyn, hys owene syre [father], heng abowt hys swyre [neck] a scheld wyth a gryffoun – Sir Gawain, his own father, hung a shield about the Fair Unknown’s neck; a shield whose emblem was a griffin.

Later, in the midst of an adventurous journey, the Fair Unknown defeats two giants and rescues a maiden. Her father, an earl – for hys [the Fair Unknown's] good dede, yaf hym ryche wede; scheld and armes bryght – gave him some fine clothes, bright armour and a shield.

'I say, you fellow in white!' shouts a giant to the Fair Unknown later in the journey.

'I speak the truth!' insists the constable of a castle as the Fair Unknown approaches with a companion, still further on in the tale. Two knights of the Round table have arrived. They are clad in red armour – jn rose reed armure wyth thre lyouns of gold. – red armour with three gold lions on their shields.

Story fragments recounted from: Mills, M, 1969. Lybeaus Desconus, from the Medieval manuscripts Lambeth Palace MS 306 and British Museum MS Cotton Caligula A.ii. Published for the Early English Text Society by Oxford University Press.

See for yourself

Lybeaus Desconus – Eve Salisbury and James Weldon (Eds), TEAMS Middle English text with an introduction

Gingalain – Wikipedia

Libeaus Desconus – Wikipedia

Complete text of two 15th century Middle English manuscript copies of Thomas Chestre's 14th century Lybeaus Desconus, edited by M Mills, 1969, available through the Early English Text Society (EETS)

…or direct from Oxford University Press


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