Chapter 1 Tristram says he doesn’t know what the shield means but has promised to carry it. Arthur asks his name, and he refuses to give it. Arthur says he’ll battle the knight, but Tristram wounds him. Uwaine calls out to Tristram that he’ll avenge the wound. They each break their spears, and Tristram hurls Uwaine off his horse. Tristram says that he won’t fight any more. He departs, asking after Launcelot everywhere he goes, though no one has heard from him. Tristram rides by a forest and sees one knight fighting against nine. Tristram rides towards them and calls out for the nine to cease their shameful act. Their master, Breuse Saunce Pité, says it’s not his business to meddle, which angers Tristram.
Tristram, disguised as he is, is in a difficult position. He is forced at one point to fight against Arthur for his honor, though he knows that it is usually frowned upon to battle and wound a king. It’s perhaps for this reason that Tristram, after fulfilling his immediate knightly obligation (to his honor as well as to his promise made to Morgan), soon leaves. Tristram is righteously indignant that nine knights would fight against one, an unfair and dishonorable match-up, which makes sense once he learns Breuse is involved.
Chapter 2 Tristram strikes at all nine of the knights, who begin to flee with Breuse Saunce Pité to a tower, and shut out Tristram. Tristram returns to the knight, who he realizes is Palomides, his enemy. Since Palomides is wounded, they set another day to do battle. Palomides tells Tristram that he was trying to avenge the murder of a lady’s lord by Breuse Saunce Pité, who also then killed the lady.
Although Breuse Saunce Pité is Tristram’s enemy, so is Palomides (in this scene at least), so Tristram has to decide how to balance these competing oppositions. Though the two were imprisoned together, now that they are free Tristram and Palomides can settle counts honorably, in a way impossible before.
They ride together to a well, where a knight is lying under a tree asleep. Tristram nudges him awake, and he immediately hurls himself at Tristram and strikes him off his horse, then wounds Palomides, and flees. Tristram vows to follow the knight. Palomides decides to stay, and Tristram warns him not to miss their appointed battle.
Since both Tristram and Palomides are honorable knights, they know they can set a later battle day and not have to worry that one of them will betray the other now—in some ways they become temporary allies against this unknown knight.
Chapter 3 Tristram rides after the knight, and comes across a lady mourning next to a dead knight. Apparently another knight had ridden up and asked who the lady’s lover was, and when he said he was from Arthur’s court, the strange knight said he hated all from Arthur’s court, and he fought with and killed the lady’s lover. Tristram departs and, on the third day, meets Gawaine and Bleoberis at a lodge, both wounded. Both had met this knight too. They each tell each other their true names, and then Tristram departs. Tristram happens to meet Kay and Dinadan in a meadow: they’ve also fought with the same knight.
This unknown knight seems to have left death and destruction strewn behind him in his maraudings. Tristram does not necessarily have any obligation to this lady, but the rules of knightly conduct require that he pursue her lover’s killer as far as he can. On the way, as usual, other knights assist each other’s quests, serving as allies in a forest where danger is often to be met around each corner.
Chapter 4 Tristram sends Gouvernail to fetch him a new harness. Suddenly Tristram meets with Sagramore le Desirous and Dodinas le Savage, but he refuses to joust with them since he has set a date to joust with a strong knight soon. Sagramore refuses to accept that, so they fight, and Tristram strikes them both off their horses, and rides on. When they come to, they follow after Tristram in revenge. He asks that according to knighthood they depart since he’s meeting Palomides soon. He tells them his name. They say he is the object of much glory, and depart.
Both these knights are from Arthur’s court, where Tristram is held in great esteem, though initially they’re unaware of this and treat him as just an anonymous knight against whom they can prove themselves. Though Tristram is often reluctant to reveal his true identity, here he does so because he doesn’t want to risk being wounded in advance of his battle with Palomides.
Chapter 5 Tristram rides towards Camelot, to the place where Balin slew Lanceor and where Lanceor’s lover was buried, where Merlin had prophesied that the best knights in the land would fight one day. Tristram waits for Palomides, but then sees a knight coming all in white. They fight fiercely, wounding each other and battling for hours. They stop to rest, and ask each other their names. Launcelot reveals himself, and Tristram exclaims that he is Tristram: Launcelot is the man he loves best in the world. They embrace and then ride together to Camelot.
Before the battle, we are again reminded of Merlin’s prophecy, which initially is confusing, as we know Palomides is not supposed to be one of the world’s greatest knights. That Launcelot and Tristram should fight makes much more sense: in fact, this will be the only time they truly fight (instead of just in a tournament), and only because neither of them recognizes the other before coming to a draw.
Chapter 6 Launcelot brings Tristram to court, where he is welcomed joyfully. He shares that he was meant to fight today with Palomides. Arthur takes Tristram by his hand and introduces him to all the knights, and then makes him a knight of the Round Table.
No longer will Tristram occupy an uncomfortable position, admired by the Round Table knights but not truly one of them. Finally his long side-tale truly reconnects with the overall saga of the Round Table.
Chapter 7 Mark hears of the great prowess of Tristram at Arthur’s court and is jealous, so he sends a messenger, who reports that Tristram can vanquish all knights but Launcelot. Glad to hear it, Mark sneaks into England with two knights, Bersules and Amant. He tells them that they will try to kill Tristram however they can, even by trickery or treason. When Bersant refuses, Mark strikes and kills him. Amant cries out that he will no longer serve Mark, and will tell Arthur of his treason. Mark goes to slay Amant but is held back by their two squires: finally he tells Amant he’ll defend himself before Arthur, but asks him not to tell Arthur his name.
Mark seems to be cheered by the knowledge that Launcelot can conquer Tristram, simply because it suggests that Tristram isn’t invincible—thus, especially if Mark ignores the agreed-upon rules of knightly conduct, he might have a chance at finally ridding himself of his rival. However, Mark has not entirely accounted for the honor of his own knights, who refuse to align themselves with Mark’s conniving ways and treacherous plans.
Chapter 8 Mark rides to a fountain, where he rests and comes across a knight bemoaning how he loves Margawse, Lot’s wife and mother to Gawaine and Gaheris. Mark goes to him and asks his name, which is Lamorak de Galis. Lamorak hears his Cornish accent and says that the king of Cornwall is the most shameful of all kings for chasing out Tristram for envy of his queen. It is a pity, he says, for such a man as Mark to be with the glorious Isoud.
On his way to Arthur’s court, Mark is waylaid by another kind of adventure, as often happens. A more courageous knight than Mark would have ordered Lamorak to fight upon hearing such an insult, but that Mark stays hidden and says nothing is meant to be a sign of his shameful, cowardly character. Lamorak’s love for Margawse will become important later.
Sir Dinadan comes and salutes the two. Then Lamorak jousts with Mark and strikes him down, but Mark rises up and they fight. Mark is now very angry, but Lamorak beats him down again. Finally Lamorak says it would be shameful for him to continue. Dinadan mocks Mark as a true Cornish for not being able to match Lamorak. But he does agree to take Mark to Arthur’s court.
The knights of the Round Table seem pleased to see that the general stereotypes about Cornish knights—weak, jealous, cowardly—seem to line up with their experience of Mark (who is of course still disguised, so he can’t draw on his authority as king to silence them).
Chapter 9 Mark, Lamorak, and Dinadan ride to a bridge next to a tower, where two brothers require any passersby to joust. Mark, still shamed by Dinadan, fights, and both break their spears, after which Mark refuses to fight anymore. Then they come to the castle, where they feast. A knight named Berluse recognizes Mark, and declares that Mark killed his father. He will not kill Mark within the castle out of love for the castle’s lord, but when he leaves Berluse will follow and avenge his father’s death.
At first, Mark seems to want to make up for his loss against Dinadan by proving himself successful and brave—however, as soon as he thinks he is in any kind of danger, that bravery immediately disappears. Finally Mark’s identity is revealed, not in the context of honoring a once-disguised king, but rather of revealing the extent of Mark’s treachery.
Chapter 10 Lamorak and Dinadan are upset to have traveled with Mark. The next day Mark and Dinadan ride together before meeting Berluse and his two cousins. Dinadan asks Berluse to hold off since he has promised to take Mark to Arthur’s court, even though he now regrets this promise. Berluse says Dinadan should not remain with Mark: he attacks Mark and knocks him out of the saddle. Dinadan does the same to Berluse’s two cousins, and they begin fighting. Mark is about to kill Berluse when Dinadan stops him, and they leave him there wounded.
Lamorak and Dinadan now realize that they have not only been traveling with a sorry Cornish knight, but with the dishonorable king of the Cornish realm, who has banished and thus dishonored Tristram, now a fellow of the Round Table. Still, as an honorable knight, Dinadan doesn’t believe he can renege on his promise to take Mark with him to King Arthur’s court.
Then they come across another knight, and Mark refuses to joust, so Dinadan does. He’s knocked off his horse and the knight refuses to fight Dinadan on foot. Dinadan is angry as the knight leaves, and wonders if it is Sir Tor.
Once again, Mark is careful not to take any risks of injury or death, a sense of caution that the book considers as cowardly and unworthy of a true knight or king.
Chapter 11 Mark begins to mock Dinadan for losing against the knight. Dinadan calls him a coward and murderer, but they continue on together. They rest at a knight’s house, who reveals that the knight who won against Dinadan was in fact Sir Tor. The next day Dinadan sees six knights of Arthur and decides he’ll trick Mark into jousting with one of them. He proposes they fight two against six, but as he rides towards them Mark rides away. The six recognize Dinadan and welcome him.
The relationship between Mark and Dinadan is quickly deteriorating, as Mark hypocritically insults Dinadan for his loss against a knight that Mark himself refused to battle. Dinadan further provokes Mark, knowing he will be too much of a coward to fight two against six: in any case, Dinadan takes a rest from his charge in meeting his friends.
