Chapter 1 Arthur’s tradition at Pentecost is not to eat until he’s heard of or seen a great marvel. That day, Gawaine sees three men and a dwarf approaching the castle, and he tells Arthur that they can now eat. Two men then enter into the feasting hall, bearing on their shoulders a handsome young man, and everyone marvels at his appearance. The young man greets Arthur and asks him to give him three gifts, one now and two a year from now. Arthur tells him to ask, and the man asks for food and drink for a year. Arthur grants this gladly, though the man refuses to give him his name. Sir Kay suspects that this is a villain, and names him Beaumains (“Fair-hands”).
It’s suggested that the three men and a dwarf that Gawaine sees are the same as those who enter the hall, as a dwarf will later be associated with Beaumains, and probably just isn’t mentioned the second time. Pentecost, as well as being a time for the knights to recoup, is also a chance for adventures to come to Arthur’s court, rather than having the knights go off in search of them themselves. One common way that these adventures take place is through the appearance of an unknown person at court, often to ask for favors. This is an opportunity for Arthur to show his generosity to strangers, increasing his own honor and status. Sir Kay appears as hotheaded and rather foolish, as he does several times.
Chapter 2 Gawaine is angry with Kay for mocking Beaumains, who is now eating sadly. Launcelot and Gawaine invite Beaumains to their chambers afterward, but he refuses. He remains meek and mild throughout the year. Finally, a year later, Arthur is awaiting some marvel when a squire tells him a damsel is approaching. She enters the hall and asks for help for her lady, who is besieged by a tyrant, the Knight of the Red Launds. Gawaine says this man apparently has the strength of seven men. Arthur says he cannot allow his knights to go unless he learns the name of the damsel’s lady and where she lives.
The narrative sometimes makes large chronological jumps, skating past a full year spent without many adventures, when the knights are settled at court. This time lapse serves the purpose of letting the knights get to know Beaumains, and—except Sir Kay, whose teasing is not considered kindly among the others—recognize that he is a good knight. At Pentecost, a natural time of transition, the adventures will begin again.
Chapter 3 Beaumains says he must now ask for two more gifts. First, he asks to undertake the damsel’s adventure, and secondly, he asks to be made a knight of Launcelot du Lake. Arthur agrees, but the damsel is upset that she is only granted the “kitchen page” to help her, and she departs. A dwarf then arrives bringing a horse and fine armor to Beaumains. Beaumains and the dwarf ride out after the damsel.
As is often the case, external factors like dress and position are considered to represent internal character as well as social status and honor. Arthur may recognize Beaumains’ legitimacy, but the damsel refuses to look past these external signs and accept him.
Chapter 4 Sir Kay rides after Beaumains, against the wish of Launcelot and Gawaine. Beaumains sees him and says he is an ungentle knight. Kay runs toward Beaumains with his spear, but Beaumains hits him with the blunt edge of his sword so that Kay falls down as if dead. Beaumains takes Kay’s sword and shield. Launcelot comes up behind Kay, and the two fight on foot. Launcelot marvels at Beaumains’ strength, and finally suggests they call a truce.
This is the first time Launcelot has not actually conquered a knight with whom he’s fought: the truce reveals just how remarkable Beaumains is on the battlefield. Kay’s desire to pursue him stems from petty considerations like jealousy and suspicion, as once again Kay appears in an unfavorable light.
Chapter 5 Beaumains asks Launcelot to give him a knighthood: Launcelot says he must know his true name. He says he is Gareth of Orkney, Gawaine’s brother. Launcelot is pleased, and makes Gareth a knight before fetching Kay and returning home, where the others scorn Kay.
Finally Beaumains reveals his identity, one that helps to explain his great prowess, and that situates him as a proper knight worthy of praise among the others of Arthur’s court. It’s naturally assumed that no one could be a true knight and have such skill without also being of noble blood. Gareth is another important example of someone purposefully disguising themselves in order to prove their merit.
Gareth (still referred to as Beaumains) continues with the damsel, who complains of his shabby clothes and ignoble demeanor. However much she might insult him, Beaumains says, he has sworn to undertake her adventure, so he won’t leave. Suddenly a man comes racing towards them, saying that six thieves have kidnapped and bound his lord. They ride together towards the captured knight, and one by one Beaumains kills all the thieves. The knight thanks him and asks how he can reward him, but Beaumains says he has already been made knight, so he needs nothing else. He and the damsel lodge at the knight’s estate that night, and the knight feels ashamed at the damsel’s continued complaints about Beaumains.
