Still shocked by the murder committed on Escanor’s person, the Knights of the Round Table beg the king to resume his ordinary way of life; to respond to their wishes, he proposes to hold a great tournament at the next Pentecostal celebrations and he communicates his intentions to the queen who, according to custom, summons all the women and young ladies of the realm. The seneschal of Bamburgh, seeing everything arranged accordingly, no longer doubts their success; the friends of the princess present themselves before her and press Ayglin to marry her to Kay; but he refuses to do so under the pretext that this man is his mortal enemy; alleging that his niece had been entrusted her to him by his dying brother to marry her in the most honourable way, he manages in this way to remove all her supporters from her and he takes her to a neighbouring castle where he holds her captive, after having summoned a count of the land to come marry her straight away. Yonnet then has the men of the town assemble in a number of three thousand, to prevent this union bringing prejudice and ruin down on the country. This decision is only just taken when a young lady sent by Andrivete arrives, announcing that the count should come [xiv] the next day to marry her, but that she would rather die and begs her men to come save her. The seneschal then suggests Ayglin should leave, so that he can go to battle in the campaign; indeed she benefits from Ayglin’s departure on the hunt, and goes to the rendezvous when her escort runs away into the woods at the sight of a group who come to save her, while she flees, only in the company of two young ladies, towards the town whose people receive her with the greatest joy and promise to defend her. Her uncle vows to be revenged, in learning that she has taken refuge at Bamburgh with the seneschal, who has joined together all the citizens of the region to protect her and assure her rights through marriage with a powerful knight; he sends a messenger to his niece with the injunction to return with him and threatens the seneschal with his wrath, if he thinks of resisting; but he experiences a humiliating refusal. Angered, Ayglin assembles an army and comes to lay siege to Bamburgh where the inhabitants resist, vigorously supported by the men of the campaign. Kay, notified of these events, informs the king, who promises to go help the besieged people. Ayglin, seeing that he will fail in his enterprise, then employs tactics. He has a seal made with the arms of the seneschal and sends a false letter to Kay, so as to warn him that Andrivete has forgotten him and that she has avoided him to marry a man of base extraction, without their knowledge. Kay is upset at this news and curses the inconstancy of women; he intends to send a messenger to Bamburgh to have the most recent news, and during this time the damsel stations herself on the way secretly in order to get herself to the court of Arthur. On the way she meets a courteous knight, Espinogre, who goes to Carlion to take part in the festivities that are going to take place; she tells him that is not the place to which she is making her way and they reluctantly separate when she meets another knight, Dinadan, who professes the greatest indifference and a profound mistrust of the fair sex; she addresses him with sharp reproofs; Dinadan, to defend himself, replies that she has an equally disagreeable character as Kay, and that they would get on perfectly together and should meet since Kay has just been deserted by his Northumberland beloved.
Category Archives: summaries
He [Gawain] then sees a group of young men and young ladies arriving while singing, who, at his request, tell him that they are from the White Mountain, and that their lord, who has no equal, is going to Carlion to engage in single combat; he continues on his way and he meets a new group of maidens singing in chorus; upon questioning, they tell him that they belong to the most beautiful and lovable couple in the world; finally, further on, is a company of young ladies and richly dressed knights, who in their songs embellish even more the praises they give to their lord, whose splendour and arrogance annoy Gawain more and more. Gawain lets the group that precedes Escanor pass and following on his way with the firm purpose of killing him, he moves forward close to the young couple whose elegance and beauty the poet describes . . . (Omission of a quire and around 1200 lines, which recount the details and the result of the attack planned by Girfflet . . .) A maiden addresses the sharpest reproaches to the king over what has happened; during a period of amnesty and with the assurance that he had nothing to fear, Escanor has been assassinated in treason. Angered, the king vows to [xii] exact a terrible vengeance for this act; he sends knights to enquire about the murder and search for the perpetrator. They find Escanor in the hands of physicians; upon seeing them he raises a racket of simultaneous complaints and regrets, but they ignore the details of the event, except Girfflet, who understands that, if they knew him to be the perpetrator, his brother would be dishonoured; and also his accomplice keeps absolute silence for him, while Gawain feels the most intense anger at not having been able to fight his accuser. He returns to hear the mass with the king and his friends when two maidens appear, who