Chapter 12 Dinadan tells them that it was a cowardly knight of Cornwall who just ran away from them: he doesn’t know his name. They rest in a castle, where Dinadan comes across Mark in a chamber and rebukes him for fleeing. To scare him, Dinadan tells him that Launcelot is the leader of the group. Dinadan then returns to his friends, and says that he told Mark that Mordred’s shield is the sign of Launcelot. Mordred is currently wounded, so he offers to give his shield to the fool Dagonet to set on the Cornish knight. They ride toward Mark, who sees the sword and, terrified, flees. Dagonet chases him through the woods, with Uwaine and Brandiles laughing hard.
Although Dinadan clearly despises Mark, he is honorable enough not to share Mark’s name, as he knows the knights would probably want to kill him, and Dinadan has promised to transport him safely to Arthur’s court. Still, Dinadan can’t help himself from fanning the flames of Mark’s cowardice, since Mark is clearly terrified by Launcelot’s prowess. For Arthur’s men, making the Cornish knight flee in terror from Dagonet, the court fool, is a hilarious joke.
Chapter 13 Mark comes flying past a knight on horseback, who offers to protect Mark, and strikes Dagonet down. Brandiles, coming after, is angry and tries to strike the knight, but the knight smites him down as well. The same happens to Arthur’s other knights. They ask the knight’s name, but he won’t tell.
This unknown knight soon drives a wedge into the game established by Arthur’s knights, as they are no longer in a position of such power over Mark, who now has a protector against them.
Mark rides after the knight, praising him, though the knight only sighs sadly. The knight sends a valet to a nearby manor to ask for food and drink. He says the request come from the knight that follows the questing beast. When the valet tells the lady, she cries that it is her dear son Palomides. The valet shares Palomides’ name with Mark, who is pleased but says nothing. Mark falls asleep, and Palomides leaves him.
Palomides returns to the story yet again. As a Saracen, he is loyal to no British king or fellowship—only to the mysterious questing beast, whom he is fated to follow until fulfilling this quest. Mark is relieved to have such a strong knight protecting him, and doesn’t seem to know that Palomides is in love with Isoud (his wife).
Chapter 14 Dinadan suggests that the unknown knight is Lamorak, and rides after him. Dinadan then hears weeping in the forest at night and approaches it, finding a knight sorrowfully exclaiming about his unrequited love for La Beale Isoud, who only loves Tristram, and whose husband is the falsest king in the world. Mark is there hiding and, terrified that Dinadan will reveal his identity, flees fast to Camelot. There Mark kills Amant, who is waiting to declare Mark’s treason to Arthur. Mark leaves again from court, frightened of Dinadan’s knowledge.
Palomides shares Mark’s unrequited love for Isoud, though in Palomides’ case this doesn’t lead to treason and destruction. It’s unclear if Mark recognizes that this weeping knight is Palomides, or if he thinks it is Lamorak (who only recently was heard weeping over Margawse). Mark continues his treasonous behavior by killing Amant, but he has failed to fully calculate the implications of his actions, since Dinadan by chance knows his true identity.
Chapter 15 Amant, about to die, goes to Arthur and tells him how the cowardly Mark has slain him and Bersules, all because they refused to kill Tristram. Arthur is furious, and Tristram weeps for the knights’ deaths. Launcelot asks permission to go out to seek Mark and bring him back to Camelot. Launcelot overtakes Mark, and orders him to return to Arthur. When Mark realizes it is Launcelot, he tries to yield, but Launcelot charges at him. Mark tumbles out of his horse on purpose and lies still, crying for mercy. Launcelot picks him up and takes him to Arthur, where he falls at Arthur’s feet and begs for mercy, swearing to make amends and pay homage and service to Arthur.
It turns out that Mark did not need to fear Dinadan’s revelation of his identity as much as his own knight, who has just enough time before he dies to reveal the extent of Mark’s treachery. It is meant to be a sign of the honor of Arthur’s knights that Launcelot does not kill Mark immediately—instead, he brings him back to Arthur to be judged. Arthur’s honor and mercy is also shown in his willingness to forgive Mark, who in contrast appears as simpering and cowardly.
Chapter 16 Meanwhile Dinadan comforts Palomides, who asks him if he’s seen Tristram. He was meant to meet with him to fight, Palomides says, but he was kept prisoner. Dinadan learns the day of their fixed meeting, realizing that this was the day of Tristram’s mighty battle with Launcelot. Dinadan promises to keep Palomides from harm, and to ensure that he is welcomed to Arthur’s court.
Dinadan has been occupying a privileged place of knowledge recently, able to learn knights’ identities and piece together elements of events that remain mysterious to others. Fortunately, Dinadan is gracious in handling such knowledge, as he invites Palomides to Arthur as a guest.
Chapter 17 They pass a castle, where Dinadan says Morgan le Fay lives and keeps many knights of Arthur prisoner. Everyone who passes this way must joust with a knight or two of the castle, and if he loses he is kept prisoner in the castle. Palomides vows to destroy this shameful tradition. A knight with a red shield, Sir Lamorak, comes up behind the two, and asks Palomides to let him fight first: if he loses Palomides can avenge him. Lamorak fights four knights of the castle and strikes them all to earth.
By forcing any knight that passes by to joust with the castle knights, Morgan le Fay takes advantage of Arthur’s knights’ willingness to do battle, in order to continue her fight with her brother Arthur by proxy. Lamorak and Palomides join in an informal alliance against what they consider to be a shameful tradition.
Chapter 18 After Lamorak strikes down another knight, Palomides offers to take over, but Lamorak cries that he is not weak or weary, and will prove it by jousting with Palomides himself. Lamorak indeed strikes and wounds Palomides, and then knocks Dinadan off his horse as well. Over and over again Lamorak jousts with and strikes down the castle knights, making each one swear that they will never follow the castle’s evil custom. Finally an unarmed knight emerges and tells Lamorak to leave, for he has ensured the end of the castle’s tradition. Lamorak departs. Palomides tells Dinadan that he must avenge his shameful performance against the Knight with the Red Shield (Lamorak).
Soon enough the temporary alliance between Lamorak and Palomides dissolves, due to Lamorak’s own pride (which the book disapproves of as a corruption of correct, courageous knightly behavior). Nevertheless, we are meant to admire Lamorak’s prowess and his ultimate ability to put an end to the shameful tradition at Morgan le Fay’s castle. Now, however, Palomides must joust against Lamorak again, in order to defend his own honor.
Chapter 19 Palomides catches up with Lamorak and declares his intention of revenge. They fight on foot for over an hour, bloodying their armor and the ground. Finally Palomides grows faint with his wounds. He asks for his enemy’s name. Lamorak shares who he is, son of Pellinore and half brother of Tor. Palomides kneels down and says that Lamorak is known for his glory. They embrace and rest.
The length of a jousting battle is often used to indicate whether or not two knights are well matched against each other. While it seems that Lamorak may have ended up winning, it is portrayed as proper that, as two honorable knights, they end in a friendly draw.
Chapter 20 Meanwhile Brandiles comes to Arthur’s court to tell of how Dagonet chased Mark through the forest. Mark says that he was saved by the Knight who followed the Questing Beast, that is, Palomides. Meanwhile Lamorak, Palomides, and Dinadan ride until reaching a castle on a mount, home to Galahalt. Palomides says he will rest there since he is wounded. Lamorak says he’ll stay too, but Dinadan desires to see Tristram, so he continues to Arthur’s court. On his way a knight orders him to joust, but Dinadan refuses. He continues on to court and greets Tristram, who loves Dinadan more than any other knight other than Launcelot. Dinadan tells Arthur of Lamorak’s prowess, and Arthur hopes he comes to court soon.
Though Mark has been staying at Arthur’s court, he has apparently been unwilling to share all the details of the shameful events that befell him in the forest—luckily, another of Arthur’s knights does not refrain from explaining things to Arthur. Lamorak and Palomides are now allies on a more profound level. The same is true of Dinadan and Tristram—not so long ago Dinadan was cursing Tristram for being too reckless and bringing Dinadan into danger, but now it seems they are close friends.
Chapter 21 Arthur announces a jousting tournament. Tristram, Launcelot, and Dinadan decide not to joust. Gawaine wins at first, but then a knight with a red shield arrives riding and strikes down Gawaine’s brothers and Gawaine himself. Tristram guesses that this is Lamorak: he strikes down 20 more knights and wins the prize. Arthur, Launcelot, Tristram, and Dinadan ride after him into the forest, where they all embrace. But Gawaine and his brothers are jealous and angry, and they vow to be revenged.
For the rest of the book, it will be a delicate matter to determine when Tristram and Launcelot joust, since it will be important that, as the kingdom’s two greatest knights, they do not fight against each other. Lamorak battles and proves his honor in a fashion typical of these tournaments, keeping his identity hidden.
Chapter 22 One day Arthur asks Mark to give him a gift: that Mark will take Tristram to Cornwall, let him see his friends, and keep him safe there. Mark vows to do so, and Arthur says if he does this he will forgive Mark everything. Mark swears on the Bible, but is lying through it all. They prepare to leave Camelot, and many of the Round Table are upset, believing that Mark will treacherously kill Tristram.
Arthur seems to believe that Mark has repented, and that swearing on the Bible is a potent enough vow to ensure that Mark will keep Tristram safe. The other knights, however, are more skeptical about the ability for people’s characters to truly change over time.
Launcelot goes to Mark and tells him to beware of treason, for if he betrays his word, Launcelot vows to kill him himself. Mark insists he is true.
Mark is afraid of Launcelot, but it is uncertain whether this fear will curb his treachery.
