Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

The Knight of the Misshapen Coat takes up the new shield that the damsel has given him and, along with his new name, rides off to continue the quest.

A knight comes to King Arthur’s court wearing a torn and tattered surcoat. It is spattered with blood. There are rips in it where sharp blades have been thrust through it. One cannot help but recall that Chrétien de Troyes, in the Conte del Graal, the original story of Sir Perceval and the grail, written in the 1180s, told us that men defeated in battle have to make their way to King Arthur’s court still wearing the clothes that they have been wearing on the battlefield.

The dishevelled man declares his name to be Brewnor le Noyre and explains how his father was murdered whilst wearing this coat, and that the strokes be on hit as I found hit... Thus to have my fadyrs deth in remembraunce I were this coote tyll I be revenged. And because ye ar called the moste nobelyst kynge of the world, I com to you to make me a knyght.

Sir Kay immediately feels compelled to give this man a new name. 'Hit may well be,' seyde sir Kay the Senesciall, 'but in mokkynge ye shall be called La Cote Male Tayle, that is as muche to sey the Evyll-Shapyn Cote.

King Arthur knights him. 'Now, sir,' seyde this yonge knyght, 'I requyre you and all the knyghtes of the courte that ye calle me none other name but La Cote Male Tayle, – the Knight of the Misshapen Coat. King Arthur agrees.

A damsel soon arrives at King Arthur’s court carrying – a grete blacke shylde with a whyght honde in the myddis holdynge a swerde. She explains that the shield belonged to a man who sawe none other way but he muste dye, and he had given it to her to take to King Arthur’s court in the hope that some good knight will take it up – and that he wolde fulfylle the queste that he was in.

The Knight of the Misshapen Coat takes up this new shield, along with his new name, and rides off to continue this quest.

Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones. III. La Cote Male Tayle, pp 282–3.

Chrétien de Troyes' account of the necessity of men defeated in battle to make their way to King Arthur's court, in: Kibler, William W., and Carroll, Carleton W., 1991. Chrétien de Troyes: Arthurian Romances. Translated from Old French with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. The Story of the Grail (Perceval) p 415.

See for yourself

Sir Thomas Malory – Wikipedia

Le Morte d'Arthur – Wikipedia

Brunor – Wikipedia

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

King Arthur – Wikipedia

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