Howard Pyle's The
Champions of the Round Table
How Sir Tristram got him a sword from Sir Kay and how he slew therewith a
huge knight in the forest and rescued a lady in very great distress. Also how
Sir Launcelot found Sir Tristram in the forest and brought him thence to
Now it chanced one day that Sir Kay the
Seneschal came riding through those
parts of the forest where Sir Tristram abided with the swineherds, and with Sir
Kay there came a considerable court of esquires. And with him besides there
travelled Sir Dagonet, King Arthur's Fool.
Now, you are to know that though Sir Dagonet was the King's jester, and
though he was slack of wit, yet he was also a knight of no mean prowess. For he had performed
several deeds of good repute and was well held in all courts of chivalry. So Sir
Dagonet always went armed; though he bore upon his shield the device of a
cockerel's head as a symbol of his calling.
The time that Sir Kay and his court travelled as aforesaid was in the summer
season and the day was very warm, so that Sir Kay was minded to take rest during
the midday and until the coolness of the afternoon should come. So they all
dismounted from their horses and sat them down under the shade of the trees
where it was cool and pleasant and where the breezes reached them to breathe
upon their faces.
But whilst Sir Kay and his court thus rested themselves, Sir Dagonet must
needs be gadding, for he was of a very restless, meddlesome disposition. So,
being at that time clad only in half armor, he wandered hither and thither through the
forest as his fancy led him. For somewhiles he would whistle and somewhiles he
would gape, and otherwhiles he would cut a caper or two. So, as chance would
have it, he came by and by to that open glade of the forest where the swineherds
were gathered; and at that time they were eating their midday meal of black
bread and cheese, and were drinking beer; some talking and laughing and others
silent as they ate their food. Unto these Sir Dagonet appeared, coming out of the forest
in very gay attire, and shining in the
half armor he wore, so that he appeared like a bright bird of the woodland.
Then Sir Dagonet, seeing where those rude boors were eating their meal of
food, came to them and stood amongst them. And he said, "Who are ye fellows?"
Whereunto they replied, "We are swineherds, Messire; who be ye?"
Quoth Sir Dagonet: "I am King Arthur's Fool. And whilst there are haply many
in the world with no more wits than I possess, yet there are few so honest as I
to confess that they are fools."
At these words those swineherds laughed very loudly. "Well," quoth one, "if
King Arthur hath his fool, so have we, and yonder he is," and therewith he
pointed to where Sir Tristram lay in the shade of the trees some distance away
and beside a deep well of the forest.
Upon that Six Dagonet must needs go to where Sir Tristram lay, nearly naked,
upon the ground. And when he had come there he said, "Arise, fool." Whereunto
Sir Tristram replied: "Why should I arise? Lo! I am weary."
Then Sir Dagonet said: "It is not fitting that thou, who art the fool of
swineherds shouldst lie upon the grass, whilst I who am the fool of a king stand
upright upon my shanks. So, fool, I bid thee bestir thyself and arise."
But Sir Tristram said, "I will not arise." And therewith Sir Dagonet took his
sword and pricked the thigh of Sir Tristram with the point thereof with intent
to make him bestir himself.
Now when Sir Tristram felt the prick of Sir Dagonet's sword, a certain part
of his memory of knighthood came back to him and he was seized with a sudden fury
against Sir Dagonet. So he arose and ran at Sir Dagonet and catched him in his arms, and
lifted Sir Dagonet off his feet and he soused him in the well four or five times so that he was like to
have drowned him.
As for those swineherds, when they saw what their fool did to that other
fool, they roared with laughter so that some of them rolled down upon the ground
and lay grovelling there for pure mirth. But others of them called out to Sir
Tristram, "Let be, or thou wilt drown that man"; and therewith Sir Tristram let
Sir Dagonet go, and Sir Dagonet ran away.
Nor did Sir Dagonet cease to run until he came to his party under the shade
of the trees. But when Sir Kay perceived what a sorry plight it was in which Sir
Dagonet appeared, he said, "What hath befallen thee?"
To this Sir Dagonet replied as follows: "Messire, I, who am a fool, went into
the forest and met another fool. I fool would have a jest with he fool, but he fool
catched I fool and soused I fool in a well of cold water. So it came about that while I
fool had the jest, he fool had the sport of the jest."