Chapter 23 A week after Mark and Tristram leave, a knight, Aglavale, arrives to court with a young squire, whom he asks Arthur to make a knight. Aglavale says the squire is Pellinore’s son, a brother of himself and Lamorak—his name is Percivale de Galis. Arthur makes Percivale a knight. The next night a maiden of the queen, a woman who usually cannot speak, takes Percivale by the hand and tells him to come with her, and to take the seat next to the Siege Perilous (a seat at the Round Table kept empty for one who will eventually achieve the Holy Grail), saying the seat belongs to Percivale. The maiden dies soon afterward, and the court praises Percivale highly.
In this case, Arthur does not require proof of battle prowess or an important quest or adventure: knowing Percivale’s identity and his relation to an illustrious family that includes Lamorak and Pellinore, among others, is enough to make him a knight. The maiden’s action suggests that Arthur was right in making Percivale a knight of the Round Table: while Percivale is not the knight who will achieve the Holy Grail, he is only one step removed from this honor, and has seemingly been chosen by fate and God.
Chapter 24 Gawaine and his brothers send for their mother, Margawse, to go to a castle next to Camelot, all with the intent to kill Lamorak. Lamorak (who is in love with Margawse, and she with him) arranges to sleep with the queen at the castle one night. When he goes into her bed, unarmed, Gaheris sneaks in and lops off his mother’s head. Lamorak leaps out of bed, dismayed, and cries out at Gaheris, asking why he didn’t slay Lamorak instead. Gaheris claims that Lamorak’s father slew theirs, and for Lamorak to sleep with their mother is too great of a shame. Lamorak claims that it was Balin le Savage, not his father Pellinore, who killed the brothers’ father, and furthermore, Pellinore’s death has not been revenged. Gaheris says he won’t kill Lamorak when he’s naked and unarmed, he but orders Lamorak to leave. Angry and grieving, Lamorak leaves Arthur’s court. But when Arthur learns Gaheris has killed his mother (who is also Arthur’s half-sister), he is furious and orders Gaheris out. Launcelot tells Arthur that he will surely lose Lamorak to Gawaine and his brothers.
Ever since Lamorak achieved honor at Arthur’s tournament (and since his love for Margawse was made known), Gawaine and his brothers have been plotting to destroy him out of envy—a common enough trait at the king’s court, but hardly promoted as a virtue among the knights. The treachery of Gawaine and Gaheris, in particular, is shown to be especially despicable: not only do they betray the Round Table code by killing a lady, but that lady is their own mother. Their actions are even more indefensible given that it turns out it was not Lamorak’s father but Balin le Savage who killed Gawaine and Gaheris’s father. Arthur is deeply troubled by these actions, which seem to suggest trouble, treachery, and infighting brewing amongst his beloved knights.
Chapter 25 Gawaine’s brothers Agravaine and Mordred ride along and meet with a wounded knight who is fleeing from Breuse Saunce Pité. They agree to rescue him, but Breuse wounds them himself. Dinadan comes along and, angry, strikes him off his horse. Breuse flees. Dinadan shares with the brothers his name, but they’re angry, since they hate Dinadan as a friend of Lamorak. The knight wounded by Breuse says that Dinadan killed his father, and he draws his sword. But Dinadan throws him from his horse, breaking his neck, and strikes down Mordred and Agravaine as well. Dinadan rides to the castle where Palomides is resting with Lamorak, and tells them of all that has happened.
Breuse Saunce Pité is an enemy of all and friend to no one among the knights—and yet he always manages to escape. Although Dinadan saves Agravaine and Mordred, these two prove to be ungrateful, retaining a deep prejudice against anyone who is friends with their enemy Lamorak. Together with the wounded knight, they both seek to destroy Dinadan, who is forced to defend himself three against one, before returning to the castle to share news of the knights’ treachery.
Chapter 26 A knight comes from Cornwall to Arthur’s court, and shares tidings of Tristram. Launcelot sends a damsel with a letter to Tristram warning him to be wary of Mark. She also brings letters to Isoud from Arthur and Launcelot. But Mark intercepts these letters and is angry, supposing that Tristram is planning treason against him. Mark sends letters to Launcelot, Guenever, and Arthur.
Mark is shown to be continuing in his treacherous ways, intercepting private letters and seeming to be on the lookout for any excuse to fight against Tristram and betray his promise to Arthur. Slowly, he begins such a plot by writing letters to Arthur’s court.
Chapter 27 Mark’s letter to Arthur hints at Guenever and Launcelot’s affair, but Arthur thinks that this is only a rumor started by Morgan le Fay, so he puts it out of his mind. The letter also says that Mark takes Tristram for his mortal enemy, and will be avenged on him. Guenever’s letter shares what Mark knows of her affair with Launcelot. She sends the letter to Launcelot, who lies down on his bed to think. Dinadan reads the letter while Launcelot sleeps, and then tells Launcelot upon awakening that he will write a song to teach a harp-player, and send him to Cornwall to sing it to Mark.
It seems that everyone at Arthur’s court except for the king himself, who perhaps is in denial, is aware of Guenever’s affair with Launcelot. Mark, conniving as ever, is eager to use this knowledge against the knights of Arthur in any way that will benefit him. Launcelot may be unparalleled on the battlefield, but in more subtle tricks such as these, even he cannot immediately figure out how to counter Mark’s plots. When one isn’t bound by the rules of honor, it’s easy to manipulate those who are.
Chapter 28 Tristram, meanwhile, is wounded at a tournament, and goes to the castle of Sir Dinas to rest. Then enemies of Mark, the Sessoins, led by Elias, lay siege to the Castle of Tintagil. Mark’s council says he must send for Tristram: he is reluctant, since he hates Tristram, but finally agrees. Tristram agrees to fight after a week of resting. Dinas and Mark fight in the meantime, but finally, after much slaughter, have to withdraw to the castle. Mark sends for Tristram, who is recovered and rides to Tintagil. He kills several knights and manages to sneak into the castle.
Tristram now occupies an uncertain position at King Mark’s court: secretly, Mark is plotting against him, but on the surface Tristram continues to be a loyal knight that must be called upon to fight whenever Mark’s kingdom is in danger. Mark, as we well know, would far prefer Tristram to risk his life in battle rather than Mark himself continuing to fight on his own.
Chapter 29 The next morning the captain Elias calls out to Mark to tell him to do battle, now that Tristram is there. Tristram tells a messenger that they will meet in the morning. Mark makes Tristram the battle commander. Tristram burns the Sessoins’ ships, then gathers his men. The next day they meet, and Tristram wounds Elias along with many others, before finally they withdraw to rest. When Elias realizes how many men he’s lost, he suggests via a messenger that Mark send a knight to fight him alone.
Although Mark hates and is jealous of Tristram, he is also a savvy enough commander to know that his best chance of conquering the Sessoins is to take advantage of Tristram’s prowess in battle. Just as he planned, Tristram proves a successful commander, so much so that Elias believes his only chance is to fight one-on-one.
Chapter 30 No knight dares fight Elias. Tristram says that though he is wounded, he will fight himself. The next day they meet on the battlefield. They fight on horseback, then knock each other to earth and then continue on foot. After an hour Tristram grows faint and stumbles. Elias wounds him, and Tristram begins to fade. All the Sessoins begin to laugh, and Mark bemoans the loss. But then Tristram thinks of La Beale Isoud, and rises up again, his strength renewed, and strikes Elias many times, until Elias staggers and dies. Elias’s men flee, but Mark takes many prisoners.
Tristram, as we recall, was already wounded and recovering when Mark sent for him from Dinas’s castle. That he is able to face Elias despite this is meant to underline both his remarkable prowess and his bravery as a knight. Tristram’s love for Isoud is treated here almost as a physical layer of armor, cheering him and making him stronger, finally giving him the extra push he needs to defeat Elias. This echoes other similar scenes of knights being inspired by ladies to fight harder.
Chapter 31 Mark makes a great feast. The harp player arrives and plays the song written by Dinadan, which tells of Mark’s treason. When he reaches the end Mark is furious: the player claims that he was only following Dinadan’s command. Mark orders him to leave. He thinks this was all Tristram’s doing.
It is not entirely clear what Dinadan hoped to accomplish through this song—which only makes Mark angrier and more suspicious of Tristram—unless it was to shame Mark in return for Mark’s own letters.
Chapter 32 Soon Saracens (Muslims) land in Cornwall, and Mark’s brother Prince Boudwin courageously sets fire to their ships and, with his men, kills all 40,000 of them. Mark is furiously jealous. He sends for Boudwin, his wife, and their young son. They eat, and then Mark asks why Boudwin sought the glory of battle rather than sending for him, Mark. Boudwin says there was no time to delay, but Mark cries that he is a liar, and kills him. Anglides (Boudwin’s wife) swoons in grief. Isoud sends a messenger to Anglides and tells her to leave court with her son Alisander as quickly as she can.
Mark’s jealousy and lack of honor seem to know no bounds. Not only does he stew in envy for his own brother, who after all protected the entire kingdom from invaders, but he slowly and surely plots to kill his brother and his family out of pure jealousy. Isoud, knowing of Mark’s treachery, does what she can to help the surviving members of Prince Boudwin’s family to flee before Mark tries to kill them as well.
Chapter 33 Mark goes from room to room searching for Anglides and her son. He orders his knight Sadok to ride after her. Sadok catches up and orders her back. When she protests, he says that he’ll let her leave if she promises to have her son avenge his father’s death when he grows up. She swears that Alisander will wear his father’s doublet and blood-spattered shirt, which Anglides has taken with her. Sadok returns to Mark and says that he’s drowned Alisander. Anglides rides to the castle Magouns, in Sussex, where she and Alisander live for years with the Constable Bellangere, her cousin’s husband.