While the revelation of Beaumains’s identity to Launcelot has solidified his reputation at court, this damsel is apparently unaware of their conversation, and Beaumains prefers to withstand her constant complaints and ridiculing rather than reveal to her exactly who she is. The narrative shows that Beaumains’s actions should stand as a proxy for his identity, and the fact that the damsel refuses to accept this puts her in the wrong. At the same time, the damsel’s insults also add elements of comedy to the tale.
Chapter 6 The next morning Beaumains and the damsel ride out across a river, which two knights are guarding. Beaumains kills them both and leads the damsel across, and she is grudgingly impressed, though she says his victory was from luck. They ride towards a black laund (field), next to a black hawthorn and black shield and spear.
The damsel’s continued refusal to accept that Beaumains is a worthy knight characterizes her as stubborn and ungrateful, especially as he continues to defend her against marauding knights along the way.
Chapter 7 There is the Knight of the Black Launds, who asks the damsel about this knight of Arthur. She says Beaumains is only a kitchen knave: she’d be grateful to be rid of him. Hearing of his jousting success, the Knight says he will not kill Beaumains, but will have Beaumains leave his horse and harness with him. Beaumains declares he is a born gentleman and will prove it. They fight and Beaumains is wounded, but eventually kills the Black Knight. The damsel despairs that Beaumains has killed such a good knight, and tells him to flee, but Beaumains refuses to do so.
The damsel is apparently on Beaumains’s side, since she is leading him to her mistress to be saved, and yet here she casually submits him to the will of the Black Knight, who, with his menacing armor and stellar reputation, seems much more valuable to her than a “kitchen knave” could be. Even Beaumains’s ability to kill him is an opportunity not for the damsel to change her mind, but rather to bemoan the other knight’s death.
Chapter 8 A knight approaches and asks after his brother, the Knight of the Black Launds, which the damsel says Beaumains has killed. This knight, the “Green Knight,” cries that Beaumains is a traitor, and, arming himself with a green shield and spear, races towards Beaumains. They joust and wound each other. The damsel says it is shameful for a kitchen knave to do so well against the Green Knight. Beaumains is ashamed of her outburst, and he strikes the Green Knight even harder until he begs for mercy. Beaumains says only a word from the damsel will save him. She refuses several times, but as Beaumains makes as if to kill him, she asks him not to slay the Green Knight, and Beaumains frees him. The knight invites them to his estate to spend the night.
Finally the damsel’s unrelenting criticism of Beaumains seems to reach him. Losing his calm demeanor, he threatens to kill yet another of the knights that the damsel so admires and respects. Now the damsel is in an uncomfortable position: she doesn’t want to have to show any submission to Beaumains, but she still wants to save the life of the Green Knight. The Green Knight, for his part, seems suitably impressed by Beaumains’ willingness to show mercy to him, leading to his hospitality.
Chapter 9 The damsel continues to complain about Beaumains, but the Green Knight says he must be a noble knight. In the morning the Green Knight leads them through the forest, and offers his thirty knights if they ever need help. Again, the damsel tells Beaumains to leave her, and again he refuses.
Other people that Beaumains and the damsel encounter on the way are more willing to judge Beaumains as a result of his actions, and not based on his clothing (unlike the damsel). She becomes more and more of a comic caricature as she grows more unreasonable in her disdain for Beaumains.
Chapter 10 They come across a white tower overlooking a meadow with many knights and squires at a tournament. The lord, the Red Knight, looks out the window and decides to joust with the approaching knight (Beaumains). The damsel says that Beaumains has killed the Red Knight’s brother, so the lord says he will kill Beaumains. They joust for hours, until again Beaumains conquers him, and the Knight begs for mercy. Again he says the damsel must ask for mercy on his behalf, which she does. They lodge at the Red Knight’s castle, and they leave the next morning, the damsel continuing to insult Beaumains.
A tournament is normally the opportunity for knights to test their strength and prowess in a friendly way, but it also is quite possible for adventures to come up like an unknown knight arriving to fight. Once the Red Knight learns what happened to his brother, he is doubly committed to fighting Beaumains. Nonetheless, Beaumains’ prowess in battle is such that the Red Knight offers him hospitality even though Beaumains killed his brother.
