Howard Pyle's The
Champions of the Round Table
How Sir Launcelot Sought Sir Lionel and How a Young Damsel Brought Him to the
Greatest Battle that Ever He Had in All His Life.
So Sir Launcelot rode through the forest, and whilst he rode the day began to
break. About sunrise he came out into an open clearing where certain
charcoal-burners were plying their trade:
To these rude fellows he appeared out of the dark forest like some bright and
shining vision; and they made him welcome and offered him to eat of their food, and he
dismounted and sat down with them and brake his fast with them. And when he had
satisfied his hunger, he gave them grammercy for their entertainment, and took
horse and rode away.
He made forward until about the middle of the morning, what time he came
suddenly upon that place where, two days before, he had fallen asleep beneath
the blooming apple-tree. Here he drew rein and looked about him for a
considerable while; for he thought that haply he might find some trace of Sir
Lionel thereabouts. But there was no trace of him, and Sir Launcelot wist not
what had become of him.
Now whilst Sir Launcelot was still there, not knowing what to do to find Sir
Lionel, there passed that way a damsel riding upon a white palfrey. Unto her Sir
Launcelot made salutation, and she made salutation to him and asked him what
cheer. "Maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "the cheer that I have is not very
good, seeing that I have lost my companion-at-arms and know not where he is."
Then he said: "Did you haply meet anywhere with a knight with the figure of a
red gryphon upon his shield?" whereunto the damsel answered: "Nay, I saw
nonesuch." Then Sir Launcelot said: "Tell me, fair damsel, dost thou know of any
adventure hereabouts that I may undertake? For, as thou seest, I am errant, and
in search of such."
Upon this the damsel fell a-laughing: "Yea, Sir Knight," said she, "I know of
an adventure not far away, but it is an adventure that no knight yet that ever I
heard tell of hath accomplished. I can take thee to that adventure if thou hast
a desire to pursue it."
"Why should I not pursue it," said Sir Launcelot, "seeing that I am here for
that very cause--to pursue adventure?"
"Well," said the damsel, "then come with me, Sir Knight, I will take thee to
an adventure that shall satisfy thee."
So Sir Launcelot and that damsel rode away from that place together; he upon
his great war-horse and she upon her ambling palfrey beside him. And the sun
shone down upon them, very pleasant and warm, and all who passed them turned to look after
them; for the maiden was very fair and slender, and Sir Launcelot was of so
noble and stately a mien that few could behold him even from a distance without
looking twice or three times upon him. And as they travelled in that way
together they fell into converse, and the damsel said to Sir Launcelot: "Sir,
thou appearest to be a very good knight, and of such a I sort as may well
undertake any adventure with great hope of success. Now I prithee to tell me thy
name and what knight thou art."
"Fair maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "as for telling you my name, that I will
gladly do. I am called Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and I am a knight of King
Arthur's court and of his Round Table."
At this the damsel was very greatly astonished and filled with admiration.
"Hah!" quoth she, "it is a great
pleasure to me to fall in with you, Sir Launcelot, for all the world now
bespeaketh your fame. Little did I ever think to behold your person, much less
speak with you, and ride in this way with you. Now I will tell you what this
adventure is on which we are set; it is this--there is, some small distance from
this, a castle of a knight hight Sir Turquine, who hath in his prison a great
many knights of King Arthur's court, and several knights of his Round Table.
These knights he keepeth there in great dole and misery, for it is said that
their groans may be heard by the passers along the high-road below the castle.
This Sir Turquine is held to be the greatest knight in the world (unless it be
thou) for he hath never yet been overcome in battle, whether a-horseback or
a-foot. But, indeed, I think it to be altogether likely that thou wilt overcome
"Fair damsel," quoth Sir Launcelot, "I too have hope that I shall hold mine
own with him, when I meet him, and to that I shall do my best endeavor. Yet this
and all other matters are entirely in the hands of God."
Then the damsel said, "If you should overcome this Sir
Turquine, I know of still another adventure which, if you do not undertake it, I know of no
one else who may undertake to bring it to a successful issue."