Although Mark is portrayed as increasingly ruthless and cruel, the book makes clear that not all knights in Cornwall share his failings—indeed, knights like Amant, Bersules, and now Sadok risk treason and even death in working against their master. Sadok knows that eventually the truth will have to come out, but by rescuing Alisander and Anglides he hopes to rid the kingdom of its dishonorable king in the future.
Chapter 34 When Alisander grows up, Bellangere proposes to make him knight. The day of the ceremony, Anglides takes the doublet and bloody shirt and tells Alisander the story of his father’s death.
Like other characters in the book, Alisander grows up unaware of who he really is, and eventually has to learn what his responsibilities (like revenge) entail.
Chapter 35 Anglides asks Alisander to avenge his father’s death, and he swears to. Alisander jousts that day with 20 knights and wins against them all. One of them goes to Mark and tells him of Alisander’s skill. Mark hurries to Sadok’s chamber to slay him for treason: Sadok says he won’t repent, for Mark was the traitor. Mark’s four knights draw their swords, but Sadok kills them all, then escapes from the castle.
Although years have now gone by (the relation of this anecdote’s chronology to the rest is not entirely clear), Mark remains just as stubbornly vicious as ever. We are meant to see the clash from Sadok’s perspective, agreeing that the treachery is on Mark’s side, not his.
Tristram sends for Alisander to come to King Arthur’s court. Mark sends a knight to follow Alisander, who meets and kills him. Mark writes to Morgan le Fay and the Queen of Northgalis, praying they’ll find a way to kill Alisander.
Having heard of the tale, Tristram is eager both to protect Alisander and to unite Mark’s enemies against him. Mark, meanwhile, now enlists the help of treacherous women to assist him in his wickedness.
Chapter 36 Alisander, on the way to Camelot, stops by King Carados’ castle and strikes down many knights. Morgan le Fay hears of this and vows to find him. Meanwhile a damsel at Carados’ castle asks Alisander to fight for her honor against a knight, who won’t allow her to marry anyone else. They fight on horse and by foot for many hours. Morgan arrives to watch. As they rest, the knight says he’s killed 10 knights by accident, and another 10 in anger. Alisander cries that this is shameful, and with renewed strength strikes him down and cuts off his head. Alisander sends for a valet to carry him away, since he is greatly wounded.
As Alisander travels to Camelot, he, like many young knights, develops a reputation along the way by jousting and conquering other reputable knights. Morgan le Fay doesn’t seem to have chosen a side quite yet, though she is clearly interested in this young knight (and knows about him from Mark’s letter to her). Already Alisander has a well-developed understanding of the values of honor and shame, which he applies unfavorably to the knight’s actions.
Chapter 37 Morgan heals Alisander’s wounds. The damsel asks Morgan to tell Alisander she wishes to marry him, since he has won her. Morgan tells him to refuse, and he does. Alisander then agrees to give her to a man that she loves, Gerine le Grose, and they are married. Morgan gives Alisander a sleeping potion for three days. When he awakes, Morgan tells him to promise not to leave the castle for a year, and he’ll be made whole. He agrees, but then repents of this decision, since he won’t be able to fight Mark. Then the rightful owner of the castle, a damsel who is Morgan’s cousin, enters and finds Alisander asleep.
Alisander does not seem to fully recognize what kind of a sorceress Morgan is. While he attempts to follow correct conduct, ensuring that the damsel he saved is happily married, and agreeing to Morgan’s requirements for being healed of his wounds, he is now faced with the choice of whether or not to keep his promise to Morgan. Breaking promises is not part of the code of honor, of course, but neither is Morgan’s trickery.
Chapter 38 Alisander sadly tells the damsel that he’s imprisoned, and she tells him it’s so that Morgan can sleep with him: but if Alisander agrees to love her instead, she’ll deliver him. The damsel says that her uncle hates Morgan, so she’ll send for him to destroy the castle, and she’ll have Alisander escape. She sends for her uncle, and on the appointed day of battle shows Alisander how to hide in a garden. Her uncle arrives and burns down the castle. Alisander declares he’ll stay within the piece of earth that was his room for a year, as per his promise to Morgan.
It is not left entirely clear whether or not Alisander actually promises to love the damsel instead of Morgan, in exchange for being freed from the castle—this is another example of the power that women, especially in love, can wield over men, even manipulating other men in their lives to act out their wishes. Alisander’s moral dilemma is temporarily resolved as he decides to keep his promise.
A certain Alice, daughter of Duke Ansirus the Pilgrim, declares in Arthur’s court that whoever can overcome the knight that keeps that piece of earth will have her and her lands. One knight, Sagramore le Desirous, comes and fights with Alisander, who beats him. Alice asks him to take off his helmet, and when she sees Alisander’s face, she declares she loves him.
Now another woman enters Alisander’s life, again seeking to wield her power over knights by making them joust with each other for her and her possessions. But her love for Alisander does seem genuine in this case.
Chapter 39 When Alisander sees Alice’s face unveiled, he declares he loves her too. As they speak, several knights come to fight: he trounces them. The damsel who helped Alisander out of the castle tells her story to Alice, who says that he is beholden to her.
This is the only moment at which there is some doubt regarding whether Alisander continues to have a responsibility towards the damsel who saved him.
As Alisander gazes at Alice, enthralled in love, Mordred comes and tries to sneak Alisander’s horse out of the castle to shame him. But the damsel who had helped him knocks Alisander with a sword, disturbing him from his trance, and Mordred flees into the castle. Over the course of the next year, Alisander fights with many knights, and wins over them all. Then he leaves with Alice for Benoye.
After a brief moment of doubt, there seems to be no more of a problem with Alisander abandoning the damsel who saved him and instead leaving with Alice (after a brief interlude with Mordred, who is another son brought up away from his father).
Chapter 40 Alice has a son named Bellengerus le Beuse, who would become a knight in Arthur’s court and avenge his father’s murder (and Tristram’s) by Mark. But we leave this tale aside for now.
Though we will not see this slaying in action, the book shows us that ultimately evil actions are righteously avenged.
Sir Galahalt, the lord of Surluse, comes to Arthur’s court to suggest he hold a joust. Arthur tells Guenever to go without him. She says she’ll take Launcelot.
Guenever continues to court risk despite the fact that Arthur has come perilously close to finding out about her affair with Launcelot.
Chapter 41 Launcelot comes to the jousting disguised, and strikes down his own half-brother, Ector de Maris, as well as Bleoberis, and the King of Northgalis. When he strikes down the king, a great fight begins between the two parties. Sir Meliagrance, Bagdemagus’ son, realizes who Launcelot is, but he is beaten by another knight before the first rest. A damsel then comes to court complaining that a knight there is withholding all her lands. Someone suggests she ask for help from Sir Palomides, who is in a nearby hermitage. Palomides fights with the knight and strikes off his head. The lady falls in love with Palomides, though they are of the same family. Galahalt declares that whoever wins against Palomides will win the damsel.
Launcelot’s disguise means that he will not immediately be adding to his own glory and honor by being recognized. However, it also means that other knights will be less afraid to fight against him, and Launcelot will even feel justified in fighting against his relatives, including Ector de Maris. Normally, Palomides would rightfully “win” the lady as his property, but in this case the context of the tournament (and the fact that they are related, perhaps) means that more jousting and competition is necessary to determine the prize.
Chapter 42 On the second day of the tournament, Galahalt fights with Palomides. His sword slips and he accidentally cuts off the head of Palomides’ horse, and quickly asks Palomides’ forgiveness for this dishonor. Palomides grants it, and Galahalt grants Palomides the lady. They leave, and Galahalt fights with Dinadan, who has come disguised, and who nearly beats Galahalt, but then tells him to take another jousting partner. Then many from Northgalis come and begin to fight, before the day ends.
Galahalt’s behavior with Palomides is another reminder of what proper knightly behavior looks like: not only does he apologize, but Palomides graciously accepts the apology rather than losing his temper. While the men of Northgalis are often considered Arthur’s enemies, here their opposition is largely in good fun.
Chapter 43 As Palomides prepares to sleep, the brother of the knight he killed declares he’ll avenge his death. After dinner, Galahalt sends them to a field, where Palomides strikes off the knight’s head.
This knight may not be in the wrong in wanting to avenge his brother’s death, but Palomides’ victory underlines his prowess yet again.
Chapter 44 On the third day, King Bagdemagus fights against another king, and conquers both him and a knight coming to avenge the king’s defeat. Then men of Northgalis fight against Bagdemagus’ men. Palomides meets with Bleoberis’ brother Blamore de Ganis, who falls and almost breaks his neck. Bagdemagus is given that day’s prize. At dinner, a valet comes bearing four spears to Palomides, saying that a knight has asked him to take one half of them and meet him in the field. They meet, and the strange knight strikes Palomides from his horse. Then they fight on foot. As the knight advances on Palomides, Galahalt cries for them to stop. The knight reveals himself to be Lamorak. Guenever praises him, then asks Launcelot not to fight others of Arthur’s men.
By the third day of the tournament, the regular alliances and oppositions have begun to lose their interest, so the groupings begin to realign. This rearrangement suggests that competition, always a vital part of life in this society, is not only a serious value but also a kind of entertainment for everyone involved. Lamorak’s actions suggest that, before revealing his own identity, he wanted to prove himself to be just as worthy as Arthur’s other knights. Guenever, however, as the guardian of the knights, never likes them to battle each other.
Chapter 45 On the 4th day, the fighting resumes, and Lamorak wins against many knights. Many others gang up against him, so Launcelot and Bagdemagus ride out to help him. At the end of the day Lamorak gets the prize and they go to feast.
As a certain favorite emerges at these tournaments, the other knights often band together and do what they can to ensure that the favorite doesn’t win for too long in a row.
