The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

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Gareth Character Analysis

Gareth is one of the Orkney brothers, but is the most moral and sensitive of them all. As the youngest, except Mordred, he flees Orkney for Camelot where he becomes a pageboy in the kitchens. He is befriended by Lancelot who knights him without knowing who he is. Later, Lancelot will accidentally kill Gareth (who is unarmed) when he rescues Guenever from her execution.

Gareth Quotes in The Once and Future King

The The Once and Future King quotes below are all either spoken by Gareth or refer to Gareth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Ace Books edition of The Once and Future King published in 1987.
Book 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

Gareth was a generous boy. He hated the idea of strength against weakness. It made his heart swell, as if he were going to suffocate. Gawaine, on the other hand, was angry because it had been against his family. He did not think it was wrong for strength to have its way, but only that it was intensely wrong for anything to succeed against his own clan.

Related Characters: Gawaine, Gareth
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

As the Cornwall children -- Gareth, Gawaine, Gaheris, and Agravaine -- discuss how Uther Pendragon forced their grandmother, Igraine the Countess of Cornwall, to marry him, each child has a slightly different reaction. These momentary reactions reveal the personalities of these individuals, who will become knights of Arthur's court. They will (and already do) provide a unique perspective on the narrative's themes of brute strength, chivalry, and moral conduct -- themes which remain potent throughout as serious issues, despite the narrator's penchant for humor and irony.

In addition to introducing these characters, though, this scene also more fundamentally forces the narrative to pivot away from the childhood story of Arthur developing his leadership capacities. We now see the Cornwalls' antagonism towards Arthur's descendants, which forebodes their potential antagonism towards Arthur. We begin to see the reasons Arthur had to develop such strong leadership capabilities in the first book; his kingdom is already threatened by hatred and discontent. 

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Gareth Character Timeline in The Once and Future King

The timeline below shows where the character Gareth appears in The Once and Future King. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 1
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
...red-haired Gawaine, is telling the story. They range from ten years to fourteen yeas old, Gareth is the youngest, then Gaheris and next oldest to Gawaine is Agravaine—the bully of the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
...seen Morgause and the three knights 'hunting a unicorn,' although the hunt was apparently unsuccessful. Gareth proposes that they hunt a unicorn because it would make their mammy notice them again. (full context)
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
...armory and hide in a bush to await the unicorn. Meg, meanwhile, is bawling and Gareth tries to comfort her. The four decide not to kill the unicorn when it comes,... (full context)
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
...At last, the creature lies still. The others stand around frozen. "What have you done?" Gareth cries. (full context)
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
...head home to show their mother. Meg, meanwhile, quickly runs off sobbing, closely followed by Gareth. The three remaining boys begin to hack and cut, but do not know what they... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
...meanwhile, realizes it is useless to try and seduce the knights. So when, one morning, Gareth nervously comes to her with white heather, she covers him in kisses. Gareth runs off... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 25
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
...Young, ambitious knights flock to Arthur's courts. One of the young men who come is Gareth; another is Mordred. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 26
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
Arthur and Lancelot are watching Gareth practice with his bow. Gareth became a knight by escaping from Orkney and becoming a... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 2
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
Through the cloister doors come Sir Gawaine, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth. The three brothers are aged, but still the same in all other manners. They have... (full context)
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
Suddenly, the argument escalates and Agravaine pulls a sword on Gareth. Gawaine's old rage explodes and he pulls his own sword on Agravaine. Meanwhile, Mordred with... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 5
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
...for Arthur in the justice room—a peculiar square-shaped room lined with tapestries. The brothers are arguing—Gareth, Gawaine and Gaheris want to be no part of the treason Agravaine and Mordred are... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 6
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
...that Arthur is away hunting and so the two can spend the night together. Suddenly, Gareth asks to enter. He has come to warn Lancelot not to go to the Queen's... (full context)
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
With this, there is a faint scratching on Lancelot's door. Gareth begs him once more not to answer but Lancelot barely acknowledges him. He grabs his... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 7
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
...but still resplendent. Lancelot enters and begins to brush her hair. Lancelot tells her about Gareth's warnings and Guenever is frightened, she thinks maybe the brothers have forced the king's hand.... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 8
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
...Mordred disagrees, saying that Arthur has left off some of his strongest knights. Arthur asks Gareth and Gaheris to join the guard; they refuse to go armed against two people they... (full context)
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
...Mordred, unarmed and ghostly, enters the room. He says that it is carnage, and that Gareth and Gaheris are among those slain by Lancelot. They refuse to believe it—Lancelot loved Gareth... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 9
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
...been under siege for months now. The two are discussing how Lancelot killed Gaheris and Gareth; he still cannot understand how he could have done it. Lancelot now has to fight... (full context)