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Character Name Variants: Palamide, Palomedes, Palomydes, PalamidesBackground Essay Author: Valerie B. Johnson

Sir Palamedes (var. Palomedes, Palomides, Palamede, and Palomydes) is a minor figure within the literary Arthurian tradition. Palomedes first appears in the 13th century. He is a Saracen knight of the Round Table; unbaptised and thus technically a pagan, but a true Christian at heart; a courtly lover who never achieves his desires; a figure of eternal chivalry in his pursuit of the Questing Beast. Palomedes appears to be the creation of the author(s) of the Old French Prose Tristan, a major narrative cycle begun around 1230 or 1235, possibly by a writer who refers to himself as "Luce del Gast," and completed sometime after 1240, possibly by a second writer who signed his work "Hélie de Boron"(Curtis xvi; Baumgartner 325). According to Baumgartner, the characters that appear to be original to the Prose Tristan are "comical and often misogynous insertions" that function as forms of "ironic counterpoint to the courtly ethic and chivalric behaviour normally observed by the protagonists" and they are usually "rehabilitated" later in the narrative (Baumgartner 332). Palomedes, however, does not require rehabilitation in the Prose Tristan; his character is falliable and he makes gross errors of behavior, but in this he is the reflection of Tristan, serving simultatneously as the superlative knight's foil and also as a standard against which to measure the great knight's prowess and accomplishment. Medieval and Renaissance retellings of the Tristan tradition, particularly those owing a strong textual debt to the French Prose Tristan, sustain Palomedes' dual role as negative contrast and positive comparison to Tristan.


The Palamedes of the Prose Tristan is a sympathetic character, a noble and valiant knight whose chivalric accomplishments are overshadowed by


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