Chapter 46 On the 5th day, the fighting begins again, and a Saracen strikes down three brothers of Gawaine: Mordred, Gaheris, and Agravaine. Arthur hears of this and is angry, so he decides to fight himself. Lamorak and Palomides fight in defense of Arthur, who praises them and asks Lamorak (still disguised) who he is. When he learns, he swears never to fail him. Arthur confides that it is horrible that Lamorak couldn’t marry Margawse (Gawaine and his brothers’ mother, Arthur’s sister), since Gaheris killed her. Lamorak asks permission to avenge her death, and Arthur agrees.
Arthur’s opinion towards Mordred, Gaheris, and Agravaine is ambivalent: on the one hand, he finds their slaying of their mother Margawse despicable and unknightly, but on the other hand, they remain his knights of the Round Table, and he is reluctant to see them shamed in battle. By agreeing that Lamorak can avenge his lover Margawse’s death, Arthur puts off having to deal with this conflict himself.
Chapter 47 A daughter of King Bandes, meanwhile, is trapped by a Saracen knight Corsabrin, who refuses to let her marry anyone else. The damsel sends for Palomides and asks him to fight for her love with Corsabrin. They fight together on horseback and on foot, and are equally matched. Palomides begins to mock Corsabrin, who grows enraged, and Palomides manages to strike him down. He asks him to yield, and Corsabrin refuses, so Palomides cuts off his head.
Palomides wanders outside the tournament in pursuit of other adventures in his path. Although Palomides has been in love with Isoud, he is still eager enough to defend any damsel’s honor against a knight holding her captive. This is a fairly typical jousting scene, in which a refusal to yield leads to a justifiable slaying.
Since Corsabrin is a pagan, his body begins to stink. Galahalt tells Palomides that Palomides himself must be baptized as well, but Palomides says he must do seven battles for Jesus’ sake before this.
The myth of only pagan bodies smelling bad after death suggests the ubiquity of a Christian mindset at the time, as well as suspicion about non-Christians.
Chapter 48 On the 6th day, two brothers of Lamorak, Dornard and Aglovale, are stricken down, so Lamorak, enraged, fights in their defense. After many other jousts, the horn blows to rest for the day. Dinadan is merry and joking all dinner: he hands Galahalt the fish entrée and says that Galahalt is like a wolf, who will only eat flesh, not fish. When Dinadan tells Launcelot that he fears ever meeting him in battle. Launcelot says he hopes it will only be over a dish of meat. They all laugh and are merry.
This is a relatively rare scene of pure enjoyment, friendship, and contentment, even though it is only a pause before the more “honorable” games of jousting begin again. In the exchange between Dinadan and Launcelot we get a greater glimpse into their personalities and identities, apart from the noble (and violent) actions that usually serve to identify them.
Chapter 49 On the 7th day, Launcelot puts on a maiden’s dress over his armor. He goes to the field and charges towards Dinadan, who suddenly realizes that it’s Launcelot. Launcelot strikes him down and, dragging him into the forest, dresses him as a damsel. That night they bring him in to dinner, and Guenever falls down laughing. In the morning Guenever and Launcelot depart for Camelot. But Lamorak refuses to go, although Arthur has promised to protect him against Gawaine and his brothers. Lamorak pledges allegiance to Arthur, even as he hates the brothers.
Launcelot’s merry, trickster-like behavior continues the next day, as he and Dinadan fight earnestly but also in good fun. Launcelot’s tricks also seem directed towards Guenever, whom he continues to try to impress. Lamorak, for his part, continues to be strung between loyalty to his king and his vow to avenge Margawse’s death by killing the brothers, who are also Arthur’s nephews.
Chapter 50 Soon after, Galahalt and Bagdemagus call for a tournament in Cornwall, with the desire, out of envy, to kill or at least shame Launcelot. Mark decides to disguise Tristram so that Galahalt thinks he’s Launcelot. Seeing Tristram’s jousting, everyone the first day believes that he’s Launcelot, but finally he survives Galahalt and Bagdemagus’ attacks and reveals who he is. Mark tells Tristram he will tend to his wounds with care. That night, however, he spirits Tristram off to another castle, where he puts him in prison. Isoud, wondering where Tristram is, asks Sadok to find him. Sadok learns he’s been imprisoned by Mark and the traitors of Magoun, Mark’s nephews. Sadok fights against these traitors with his cousins as Mark flees. Sadok goes to the castle Arbray in Liones, which holds Sir Dinas. They gather an army.
Envy motivates many of the characters in this story, though their jealousy is almost always portrayed as a weakness unworthy of truly knightly behavior. That Tristram and Launcelot are difficult to tell apart from their actions alone suggests just how closely identifiable the two knights have become, especially since their identities are so closely tied to their actions. Mark, always plotting a way to rid himself of Tristram, takes advantage of Tristram’s weakness to imprison him, though it’s not clear what the extent of his plan is.
Chapter 51 Mark rides to the Castle of Tintagil, and prepares to raise a great army. He writes counterfeit letters from the Pope and has a messenger give them to him, with the order to come to Jerusalem to help fight against Saracens. Mark sends for Tristram and says that if he joins this war, he’ll be let out of prison. Tristram says Mark should go himself: he won’t go at Mark’s order, since he knows Mark doesn’t keep his word. Tristram suspects these letters are counterfeit.
Mark’s plan turns out to be even more complex than it first appeared, involving an international-scale ruse. Tristram, however, has known Mark long enough to be suspicious of anything Mark might tell him to be true. Still, it remains the case that he is trapped with little hope, it seems, of escaping.
Sir Percivale de Galis comes to seek Tristram, and rescues him out of prison. Percivale then rides to Mark and declares that he’s saved Tristram, and he says that Mark is shameful for imprisoning a knight of such great renown. Mark sends for Dinas to tell him to put down his arms, since Mark is preparing to fight for the Pope, a noble battle. Dinas tells his men to go home. Mark finds Isoud with Tristram, and imprisons him again. Isoud sends for Dinas and Sadok to have them imprison Mark so that she might escape with Tristram to England. Tristram is rescued, Mark imprisoned, and they escape.
Soon, however, Mark’s complex plan begins to unravel, as it seems Tristram was not as securely imprisoned as Mark thought—and, in addition, Tristram possesses many more allies than does Mark, who has done little but sow suspicion and distrust among people throughout various kingdoms. But Mark continues to trick others, this time Dinas—though finally, at least temporarily, Mark himself is subdued.
Chapter 52 Tristram and Isoud arrive to England, where Tristram joins a jousting of Arthur’s in disguise. Launcelot prepares to fight him, but Isoud sends him a ring and warns him it’s Tristram, so Launcelot refuses to joust. Launcelot brings Tristram and Isoud to his castle and joyfully hosts them there. Launcelot shares the news with Arthur, who declares that there should be a celebratory May Day tournament, with the knights of England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland against those of Gore, Surluse, Listinoise, and Northumberland. Launcelot warns that there are many knights that envy Arthur’s knights, and he puts Isoud into a safe place in the castle. Tristram and Isoud pass many days in contented love.
Isoud does her part in ensuring that the two greatest knights in the land, Tristram and Launcelot, do not have to face each other in battle and risk wounding each other. Launcelot and Tristram seem to have made up entirely, especially now that Tristram has gotten over his period of infidelity and is now only loyal to Isoud (not the greatest fidelity, but it seems good enough to Launcelot). This upcoming tournament seems both friendly and potentially fraught with danger.
Chapter 53 Isoud warns Tristram not to go out hunting unarmed, since he should be wary of Mark and his men. One day Tristram rests in the forest and sees the Questing Beast come to a well. Then an armed knight, Breuse Saunce Pité, comes and greets Tristram, followed by Palomides. Then they see another knight dressed to joust, and Breuse Saunce Pité fights him. Then the knight, Bleoberis, cries that he’ll avenge those that Breuse betrayed: Breuse flees, followed by Bleoberis, until he encounters several knights of the Round Table, including Ector de Maris and Percivale. He asks them for protection. Bleoberis comes and, though he is afraid, begins fighting the five. But when Bleoberis is knocked off his horse, Breuse strikes him again and again without letting him rise. One knight cries that this is shameful behavior. He prepares to fight Breuse, who flees.
Isoud, having been imprisoned herself by Mark for quite some time, now seems to be on the verge of paranoia regarding her worry that Tristram will meet with Mark. Instead, he comes across a different set of jousting knights. Where the Questing Beast is, of course, Palomides cannot be far behind. The behavior of Breuse Saunce Pité is maddening as usual. He does not seem to care at all about the code of knightly honor, nor does he fear the shame of cowardice in fleeing. His attitude suggests how ultimately fragile the code that dictates all the knights’ behavior in Camelot and elsewhere is.
Chapter 54 Palomides arrives and prepares to fight Bleoberis. But Ector de Maris says Palomides will find his match in Launcelot or Tristram. Palomides says that only one person has been his match: Lamorak, but Gawaine and his brothers killed him. Upon hearing this, Percivale (Lamorak’s brother) swoons in grief. Then a valet arrives from Arthur to tell them of the tournament.
This is the first time that we as readers have learned that Gawaine’s brothers have killed Lamorak, after a prolonged period of opposition and revenge. Palomides seems to say this off-hand, not realizing how closely tied to Lamorak others, including Percivale, are.
Chapter 55 Tristram, meanwhile, has encountered Dinadan, but refuses to share his name. Dinadan declares that he’ll fight him in that case. A knight comes riding towards them, whom Tristram recognizes as the son of the king of Northumberland. Dinadan prepares to fight him, and Dinadan is struck down. Tristram refuses to avenge this, so Dinadan leaves him in frustration.
Dinadan is usually a decent knight, though not as brave as Tristram, as we’ve seen before when Dinadan had proved reluctant to enter into risky battles. Now it is Tristram (though still disguised) who for unknown reasons seems uninterested in picking certain battles.
