The next day, the earl got himself ready and rode with Sir Eglamour. But tempers flared on the way home, if you will listen!
As they rode back, Sir Eglamour said: 'May I ask you something?'
'Speak on,' said the earl. 'Everything you say is of interest to me, since you are one of the best knights in the whole of Artois.'
'Does your daughter have any plans to marry yet?'
'I know of nobody at the moment. She is so beautiful that she has no need at all to rush into anything.'
'Sir, may I marry her?'
'You?' replied the earl, incredulously. 'Yes! – if you are able to fight three impossible battles; then you may win her, and all of Artois as well!'
'I would already be on my way if I knew where you wanted me to go!' announced Sir Eglamour, curtly. 1∩
'In a forest far to the west of here lives a giant,' replied the earl, angrily. 'He is the like of which you will never have seen before. Among the cypress trees of his woodland roam the most beautiful deer in existence. Bring me back one of these animals to prove that you have been there.' And he rode away.
After dinner, Sir Eglamour spoke to Cristabel. 'Damsel,' he said, 'I have agreed to undertake three trials of strength and courage for your sake.'
'Take good heart,' replied Cristabel, 'for you will never before have encountered such threats to your life as those you are about to face. You will be cursing me before you finish! But accept this gift of two greyhounds. No creature exists which they will not soon be able to overtake, they are so swift. And also I give you this sword; it was pulled up from beneath the waters of the Aegean Sea by Saint Paul himself.2∩ Its edge is sharper than any, and there is no helmet that can resist a well-aimed blow from it.'
'Thank you,' said Sir Eglamour, and he took his leave.
Sir Eglamour rode resolutely until he came to a forest far to the west.3∩ It was surrounded by a stone wall emblazoned with carvings. He found an entrance and went in. Blowing his hunting horn, immediately deer leapt away on every side and Sir Eglamour unleashed his greyhounds after one of them. But almost at once, the dogs became distracted and started to howl and bark; for the giant had woken up. 'I can hear hounds,' the giant murmured to himself. 'Some thief is trying to steal my deer!' The giant made his way to the only exit through the wall and leaned his back against it. Meanwhile, Sir Eglamour had brought down a great stag and taken its head as a trophy. He blew the hunting call signifying a kill. Then, returning to the entrance, he said to the giant: 'Good Sir, let me pass, if you please.'
'Thief!' roared the giant and strode towards Sir Eglamour with an iron club in his hand. Taking a swing at him, he buried the thing two feet into the earth. 'What are you doing stealing my deer?' he shouted. 'You have killed the chief stag of my herd!'
Sir Eglamour drew his sword and wounded the giant in the face.
Although blinded, the giant fought with Sir Eglamour all day, and all through the night, and it was only at dawn the next morning that Sir Eglamour managed to topple him to the ground. The knight thanked Christ for this victory, then measured the giant, and found him to be fifty feet in length! 4∩
'You see, I have been there!' cried Sir Eglamour, brandishing the giant's head in front of the earl when he arrived back. Everybody was able to bear witness to this fact.
'Do not think yourself so fortunate!' cried the earl, derisively. 'I have another journey for you to make, so you had better not get too comfortable. In Sidon there is a boar that terrorises the land; it kills everybody in sight, or injures them terribly. His tusks are a yard long and they will deal you a dreadful wound.'
The valiant Sir Eglamour took his leave the very next day and spent a fortnight travelling across the countryside, and another fortnight across the sea. And one evening, newly arrived in the forest where this boar lived, he came across signs of the animal's presence; the bodies of dead men were strewn about the ground. It was a grim sight. Sir Eglamour rested beneath an oak, and as the next day dawned he set off deeper into the forest. Soon he heard the sound of the sea. Round about him were the helmets of knights, and bodies that had been torn to pieces by the boar. Coming to a cliff, he looked down and saw the beast returning from the water, where it had taken its morning drink. The animal saw Sir Eglamour and whetted its tusks ferociously. Sir Eglamour levelled his lance and galloped to meet it. But although he rode faster than he had ever ridden before, his spear shattered on impact and did not penetrate the boar's hide at all. But the boar wounded Sir Eglamour's horse so viciously that he killed it, and the knight found himself forced to continue the combat on foot.
