Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chapter 3

[Seaside near the Crozon Peninsula, Brittany, photo by Charles Betz.]


How King Languines took with him the Childe of the Sea and Gandalin, son of Sir Gandales.

At that moment, the King and Gandales entered, and the Queen said:

"Tell me, Sir Gandales, is your son that handsome childe?"

"Yes, my lady," he said.

"Well," she said, "why is he called the Childe of the Sea?"

"Because he was born in the sea," Gandales said, "when I was returning from Little Brittany."

"By God, he does not look like you." The Queen said this because the childe was marvelously handsome, and Sir Gandales had more virtue than good looks. The King looked at the boy, who seemed very handsome to him, and said:

"Have him come here, Gandales. I would like to raise him."

"My lord," he said, "I will do it, but he is still too young to be taken from his mother."

Then Gandales went and brought him, and asked him:

"Childe of the Sea, do ye wish to go with my lord the King?"

"I will go where ye send me," he said, "and send my brother with me."

"I will not stay without him," Gandalin said.

"I believe, my lord," said Gandales, "that ye will have to take both, for they do not wish to be apart."

"That would greatly please me," the King said.

Then he brought Gandales to his side, ordered his son Agrajes to be called, and told him:

"Son, love these boys deeply, just as I love their father."

When Gandales saw that they were putting the Childe of the Sea in the hands of someone who was not worth as much as he, tears came to his eyes and he said to himself:

"Beautiful son, ye began a life of adventure and danger when thou wert small, and now I see thee in the service of those who should serve thee. May God keep thee and guide thee in the tasks of their service and of thy great honor, and make true the words that the wise Urganda said to me about thee. May God allow me to live to see the mighty wonders at arms that are promised to thee."

The King, who saw his eyes filled with tears, said:

"I never thought ye were so tender."

"I am not as much as ye think," he said, "but if it pleases you, let me speak briefly with you and the Queen."

They ordered all to leave, and Gandales told them:

"My lords, know the truth. I found the childe that you are taking in the sea."

He told them how it happened, and he would have told them what he had learned from Urganda if he could have, but he had taken an oath.

"Now do with him as ye should, because, God help me, judging by the items he had with him, he comes from a great lineage."

It pleased the King much to know it. He praised the knight for having protected the childe so well, and he said to Sir Gandales:

"Since God took such care in protecting him, we must also care for him and do him right when the time comes."

The Queen said:

"I want him to be mine, if it please you, while he is of the age to serve women, then he shall be yours."

The King agreed.

The next day in the morning, they left, taking the boys with them, and went on their way. But I tell ye that the Queen raised the Childe of the Sea with as much care and honor as if he were her own son. The effort that they put into him was not in vain, for his wit was such and his nature so noble that he learned everything better and faster than any other child. He loved the hunt and the forest so much that if they had let him, he would never have left it, shooting his bow and training the hunting dogs. The Queen was so pleased with his service that she never let him leave her presence.

The author here turns to tell of King Perion and his beloved Elisena. As you have already heard, Perion remained in his kingdom after he had asked the clerics to explain his dream, and he often thought of the words that the damsel had told him, but he could not understand them.

After several days had passed, he was in his palace when a damsel entered by the gate and gave him a letter from his beloved Elisena. In it, she told how King Garinter, her father, had died and how she was abandoned, and asked him to have pity for her. The Queen of Scotland, her sister, and her husband the King, wanted to take her lands. Although King Perion greatly mourned the death of King Garinter, he was happy to think of going to see his beloved, for whom he had never lost his desire. He said to the damsel:

"Go now and tell your lady that without a day's delay, I will be with her."

This made the damsel very happy. The King prepared the party to accompany him and left on the road straight to where Elisena was. He traveled each day from dawn to dusk, and when he arrived in Little Brittany, he heard the news that Languines had taken dominion of the land, except for those towns that Elisena's father had left her. He learned that she was in a town called Acarte, and he went there.

It does not need to be told that he was well received, and she by him, for they both loved each other deeply. The King told her to call together all their friends and relatives because he wanted to marry her. She did it with great joy in her spirit because it fulfilled all her desires.

When King Languines learned of the arrival of King Perion and how he wanted to marry Elisena, he called together all the noblemen of the land and went to see him with them. The couple greeted and received him with good will, and when the wedding and feasts were done, the Kings knew they must return to their kingdoms.

As King Perion was traveling with Elisena, his wife, they and their party passed along the bank of a river, where they decided to camp. The king rode alone upstream, thinking about how he would ask Elisena about child that the clerics had told him about when they explained his dream. He traveled so far thinking about this that he arrived at a hermitage, where he tied the horse to a tree and entered to pray. Inside he saw an old man dressed in a habit, who said to the King:

"Knight, is it true that King Perion has married the daughter of our lord the King?"

"It is true," he said.

"I am very pleased," said the good hermit, "for I know for certain that she loves him with all her heart."

"How do ye know this?" he said.

"From her lips," said the hermit.

The King, thinking that he might learn what he wanted to know, told him who he was and said:

"I beg you tell me what she told you."

