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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.

When the Fair Unknown approached a fire in a forest clearing, he saw two giants.

Lybeus and that may rydden in her jornaye – For three days they rode onwards with light hearts, the Fair Unknown, the damsel Elaine and her dwarf. They reden ever weste jn-to the wilde forest – and ever westwards they rode, through dark and ancient forests, towards Segontium.

A makeshift bower of branches and leaves gave them shelter for one night, keeping them dry while the dwarf remained outside to keep a watchful eye open, so that no thief should take their horses. But fear gripped him; the smell of fire, the sounds of violence.

‘Arise, young knight!’ he whispered. ‘Get on your horse and be on your guard.’

The Fair Unknown leapt onto his horse, took his shield and lance in his hands and rode towards the fire. And when he got near, he saw two giants – two gyauntes he sawe there.

Story fragment 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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