Chapter 11 Beaumains says it is uncourteous of the damsel to keep insulting him, and asks her to stop unless he is beaten or shamed. Soon they see a great city, before which lies a meadow with many pavilions. The damsel says that the lord who owns the city holds many tournaments here. The damsel brings Beaumains to the lord, Sir Persant of Inde (the Blue Knight), who she says is the greatest knight of all, and Beaumains had better flee than fight him. Beaumains says he will prove himself rather than be shamed, and she exclaims that she doesn’t know what kind of man he is, having suffered her so courteously. Beaumains says that her insults only made him want to prove himself more, just as he came disguised to court in order to prove himself.
In some ways, the damsel’s constant criticisms show her to be a woman of her own mind, who refuses to subscribe to the opinions of others (even if this more positive interpretation coexists with the book’s emphasis on her ungenerous, even shameful attitude towards Beaumains). But her skepticism about Beaumains’ abilities also gives him the chance to prove himself as much as he can, since she leads him to and fro, meeting various knights with great reputations, and thus he can establish his identity more strongly.
Chapter 12 Beaumains meets Sir Persant and they prepare to joust, first on horseback and then on foot for hours. Finally, Beaumains conquers him, and Persant asks for mercy, which he grants him. Persant realizes that this is the man who has killed one of his brothers and won against two others. Persant says he will pay homage to Beaumains. He gives him a feast and then sends his daughter to sleep with him. But when Beaumains sees her, he tells her to leave his bed so as not to be shamed. She leaves and tells Persant, who marvels at Beaumains’ noble spirit.
Even after Beaumains wins out against so many of the knights whom the damsel had so admired, she doesn’t truly believe he’ll conquer the renowned Persant. Although losing in battle is shameful, Persant is honorable enough to recognize Beaumains’ prowess and respect it. While women are clearly treated as mere possessions here, there’s also a sense that refusing such an offer is noble too.
Chapter 13 In the morning Persant asks the damsel where she’s leading Beaumains, and she says to the siege of the Knight of the Red Launds in the Castle Dangerous against her sister. Persant realizes that the damsel is Linet, and her sister is Dame Lionesse. When he learns that Launcelot has made Beaumains knight, he is impressed and praises him. Beaumains shares that his real name is Gareth of Orkney. His father was King Lot, and his brothers are Gawaine, Agravaine, and Gaheris.
Although Linet has done all she could to sacrifice Beaumains to any knight along their path, she also is meant to lead him to the ultimate test of his prowess—perhaps a test he is only worthy to fight if he wins the earlier ones. Only after proving himself through actions does Beaumains share his illustrious lineage with Persant. It’s unclear if Gawaine and his brothers recognized Beaumains and kept his identity secret, or if they have been raised apart and don’t know each other.
Chapter 14 Meanwhile Beaumains’ dwarf goes to the lady Lionesse and tells her that a knight is coming to save her, and he has already killed and defeated several knights. Lionesse sends the dwarf to a nearby hermitage to fetch wine and bread to send to the knight and to her sister Linet. The dwarf does so and then returns to the castle, where the Knight of the Red Launds asks where he’s been. The dwarf tells him of the arriving knight, though he doesn’t share the knight’s real name. The Red Knight scorns this news, and says the knight will soon meet a shameful death.
Dwarves are often used as messengers, shuttling between people and places in order to bring news and prepare people for the coming of others. While this dwarf “belongs” to Beaumains and is working in his service, he does not think it important to conceal the news of Beaumains’ coming from the Red Knight, perhaps since it would be dishonorable to arrive in secret.
Chapter 15 The next morning Beaumains and Linet ride towards the castle. Nearby there are 40 armed knights hanging by the neck from trees. Linet tells him not to let this scare him away, and Beaumains exclaims at this shameful custom. There is an elephant’s bone horn hanging by another tree, that any invader is meant to blow to invite battle with the Red Knight. Linet suggests that Beaumains wait until noon, since now the Red Knight’s seven-man strength is at its peak, but Beaumains says that would be shameful, and blows the horn.
It is common for knights to seek glory by winning over others, but the Red Knight’s penchant for both boasting and scaring off any potential combatants is portrayed as not just beyond good taste but as unworthy of a true knight. Still, Linet and Beaumains are both aware of just how much of a challenge the Red Knight will pose to Beaumains, though Beaumains embraces this challenge.