Quoth Sir Launcelot, "I am glad to hear of that or of any other adventure,
for I take great joy in such adventuring. Now, tell me, what is this other
"Sir," said the damsel, "a long distance to the west of this there is a
knight who hath a castle in the woods and he is the evilest disposed knight that
ever I heard tell of. For he lurks continually in the outskirts of the woods,
whence he rushes forth at times upon those who pass by. Especially he is
an enemy to all ladies of that country, for he hath taken many of them prisoners
to his castle and hath held them in the dungeon thereof for ransom; and
sometimes he hath held them for a long while. Now I am fain that thou undertake
that adventure for my sake."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "I believe it would be a good thing for any
knight to do to rid the world of such an evil-disposed knight as that, so if I
have the good fortune to overcome this Sir Turquine, I give my knightly word
that I will undertake this adventure for thy sake, if so be thou wilt go with me
for to show me the way to his castle."
"That I will do with all gladness," said the damsel, "for it is great pride
for any lady to ride with you upon such an adventure."
Thus they talked, and all was arranged betwixt them. And thus they rode very
pleasantly through that valley for the distance of two leagues or a little more,
until they came to that place where the road crossed the smooth stream of water
afore told of; and there was the castle of Sir Turquine as afore told of; and
there was the thorn-bush and the basin hanging upon the thorn-bush as afore told
of. Then the maiden said: "Sir Launcelot, beat upon that basin and so thou shalt
summon Sir Turquine to battle with thee."
So Sir Launcelot rode to that basin where it hung and he smote upon
it very violently with the butt of
his spear. And he smote upon that basin again and again until he smote the
bottom from out it; but at that time immediately no one came.
Then, after a while, he was ware of one who came riding toward him, and he
beheld that he who came riding was a knight very huge of frame, and long and
strong of limb. And he beheld that the knight was clad entirely in black, and
that the horse upon which he rode and all the furniture of the horse was black.
And he beheld that this knight drave before him another horse, and that across
the saddle of that other horse there lay an armed knight, bound hand and foot;
and Sir Launcelot wist that the sable knight who came riding was that Sir
Turquine whom he sought.
So Sir Turquine came very rapidly along the highway toward where Sir
Launcelot sat, driving that other horse and the captive knight before him all the while.
And as they came nearer and nearer Sir Launcelot thought that he should know who the wounded
knight was; and when they came right close, so that he could see the markings of
the shield of that captive knight, he wist that it was Sir Gaheris, the brother
of Sir Gawaine, and the nephew of King Arthur, whom Sir Turquine brought thither
in that wise.
At this Sir Launcelot was very wroth; for he could not abide seeing a
fellow-knight of the Round Table treated with such disregard as that which Sir
Gaheris suffered at the hands of Sir Turquine; wherefore Sir Launcelot rode to
meet Sir Turquine, and he cried out: "Sir Knight! put that wounded man down from
his horse, and let him rest for a while, and we two will prove our strength, the
one against the other! For it is a shame for thee to treat a noble knight of the
Round Table with such despite as thou art treating that knight."
"Sir," said Sir Turquine, "as I treat that knight, so treat I all knights of
the Round Table-and so will I treat thee if thou be of the Round Table."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "as for that, I am indeed of the Round Table, and
I have come hither for no other reason than for to do battle with thee."
"Sir Knight," said Sir Turquine, "thou speakest very boldly; now I pray thee
to tell me what knight thou art and what is thy name."
"Messire," said Sir Launcelot, "I have no fear to do that. I am called Sir
Launcelot of the Lake, and I am a knight of King Arthur's, who made me knight
with his own hand."
"Ha!" said Sir Turquine, "that is very good news to me, for of all knights in
the world thou art the one I most desire to meet, for I have looked for thee for
a long while with intent to do battle with thee. For it was thou who didst slay
my brother Sir Caradus at Dolorous Gard, who was held to be the best knight in
all the world. Wherefore, because of this, I have the greatest despite against
thee of any man in the world, and it was because of that despite that I waged
particular battle against all the knights of King Arthur's court. And in despite
of thee I now hold five score and eight knights, who are thy fellows, in the
dismallest dungeon of my castle. Also I have to tell thee that among those
knights is thine own brother, Sir Ector, and thy kinsman, Sir Lionel. For I
overthrew Sir Ector and Sir Lionel only a day or two ago, and now they lie
almost naked in the lower parts of that castle yonder. I will put down this
knight as thou biddst me, and when I have done battle with thee I hope to tie
thee on his saddle-horn in his place."
So Sir Turquine loosed the cords that bound Sir Gaheris and set him from off
the horse's back, and Sir Gaheris, who was sorely wounded and very weak, sat him
down upon a slab of stone near-by.
