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Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

Sir Lancelot lifts up the lid of the tomb and sees 'a fyendely dragon spyttynge fyre oute of hys mowthe.'

Sir Lancelot has just rescued a damsel from a steaming hot room in which she has been trapped for five years by witchcraft. They go to a church together to give thanks to God for her deliverance. But the people all implore him: ‘Sir knight, since you have delivered this lady you must deliver us also – frome a serpente whyche ys here in a tombe.

‘Sirs, take me to it, and whatever I can do shall be done,’ said Sir Lancelot, taking up his shield.

On the tomb is an enigmatic inscription in letters of gold: ‘A leopard of royal blood shall come here and kill this serpent; and this leopard shall engender a lion who shall surpass all other knights.’

When Sir Lancelot lifts up the lid of the tomb a fiendish dragon rises up – a fyendely dragon spyttynge fyre oute of hys mowthe. Sir Lancelot draws his sword and struggles for a long while with this beast, ...and at the last wyth grete payne sir Launcelot slew that dragon.

Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones. XIV. Launcelot and Elaine, pp 478–479.

See for yourself

Sir Thomas Malory – Wikipedia

Le Morte d'Arthur – Wikipedia

Lancelot – Wikipedia

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

King Arthur – Wikipedia

Snakes and dragons

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styalised snake's head from Iron Age Celtic metalwork design
iron age sword scabbard design

Snakes and dragons: summary

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