Chapter 16 Linet points out the silhouette of Lionesse in a distant castle window, and Beaumains vows to fight for her. The Knight of the Red Launds approaches and calls out that the lady is his of right, but Beaumains replies that he will rescue her or die, and that he is not afraid of the shameful sight of hanged knights. Beaumains sends Linet away, and the knights come together, their shields clashing. They both fall, then draw their swords and begin to fight.
Linet now points out to Beaumains the true reason for his coming: temporarily, at least, she gives up on haranguing him for his poor appearance and prepares him to fight. When knights knock each other off their horses, it’s usually a sign that they are evenly matched and will have to continue on foot.
Chapter 17 They fight until past noon, panting and bleeding, battling until evening. Then they agree to rest, and Beaumains looks up to the castle window and is cheered by the sight of Dame Lionesse. His energy renewed, he begins fighting again, but soon the Knight of the Red Launds strikes the sword out of Beaumains’ hand and he falls to the ground. Linet cries out that Lionesse is sobbing, so Beaumains leaps up and grabs his sword again, redoubling his stroke and finally striking the Knight to the earth. He is about to slay him when the Knight asks for mercy.
In many earlier cases, Beaumains easily knocked a knight down or chopped off his head: that the battle lasts for hours suggests that both knights are evenly matched. Beaumains, by seeing Lionesse, has a renewed commitment to conquering the Red Knight, and in addition knows just how shameful it would be to fail to rescue a lady. This trope of a warrior seeing or thinking of a lady and then gaining renewed strength is one repeated elsewhere in the tale, and is a cliché still present in many modern stories and films.
Beaumains reminds the Knight of the Red Launds of the shameful deaths of the 40 others. The Knight explains that he once loved a lady whose brother was killed, she said, either by Launcelot or Gawaine, and she had him promise to fight daily until meeting with one of those two knights and killing him.
Here we learn a little more about the identity and past of the Knight of the Red Launds, who is humanized through these details, though they still fail to entirely excuse his shameful actions.
Chapter 18 Many earls and knights arrive and ask Beaumains to spare the Knight of the Red Launds. Beaumains, though reluctant, admits that the Knight is less guilty since a lady made him act the way he did, so he says he will grant mercy. He decides to send the Knight to Arthur’s court to ask mercy from Launcelot and Gawaine. For 10 days they rest and recover, and then the Knight goes to Arthur’s court and tells of the adventures. Everyone marvels at Beaumains’ successes, saying he must be noble.
The one thing that makes Beaumains relent is something that is a generally accepted fact in this society: that a woman, though usually lacking political or social power, can still exert a terrifying, powerful influence on a man. Letting the Knight go free also gives Beaumains a chance to prepare his own reputation at Arthur’s court. The use of the word “noble” to describe Beaumains is especially telling here. Modern readers might think of the word as just meaning brave or chivalrous, but it is inextricably tied to one’s bloodline as well—something totally normal for Malory’s time. Those with “noble” blood were indeed expected to be more “noble” than others.
Chapter 19 Beaumains asks Linet to bring him to her sister, but guards are blocking the castle entrance. From the window, Lionesse tells Beaumains to depart without her love until he is one of the knights of the Round Table. Beaumains cries that he doesn’t deserve this, but Lionesse says she’ll be true to him until he returns. Beaumains then departs with his dwarf and rides to a great lodge, where he sleeps restlessly. Meanwhile, after much thought, Lionesse sends her brother Gringamore after Beaumains to take his dwarf and find out what Beaumains’ true name is. Gringamore rides out and finds Beaumains asleep, so he steals away the dwarf back to the castle.
Although Beaumains has done all that he could to prove himself through his brave and impressive actions, the fact that he does not have that final status symbol—membership in the fellowship of the Round Table—seems to discount all these other aspects of his identity (a discounting that the book seems to disapprove of). Still, Lionesse also appears to reconsider, as she seeks to figure out who Beaumains really is.
Chapter 20 As Gringamore rides away, Beaumains wakes up and follows him. Gringamore arrives to the castle quickly, and Lionesse and Linet ask the dwarf about his master’s lineage, on pain of imprisonment. The dwarf says that Beaumains is a king’s son, Sir Gareth, and he asks the ladies to dismiss him or else his master will be angry. Linet tells her sister that it must be true, for Beaumains bore all her insults with such noble meekness.