Tristram rides to Launcelot’s castle, where Launcelot is gone, and several knights have been killed. Tristram rides out to meet their killers. They prepare to do battle, and Tristram learns their names: Agravaine and Gaheris, Arthur’s nephews. Tristram says he’ll let them pass for Arthur’s sake, though they are murderers, as he’s heard they killed Lamorak.
Tristram encounters knights who are fellow knights of the Round Table, though as we’ve begun to see, this distinction is starting to mean less and less. Tristram, for instance, thinks it wrong not to avenge a murder simply because of an existing alliance.
Chapter 56 But after Tristram leaves, the brothers overtake him again and vow to fight. Tristram strikes down Gaheris and Agravaine. Then he returns to the castle and tells Isoud of his adventures. Isoud says that Dinadan is the one who had the harp song against Mark written. A valet says that Dinadan is riding into town, so Isoud sends for him to rest there. He arrives and says that he’s seeking Tristram, the good knight. Dinadan tells Isoud that he can’t understand men who are besotted by women. Isoud says he must quarrel for a lady to be a true knight. She asks him to fight for her love against three knights that have done her wrong. Dinadan says Isoud is the fairest lady he’s seen, but he won’t fight against three knights at once. She laughs, and they retire. The next morning Tristram swears to Isoud that he’ll meet Dinadan at the tournament, and he slips away alone.
Tristram easily strikes down the two brothers, but it is relatively clear that his quarrel with them is far from over. Isoud seems sympathetic to Dinadan, even though the harper he sent to Mark put Tristram and herself in even greater danger—she feels he attempts to be a good knight. Isoud’s conversation with Dinadan, though, suggests just how much Dinadan fails to live up to the image of a “true” knight, who would never question the necessity of picking a quarrel over a lady. Still, Dinadan’s stubbornness hints at a certain arbitrariness in this code.
Chapter 57 Dinadan rides to overtake Tristram, and orders him to joust. When they do, Tristram avoids striking Dinadan down, so finally he gives up and they continue riding. They come across another knight and Tristram again refuses to joust, so Dinadan does so, before learning that it’s Gareth. The three meet another knight and Tristram goads Dinadan into jousting: Dinadan refuses, since he knows the knight has been proven stronger than he is. Tristram finally goes after the knight himself and strikes him down mightily. This knight reveals himself as Palomides, who declares, when Tristram asks him which knight he hates most, that it’s Tristram. When Tristram declares that he is Tristram, Palomides is astonished. He asks Tristram to forgive him, since he sees how good a knight he is. Tristram does so.
Tristram knows he is a better knight than Dinadan, and so doesn’t need to prove himself by fighting and possibly wounding this fellow knight of the Round Table. Still, Tristram seems often somewhat amused by or mocking to Dinadan in his goading attempts to make Dinadan fight even when he knows Dinadan won’t be an equal match to another knight. Tristram and Palomides only meet now, after having set a date of jousting long before—the date at which Tristram and Launcelot fought for the first and only time. Finally Tristram proves himself greater than Palomides once and for all.
Chapter 58 They ride to the Castle Lonazep where the tournament is being held. They recall the death of Sir Lamorak, once the best knight after Launcelot, and Tristram cries that he would kill the brothers who did it if they weren’t relatives of Arthur. Gareth says that he doesn’t meddle with his brothers’ affairs, and he’s cut himself off from them after they fought four against one and killed Lamorak.
It is interesting that we do not witness Lamorak’s death in a book obsessed with battles and revenge: here, the effect is to create an uncanny absence where Lamorak once was, and to rearrange the sets of alliances based on Gareth’s brothers actions.
Chapter 59 The knights rise until coming to Humber Bank, where they see a red silk-covered ship. Tristram enters: a wounded knight is lying on a bed with a letter in his hand. The other sailors say that the letter reports how the knight was slain, but whoever takes and reads it must vow to avenge his death. Tristram takes the letter: it is from Hermance, king of the Red City, who says that two brothers have killed him, and that he who avenges his death will have the Red City and all Hermance’s castles. Tristram says he would accept, but has already promised to be at Arthur’s tournament. Palomides offers to take it, and Tristram says they should meet at the joust in a week.
Sometimes certain adventures or quests come to these knights against their will, though they are always alluring to those who seek to gain glory and honor. Here, there is the additional benefit of gaining a city and a number of castles. Tristram’s acknowledgment that he must fulfill his promise to Arthur underlines his ability to withstand most kinds of sinful temptations (though perhaps not those involving women, as we’ve seen with the two Isouds).
Chapter 60 Tristram, Gareth, and Dinadan leave Palomides and come across an unarmed knight, who offers to bring them to his castle. As they’re eating, one knight comes and declares that Tristram has slain his brother, and he’ll kill Tristram whenever he finds him at large. After dinner the three leave, but the knight soon rides after them. Tristram strikes him down and hits him on the helmet. He tells the knight to leave, but when he refuses, Tristram strikes him harder so that he falls down, possibly dead.
Here it’s unclear who the knight is, much less his brother whom Tristram supposedly killed. While this is certainly possible (as Tristram has seemingly killed hundreds of nameless knights), Tristram cannot be bothered to figure out these identities.
They ride on and meet the King with the Hundred Knights and Sir Segwarides. The king looks at Dinadan’s helmet (which is actually Tristram’s), which the Queen of Northgalis had given to Isoud, and Isoud to Tristram, and asks where he got it. The king declares he’ll joust with Dinadan for the love of the helmet’s owner (the Queen of Northgalis). He strikes Dinadan down and orders his valet to take the helmet. Tristram then intervenes, saying he won’t give up the helmet, so they fight until Tristram knocks the king out. The knights then continue on, Dinadan cursing his bad luck in wearing Tristram’s helmet.
This helmet has apparently seen a number of owners. As it is so difficult to ascertain who is who in armor, helmets such as this one end up being more of a marker of one’s identity than a cover-up for one’s face. Although Dinadan is not particularly courageous, he often enough, humorously, ends up paying the price for being a sidekick in Tristram’s reckless adventures.
Chapter 61 Palomides, meanwhile, sails to Hermance’s castle. A knight named Sir Ebel tells Palomides how much the entire court is grieving for Hermance’s death. He says that the king had brought up two children in charity, but they betrayed him and mortally wounded him while he was hunting.
A notable aspect of the theme of jealousy and revenge in this book is how often such competition takes place between fathers and sons (or parents and children more generally).
Chapter 62 Ebel says that he had dispatched sailors to find a knight to avenge the king’s death. Palomides says that he has come here to do so, so Ebel says that he must sail to the Delectable Isle by the Red City. As Palomides departs, a knight comes up to him and says that this is his quest, and he’d be shamed if he didn’t complete it. Palomides suggests they fight and the stronger will fulfill the quest: Palomides wins.
Quests have a particular currency throughout these stories: they are treated almost as concrete possessions, which can be won, lost, and traded, but only at the high price of jousting. Knights must battle even for the honor of simply attempting to fulfill a certain quest.
Chapter 63 The knight says he is Hermance’s brother. He departs to the Red City to tell the inhabitants of Palomides’ quest. The city rejoices and sends the sons (those who killed Hermance) a messenger to tell them to prepare to fight. The sons are less worried, however, once they learn that Palomides is not of Launcelot’s family. Palomides arrives to the city a few days later and is greatly praised, even though he’s not Christian (which he had vowed not to become until finding the Questing Beast). Helius and Helake, the two sons, come to the Red City with 40 knights.
It’s not entirely explained why Ebel had dispatched sailors to find a knight to avenge Hermance’s death when his brother had offered to, but now the inhabitants are certain they have their best chance at revenge. That the narrator points to Palomides’s religion suggests just how surprising we are meant to find the fact that he is such a successful knight, even though not a Christian.
Chapter 64 The brothers meet Palomides, who declares his intention to avenge the king’s death. They race together on their horses, and Palomides immediately wounds Helake. Helius strikes Palomides from his horse, and they begin to fight on foot for two hours, never resting. Palomides stumbles, but seeing the commoners weeping behind him, he tells himself not to be shamed: he rises up and strikes Helius again and again, finally cutting off his head.
Just as Tristram, on the point of losing a battle to Mark’s enemy, had drawn strength from thinking of Isoud relying on him, so too does Palomides feel reinvigorated by the sight of the commoners, who are relying on him to avenge their beloved king’s death and vanquish the traitorous sons who killed him.
The whole city celebrates, but Palomides promised to go to Arthur’s tournament, so he leaves. He meets Tristram at Joyous Gard, Launcelot’s castle, and Tristram and Dinadan rejoice at Palomides’ return.
Palomides does not rejoice for very long in his victory before returning to fulfill the other promise he had made—the adventures rarely cease.
Chapter 65 The next day Tristram and Palomides ride into the woods and meet a knight who asks who the castle belongs to. When they refuse to answer, the knight races towards Palomides with his spear, but Palomides strikes him to the ground. He’s about to kill the knight, but Tristram prevents him, saying he’s only a fool. The knight comes to and flees the scene without telling his name. Then another knight arrives, saying that he’s been pursuing the most treacherous knight in the world, Breuse Saunce Pité. Palomides cries that this is the man he hates most.
So often, battles between knights are instigated when one party is seeking something—a “possession” like a woman, access to a castle, or even something like knowledge of identity—and the other refuses what the first party considers his rightful ownership. Palomides and Tristram also lack knowledge here, however, as they fail to realize that Breuse has fled them yet again.
Tristram and Palomides ride back to the castle, and the next morning they ride to Lonazep with Isoud and Dinadan. On the way they meet the knight Galihodin with twenty others around him. He offers to joust for their lady, and Palomides offers to do so.
Only a great confidence in his ability to win could lead Palomides to gamble on Tristram’s lover in such a way, risking her entrapment by another knight.