Then Sir Launcelot and Sir Turquine made themselves ready at all points, and
each took such stand as seemed to him to be best; and when each was ready for the
assault, each set spurs to his horse and rushed the one against the other with
such terrible violence that they smote together like a clap of thunder.
So fierce was that onset that each horse fell back upon the ground and only
by great skill and address did the knight who rode him void his saddle, so as to
save himself from a fall. And in that meeting the horse of Sir Turquine was
killed outright and the back of Sir Launcelot's horse was broken and he could
not rise, but lay like dead upon the ground.
Then each knight drew his sword and set his shield before him and they came
together with such wrath that it appeared as though their fierce eyes shot
sparks of fire through the occulariums of their helmets. So they met and struck;
and they struck many scores of times, and their blows were so violent that
neither shield nor armor could withstand the strokes they gave. For their
shields were cleft and many pieces of armor were hewn from their limbs, so that
the ground was littered with them. And each knight gave the other so many grim
wounds that the ground presently was all sprinkled with red where they
Now that time the day had waxed very hot, for it was come high noontide, so
presently Sir Turquine cried out: "Stay thee, Sir Launcelot, for I have a boon
to ask!" At this Sir Launcelot stayed his hand and said: "What is it thou hast
to ask, Sir Knight?" Sir Turquine said: "Messire, I am athirst--let me drink."
And Sir Launcelot said: "Go and drink."
So Sir Turquine went to that river and entered into that water, which was
presently stained with red all about him. And he stooped where he stood and
drank his fill, and presently came forth again altogether refreshed.
Therewith he took up his sword once more and rushed at Sir Launcelot and
smote with double strength, so that Sir Launcelot bent before him and had much
ado to defend himself from these blows.
Then by and by Sir Launcelot waxed faint upon his part and was athirst, and
he cried out: "I crave of thee a boon, Sir Knight!" "What wouldst thou have?"
said Sir Turquine. "Sir Knight," said Sir Launcelot, "bide while I drink, for I
am athirst." "Nay," said Sir Turquine, "thou shalt not drink until thou
quenchest thy thirst in Paradise." "Ha!" cried Sir Launcelot, "thou art a foul
churl and no true knight. For when thou wert athirst, I let thee drink; and now that I am
athirst, thou deniest me to quench my thirst."
Therewith he was filled with such anger that he was like one gone wode;
wherefore he flung aside his shield and took his sword in both hands and rushed
upon Sir Turquine and smote him again and again; and the blows he gave were so
fierce that Sir Turquine waxed somewhat bewildered and bore aback, and held his
shield low for faintness.
Then when Sir Launcelot beheld that Sir Turquine was faint in that wise, he
rushed upon him and catched him by the beaver of his helmet and pulled him down upon his knees. And Sir
Launcelot rushed Sir Turquine's helmet from off his head. And he lifted his
sword and smote Sir Turquine's head from off his shoulders, so that it rolled
down upon the ground.
Then for a while Sir Launcelot stood there panting for to catch his breath
after that sore battle, for he was nearly stifled with the heat and fury
thereof. Then he went down into the water, and he staggered like a drunken man
as he went, and the water ran all red at his coming. And Sir Launcelot stooped
and slaked his thirst, which was very furious and hot.
Thereafter he came up out of the water again, all dripping, and he went to
where the damsel was and he said to her: "Damsel, lo, I have overcome Sir
Turquine; now I am ready to go with thee upon that other adventure, as I
promised thee I would."
At this the damsel was astonished beyond measure, wherefore she cried: "Sir,
thou art sorely hurt, and in need of rest for two or three days, and maybe a
long time more, until thy wounds are healed."
"Nay," said Sir Launcelot, "no need to wait; I will go with thee now."
Then Sir Launcelot went to Sir Gaheris--for Sir Gaheris had been sitting for
all that while upon that slab of stone. Sir Launcelot said to Sir Gaheris: "Fair
Lord, be not angry if I take your horse, for I must presently go with this
damsel, and you see mine own horse hath broke his back."
"Sir Knight," said Sir Gaheris, "this day you have saved both me and my
horse, wherefore it is altogether fitting that my horse or anything that is mine
should be yours to do with as you please. So I pray you take my horse, only tell
me your name and what knight you are; for I swear by my sword that I never saw
any knight in all the world do battle so wonderfully as you have done
"Sir," said Sir Launcelot, "I am called Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and I
am a knight of King Arthur's. So it is altogether fitting that I should do
such service unto you as this, seeing that you are the brother of that dear knight, Sir
Gawaine. For if I should not do this battle that I have done for your sake, I
should yet do it for the sake of my lord, King Arthur, who is your uncle and Sir
Now when Sir Gaheris heard who Sir Launcelot was, he made great exclamation
of amazement--"Ha, Sir Launcelot!" he cried, "and is it thou! Often have I heard
of thee and of thy prowess at arms! I have desired to meet thee more than any
knight in the world; but never did I think to meet thee in such a case as this."