Finally Linet, along with her sister Lionesse, find out who Beaumains really is—not by him revealing himself, but through the mediation of his dwarf. Now Linet’s insults and impatience with Beaumains take on a new meaning, as she sees just how gracious he is.
Meanwhile Gareth arrives angrily, sword drawn, and orders Gringamore to return his dwarf. At first Gringamore refuses, but from within the castle Lionesse says to obey. Gringamore invites him inside.
Now, with all the characters aware of Beuamains’ “noble” identity, the narrative switches to using his true name, Gareth of Orkney.
Chapter 21 Lionesse greets Gareth, and the two fall deeply in love. Gringamore, after discussing with Lionesse, goes to Gareth and says he may sleep with Lionesse each night that he is there. Gareth goes to her chamber and she promises to love him.
It is telling that only upon learning who Gareth truly is does Lionesse lose her suspicions and fall in love with him. Her feelings were not so sure when she wasn’t aware of his status.
Chapter 22 Linet is a little displeased that the lovers are being so hasty, so she uses subtle witchcraft to make it so that they cannot sleep together until they are married. That night, Lionesse comes to Gareth’s bed, but when they begin to kiss, he sees an armed knight approaching. Gareth leaps out of bed and they fight, until Gareth cuts off his head. Gringamore arrives, awakened by the clamor and, displeased, tends to Gareth’s wounds. Then Linet arrives and puts an ointment on the armed knight’s head, sticks it back on his body, and the knight rises up. Gareth realizes that Linet must have sent the knight. He rebukes her, but she says she acted for the sake of Gareth’s honor.
Being able to sleep with a lady outside of marriage is a touchy subject in the book, and one considered in different circumstances as an honorable gift, a shameful action, and a questionable but ultimately defensible show of love. While Linet considers this shameful, she has not entirely accounted for Gareth’s agility in fighting. Linet’s witchcraft here serves not so much to expose her as a sorceress but rather to suggest the wily ways that many women have to assert their own will.
Chapter 23 The next night the armed knight returns, and Gareth and he fight through the whole hall until Gareth cuts off his head and slices it into a hundred pieces, which he throws out the window. He then swoons and falls, but Gringamore arrives again and heals him with a drink. Linet, meanwhile, gathers all the fragments of the knight’s head and pieces them together. Gareth cries that he doesn’t deserve this treatment, and Linet defends herself again.
Though there is something quite comic about this scene, Linet’s dogged determination to stop the lovers is also meant to show just how powerful a woman can be, using the peculiar kind of “witchcraft” limited to the female sphere—though here in support of the supposedly universal values of honor and chastity.
Meanwhile, Arthur prepares to hold his Pentecost feast. The Green, Red, and Blue Knights arrive to tell of Beaumains’ prowess. Then the Knight of the Red Launds comes with 600 knights to tell him that Beaumains won him in battle, and to pledge his allegiance. Arthur makes him a knight of the Round Table on the condition that he never again employ such shameful customs against knights.
Gareth/Beaumains’ adventures are wrapping up together with the year as measured by the annual Pentecost celebration. It is in many ways remarkable, though perhaps a sign of his mercy, that Arthur bestows such an honor on the Red Knight even after his shameful actions.
Chapter 24 After granting pardons to the knights, Arthur asks where he can find Beaumains, but they don’t know. Arthur says he’ll make them his knights once he finds Beaumains.
Once again Arthur shows his graciousness in acknowledging the knights and even making them part of his own fellowship.
Chapter 25 They all feast, and the Queen of Orkney (Margawse) arrives. Gawaine, Agravaine, and Gaheris greet her. Margawse rebukes Arthur for having made her son, Gareth, a kitchen knave, and asks where he is. Arthur renews his commitment to find him, saying he hadn’t realize who Gareth was. Margawse says she sent him with gold and silver, sumptuously dressed, but Arthur says Beaumains arrived in poverty. The day he left, though, a dwarf had brought him a good horse and armor, and they’d wondered where the riches came from.
The case of mistaken identity grows slightly more complicated, as we learn that, in fact, Margawse had sent Gareth to court with all the trappings of a nobleman. It becomes clear that it was Gareth’s choice to dress in rags rather than in splendid costume, so that he would be judged by his “noble” actions rather than simply by where he came from.