Chapter 66 Galihodin and Palomides fight, and Palomides strikes him to the ground. Galihodin’s knights come up to avenge him, and Palomides strikes them down one by one, until Galihodin bids his knights to stop. They continue on until Palomides sees Gawaine, Uwaine, Sagramore le Desirous, and Dodinas le Savage, all ready to joust. Palomides defeats them all, and they depart again.
Some of the characters are new here, but the story is not. What keeps the adventures and jousting events going in these stories is the hope that, even though few others have succeeded against a certain knight, one knight might finally do so, thus winning even greater honor for himself. Palomides was a somewhat negative character when he first appeared in the book, but by now he is presented as a truly great knight.
Then Galihodin meets Gawaine and they compare notes, saying that the people they encountered must be Tristram, Palomides, and Isoud. Meanwhile Tristram leaves the others at a pavilion and rides on Palomides’ white horse to Lonazep. A loud horn blows: a knight tells Tristram that it announces those fighting against Arthur at the tournament, including Marhalt, the father of Marhaus killed by Tristram.
Even lacking clear identity markers, knights can make certain deductions based on battle style, prowess, and the number and kind of party that a group is known to be traveling in. More adventures await Tristram at the tournament, where his past will come back to haunt him.
Chapter 67 Tristram continues to Lonazep, but Gawaine and Galihodin arrive to Arthur first and tell him about the knight with the white horse that smote down so many. Tristram arrives but refuses to tell Arthur his name: he says he’ll decide which party he’ll fight for on the field the next day. In the morning the jousting begins. Gareth is wounded, and Tristram and Palomides, dressed in green, help Gareth up and bring him to their pavilion to rest.
Thanks to his disguise, Tristram is at greater freedom than just any knight of the Round Table: he can choose whose side to fight for without claiming his allegiance beforehand, instead watching the field to choose the battles when he’d like. Still, Tristram feels somewhat responsible for comrades like Gareth.
Chapter 68 Palomides suggests to Tristram that they fight against Arthur, since Launcelot and many other worthy knights will be on his side, so they will gain great glory if they win. The next morning Isoud watches everything from a bay window, veiled so as not to be known. Arthur wonders who the knights in green could be, supposing that they might be knights of the Round Table fighting against his side. A number of jousts take place, and Arthur marvels at Palomides (still disguised). Then Tristram is even more successful, causing the entire party to marvel.
As usual, knights like Palomides and Tristram have to weigh the likelihood of winning against the possibility of gaining greater glory, even if they run a greater risk of being defeated as a result. Still, while Arthur doesn’t know exactly who these successful knights are, their identities can’t remain hidden for long—as only so many knights in the kingdom are so skilled.
Chapter 69 Palomides strikes down 20 knights, and Tristram 30, mostly of the house of Arthur. Arthur tells Launcelot that this is shameful, and Launcelot offers to fight them alongside Bleoberis and Ector de Maris: Arthur will be the fourth. Launcelot and Tristram meet and fight: Launcelot strikes Tristram down. Bleoberis, Ector, and Arthur win against Palomides, Gareth, and Dinadan. The King of Northgalis rides to Tristram and tells him, though he doesn’t know who he is, to take his horse since he’s been so noble. Tristram thanks him and re-mounts. Then he meets with Arthur and strikes him down.
For the first time since their famous battle, Launcelot and Tristram meet again, though this is less in the context of proving who is the greater knight, than of joining a team-based competition, meant to be in good fun—though the stakes seem to be rising, especially when Arthur’s sometime enemy, the King of Northgalis, gives Tristram a horse that he uses to strike King Arthur down, a substantial dishonor.
Chapter 70 Isoud had wept upon seeing Tristram unhorsed, but now delights at seeing him recovered and fighting again. Palomides happens to look to the window and see her laughing, and he’s emboldened by his love for her and doubles his strength. Tristram marvels at his prowess to Dinadan, who thinks to himself that Tristram might not like the real reason for Palomides’ renewed strength. Palomides is given the prize that day. But at that moment Launcelot rides into the field and tries to strike down Palomides, but Palomides strikes and kills Launcelot’s horse, and Launcelot falls down. Many knights are angry at Palomides, thinking his actions to be unknightly.
As has happened both to Tristram and to Palomides before, support from a watching and anxious audience often proves to be just the added piece of strength necessary for a knight to vanquish another. Dinadan shrewdly grasps what is at stake in Palomides’ renewed strength, stemming as it does from an unrequited love for Tristram’s own lover. This is perhaps the first time that the mighty Launcelot is struck off his horse.
Chapter 71 Ector de Maris then strikes down Palomides in revenge, so Tristram does the same to Ector. Launcelot gets up and cries that Palomides has done him more wrong than any knight has ever done in a tournament, so he will be avenged. Palomides has no more strength, so asks that Launcelot spare him and he’ll pledge eternal allegiance to him: he’s never had such glory as he has now. Launcelot recognizes that Palomides won such glory for love of Isoud, but he tells Palomides not to let Tristram find out.
Launcelot seems not quite able to believe that he’s been struck down by a foreign knight, especially since he still doesn’t know who. This is a rather poignant moment, as Palomides pleads with Launcelot, essentially asking him to allow Palomides to enjoy his moment of glory. Launcelot seems to easily guess how Palomides fought so well—a woman and her “sorcery” must have been involved.
A great fight then begins between the two sides, and that day Palomides receives the prize again. Tristram orders Dinadan to fetch Isoud and bring her to his pavilion. Launcelot says to Arthur that he suspects Palomides is the green knight, and marvels that he began first and lasted longest without tiring.
Little by little, Launcelot begins to piece together shield color and identity, as Tristram, meanwhile, seems to suspect that Isoud might be safer in his pavilion, where he can watch over her.
Chapter 72 Dinadan cries that Tristram has been fighting sluggishly all day. Tristram grows angry, though Dinadan is just trying to provoke him into doing well the next day, so Palomides won’t get the prize yet again. The narrator calls Launcelot and Tristram the greatest knights ever seen.
Launcelot and Tristram remain in many ways parallel knights with parallel tales, on and off the battlefield.
Chapter 73 In the morning Launcelot departs and Tristram prepares to ride in with Isoud, Palomides, and Gareth. Watching from a window, Launcelot remarks at the woman’s beauty, and Arthur tells him that it’s Isoud, who is fairer than anyone but Guenever. Arthur suggests they fight for her, though Launcelot warns that it will be difficult to defeat her protectors. They go to the forest and Palomides, angry at the intrusion, rides to Arthur and strikes him down. Launcelot says to himself that if he fights Palomides, he’ll have to fight Tristram too, which might be too much. But he knows he must avenge Arthur, so he rides to Palomides and strikes him out of the saddle. Launcelot tells him that he cannot let Arthur’s shame go unavenged, but he has no pleasure in fighting now. Tristram realizes that this is Launcelot, and that the other is Arthur. Tristram puts away his arms, and the two depart. Tristram shares with Palomides that Launcelot has always shown him great kindness, and is the most chivalrous of all knights. Palomides regrets having struck down King Arthur.
By this point it appears that Launcelot and Arthur have deduced the identities of at least several of the disguised knights. Although Arthur is largely loyal to Guenever (as is Launcelot, although Arthur of course does not know that), “fighting for” a woman is an element of jousting that is granted to any knight, regardless of the woman he’s attached to. This time, it is Palomides and Tristram who are initially unaware of their opponents—and once again Arthur faces the dishonor of being a king struck off his horse as a result. Launcelot then finds himself in an uncomfortable situation, strung between his loyalty and need to avenge Arthur’s shame, and his friendship towards Tristram (as well as his awareness that Tristram is his greatest opponent).
Chapter 74 Then the jousting begins again, and Palomides and Gareth do especially well. Tristram watches, meanwhile, but then Gareth reminds him of Dinadan’s rebukes of the day before. Tristram, his pride enflamed, rides into the thick of the fighting and does just as well as Palomides. Launcelot tells Arthur, as they watch, that this must be Tristram.
This time, it is not the realization of someone else relying on him, but the recollection of someone mocking his abilities, that spurs Tristram to action, leading him to such prowess that Launcelot manages to recognize him.
Chapter 75 Launcelot enters the fray and performs well, but refuses to fight against Tristram. Arthur remarks that Palomides seems to be envious of Tristram. Tristram rides to the pavilion to rest, and finds Dinadan asleep. He orders Dinadan to fight, and Dinadan says Tristram has taken his words to heart.
Dinadan’s relationship to Tristram seems to have grown more familiar and teasing. Now, Tristram uses some of Dinadan’s own rallying cries against him to force him back into the fray.
Chapter 76 Palomides hatches a plan: he rides to a wounded knight and asks to borrow his armor. He rides out disguised, and then meets Tristram to fight. Tristram marvels at this knight’s prowess, and wonders who he is. Only Isoud, watching from the bay window, sees everything, and begins to weep in anger at Palomides. Launcelot rides between them and asks if he might replace Palomides. Not realizing it’s Tristram, Launcelot fights him (though Tristram does know it’s Launcelot). Then Dinadan tells Gareth that the knight is Tristram, and they agree to strike down Launcelot together. They do so. Tristram cries that it’s shameful to fight two against one.
Palomides’ envy of Tristram seems to have suddenly spiraled out of control, as he loses all sight of his allies’ strategy, and instead seeks to strike down his own friend—even though if he hadn’t gone mad he would know that Isoud can see him, as he had drawn strength from her sight before. Little by little, the sporting, jocular atmosphere of the tournament begins to unravel, as Dinadan and Gareth also lose their sense of sportsmanship in fighting Launcelot two against one.
All of them continue to fight, but finally Dinadan gets Tristram’s horse and calls out his name on purpose. Launcelot exclaims that’s he’s dishonored for having fought Tristram, and asks Tristram to forgive him. That day all are divided between giving the prize to Tristram or Launcelot. Launcelot says Tristram fought longer and beat more knights, so Tristram is chosen.