accuse him of being the perpetrator of this murder; these new grievances plunge the court into a profound sorrow, which goes into mourning. However Kay, still preoccupied by his love, desires to return to Northumberland and takes leave of the king, who tries in vain to make him stay. On his way he passes in front of a tower built near to a deep and rapid river that he cannot cross, despite his desire to reach the other bank; he hears a horn being sounded by a hideous dwarf who lowers the drawbridge and orders him, according to established custom, to hand over his horse. Kay threatens to throw him in the water, but the dwarf responds by blows with his baton and Kay hesitates no longer in taking it away from him, when the master of the castle arrives, a perfidious and disloyal knight named Colivre the Proud, brother of Bruno Without Pity who challenges Kay; he struck this man dead at the first attempt and already he was regretting his impulsiveness when a young girl comes to throw herself at his feet, while thanking him for having delivered her from a villain, who had abducted her by force after having killed her father in order to avenge himself on the man for having refused his daughter . . . (short omission following which they find Kay, who is dismayed to learn that Ayglin wants to take Andrivete away to his home . . .) He arrives at Bamburgh where he finds, to his great satisfaction, his former host, called Yonnet, a very honourable knight, seneschal of the king’s daughter, detested by Ayglin because of the fondness he felt for her; since he [Ayglin] only wanted her to marry a man of lowly estate whom it would be easy to get rid of; he also had her watched and guarded closely, out of fear that she would not do homage to King Arthur, in her capacity as heiress of the regions of her father, recently dead, [xiii] and he wanted above all to prevent her from speaking to the newcomer. However, through Yonnet, the young lady had been able to warn his whole lineage, who have been eager to rush to her service. Yonnet warns Kay about Aiglin’s plans and keen to get him an interview with his beloved, he goes to find her and invites her to a meal, where after the first service, she will leave the table and go in the company of her lady to walk in the garden so as to meet Kay there. Everything being organised, the rendezvous takes place in a secluded spot: the damsel informs Kay of these goings-on and seeks his support; he confers with Yonnet who puts him on his guard against Ayglin’s underhand plans. It is agreed that Kay in returning to the court will take the most constructive measures in order to prevent the misappropriation of the inheritance that he will try hard to keep for the young lady. Indeed King Arthur is favourably disposed to his ideas, and all his friends promise him the support most efficient to realise them, with an eagerness that makes him have the highest hopes.
 I have translated fossé for ‘ditch’ here as water, as the space Kay is threatening to throw him in is the river he wishes to cross. It highlights an interesting link between Norse and the Norman languages, as the English ‘foss’ meaning ‘river’ comes from Old Norse, but also has a precedent in the Latin fossa.
At this point Gawain returns to Brittany; he is received with the very greatest welcome by the king to whom he relates all the treasons plotted against him; in public he offers the queen the bird that had led him astray, and introduces the friend of the Round Table le Bel Inconnu, who has come to join them and who everyone welcomes eagerly; but at the same time he learns of the challenge that has been sent to him: he [xi] gets annoyed with his friends because they have not inquired about the name of the knight who accuses him and complains bitterly about it to the king, who to calm him assures him that the man will appear to prepare himself for the fight, to give himself up to numerous devotional practices; Girfflet no less tormented asks his brother to fight in his place, which he refuses. Girfflet then goes to consult a squire named Galantinet that Gawain had trained and they look for a way to avoid combat with the latter, so much so that they make him glum and dejected. After deliberating for a long time they arrive at a plan they propose to execute in utmost secrecy. Girfflet sends for a great and vigorous destrier to be purchased in another country that no one could recognise; he dons an old suit of arms that is completely rusty and embossed, over it a dirty and torn haqueton, he covers his head with a helmet of iron that had been forgotten in a fireplace; and equipped with a strong lance, he goes to take up his position on the road Gawain’s adversary has to take.
Then a knight arrives who announces to the king that [the region of] Brittany is outraged and that they would like them to send a determined knight like Gawain promptly in order to re-establish order; this man accepts the mission; in no time he conquers the malcontents and forces them to promise by oath that in the future they will begin anything against their sovereign. But amongst the rebels are the parents of a damsel who is a very competent necromancer, who vows a mortal hatred of Gawain. She had the custom of drawing people she wanted to do away with in an ambush, by means of a goshawk trained to flutter about them and lead them little by little to the place of the ambush.