Chapter 26 Launcelot says they should send a messenger to Lionesse to come to court, so that they might find Gareth. When the messenger arrives, Lionesse tells Gareth to ride forth to court, and she’ll come after them. But Gareth says Lionesse should go first and suggest a tournament, whose winner will gain her heart. Lionesse goes to court and says she doesn’t know Gareth’s whereabouts, but suggests the tournament, since someone there will surely know of him. When she returns to her castle, however, Gareth realizes that he’s too wounded to participate in the tournament. Linet vows to make him whole with her craft and ointments. They then send for the Knight of the Red Launds and Sir Persant to fight with Gareth against the kings of Arthur’s court. Knights come from many lands to take part in the tournament.
Finally Arthur and the other knights have realized just how precious their supposed “kitchen knave” is, but now that they know his identity, they’ve lost him. Gareth is obviously plotting his return to court cleverly, ensuring one final move to prove his nobility and battlefield prowess to the knights that had looked down on him earlier. Linet seems to change her mind about Gareth, or perhaps she’s simply content that Gareth and Lionesse are more concerned with planning a tournament than with finding a way to sleep with each other.
Chapter 27 Lionesse prepares for the tournament. Lionesse tells Gareth she will lend him a ring for the tournament. The ring can make things change colors, and prevents the loss of blood. Lionesse wants the ring back after the tournament, though, since it also increases her beauty. On Assumption Day, the trumpets blow to announce the start of the tournament. Knights from all over arrive to fight.
Like Linet, Lionesse possesses some of her own examples of feminine “sorcery,” here in the form of a magical ring that prevents harm and increases beauty. Knights in these stories will often ride into tournaments wearing a symbol or token from the women they love.
Chapter 28 We hear of various battles between knights and of who won each jousting. Finally Gareth begins fighting, and strikes down a number of knights with a single spear. One king marvels that Gareth seems to change color at every turn, so that he cannot easily be recognized. Gareth continues to strike knights down, and Arthur himself is impressed by the “knight of many colors.” He asks Launcelot to joust with him, but Launcelot says that the knight has proved himself well enough already, so he declines.
Now Gareth puts his plan into action, riding into the tournament disguised both under his armor and because he is constantly changing “colors” (probably the colors on his shield) thanks to Lionesse’s ring, which is a suitable symbol for the unstable nature of Gareth’s identity up until now. Launcelot, though the most successful knight in court, is content to let Gareth shine (while also proving his own graciousness and confidence).
Chapter 29 The tournament lasts a long time, and though Launcelot strikes down other knights, when he meets Gareth, Gareth does his best not to hurt him or any of the other knights of the Round Table. Gawaine asks Sir Tristram who the knight of many colors is. Tristram goes to the Knight of the Red Launds, who says it is the knight who won him: Beaumains, also known as Gareth of Orkney. Tristram, the Red Knight, and Sir Persant go out to help Gareth. Gareth rests to drink, and the dwarf tells him to give him his ring for safekeeping. Then all see that Gareth is in yellow colors.
Gareth is in a bit of an uncomfortable position, since only he knows that the knights of the Round Table are not only his former hosts but also in several cases his brothers. Then begins the process of determining who this mysterious knight could be, knowledge that is limited, but is not entirely unknown, as the Knight of the Red Launds is able to share Gareth’s identity with Tristram.
Chapter 30 Arthur sends heralds to approach the yellow knight, and one cries that this is Sir Gareth. When Gareth realizes he’s discovered, he lashes out more strongly, even striking down his brother Gawaine. Gareth angrily demands the ring from his dwarf, accusing him of treachery, and, disguised again, rides with him into the forest. The dwarf suggests that Gareth send the ring back to Lionesse, and ask her to be true and faithful to him. The dwarf goes to Lionesse and then returns to Gareth, and they travel through the forest together.
Gareth wanted to reveal his identity to the group slowly, and on his own terms (though it’s not clear what those were), rather in the way his identity is actually exposed. But Gareth soon recuperates his agency and is able to sneak away with the dwarf. That he sends the ring back to Lionesse underlines his loyalty to her and his noble spirit in general, since he’s capable of keeping promises.
