Michelant: Part 9

He [Escanor the Great] was the son of a giant who had married an enchantress and at his birth was born at the same time as that of Gawain, a prophecy was made known that the latter would surpass all other knights in prowess. He had a sister named Eleanor, who married Bruno the Prophet, king of a country situated on the territories of the Irish, in which country she had a son, Escanor, dubbed the Noble, the same who was wounded in the ambush designed by Girfflet. Escanor the Great, trusting in his extraordinary strength, had ordered him to search everywhere for Gawain in order to fight and vanquish him; but in the fight he initiated, Gawain was the victor and in mercy spared his adversary, whom he could have killed; ever since then Escanor had vowed a mortal hatred of him that grew stronger after the attack ordered on his nephew, which he attributed to Gawain; furthermore he sought on every occasion to get revenge for this, while for his part the Noble Escanor, king of the White Mountain, challenged Gawain, in the most outrageous manner, despite having promised his uncle who feared a defeat, to never attack Gawain; but after his recovery, his uncle knowing that great festivities were being prepared at the court of Arthur, sent a troupe of knights to Merlin’s base, in the hopes of surprising Gawain who did not hesitate to go there in search of some adventure.


6 thoughts on “Michelant: Part 9

  1. I am delighted to see a new entry! There are a couple of curious points I’d like to ask about, if you have the time. You translate the younger Escanor’s epithet as Noble. Was the original word used “Biau”? There is also a reference to “Merlin’s base” which is obviously the Fountain of Merlin where Gawain and Grifflet were ambushed in Part 8. Are there alternative translations or implications of the word here translated as “base”?

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  2. Thank you for your highly informative reply to my question as to these two terms. Translations of both vary, though most English writers stick pretty close to Beautiful for Handsome. It is most instructive to see the wider connotations of the word for wordsmiths and their audiences when these stories were crafted. The perron or esplumeor of Merlin is referred to in many Arthurian sources and is rarely given any description. It is often translated simply and vaguely as Merlin’s Rock in contexts which make it unclear whether it is a natural stone, a monument made of stone, a burial mound, a hillside or a mountain. Romancers described him as trapped beneath it, inside it or in an invisible tower of air above it, which may suggest that they were not, themselves, entirely clear on what their traditional sources were referring to, though it may simply have been that these writers wished to describe an essentially spiritual concept in deliberately individual and imaginative fashion. The sense that this was also his base in life, is also implied by the fact that before Vivianne (whom I strongly suspect is the Damsel of Nantes enchantress or fay whom Gawain meets in Escanor) drew Merlin into his afterlife in a Celtic Otherworld knights would seek him at his stone. Comparing different references to this place scattered through Arthuriana it appears that one might expect to find at this perron some sort of actual monument in close association with a spring. Some sources also include a great tree, a small chapel of some kind and occasionally a separate hermit’s cottage.


  3. Thought I should mention that your analysis of the use of the word “Biau” in this text has considerable pertinence to many another Arthurian text as there are quite a few characters with variations of this epithet. Thanks again for your response.


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