Gawain prepares to go in search of some adventure in the forest of Broceliande, when he sees the bird, which imperceptibly draws him into a forest where he is assailed by five knights lying in wait to kill him. He fights four of them, puts the fifth to flight, and arrives at a chapel where he finds a cottage that is not very comfortable at a hermit’s home. The next day, after having heard the mass, he goes on his way again, and meets the bird once more, who again tries to lead him astray like the day before; but he sees seven knights who are getting ready to attack him. One of them however who appears to be their leader, ashamed of attacking a man alone in such great numbers, remains a spectator until Gawain defeats his companions; then he starts a new fight where he is in turn vanquished by Gawain, who tells him to turn himself in as a prisoner at Arthur’s court. He learns that it is at the instigation of Brian of the Isles that he was attacked by this knight, who tells him he is called the Handsome Unknown, and (viii) seeks to dissuade him from following the goshawk, warning him that at the instigation of the damsel of Nantes, he will be assailed yet again by twenty knights. Without being frightened by the number, Gawain in following his orders anew, continues to hunt the goshawk that leads him to a new ambush where he would have run the risk of dying, if at his birth he hadn’t been endowed by a fairy with the gift of seeing his strength double after the hour of midday; this moment arriving at the end of the fight enables him to vanquish his adversaries. The damsel of Nantes amazed and charmed by such valour, offers him a gift of the enchanted bird whose qualities she reveals. Gawain proposes to give Girflet to his brother, settled in Karahez, and after having healed his wounds, he gets on the way to the Northumberland tournament, where Caradoz, the king of Ireland and the young wife of Escanor the Handsome, the leader of the White Mountain, nephew of Escanor the Great, have already gathered, who have come in all haste to fight against Gawain; but the most beautiful of the lovely ladies is Andrivete, with whom Kay falls in love. Brian of the Isles asks him which troop he wants to join, to which he responds that the party of assailants already comes to numerous champions, he gathers amongst the defenders, where wanting to seem like a new knight, he takes plain arms without marks according to custom. They both arm themselves and join the joust where Lucan has just attacked Kay who isn’t recognised by anyone. Both men fall off their horses and the fight continues with Brian of the Isles, Laiz the Bold, Hector de Maris, the son of the King of the Firth of Forth, the King of the Erses, Melian de Lis, the King of Scotland and Gorvain Cadruz who has just provoked Kay; at his turn this last man fights with Bisclaret who he wounds. In the lodges conversation starts up amongst the ladies, who contribute cutting observations on the subject of the champions who interest them; the conflict escalates and many knights are wounded, who will be unable to hold a lance for months at a time. Whilst withdrawing Kay is anxious to know if there will be any rivals who will take the prize away from him; a message to Brian (ix) reassures him and informs him that he will without doubt be proclaimed the victor according to all the other knights, who praise him to the envy of the knight in red armour, who is unaware that Kay wears them as well. On her part Andrivete feels seized by love for he whom until then she had little esteemed; while the knights who are outside, camped in a meadow beneath the walls of the town, rejoice for the prowess of the new knight who they regret not knowing, and they decide that the joust of the following day that should be [fought] by the sword will be begun by Yvain, according to his custom. He engages Kay in a fight who this day wears white armour; both fall from their horses, but Kay quickly remounts and goes in search of new adversaries, while Yvain is obliged to withdraw completely broken down by his fall; the melee recommences more strongly than before and people see there a great number of knights, whose arms are carefully described. The ladies at the lodges converse about the deeds of arms and one of them plagues Andrivete with mockery on the subject of her preference for Kay. The latter is downcast, but Brian has him get up and be taken care of by his healer who announces that the wound is not fatal. During this time, the knights of the Round Table push their adversaries so hard that Brian rushing to help them is obliged to give himself up as prisoner. Kay is upset then is fearful of having lost the one he loves; but Brian comes to console him and recommends on the advice of the doctor to not torment himself in order not to delay or prevent his recovery. The jousts over, the ladies and young men get together for dancing, while the mature men discuss the results of the day and the merit of the diverse winners: some