They fought together for three days, Sir Eglamour and the boar, and on the fourth day, when the sun was at its highest, feeling himself to be close to defeat and making one last desperate effort to save himself, Sir Eglamour swung his sword, cut through the boar's tusks and on into its head. And he thanked Christ that he had gained victory over the boar at last, as the book of romance tell us.
It so happened that the King of Sidon was out hunting when he heard the animal's cries. 'Someone is fighting with the boar and needs our help!' he exclaimed, and he sent a squire off to see what was happening. 'Lord, the boar is slain!' shouted the squire, running back excitedly. 'A knight is standing on him! He has a shield of gold and azure and on his helmet he wears the image of a lady.'
They brought food for Sir Eglamour, and some fine wine, and a garment of clean white cloth to put on. 'We shall dine in celebration,' declared the king.
After the meal, the king asked Sir Eglamour which country he was from. But Sir Eglamour was in a playful mood. 'I am from Artois,' he replied, 'and my name is Sir Adventurous.'5∩ Some knights who were nearby brought it to the king's attention that this was the knight who had killed a giant in a forest that lay far to the west, and the king invited Sir Adventurous to spend a couple of days with him before continuing on his journey. 'There is a giant not far from here who has designs on my daughter,' the king confided.
Wagons were sent for, the boar was butchered and loaded onto them, and by noon they all approached the city of Sidon. Everyone was delighted that the boar had been slain, but the Queen cautioned: 'God shield us from harm, for when the giant returns, things will begin to happen!'
At dinner, the knight was seated next to the king's daughter. Her name was Organate, and she did everything in her power to put Sir Eglamour at his ease; but after the meal she told him how desperately they were harassed by this giant.'
The next morning, the ogre 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 shall test his strength before you do this!' and taking his helmet, he rode out to meet 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 the giant start to weaken. When everybody in the city heard the giant's death cries, they rang all the bells for joy. The king exclaimed: '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,' said the king. 'While on his back you will suffer no fatal injury, neither in joust nor in tournament. And Organate said: 'I shall give you a gold ring with a precious stone. And wherever you are, on water or on land, while it is on your finger you may not be killed for any blow that you may receive.'
'God keep you in his protection, my fair damsel!' replied Sir Eglamour.
'Sir, I shall wait for fifteen years, and then you shall marry me.' she said.
'In faith,' he replied, 'then I shall return in fifteen years' time!' 6∩
So Sir Eglamour took his leave and with the giant's head, and with the head of the boar, he continued on the journey in which God guided him.
Fifteen weeks passed and Sir Eglamour arrived back in Artois. Everyone was pleased to see him. Cristabel heard that he had returned and went to see him straight away. 'Sir, how did you get on?' she asked.
'Not at all badly,' he replied. 'Although it was hard going. But I did it for both of us,' and he kissed her. Then he strode into the hall, where the earl sat at the high table. 'I have been to Sidon,' declared Sir Eglamour, laying down the two heads. The earl seemed less than pleased. 'You are very close to winning all of Artois and my daughter's hand in marriage,' he acknowledged. 'Is there no devil that can kill you? But wait! There is one who can redeem the failure of all these others.'
'Let me have twelve weeks to recover from my exertions,' Sir Eglamour asked, and all the noblemen supported him in his request. So he was given twelve weeks to recuperate.
After supper, he went with Cristabel to her room. The lamps were burning brightly and she allowed him to sit beside her. 'Welcome, my knight,' she said. 'I have been successful twice,' he replied, 'and by the grace of God I shall marry you.' And they gave each other assurances of their love, and Sir Eglamour remained in her room all night.
Twenty weeks later, Cristabel looks a little downcast and asks her maidens if they can keep a secret. The earl burns with indignation and anger. 'Sir knight!' he rages. 'Make yourself ready! It is time for you to be off!'
When Cristabel heard this, she was distraught.
'Sir!' continued the earl. 'At Rome, as I have heard, there lives a fierce dragon. The fiend is of such notoriety that nobody dares to come within seven miles of the place. Do you hear me! Arm yourself! Kill this monster or back out of everything now. And I mean everything!'