Chapter 31 Gareth arrives at a castle and asks for lodging, but when they learn he is of Arthur’s court, they say that the duke who owns this castle is not a friend of Arthur’s. Gareth promises to yield to the duke (Duke de la Rowse) should he meet him, or else joust with him to prove himself. The duchess agrees to let him in to sleep. In the morning Gareth thanks her and rides to a mountain, where he meets a knight who orders Gareth to joust with him: Gareth does so, and kills him. He then arrives at that knight’s castle, where 30 are waiting to avenge their lord’s death.
Gareth now is in even a more uncomfortable position: he does not feel that he can return to Arthur’s court, but at the same time he remains tied to Arthur such that any of the king’s enemies can refuse Gareth lodging or force him to fight with them. Still, Gareth seems to remain largely unfazed by this new set of challenges, and is able to keep striking down enemies in his path.
Chapter 32 The knights fight until only four are left alive, and these flee. Gareth continues on until he comes to a castle where he can hear many ladies weeping. A page tells Gareth that the Brown Knight without Pity is keeping them trapped: he is powerful and Gareth should flee. Gareth refuses, and goes to meet the Brown Knight, and slays him. He then lodges with the ladies in the castle. The next day he sees the ladies kneeling at tombs, and deduces that these must be their husbands’ bodies. Gareth tells them to go to Arthur’s court for the next Pentecost.
As we continue along in the book, not only many of the same themes but even many of the same anecdotes will be repeated: this is a reminder of the varied nature of these stories, collected from many different places and at different times into one book by Sir Malory. Gareth shows that he is still loyal to Arthur even though he is not yet ready to return to court.
Continuing on, Gareth meets the Duke de la Rowse, and says he had promised to fight with him. They joust for an hour before Gareth wins. He orders the Duke to go to Arthur’s court and say he sent him.
Gareth begins to accumulate a number of victories in his adventures, once again sending news of his prowess ahead of him.
Chapter 33 The Duke de la Rowse departs, and as Gareth rests, an armed knight races towards him. Gareth takes the Duke’s shield and prepares himself, and they fight for two hours. Then Linet comes riding forward, and cries to Gawaine to stop fighting with his brother Gareth. Each realizing who the other is, the brothers embrace. Gawaine says that Gareth has sent more conquered knights to Arthur than the best of the Round Table, except Sir Launcelot. Linet comes and heals the men’s wounds, then Gawaine sends her ahead to Arthur’s court. Arthur rides out himself to meet Gawaine and Gareth, and they are joyfully reunited. When Margawse comes to meet them and sees Gareth, she swoons, but Gareth revives and comforts her. They all rest there for eight days. Arthur then sends for Linet’s sister, Lionesse, who arrives with Gringamore and 40 knights.
Once again there is a case of mistaken identity, though this time Gareth is just as unsuspecting of his enemy in armor as Gawaine is. While Linet’s role has largely been one of arrogance, complaining, and trickery, she now comes in to save the brothers from each other. Gawaine is dutifully impressed by his brother’s prowess, having seen the long procession of defeated knights come to court. In this happy scene, all rightful identities are restored, and the mistakes and tricks that had characterized Gareth’s adventures now yield to a calmer, more joyful reunion of family and fellowship.
Chapter 34 Arthur asks Gareth and Lionesse if they would like to marry each other: each swears eternal love. They fix a day of marriage for Michaelmas (a Christian holiday), and announce it throughout the realm. Gareth grows close to Launcelot, but avoids Gawaine, who is growing jealous of him.
As Book 7 draws to a close, more loopholes are tied up, and the love between Gareth and Lionesse finally becomes legitimate—though Gawaine’s jealousy suggests that more remains to be told, and the complicated web of jealousy, competition, and revenge will never be truly resolved.
Chapter 35 At Michaelmas all join for the wedding. The Green Knight arrives with 30 knights to pay homage to Gareth, as do the other conquered knights. They prepare a jousting for only unmarried knights. Arthur makes Persant, his two brothers, and Sir Ironside (the Knight of the Red Launds) knights of the Round Table. Gareth’s brother Gaheris also marries Linet here. After all the jousting Launcelot and Tristram depart suddenly, displeasing Arthur.
With two weddings and a tournament, Arthur uses all his power of ceremony to celebrate the knights, and especially Gareth, who has done all he could to prove his identity through his actions, not heritage—the value that served to structure this section of the book and acted as its most explicit theme.