gave the prize to Yvain, others to Bruno, or to Gaherit, others finally to Kay, still laid low by his wounds and fear of not having been victorious. Brian comes again to console him and tells him that he has won the heart of the lovely Andrivete, who herself comes to see him and tells him that her father is ready to give anything he could desire in his kingdom; her visits soften Kay’s shame and ills, but his timidity prevents him from expressing a love that the damsel returns without daring to declare. He takes pleasure even so in prolonging his stay (x) at Bamburgh, when he receives a message from King Arthur who commands him to come to Carlion where he has summoned all the nobility and knights of the realm; he dares not refuse and leaves without having declared a love which King Cador would have approved of. He would have willingly given his daughter to him; but he had a brother named Ayglin who rebelled against all of his forces in the hope of seizing the crown upon the death of the king and deprive him of his niece, which would be impossible if she married Kay, who would assure him the support of all the knights of the court of Arthur. But this departure causes Kay a mortal shame; also he does not dare to speak a word to his lover, who takes extreme exception to this. Arrived at court, he receives the best welcome from the king; this man nevertheless reproaches him for his conduct towards his nephew Mordrec, Dinadan and the dwarf and the damsel who accompanied them. Kay argues in his defence that he had been attacked without warning; the king replies that Mordrec accuses him of having wanted to take away his mistress, at which Kay protests; then people send him to Cardueil in order to prepare the festivities which were owed to him. However when all the court is assembled to run the quintain, a foreign knight arrives calling for Gawain who he proceeds to challenge in accusing him of having killed his first cousin in treason. The king informs him that Gawain has had to absent himself to go on an important mission, but he rejects without question the accusation of treason and disloyalty, and all the most renowned knights, Lancelot, Yvain, Gaherit, Agravain, Brandelis, and Melian join together against him to defend Gawain; they accuse the foreign knight of slander and defamation to whom the king proposes to assign a day when Gawain will appear in order to accept the sent challenge, and the limit is fixed at forty days; but instead of waiting for the time to elapse, the knight disappears without anyone being able to find his tracks.
 Thus far I have not found the modern equivalent of this medieval place name.
Canor, king of Northumberland, seeks to marry his only daughter, whose rejections have driven away all suitors up to now. Eager to find a son-in-law of equal worth and whose bravery could help keep her on the throne against their enemies, he has it announced at Bamburgh his capital, that [there will be] a huge tournament where the winner will receive the hand of the princess as a reward. The news reaches the court of Arthur; he highly approves of this measure, which leads to many reflections on the part of the knights of the Round Table; Kay amongst others claims that he will be the winner, if Gawain by his fine words doesn’t manage to win the goodwill of the judges who always decide in his favour; the king reproaches his habitual causticity and scornful remarks, but after having exchanged words with the other knights, Kay leaves irritated, without even taking leave of the king, and makes his way to the tournament. His route leads him near to a fountain where he finds in company a deformed dwarf, a damsel, the friend of Mordrec, whom he leads to the court, followed by Dinadan who he had met on the way. They prepare to make a light meal near to this fountain, when they hear the cries of terror shouted by a young girl pursued by a knight called Bruno Without Pity, who comes to kill her lover in treason. They see Bruno mounted on an excellent courser fleeing in great haste, and the damsel hide herself in the bushes, from where she reaches the way which will lead her to her mother’s. Kay deep in thought passes, without greeting them, near to the dwarf and his company; they in a fit of pique reproach him this lack of courtesy. Kay according to habit replies with insults, pushes the dwarf in the fountain, and moves away from the middle of the conflict and lively rebukes. Mordrec and (vii) Dinadan returning from their chase, informed of what has happened, follow Kay’s trail who they find and attack; they are wounded one after another just as Kay is, who is the least injured. This last demand of Dinadan is the purpose of an attack just as unexpected and Dinadan informs him of it. Mordrec is therefore taken to a woodcutter where his lover comes to care for him; Kay continues on his way and Dinadan, recovered also arrives at the court where Arthur reproaches his lack of courtesy towards the damsel who had been received enthusiastically.