Therewith Sir Gaheris arose, and went to Sir Launcelot, and Sir Launcelot came
to him and they met and embraced and kissed one another upon the face; and from
that time forth they were as brethren together.
Then Sir Launcelot said to Sir Gaheris: "I pray you, Lord, for to go up unto
yonder castle, and bring succor to those unfortunates who lie therein. For I
think you will find there many fellow-knights of the Round Table. And I believe
that you will find therein my brother, Sir Ector, and my cousin, Sir Lionel. And
if you find any other of my kindred I pray you to set them free and to do what
you can for to comfort them and to put them at their
ease. And if there is any treasure in that castle, I bid you give it unto those
knights who are prisoners there, for to compensate them for the pains they have
endured. Moreover, I pray
you tell Sir Ector and Sir Lionel not to follow after me, but to return to court
and wait for me there, for I have two adventures to undertake and I must essay
Then Sir Gaheris was very much astonished, and he cried out upon Sir
Launcelot: "Sir! Sir! Surely you will not go forth upon another adventure at
this time, seeing that you are so sorely wounded."
But Sir Launcelot said: "Yea, I shall go now; for I do not think that my
wounds are so deep that I shall not be able to do my devoirs when my time cometh
to do them."
At this Sir Gaheris was amazed beyond measure, for Sir Launcelot was very
sorely wounded, and his armor was much broken in that battle, wherefore Sir
Gaheris had never beheld a person who was so steadfast of purpose as to do
battle in such a case.
So Sir Launcelot mounted Sir Gaheris' horse and rode away
with that young damsel, and Sir
Gaheris went to the castle as Sir Launcelot had bidden him to do.
In that castle he found five score and eight prisoners in dreadful case,
for some who were there had been there for a long time, so that the hair of
them had grown down upon their shoulders, and their beards had grown down upon
their breasts. And some had been there but a short time, as was the case of Sir Lionel and Sir
Ector. But all were in a miserable sorry plight; and all of those sad prisoners
but two were knights of King Arthur's court, and eight of them were knights of
the Round Table. All these crowded around Sir Gaheris, for they saw that he was
wounded and they deemed that it was he had set them free, wherefore they gave
him thanks beyond measure.
"Not so," said Sir Gaheris, "it was not I who set you free; it was Sir
Launcelot of the Lake. He overcame Sir Turquine in such a battle as I never
before beheld. For I saw that battle with mine own eyes, being at a little
distance seated upon a stone slab and wounded as you see. And I make my oath
that I never beheld so fierce and manful a combat in all of my life. But now
your troubles are over and done, and Sir Launcelot greets you all with words of
good cheer and bids me tell you to take all ease and comfort that you can in
being free, and in especial he bids me greet you, Sir Ector, and you, Sir
Lionel, and to tell you that you are to follow him no farther, but to return to
court and bide there until he cometh; for he goeth upon an adventure which he
must undertake by himself."
"Not so," said Sir Lionel, "I will follow after him, and find him." And
so said Sir Ector likewise, that he would go and find Sir Launcelot. Then Sir Kay the
Seneschal said that he would ride with those two; so the three took horse and
rode away together to find Sir Launcelot.
As for those others, they ransacked throughout the castle of Sir Turquine,
and they found twelve treasure-chests full of treasure, both of silver and of
gold, together with many precious jewels; and they found many bales of cloth of
silk and of cloth of gold. So, as Sir Launcelot had bid them do so, they divided
the treasure among themselves, setting aside a part for Sir Ector and a part for
Sir Lionel and a part for Sir Kay. Then, whereas before they had been mournful,
now they were joyful at having been made so rich with those precious things.
Thus happily ended that great battle with Sir Turquine which was very likely
the fiercest and most dolorous fight that ever Sir Launcelot had in all of his
life. For, unless it was Sir Tristram, he never found any other knight so big as
Sir Turquine except Sir Galahad, who was his own son.
And now it shall be told how Sir Launcelot fared upon that adventure which he
had promised the young damsel to undertake.