Then Sir Kay understood in some manner what had befallen, and he was very
angry that Sir Dagonet should have been so served. Wherefore he said, "Where did
this befall thee?" And Sir Dagonet said, "Over yonder ways." Then Sir
Kay said: "I will avenge thee for the affront that hath been put upon thee. For
no boor shall serve a knight of King Arthur's court in such a fashion!" So
therewith Sir Kay arose and put on his armor and mounted his horse and rode
away; and after a while he came to that place where the swineherds were.
Then Sir Kay said very sternly: "Which of ye is that boor who put so grievous
an affront upon a gentleman of my party?" The swineherds say: "Yonder he is
lying by the well; but he is slack of wit, wherefore we beseech you to do him no harm."
Then Sir Kay rode to where Sir Tristram was, and he said: "Sirrah, why did
you souse Sir Dagonet into the water?" To this Sir Tristram did not reply, but
only looked at Sir Kay and laughed, for it pleased him wonderfully to behold
that knight all in shining armor. But when Sir Kay beheld Sir Tristram laugh in
that wise, he waxed exceedingly wroth. Wherefore he drew his sword straightway,
and rode at Sir Tristram with intent to strike him with the blade thereof. But
when Sir Tristram saw the sword of Sir Kay shining like lightning in the
sunlight, somewhat of his knightly spirit arose within him and took wing like to
a bird springing up out of the marish grass into the clear air. For beholding
that bright flashing sword he cried out aloud and arose and came very steadily
toward Sir Kay, and Sir Kay rode toward Sir Tristram. Then when Sir Kay had come
near enough to strike, he arose in his stirrups and lifted the blade on high
with intent to strike Sir Tristram with it. But therewith Sir Tristram ran very
quickly in beneath the blow, so that the stroke of Sir Kay failed of its mark.
Then Sir Tristram leaped up and catched Sir Kay around the body and dragged him
down from off his horse very violently upon the ground, and with that the sword
of Sir Kay fell down out of his hands and lay in the grass. Then Sir Tristram
lifted up Sir Kay very easily and ran with him to the well of water and soused
him therein several times until Sir Kay
cried out, "Fellow, spare me or I strangle!" Upon that Sir Tristram let go Sir
Kay, and Sir Kay ran to his horse and mounted thereon and rode away from that
place with might and main, all streaming with water like to a fountain.
And all that while those swineherds roared with great laughter, ten times
louder than they had laughed when Sir Tristram had soused Sir Dagonet into the well.
Then Sir Tristram beheld the sword of Sir Kay where it lay in the grass and
forthwith he ran to it and picked it up. And when he held it in his hands he
loved it with a great passion of love, wherefore he hugged it to his bosom and
kissed the pommel thereof.
But when the swineherds beheld the sword in Sir Tristram's hands, they said,
"That is no fit plaything for a madman to have," and they would have taken it
from him, but Sir, Tristram would not permit them, for he would not give them
the sword, and no one dared to try to take it from him.
So thereafter he kept that sword ever by him both by night and by
day, and ever he loved it and kissed it and fondled it; for, as aforesaid, it aroused his
knightly spirit to life within him, wherefore it was he loved it.
So it hath been told how Sir Tristram. got him a sword, and now it shall be
told how well he used it.
Now there was at that time in the woodlands of that part of Cornwall a
gigantic knight hight Sir Tauleas, and he was the terror of all that district.
For not only was he a head and shoulders taller than the tallest of Cornish men,
but his strength and fierceness were great in the same degree that he was big of
frame. Many knights had undertaken to rid the world of this Sir Tauleas, but no
knight had ever yet encountered him without meeting some mishap at his hands.
(Yet it is to be said that heretofore no such knight as Sir Launcelot or Sir
Lamorack had come against Sir Tauleas, but only the knights of Cornwall and
Wales, whose borders marched upon that district where Sir Tauleas ranged afield.)
Now one day there came riding through the forest a very noble, gallant young
knight, hight Sir Daynant, and with him rode his lady, a beautiful dame to whom he had lately been
wedded with a great deal of love. These wayfarers in their travelling came to
that part of the forest where the swineherds abode, and where were the open
glade of grass and the fair well of water aforespoken of.
Hereunto coming, and the day being very warm, these two travellers dismounted
and besought refreshment of the swineherds who were there, and those rude good
fellows gladly gave them to eat and to drink of the best they had.