'I have completed two of the tasks that you have set me and I shall fulfil this third or die in the attempt,' replied Sir Eglamour.
After supper, he went to see Cristabel and took his leave. 'Damsel, your father has set me one more task that I must do; I will go, and return as soon as I can, with Mary's help. But take this ring, and keep it well, in case God sends you a child; for with it you cannot die.' 7∩
So off to Rome went Sir Eglamour, to seek the dragon. Soon he came across signs of its presence – dead bodies strewn across the ground, scattered by the hundreds! Had he not been such a valiant knight, his heart would have frozen with terror at the sight of it all. And it was not long before the dragon itself suddenly appeared and knocked Sir Eglamour off his horse. The knight got up and set his shield against the blows that rained down on him, and from the fire that came from its mouth. The heat intensified as night began to fall. It was like standing at the very gates of hell! Sir Eglamour cut off part of the dragon's tail and in desperate pain, the beast managed to hit the knight on the head with its stump, giving him a deep wound. Sir Eglamour cried out in anguish, and in a final desperate effort, he cut off the creature's head.
The Emperor of Rome had all this time been watching from a tower, and at the sight of this victory he shouted to his men: 'Let the call go out that the dragon is slain! An unknown knight has excelled himself!' Then the Emperor made his way to the place where the knight lay beside the dragon. Everybody in the city hastened there and carried him back in triumph. They were so pleased that the dragon was dead that they rang all the city's bells as they carried this knight through the streets.
The emperor had a daughter, and she was given charge of the knight. She saved him from death; she healed the wound in his head with her own hands and had the knight in her care for twelve months. Meanwhile, the emperor brought the body of the dragon into the city.
Word reaches Artois that a knight has killed the dragon of Rome. But Sir Eglamour has been away for so long now under the care of physicians that Cristabel has already given birth to a healthy little boy. The earl vows to God: 'Daughter! I shall cause you to be thrown into a boat and set adrift upon the sea, alone, just you and your bastard child; and he shall have no christening.' Her maidens wept for her.
The ship was quickly made. Cristabel looked tearfully at her child. 'My son,' she said, 'it seems that we must die.'
They led Cristabel and her son to the vessel. Her chambermaids fell down in a faint, and so did all who loved her. 'Father, I ask that you have a priest read from the Bible to ward off the perils of the deep,' she said. And to her maidens: 'Greet my lord for me when he returns.' They wept as though they were going mad. But the lady sighed and climbed into the boat.8∩
Soon the boat was adrift upon the sea; the wind increased and carried her to a small island, it was no more than a rock. She went ashore, hoping that she might be able to find some habitation, but all she found were seagulls that perched and flew all around her. And as she sat with them, a griffin came and carried off her child to an unknown land.
'Alas that I was ever born!' she cried. 'My child has been taken from me!'
The baby was taken to the land of Israel; and his departure causes the lady much grief.
The King of Israel went hunting one day and he saw the griffin land. Riding with his huntsmen towards the place where the bird had alighted, he watched the griffin slap the infant with its beak and then fly off. The king wrapped the child in a scarlet mantle and gave the baby into the safekeeping of a squire. The infant's eyes betrayed a lively character and because of the nature of his arrival, they named him Degarébel.
The king abandoned his hunt and took the child home. 'My dear, I have seen a wonderful thing,' he said to the queen when he returned. 'Look what God has sent me!' She was delighted and called for a nurse immediately. The baby was a very handsome little boy. But we must leave him for a while and learn what has happened to his mother.
Cristabel has spent all night on the rock, amongst the seagulls, but in the morning she was afloat once again. 9∩ She had neither mast nor rudder and each storm was more ferocious than the last; she went without food for six days, as the book of romance tells us. But on the sixth day she found herself carried onto a beach in Egypt. The King of Egypt stood in a tower and saw the ship come onto the sand. He commanded a squire to go and see what the wind had brought ashore. The squire went to the boat and slapped it on the side. The lady immediately began to struggle, but through weakness she could not speak. All she could manage to do was to wave her hands about like a new-born infant.10∩ Make merry, for here begins the last part of the story!