Medieval Romance

Sir Eglamour of Artois

14th century, Middle English: 15th and 16th century manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, Lincoln Cathedral Library, British Library, Bodleian Library.

again and againConcealed identity

'Whether you are on water or on land, if this ring is on one of your fingers, you cannot be killed.'

In the Middle English romance Sir Eglamour of Artois, the eponymous hero assumes a false name in the land of Sidon. He is known as 'Sir Adventurous', and his host is being threatened by a giant. The ogre has just appeared before the castle walls.

'Sir Adventurous,' called the king. 'I suggest we arm everybody, for the fiend intends to fight.' Our knight replied: 'By the holy cross, I will test his strength!' and taking his helmet, he rode out to confront the giant. Everybody prayed that he might be successful. He rode at the monster with his lance lowered, but the giant caught him a blow that knocked him from his horse and nearly killed him. Swinging his sword, he cut off the giant’s arm at the shoulder. But despite this, the giant fought all day, until the sun had set. And only then, weary from loss of blood, did he start to weaken. When everybody in the city heard the giant’s death cries, they rang all the bells for joy. The king said: ‘Sir Adventurous, by Saint James! Now you shall be king! Tomorrow I will crown you, and you shall marry my daughter.'

'God give you joy,' replied Sir Adventurous, 'but I cannot stay.'

'Then I will give you the best horse that I have. While on his back you will never suffer a fatal injury, neither in joust nor in tournament.' And his daughter Organate said: 'I shall give you a gold ring with a precious stone. Whethur ye be on watyr or on lond, and this rynge be on your hond, ther schall no dede you sclon [kill] – whether you are on water or on land, if you are wearing this ring, you cannot be killed.'

'God keep you in his protection, my fair damsel!' replied Sir Eglamour.

Story fragment recounted from: Hudson, Harriet, 1996, second edition 2006. Four Middle English Romances, Kalamazoo, Michigan: Western Michigan University for TEAMS. Medieval Institute Publications. The Middle English text of SIR EGLAMOUR OF ARTOIS from British Library MS Cotton Caligula A.ii.

See for yourself

Sir Eglamour of Artois – TEAMS Middle English texts

Sir Eglamour of Artois – Wikipedia

Chivalric Romance – Wikipedia

Medieval Institute Publications – Harriet Hudson (Ed), Four Middle English Romances: Sir Isumbras, Octavian, Sir Eglamour of Artois, Sir Tryamour, Second Edition. TEAMS Middle English texts

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