Medieval Arthurian Legend

The Story of Sir Tristrem

14th century, Middle English, National Library of Scotland.

Tristrem followed the blood stains to the giant’s castle and found the hand lying on a table.

Tristrem met Urgan in battle. ‘You killed my brother Morgan, while he was eating!’ said Urgan. ‘My foe! You will pay for this with your life.’

‘We’ll see,’ replied Tristrem. ‘But I think you are the one who will die.’

The club that Urgan carried was twelve feet long. No man could survive a blow from him. It will be a miracle if Tristrem can. Tristrem found himself with a sudden advantage and cut away Urgan’s club with one stroke of his sword. And of the geauntes hand Tristrem smote that day - and off the giant’s hand Tristrem smote that day. Tristrem, for sothe to say, the geaunt gert he blede. He made the giant bleed, that’s for sure!

Urgan, in a great rage, fought with his left hand against the valiant Tristrem and managed to deliver a fierce blow onto Tristrem’s shining helmet. Tristrem was knocked to the ground. But up he leapt! And with a cry of praise to God Almighty, he began to swing his sword once more.

The giant backed off; he picked up his hand and ran away as though he was mad, back in the direction of his castle. Tristrem followed the blood stains to the giant’s castle and found the hand lying on a table. Tristrem rode away with it. The enormous giant reappeared – he had gone off to collect herbs and salves to reattach his hand – and he immediately raced after Tristrem.

Story fragment retold in Modern English from: Lupack, Alan (Ed), 1994. Lancelot of the Laic and Sir Tristrem, Kalamazoo, Michigan: Western Michigan University for TEAMS. Medieval Institute Publications. Introduction and Middle English text. Text of Sir Trystrem from National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.2.1, the Auchinleck Manuscript.

See for yourself

Sir Tristrem – TEAMS Middle English texts

Thomas of Britain – Wikipedia

Tristan and Iseult – Wikipedia

Gottfried von Strassburg – Wikipedia

Mark of Cornwall – Wikipedia

Thomas the Rhymer – Wikipedia

Medieval Institute Publications – Alan Lupack (Ed), 1994. Lancelot of the Laik and Sir Tristrem. Middle English text with an introduction.


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