Whilst they ate, Sir Tristram came and sat nigh to Sir Daynant and his
lady and smiled upon them, for he loved them very greatly because of their
nobility and beauty. Then Sir Daynant looked upon Sir Tristram and beheld how strong and
beautiful of body and how noble of countenance he was, and he saw that beautiful
shining sword that Sir Tristram carried ever with him. And Sir Daynant said,
"Fair friend, who are you, and where gat ye that sword?"
"I know not who I am," said Sir Tristram, "nor know I whence I came nor
whither I go. As for this sword, I had it from a gentleman who came hither to us
no great while ago."
Then the chiefest of the swineherds said: "Lord, this is a poor madman whom
we found naked and starving in the forest. As for that sword, I may tell you
that he took it away from a knight who came hither to threaten his life, and he
soused that knight into the well so that he was wellnigh drowned."
Sir Daynant said: "That is a very strange story, that a naked madman should
take the sword out of the hands of an armed knight and treat that knight as ye
tell me. Now maybe this is some famous hero or knight who hath lost his wits
through sorrow or because of some other reason, and who hath so come to this sorry pass."
(So said Sir Daynant, and it may here be said that from that time those rude
swineherds began to look upon Sir Tristram with different eyes than before,
saying amongst themselves: "Maybe what that knight said is true, and this is
indeed no common madman."
Now whilst Sir Daynant sat there with his lady, holding converse with the
swineherds concerning Sir Tristram in that wise, there came a great noise in the
forest, and out therefrom there came riding with great speed that huge savage
knight Sir Tauleas aforetold of. Then Sir Daynant cried out, "Alas, here is
misfortune!" And therewith he made all haste to put his helmet upon his
But ere he could arm himself in any sufficient wise, Sir Tauleas drave down
very fiercely upon him. And Sir Tauleas rose up in his stirrups and lashed so terrible a
blow at Sir Daynant that it struck through Sir Daynant's helmet and into his
brain-pan, wherefore Sir Daynant immediately fell down to the ground as though
he had been struck dead.
Then Sir Tauleas rode straightway to where the lady of Sir Daynant was, and
he said: "Lady, thou art a prize that it is very well worth while fighting for! And lo! I
have won thee." Therewith he catched her and lifted her up, shrieking and
screaming and struggling, and sat her upon the saddle before him and held her
there maugre all her struggles. Then straightway he rode away into the
forest, carrying her with him; and all that while Sir Tristram stood as though
in a maze, gazing with a sort of terror upon what befell and not rightly knowing
what it all meant. For there lay Sir Daynant as though dead upon the ground, and
he could yet hear the shrieks of the lady sounding out from the forest whither
Sir Tauleas had carried her.
Then the chief of the swineherds came to Sir Tristram, and said: "Fellow, as
thou hast a sword, let us see if thou canst use it. If thou art a hero as that
knight said of thee a while since, and not a pure madman, then follow after that
knight and bring that lady back hither again."
Then Sir Tristram awoke from that maze and said, "I will do so." And
therewith he ran away very rapidly into the forest, pursuing the direction that Sir Tauleas had taken. And he
ran for a great distance, and by and by, after a while, he beheld Sir Tauleas
before him where he rode. And by that time the lady was in a deep swoon and lay
as though dead across the saddle of Sir Tauleas. Then Sir Tristram cried out in
a great voice: "Stay, Sir Knight, and turn this way, for I come to take that
lady away from thee and to bring her back unto her friend again!"
Then Sir Tauleas turned him and beheld a naked man running after him with a
sword in his hand, whereupon he was seized with a great rage of anger, so that he put that
lady he carried down to the ground. And he drew his sword and rushed at Sir
Tristram very violently with intent to slay him. And when he came nigh to Sir
Tristram he arose up on his stirrups and lashed so terrible a blow at him that,
had it met its mark, it would have cloven Sir Tristram in twain. But Sir
Tristram leaped aside and turned the blow very skilfully; and therewith a memory
of his knightly prowess came upon him and he, upon his part, lashed a blow at
Sir Tauleas that Sir Tauleas received very unexpectedly. And that blow struck
Sir Tauleas so terrible a buffet upon the head that the brain of Sir Tauleas
swam, and he swayed about and then fell down from off his horse. Therewith Sir
Tristram ran to him and rushed his helmet from off his head. And when he beheld
the naked head of Sir Tauleas he catched it by the hair and drew the neck of Sir
Tauleas forward. Then Sir Tauleas cried out, "Spare me, fellow!" But Sir
Tristram said, "I will not spare thee for thou art a wicked man!" And therewith
he lifted his sword on high and smote off the head of Sir Tauleas so that it
rolled down upon the ground.
