Gawain's Rescue of His Mother
GAWAIN'S RESCUE OF HIS MOTHER: FOOTNOTES1 the kynge, i.e., King Lot; saugh, saw.
3 and than, then.
5-6 ne loked but after, could only await.
6 take withynne, captured.
7 loged, encamped.
8 he, i.e., King Lot.
9 wolde eny while sojourne, i.e., would continue the siege; he, i.e., King Arans.
9-10 aboode after, accompanied.
10 all environ, all about.
11 soche aventure, such straits.
14 hem, them.
19 begeten, begotten.
20 bar, carried.
21 fause posterne, rear entrance.
22 that, i.e., and.
23 sore aflayed, greatly alarmed.
24 condited, carried; pray, booty.
27 hete, heat; stour, battle.
28 myster, value.
29 discounfited, defeated.
30 itake, captured.
32-33 that whan, when.
33 were knowen togeder of, became acquainted with.
35 all forswette, i.e., in a great hurry; todaisht, smashed to pieces.
38 walop, gallop.
39 yate, gate; stynte, stopped.
40 yef, if.
41 durste hym suewen, dared follow him; be, by.
44 What, Who.
45 aperteneth, belongs.
46 entré, first section.
47 prowesse1, adventure; ne, nor.
48 me sue, follow me; aventure, adventures.
49 and that, and; yef, if.
50 nother . . . ne, neither . . . nor.
51 but, unless; sooll be, alone by.
52 cleped, called.
53 he3, i.e., Merlin.
54 that, a man who; his, i.e., Gawain's.
55 but that, if.
57 agein, against; tho, those.
58 as, as if.
59 lette, refuse.
60 asked, called for; wightly, quickly; aboode, waited; that, the man who.
61 hasted, prompted.
63 wolde well, much desired.
64 yef, if.
65 and2, if.
66 fayn, happily.
67 nought empeire, not harm.
69 go wolde, wished to go.
70 aventure1, undertaking; aventure2, excitement.
72 mo, more; lede, take; tho, those.
74 noon evell, no evil purpose.
75 seche, seek.
77 herde, heard; launde, meadow.
78 hem semed, it seemed to them.
79 chielde, child.
81 saugh, saw.
82 han discounfited, have defeated.
85 lete, stop.
89 Certeis, Indeed.
90 falle of, happen in.
91 theras thow ne childe, where [neither] you nor the child.
92 praide, urged.
93 graunted, assented.
94 the knyght, i.e., Merlin.
95 sue, follow; lettinge, stopping.
96 faste before, quickly in front; saugh, saw.
98 tho, then.
99 was hym belefte, remained to him.
100 beheilde in the myddill, looked toward the middle.
101 ne hadde be the doell, were it not for the grief.
102 myschief, plight; dischevelee, dishevelled; heer, hair.
103 be, by; drough, drew.
104 grete, long; combraunce, the hindrance; braied, screamed.
108 honde armed right sore, armored hand very painfully; fill, fell; even as, as if; be, been.
110 braide, screamed; lowde, loudly.
111 fayne, gladly.
112 lede thens, lead [her] thence.
113 maistrie, control.
114 hente, grabbed; drough, drew.
116 trayned, dragged; brayen, shout.
117 hoorse, hoarse.
118 evell besein, evilly treated.
119 yef, if.
121 ner, nearly.
122 ne he wende never, he never expected.
123 sopores, spurs.
124 somdell, somewhat.
125 Leff, Leave; fitz a putain, son of a whore.
126 dolerous mette, unfortunately met.
127 bye so dere, pay for so dearly.
128 menaced, threatened.
132 rudely, fiercely; chyne, back.
133 blussht, fell.
134 of, off.
138 martirdom, slaughter; occision, slaying; mo, more; er, before.
141 occision, slaughter; that upon turned, that had come upon them.
142 repeired thideras, returned to where.
144 even as, as if; iyen, eyes.
146 anoyed, sad.
147 nas noon, was not one; iyen, eyes.
149 noon1, no; noon2, any.
150 brayes, shouts.
151 iyen, eyes.
152 anoon, immediately; joynynge, clasped together.
155 dye fore, die from.
158 Haalas, Alas.
161 abode, stand firm.
163 hem, them; gavelokkes, spears; soche foison, so many.
164 reyned, rained; voide, leave.
165 hym conjured, begged him; that1, the one.
168 it, i.e., Mordred's cradle; abydeth, awaits.
172 yaf, gave.
175 softely, gently; litier, litter.
177 prayes, spoils.
181 hooll, healthy.
184 ledde with hem, took with them.
190 parceyved, recognized.
193 yef, if.
194 noon cowde, no one could.
195 wiste, knew.
202 what, who.
203 hym conjured, requested him; be, by; ought, owes.
204 dierly, dearly.
205 demaunde, question; wherfore, why; lowgh, laughed.
206 conjured, beseeched; ware, careful.
218 hym blissed, blessed himself.
219 yef, if.
220 entermeteth hym of, involves himself in.
222 wite, know.