"That would be a grievous error," said the hermit, "and ye would turn me into a heretic if I told what I heard in confession. It is enough to tell you that she loves you with a true and faithful love. But I want ye to know something a damsel who seemed very wise told me at the same time that you came to this land, something which I do not understand. She said that two dragons will leave Little Brittany who had their dominion in Gaul and their hearts in Great Britain, and from there they will leave to eat the beasts of other lands. Against some, they will be brave and fierce, but against others, tame and humble as if they had neither claws nor hearts. I was very astonished to hear this, but not because I understand it."

The King too was astonished, and although at the time he did not understand it, eventually he clearly knew it to be the truth. So King Perion left the hermit and returned to the tents where he had left his wife and his company.

That night the couple enjoyed themselves, and as they lay pleasurably in their bed, he told the Queen about what the masters had declared about his dream. He begged her to tell him if she had borne a child. The Queen, when she heard this, felt so ashamed that she wanted to die, and she denied it, saying that she had never given birth. Thus the King could not learn what he wanted to know.

The next day they left there, and after traveling several more days, arrived in the kingdom of Gaul. Everyone in that land was pleased with the Queen, who was a very noble lady. There the King spent more time than usual at home, and he had by her a son and a daughter. The son was called Galaor and the daughter Melicia.

When the boy was two and a half years old, his father the King was in a seaside town called Bangil. He was standing at a window overlooking a garden where the Queen was relaxing with her ladies and damsels, with the boy alongside her, who had by then begun to walk.

They saw a giant enter through a gate that led to the sea, with a great mace in his hand. He was so tall and ugly that any man who saw him would be afraid, as were the Queen and her company. Some fled to the trees while others fell on the ground, covering their eyes so as not to see him. But the giant headed for the child, whom he saw abandoned and alone. When he drew near, the child raised his arms to him, laughing. The giant picked him up, and said:

"What the damsel told me is true."

He turned toward where he had come from, got onto a boat, and headed out to sea.

The Queen, who saw him leave carrying the child, screamed and shouted, but it did no good. Her sorrow and that of all the others was so great that the King, who felt deep grief because he had not been able to save his son but had seen that it could not have been prevented, went down to the garden to console the Queen. She was beside herself with the memory of the son she had sent to the sea, because now this other son, with whom she had hoped to console her sadness, had just been lost as well, with no hope of ever recovering him. She raved like none other in the world. But the King took her with him and brought her to her room, and when he saw she had calmed somewhat, he said:

"My lady, know I know what the clerics told me was the truth. This was the second heart. Tell me the truth, for the way things were at the time, ye cannot be held responsible."

The Queen, despite her great shame, told him everything that had happened with the first son, and how she had sent him to the sea.

"Do not fear my anger," the King said. "It has pleased God that we have had little joy in these two sons, but I hope that He will make the time come when by good fortune we will learn news of them."

The giant that took the childe was from Leonis and had two castles on an island. He was named Gandalas and was not such an evildoer as other giants. He had a good disposition until he was enraged, and then he was capable of great cruelty. He went with the child to a cape of the island where there was a hermit, a layman leading a pious life. The giant had populated the island with Christians and ordered them give alms for his maintenance. He said:

"My friend, I give you this boy to raise and teach all things proper for a knight. I want you to know he is the son of a king and queen, and I prohibit you to harm him."

The good man said to him:

"Tell me, why didst thou commit such a cruel act?"

"I shall tell thee," he said. "When I was about to get on a boat to fight with Albadan, the fierce giant who killed my father and who took the Rock of Galtares from me by force, when it should be mine, I met a damsel who told me: 'That which thou wantest must be carried out by the son of King Perion of Gaul, who will be stronger and faster than thou.' I asked her if she spoke the truth. 'Thou wilt see it happen,' she said, 'when the two branches of a tree, now separate, are united.'"

That is how he left the childe named Galaor in the care of the hermit, and what happened to him will be told farther along.

In the time when these things that ye have heard of took place, there reigned in Great Britain a king named Falangriz, who died without an heir. He had brother named Lisuarte who had great prowess in arms and who was very wise. Lisuarte had recently married the daughter of the king of Denmark, named Brisena, and she was the most beautiful damsel that could be found in all the islands of the sea. Her father had not dared to give her to any of the high princes who had asked for her, out of fear of some of them. When she saw Lisuarte and knew of his good conduct and great courage, she dismissed them all and married him, who served her with love.

When King Falangriz died, the noblemen of Great Britain, who knew about the deeds in arms Lisuarte had done and how his great feats had led to his marriage to a princess, sent for him to take the kingdom as his.


[Translator's notes: Boys served women from age 7 to 14, during which time they would learn such lessons as manners and cleanliness. Leonis is the kingdom in Arthurian legend where Tristan, one of the Knights of the Round Table, was from. Leonis may be imaginary, or it may refer to an area in Scotland or Brittany.]


  1. I love the way stories of this type veer off into other narratives. We get all interested in the two boys over in Britain, and then we have to hare off to see Amadis's parents. Then we have to see his brother get kidnapped by a giant, then we have to hear another story about another king and his offspring! Did Malory read this, too?

  2. Maybe. Thomas Malory published "Le Mort d'Arthur" in 1485, and "Amadis" had already existed for more than a century, albeit in hand-written manuscripts.

    However, it was typical of all the tales in the Arthurian cycle to interlace their narrative lines this way. Their medieval authors were among the most sophisticated of their day, and they knew how to captivate their audiences.