The Beheading Tests

The Beheading Test from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is perhaps one of the most famous episodes of Arthurian literature. But the beheading test was a common motif in the ancient stories starting with Bricriu's Feast and similar Irish myths. Some have proposed that the test was transmitted from the Irish via Bricriu to the French and back into the later English.

   Elisabeth Brewer's chapter in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, "Sources, I", in which she says: "The motif of the Beheading game is thereafter [after Briciu] found in French romance, where the Gawain-poet almost certainly encountered it." She then mentions the Livre de Caradoc, "part of the First Continuation of Chretien's Perceval", which exists in three 13th century metrical versions, and there is a prose version which we cannot date probably before 1530. Then there is the Perlesvaus: le haut livre de Graal, which was known in England by the early 14th century, La Mule sans Frein, Hunbaut, and in Heinrich von dem Turlin's Diu Crone.


See Gawain and the Green Knight

Caradawc Vreichvras

   Rachael Bromwich stated that "It is as a hero of romance that Caradawc Vreichvras is known in Welsh sources, as well as in French and English Arthurian literature, into which his name, in combination with its Welsh epithet has been transferred. She further states: "It is apparent that Welsh traditions about Caradawg made their way into Brittany at an early date, even if the historical connection claimed in the Life of St Padarn is to be rejected. Moreover the Livre de Carados contains some extremely primitive material, some of which must undoubtedly be derived from insular sources : a version of the Challenge or Beheading game, of the chastity test by means of a drinking horn, of the tale about a serpent which attached itself to the hero's arm, evidently introduced to explain the epithet (Brie(f)bras, and the tale of the hero's congenital birth in company with his horse (see note to triad 38). The evidence suggests Caradawg Freichfras was a more prominent and important hero in early tradition than appears from the existing Welsh records."