After that, Sir Tristram went to the Lady and he chafed her hands and her
face so that she revived from her swoon. And when she was revived, he said: "Lady,
take cheer; for look yonder and thou wilt see thy enemy is
dead, and so now I may take thee back again unto thy friend." And therewith the
lady smiled upon Sir Tristram and catched his hand in hers and kissed it.
Then Sir Tristram lifted the lady upon the horse of Sir Tauleas, and after
that he went back again to where he had left Sir Daynant and the swineherds; and
he led the horse of Sir Tauleas by the bridle with the lady upon the back
thereof and he bore the head of Sir Tauleas in his hand by the hair.
But when those swineherds saw Sir Tristram come forth thus out of the forest
bringing that lady and bearing the head of Sir Tauleas, they were amazed beyond
measure, and they said to one another: "Of a certainty what this young knight
hath just said is sooth and this madman is indeed some great champion in
distress. But who he is no one may know, since he himself doth not know."
And when Sir Daynant had recovered from that blow that Sir Tauleas had given
him, he also gave Sir Tristram great praise for what he had done. And Sir
Tristram was abashed at all the praise that was bestowed upon him.
Then Sir Daynant and his lady besought Sir Tristram that he would go with
them to their castle so that they might care for him, but Sir Tristram would
not, for he said: "I wist very well that I am mad, and so this forest is a fit
place for me to dwell and these kind rude fellows are fit companions for me at
this time whilst my wits are wandering."
Thus it was with this adventure. And now you shall hear how Sir Launcelot
found Sir Tristram in the forest and how he brought him out thence and likewise
what befell thereafter.
For only the next day after all these things had happened, Sir Launcelot came
riding through the forest that way, seeking for Sir Tauleas with intent to do
battle with him because of his many evil deeds. For Sir Launcelot purposed either to
slay him or else to bring him captive to King Arthur.
So it came to pass that Sir Launcelot came to that place where Sir Tristram
and the swineherds abode.
There Sir Launcelot made pause for to rest and to refresh himself, and whilst
he sat with his helmet lying beside him so that the breezes might cool his face,
all those rude swineherds gathered about and stared at him. And Sir Launcelot
smiled upon them, and he said: "Good fellows, I pray you tell me; do you know
where, hereabouts, I shall find a knight whom men call Sir Tauleas?"
Unto this the chief swineherd made reply, saying: "Lord, if you come
hither seeking Sir Tauleas, you shall seek him in vain. For yesterday he was
slain, and if you look yonder way you may see his head hanging from a branch of
a tree at the edge of the glade."
Upon this Sir Launcelot cried out in great amazement, "How hath that come to
pass?" and therewith he immediately arose from where he sat and went to that
tree where the head hung. And he looked into the face of the head, and therewith
he saw that it was indeed the head of Sir Tauleas that hung there. Then Sir
Launcelot said: "This is very wonderful. Now I pray you, tell me what knight was
it who slew this wicked wretch, and how his head came to be left hanging here?"
To this the chief of the swineherds made reply: "Messire, he who slew Sir
Tauleas was no knight, but a poor madman whom we found in the forest and who has
dwelt with us now for a year past. Yonder you may see him, lying half naked,
sleeping beside that well of water."
Sir Launcelot said, "Was it he who did indeed slay Sir
Tauleas?" And the swineherd said, "Yea, lord, it was he."
Sir Launcelot said, "Do ye not then know who he is?" The swineherd replied:
"No, lord, we only know that one day we found him lying in the forest naked and
nigh to death from hunger and that we fed him and clothed him, and that since
then he hath dwelt ever with us, showing great love for us all."
Then Sir Launcelot went to where Sir Tristram lay, and he looked upon him as
he slept and he knew him not; for the beard and the hair of Sir Tristram had grown down all over
his breast and shoulders and he was very ragged and beaten by the weather. But
though Sir Launcelot knew him not, yet he beheld that the body of Sir Tristram
was very beautiful and strong, for he saw how all the muscles and thews thereof
were cut very smooth and clean as you might cut them out of wax, wherefore Sir
Launcelot gazed for a long while and felt great admiration for his appearance.
Then Sir Launcelot beheld how the sleeping man held a naked sword in his arms
very caressingly, as though he loved it, and thereat he was very much surprised
to find such a sword as that in the hands of this forest madman. Wherefore be
said to those swineherds, "Where got this man that sword?"