Interestingly, Tristram does not seem as wary of fighting Launcelot as vice versa, perhaps because the latter retains a slight edge over Tristram—even if Launcelot acts honorably in handing the prize to Tristram.
Chapter 77 The fighting ends, and Isoud goes to the pavilion, still furious with Palomides. Tristram, Gareth, and Dinadan meet there, and when Palomides arrives, still disguised, Tristram tells him to leave. Palomides refuses, but Tristram recognizes his voice, and exclaims that Palomides was overly harsh. Palomides pretends he thought Tristram was the King of Ireland, and Tristram forgives him. But Isoud tells Tristram what she saw—and yet Palomides swears that he didn’t know it was Tristram. Tristram says he believes him, and Isoud only hangs her head.
Palomides’ envy has reached such a state that he finds himself lying to his friend and ally, Tristram. Tristram, for his part, does not suspect the kind of trickery from Palomides that he has grown to expect from Mark, for instance. Given that women are so often treated with suspicion by knights in these stories, it isn’t surprising that Tristram doesn’t believe Isoud (though we’re shown that that’s mistaken, and Tristram should have trusted his beloved).
Chapter 78 Two armed knights arrive at the pavilion to see Isoud. They take off their helmets, and Dinadan tells Tristram that they are Launcelot and Arthur. They all embrace and disarm. Arthur praises Isoud’s beauty and Tristram’s prowess. Arthur asks why Tristram has fought against them, and Tristram says it’s the fault of Gareth and Dinadan. Arthur cheerfully accepts it. That knight, Palomides stays awake all night in tearful envy. The next morning Tristram, who can tell Palomides has been crying, assumes he was upset by his and Isoud’s rebukes.
Though the tournament has not yet come to an end, it has reached the point when the helmets come off and the knights’ true identities are revealed. Arthur reacts good-naturedly to the discovery that knights of the Round Table have fought against him. His ease of manner should be contrasted to the wild jealousy of Palomides, which Tristram, nevertheless, fails to truly understand.
Chapter 79 Tristram and Palomides ride to the field and the fighting begins again. Palomides does well at first, but then Tristram performs even better. Arthur disguises himself with Launcelot, and Tristram strikes Arthur down without knowing. Launcelot strikes down 30 knights, though his side is still weaker. But Tristram marvels at Launcelot’s prowess.
If Palomides’ envy stems from Tristram’s agility in combat, this day of jousting will only deepen the wound. Launcelot and Tristram’s mutual admiration for each other’s characters and prowess is held up as an alternative to Palomides’ jealousy—although the two knights’ admiration also comes from a position of supreme confidence.
Chapter 80 Tristram tells Palomides, Gareth, and Dinadan that he will switch to Arthur’s side, so that the king isn’t dishonored. The others agree except for Palomides, who refuses to change sides. But with Tristram and the others, Arthur’s side is reinvigorated, until all the opposing side begins to flee. Palomides escapes to the woods, where he rests by the well, in tears, bemoaning his lost honor. The prize for the day is shared between Tristram and Launcelot. Bleoberis and Ector de Maris come upon Palomides and bring them along with him. When they pass by Tristram and Isoud’s pavilion, Palomides goes to Tristram and declares him a traitor—he says he’ll kill him if he gets the chance. In the morning Tristram, Bleoberis, Ector de Maris, Gareth, and Dinadan bring Isoud to Joyous Gard, Arthur returns to Camelot, and Palomides rides away with the two foreign kings, sad to lose both Isoud and Tristram.
Palomides’s final decision in the tournament seems to be made largely out of spite, refusing to align himself with the norms of knightly honor that the others so easily agree to. It turns out he’s made a doubly wrong decision once the opposing side loses against Arthur’s. Palomides is now portrayed as having descended into self-pity, hardly an admirable or honorable position for a knight. Palomides uses the word “traitor” against Tristram not as a meaningful marker of shame, but rather as an insult to be thrown at an opponent. Palomides now returns to being a more negative character, as his jealousy and pride overshadow his nobler qualities.
Chapter 81 After a week Bleoberis and Ector de Maris leave the others and meet Guenever, who is recovering from illness at a seaside castle. They tell her about the tournament, and Guenever criticizes Palomides’ envy, which will only dishonor him.
Chapter 82 Palomides lodges with the kings of Ireland and Scotland and then leaves alone. In the woods he comes across a weeping knight, Epinogris, and says that that knight’s sorrow cannot be greater than his own. He shares that he’s in love with La Beale Isoud, and fears he’s lost her love and Tristram’s friendship forever. He never thought Isoud was really in love with him, but she criticized him severely the last time he saw her. Besides, Palomides has now lost any glory he had.
Palomides has lost the friendship and fellowship of the knights of the Round Table, and now seems instead condemned to wander around the kingdom, bemoaning his lost friendship and love. In that regret, of course, he is not without companions, as knights like Epinogris are equally eager to share their stories of lost honor.
Chapter 83 Epinogris says that his story is worse: he loved an earl’s daughter, but an errant knight, Helior le Preuse, challenged him to fight for her, and Helior wounded him and took his lady. Palomides offers to fight Helior if he ever finds him. They ride together to a hermitage, where Palomides goes walking and finds a knight (who is carrying a shield that Ector de Maris had carried earlier) riding after a knight with a green shield who is leading a lady on a horse—Sir Helior. Those two knights fight, and finally the knight with Ector’s shield conquers Helior, who asks for mercy. Palomides runs to the lady and asks if she knows a knight named Epinogris. She cries that she’s suffered greatly for him. First Palomides has to fight the knight that conquered Helior. The knight reveals that he’s Safere, brother of Palomides and Segwarides. Palomides reveals himself as well, and they embrace.
Palomides seems somewhat cheered by Epinogris’s story, if only because it gives him the opportunity to follow a new quest, attempting to win back his new companion’s lover from the errant knight Helior. The next scene is somewhat confusing, as Palomides enters into an already existing battle between Helior and Safere (though he only later learns the identity of each). Safere conquers Helior, and Palomides begins to fight Safere before realizing it is his own brother. Now, luckily, Palomides has a ready-made companion to replace some aspects of his lost friendship with Tristram.
Chapter 84 Palomides brings the lady to Epinogris, and they ride together with Safere to Epinogris’s castle. In the morning Safere and Palomides depart. They hear weeping coming from a manor, and meet knights crying over the death of the castle’s lord. One of them recognizes Palomides as the one who killed him, so they all charge towards Palomides and Safere, overwhelm them, and imprison them. They determine Palomides guilty and Safere not guilty, and Safere departs in sorrow. In the morning the knights bind Palomides and take him to the slain knight’s father. They pass Launcelot’s castle, where Palomides calls out to a knight to send his best wishes to Tristram. The knight races to Tristram, who weeps.
It initially seems that Palomides has successfully secured the lady’s release and the lord’s death in revenge. But of course, knights never act entirely alone in these stories: they are always clustered within other groups, even if those alliances may never be entirely stable. Soon after being reunited with his brother, Palomides loses him once again, as Safere doesn’t seem to be willing or able to save Palomides in turn. Palomides’ ability to alert Tristram seems his only hope.
Chapter 85 Tristram is still angry, but vows not to let Palomides die shamefully. Meanwhile the knights pass by Launcelot, who recognizes Palomides. The knights tell him not to meddle, but Launcelot says he’s too good a knight to die a shameful death. Launcelot strikes down all twelve of the knights and leaves them wounded, taking Palomides with him to the castle, where they meet Tristram.
Tristram’s anger with Palomides can still coexist with his sense of honor: they have been allies and friends before, and though Tristram is angry with Palomides he doesn’t desire his death. However, Launcelot gets there first.
Chapter 86 Tristram doesn’t recognize Launcelot until he takes off his helmet, and they embrace. Launcelot leaves after a few days, and Palomides begins to grieve again at seeing Isoud. He goes to sit by a well and make up a song about Isoud. Tristram, riding along, hears the song and is initially troubled, then angry. He thinks to kill Palomides: he comes to him and says Palomides is a traitor, and he’d kill him were he not unarmed. Palomides reveals that he’s only had any glory from thinking of Isoud, so now he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. He’s not a traitor since love is available for all men, he says.
Although Palomides’s near-death experience in some ways seems to shock him out of his lovesickness, this interlude does not last long before he descends back into sorrow. Tristram must know that Palomides’ love for Isoud is not reciprocated, but even so Tristram considers Isoud his own possession, unable even to be coveted by someone else. Palomides clearly has a different, more romantic conception of love than that.
Chapter 87 Tristram vows to fight Palomides, who suggests they meet in two weeks, when Palomides is recovered. Tristram reminds Palomides of his broken promise to meet him to fight, but Palomides says he was in prison at the time. Palomides rides to Arthur’s court to be given knights and sergeants. A few days before the battle, Tristram is wounded while hunting, and is distraught, knowing he must keep his promise.
Tristram and Palomides had been supposed to meet long ago—the time when Tristram ended up fighting with Launcelot instead, as per Merlin’s prophecy—and now, though the reasons for fighting have changed, their suspicions towards each other are stirred up again.
Chapter 88 On the 15th day Palomides comes to the well with his sergeants. He sends a squire to get Tristram and finds him in bed, with a wound six inches deep: Palomides is glad that he won’t be shamed. In a month Tristram is healed and goes in search of Palomides, but can never find him. Instead he fights other battles: people begin to marvel at him rather than Launcelot, annoying his kinsmen. But Launcelot orders them never to hurt Tristram.
It seems that Tristram and Palomides are both more pleased at avoiding the battle and missing the chance to be shamed than they are sorry not to defend themselves. Tristram and Launcelot, of course, are friends and allies, but their friends cannot help but see the two most successful knights as rivals.