GAWAIN'S RESCUE OF HIS MOTHER: NOTES
Gawain's Rescue of his Mother
[Fols. 103v (line 29)-106v (line 15)]
In this brief but dramatic episode, King Lot and his wife and their baby son Mordred flirt with disaster when they leave the safety of the city in an attempt to escape the Saxons. Gawain, prodded by Merlin who appears in yet another of his guises, performs a daring rescue of his mother, who has been captured and vilely mistreated by a Saxon named Taurus. What is perhaps most significant about this section is the way it reveals the powerful bond of kinship that exists among the members of Gawain's family. By the end of this section, Gawain is determined to use those powerful feelings as leverage in bringing about a reconciliation between his father King Lot and his uncle King Arthur.
9-10 But he desired it not gretly . . . distroied all environ. Prior to besieging the city, the Saxon King Arans accompanies his troops as they lay waste to the surrounding countryside. Realizing this, King Lot and his group decide to make a run for it before the siege commences.
30 Than the squyer fledde. This is the squire who is carrying Mordred in his cradle. The squire's quick response prevents Mordred from falling into the Saxons' hands.
34 a knyght right well armed. It comes as no surprise when we learn later that this "knight" is Merlin.
105-06 Seint Marie, . . . helpe me and socour! Prayers to the Virgin to aid one in their hour of need are very common and reflect the important role of Mary as Intercessor. Compare Gawain's prayer to the Virgin in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (lines 736-39), when he prays to find lodging on Christmas Eve.
136-37 for it was not inough to hem . . . smale peces. After Gawain has killed Taurus, his brothers vent their anger by mutilating the body of the man who had abused their mother. Whether or not this gruesome scene foreshadows what Malory calls their "vengeable" natures (Vinaver, p. 224), it certainly attests to their powerful emotions.
139 Gawein slough so many . . . blode and brayn. This description of Gawain covered with blood and gore has a close parallel in Malory in his description of Arthur during the Battle at Bredigan Forest: "And kynge Arthure was so blody that by hys shylde there myght no man know hym, for all was blode and brayne that stake on his swerd and on hys shylde" (Vinaver, p. 22).
185-86 And the foure bretheren swore . . . theire uncle. Here Gawain and his brothers hit upon the plan to use their mother as a bargaining chip in securing the peace between King Lot and King Arthur.
[Gawain's Rescue of His Mother]
Whan the kynge saugh how the Saisnes wasted his londe and distroied and
hadde slain so moche of his peple that he myght not but kepe hym in stronge
place, and than he was full of sorowe and of hevynesse and cursed the hour and
the day that he was at werre with Kynge Arthur, "For by hym have I loste alle my
childeren." And on that other side his citee was all wasted, and he ne loked but
after the hour to be take withynne, for the walles were broke down in many
places; and [he] saugh also how the Kynge Arans was loged all aboute hym, and
he hadde no peple in his companye that myght eny while hym withstonde, yef the
Kynge Arans wolde eny while sojourne. But he desired it not gretly, but aboode
after his men that the contrey wasted and distroied all environ.
Whan the Kynge Loot saugh hymself in soche aventure, he toke counseile what
was beste to do, and his counseile in the ende was this, that at the firste cokke
crowinge he sholde lepe to his horse -- he, and his wif, and his litill sone that was
but two yere of age -- and lede hem to Glocedon, and sholde have with hym five
hundre men well armed; and that other part sholde abide stille that yet were six
thousande of noble men and hardy. And thei hym promyseden that thei sholde
kepe well the citee while there life myght endure.
At mydnyght, the kynge and his companye toke theire horse and his litill sone
Mordered, that the Kynge Arthur hadde begeten in soche manere as ye have herde
devised; and a squyer hym bar in a litill cradell hym before upon his horse nekke;
and [thei] rode oute by a fause posterne of the citee toward the gardinsand entred
into a lane, and rode all nyght and all day till noone, that nevere hadde distrubinge.
But than was the Kynge Loot sore aflayed, for thei mette Taurus, with thre thou-
sand Saisnes that repaired from Arondell, that condited the pray to the Kynge
And as soone as thei knewe the Kynge Loot, thei ronne upon hym with grete
hete, and ther a while was stronge stour; and full nobly dide the Kynge Loot and
the five hundred that were in his companye; but of well doynge was litill myster,
for soone were thei discounfited and chased oute of the feilde, and his wif also
itake. Than the squyer fledde towarde Arondell as faste as the horse myght hym
bere. But now cesseth a litill of Kynge Loot and returne to Gawein.
Full gladde and mery were Gawein and his felowes at Arondell that nyght, that
whan thei were knowen togeder of the squyres that thei hadde rescuwed. And as
thei were in this joye and in this feeste, com a knyght right well armed upon a
grete steede all forswette -- and his shilde all todaisht and hewen with strokes
that he hadde resceyved of swerdes above and benethe, and his coverynge cote all
torente, and his hauberke torn and broken in many places. And he com before
Arondell a grete walop, gripynge his launce; and whan he com before the castell
yate he stynte, and saugh the squyres above on the walles that grete joye made
oon to another. And anoon he gan to crie yef therynne were eny squyer that were
so hardy that durste hym suewen thider as he wolde go, be soche a condicion that
he sholde have no drede of no man but of his owne corse.