"Messire," said the swineherd who had afore spoken, "some while since there
came a knight hitherward who ill-treated him. Thereupon this poor man ran at the
knight and overthrew him and took the sword away from him and soused him several
times in the well. After that he hath ever held fast to this sword and would not
give it up to any of us."
"Ha!" said Sir Launcelot, "that is a very wonderful story, that a naked man
should overthrow an armed knight and take his sword away from him. Now I deem
that this is no mere madman, but some noble knight in misfortune."
Therewith he reached forward and touched Sir Tristram very gently on the
shoulder, and at that Sir Tristram awoke and opened his eyes and sat up. And Sir
Tristram looked upon Sir Launcelot, but knew him not, albeit some small memory moved
very deeply within him. Nevertheless, though he knew not Sir Launcelot, yet he
felt great tenderness for that noble knight in arms, and he smiled very lovingly
upon him. And Sir Launcelot felt in return a very great deal of regard for Sir
Tristram, but wist not why that was; yet it seemed to Sir Launcelot that he
should know the face of Sir Tristram, and that it was not altogether strange to him.
Then Sir Launcelot said, "Fair friend, was it thou who slew Sir Tauleas?" And
Sir Tristram said, "Ay." Sir Launcelot said, "Who art thou?" Whereunto Sir
Tristram made reply: "I know not who I am, nor whence I come, nor how I came hither."
Then Sir Launcelot felt great pity and tenderness for Sir Tristram, and he
said: "Friend, wilt thou go with me away from this place and into the
habitations of men? There I believe thy mind may be made whole again, and that
it may be with thee as it was beforetime. And verily, I believe that when that
shall come to pass, the world shall find in thee some great knight it hath lost."
Sir Tristram said: "Sir Knight, though I know not who I am, yet I know that I
am not sound in my mind; wherefore I am ashamed to go out in the world and
amongst mankind, but would fain hide myself away in this forest. Yet I love thee
so much that, if thou wert to bid me go with thee to the ends of the world, I
believe I would go with thee."
Then Sir Launcelot smiled upon Sir Tristram very kindly and said, "I do bid
thee come with me away from here," and Sir Tristram said, "I will go."
So Sir Launcelot bade the swineherds clothe Sir Tristram in
such a wise that his nakedness
might be covered, and he bade them give Sir Tristram hosen and shoon, and when
Sir Tristram was thus decently clad, Sir Launcelot made ready to take his
departure from that place.
But ere the two left, all those good fellows crowded around Sir Tristram, and
embraced him and kissed him upon the cheek; for they had come to love him a very
Then the two went away through the forest, Sir Launcelot proudly riding
upon his great horse and Sir Tristram running very lightly beside him.
But Sir Launcelot had other business at that time than to seek out Sir
Tauleas as aforetold. For at that time there were three knights of very
ill-repute who harried the west coast of that land that overlooked the sea
toward the Kingdom of Ireland, and Sir Launcelot was minded to seek them out
after he had finished with Sir Tauleas. So ere he returned to the court of King
Arthur he had first of all to go thitherward.
Now you are to know that the castle of Tintagel lay upon the way that he was
to take upon that adventure, and so it was that he brought Sir Tristram to the
castle of Tintagel, where King Mark of Cornwall was then holding court. For Sir
Launcelot was minded to leave Sir Tristram there whilst he went upon that
adventure aforetold of.
And Sir Launcelot was received in Tintagel with very great honor and acclaim,
for it was the first time he had ever been there. And King Mark besought Sir Launcelot for to
abide a while in Tintagel; but Sir Launcelot refused this hospitality, saying:
"I have an adventure to do for the sake of my master, King Arthur, and I may not
abide here at this present. But I pray you to grant me a favor, and it is this:
that you cherish this poor madman whom I found in the forest, and that you keep
him here, treating him kindly until I shall return from the quest I am upon. For
I have great love for this poor fellow and I would not have any harm befall him
whilst I am away."
Then King Mark said: "I am sorry you will not remain with us, but as to this
thing it shall be done as you desire, for we will cherish and care for this man
while you are away." So said King Mark, speaking with great cheerfulness and
courtesy; for neither he nor any of his court at that time wist who Sir Tristram
So Sir Launcelot went upon his way, and King Mark gave orders that Sir
Tristram should be well-clothed and fed, and it was done as he commanded.
Thus it was that Sir Tristram was brought back to the castle of Tintagel
again. And now it shall be told how it befell with him thereat.