With the first folio the biggest part of the introduction disappeared, of which there only remain four verses where the author tells us that he is called Gérard d’Amiens. In order to promote the value of his work, he announces that the subject (vi) was given to him by a great princess, of Spanish origins, wife of a king of England (who cannot be other than Eleanor of Castille, married in 1254 to Edward II [sic I], died in 1290). It is difficult to imagine that a princess born and raised in a southern region, had had a detailed knowledge of the legends in circulation in the north of Great Britain, also it seems sensible for us to not take seriously the declarations of a poet and to leave him the responsibility for the fictions he tells.
I will soon be posting, in short sections, an English translation of Henri Michelant’s introduction to his edition of Der Roman von Escanor. To keep the integrity of his introduction I have refrained from imposing modern punctuation, so some sentences are long or have a slightly more archaic turn of phrase. However, this is the only change I have made in translating Michelant’s original text. After this I also plan to provide English translations of the introductory materials in Richard Trachsler’s 1994 French edition. Each time I have completed a translation of material relating to Escanor, I will upload a complete document of the texts so that they are available as resources.
Christopher W. Bruce’s The Arthurian Name Dictionary is a good reference for establishing the geographical locations of some of the lesser-known characters and places in Arthurian landscapes from any time period. There are two men called ‘Escanor’ in Bruce’s list: ‘Escanor the Handsome’ and ‘Escanor the Large’. The former is the Escanor first mentioned in this text (corroborated by Norris J. Lacy’s resource, see below), as he is described ‘Escanors, cil de la Montaingne’ (line 207) and Bruce summarises:
King of the White Mountain and nephew of Escanor the Large. Gawain defeated him in combat after Escanor tried to abduct Sir Girflet. Consequent of this defeat, Gawain obtained Escanor’s horse, Gringolet, which had been given to Escanor by his lover, the fairy queen Esclarmonde. Later, Escanor wrongly accused Gawain of his cousin’s murder. Gawain at first refused to fight him, so Sir Galantivet, Gawain’s squire, ambushed and defeated Escanor. When Escanor and Gawain finally met in combat, Gawain had the upper hand and would have killed his opponent, but a fairy named Felinete, who had once helped Gawain, interceded and convinced Gawain to spare Escanor’s life. The two knights reconciled and became friends. Escanor retired to a hermitage after his wife died (171).
Escanor does not have a full entry to itself in The Arthurian Encyclopedia by Norris J. Lacy, but it contains a useful entry on the author, Girart d’Amiens.
GIRART D’AMIENS, who also wrote Méliacin, is the author of Escanor, a romance of nearly 26,000 lines dated to ca. 1280. It may have been presented in 1279 to Eleanor of Castile. One of the two main plots concerns Kay, who falls in love during a tournament with Andrivete, daughter of Canor of Northumberland. Kay, however, returns to court without confessing his love, and Andrivete narrowly escapes being married for political motives by her uncle to someone of inferior social status. In the other plot, Gauvain is accused by Escanor le Beau of the murder of a cousin. Gauvain hesitates to defend himself against the accusation, and Gifflet’s brother Galantivet defeats the accuser. In the meantime, Escanor le Grand, uncle of Escanor le Beau, captures Gifflet when he is unable to take Gauvain. Gauvain finally defeats Escanor le Beau and the two are reconciled.
Although much of the narrative is formed by stock motifs, the author does depart from convention in his portrayal of Kay as a timid lover and Gauvain as somewhat of a coward. An aura of religiosity pervades the end of the romance. Much of the plot hinges on necromancy and the supernatural, and the influence of the prose romances, especially the Prose Tristan, is particularly strong. Composed during the same period, Escanor has much in common in terms of narrative structure and treatment of subject matter with the romance of Claris et Laris (236).
Obviously, the majority of information about the plot cannot be covered in this kind of summary, but it makes me wonder if, as is so common in medieval romance, the plot is made up of interlaced narratives and multiple strands, why was the romance named after the knight Escanor? It raises interesting questions about who is the hero or heroine of a multi-protagonist romance, and to what extent the title influences the direction of criticism on any given text. Heinrich Michelant’s edition of Escanor contains a much lengthier summary of the plot and some thematic issues, which I intend to translate into English and post later.
Bruce, Christopher W. The Arthurian Name Dictionary. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1999.
Girart d’Amiens. Escanor. Ed. Heinrich Michelant. Tübingen: Bibliothek des literarischen Vereins in Stuttgart, 1886.
Lacy, Norris J., ed. The Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1986.