Whan Gawein it undirstode, he asked what wey he wolde go. Quod the knyght,
"What art thow that spekest to me?" "My name," quod he, "is Gawein, the sone of
Kynge Loot." "Than shall I telle yow," quod he, "for the aventure aperteneth to
yow more than to eny other. And certes," seide the knyght, "into the entré of this
foreste is the prowesse that I of speke. But ye have not that prowesse ne the
hardynesse that ye dar me sue; and yet is it oon of the moste honourable aventure
in this worlde, and that ye sholde moste be preised yef ye myght it acheve. But ye
have nother the herte ne the hardynesse that ye durst thider come. And wite it
well, but ye will come, I will go sooll be myself."
Whan Gawein undirstode hym that so cleped hym cowarde, he was shamefaste
and seide that though he sholde dye, he wolde hym companye. And he began for
to go, that full well knewe his corage. And Gawein cleped hym agein and cried,
"Sir knyght, lo! me here all redy to go with yow -- but that ye shull me ensure
that for noon evell ye make me it for to do, and that ye shull me helpe at youre
power agein alle tho that will me mysdo."
Whan he herde these wordes, he abode and began to smyle as it were in scorne,
and seide as for that sholde he not lette, but that he wolde make hym the assuraunce.
And Gawein asked his armes and armed hym wightly anoon; and he aboode, that
gretly hym hasted. And the felowes of Gawein com to hym and seide, "Sir, what
thinke ye to do? Ne goth not withouten us, for we wote never whether it be for
goode or for evell." And Gawein seide that he wolde well that thei wente with
hym, yef the knyght wolde assente. "And we shull hym aske," seide Galashin.
Than ran Seigramor to the knyght and asked, "Sir knyght, and it plese yow, ther
ben somme hereynne that fayn wolde go with yow in companye, and theire feliship
shall yow nought empeire; and therfore thei yow preyen by me that ye will hem
graunte to holde with yow companye." And the knyght hem ansuerde, and seide
he wolde it well; and well it hym plesed that alle wente that go wolde, "For the
aventure is soche that noon shall faile to fynde his aventure that ther cometh"; and
than Seigramor was gladde. And anoon thei armed hem therynne with grete spede
till thei were seven thousand, that mo thei wolde not lede; but tho were of the
beste and of theym that were beste horsed. And whan thei com oute of the castell,
Gawein toke the assuraunce of the knyght that for noon evellhe com not hym for
Than thei wente ridinge all the day and all the nyght till it com to the dawenynge;
and than thei herde at the ende of a launde a grete crye and a grete noyse of peple;
and as hem semed, ther were many. And than thei mette a squyer that fledde upon
a grete horse that bar a chielde before hym in a cradell. And whan Gawein hym
mette, he asked hym with whom he was and whi he fledde so faste. And he hem
beheilde and saugh that thei were Cristin and seide, "I am with the Kynge Loot
that the Saisnes han discounfited at the ende of this launde towarde that wode;
for he was goynge toward Gloceden and ledde with hym his wif, and now thei
have hir taken and chased hym oute of the feilde. And I am thus fleynge, as ye
seen, with this childe that is hers; for never shall I it lete till I have sette it in soche
place that it shall not have drede of the Saisnes that into this contrey ben entred.
And for the love of God, ne go ye no ferther, feire lordes, for ye shull fynde ther
so grete plenté of Saisnes that ye ne may hem endure."
"Certeis," seide Gawein, "but I shall telle thee what thow shalt do. Thow shalt
go reste thee here in this wode till thow se what shall falle of this bataile; and
after, yef I may ascape, I will thee bringe theras thow ne childe shull have no
drede of noon evell that no man shall yow do." And [he] praide hym so that he
With that thei departed that oon from that other, and the knyght wente forth
that moche dide Gawein for to haste, and badde hym sue faste withoute lettinge,
and therwith he rode faste before. And whan Gawein saugh he wente, he spored
his horse after, and so dide his felowes also. And [thei] rode faste till thei were
paste the foreste, and saugh the chase that even tho was begonne after the Kynge
Loot, that fledde to Glocedon with the peple that was hym belefte of the bataile.
And on that other side Gawein beheilde in the myddill of the medowe and saugh a
lady of grete bewté, ne hadde be the doell and the sorowe that she made and the
myschief that she was ynne. And she was all dischevelee in her heer, and Taurus
hir heilde be the tresses and drough hir after his horse; and hir robe that she was
in clad was so grete that for combraunce she myght not arise; and she braied and
cride with an high voyse, "Seint Marie, Blissed Lady and Moder of God, helpe me
And whan she cried and cleped Oure Lady Seint Marie, Taurus smote hir with
his honde armed right sore that she fill down to the erthe even as she hadde be
deed. And whan he hadde sette hire upon his horse, she fill agein down to the
erthe as a woman that was hurte, and cried and braide right lowde and seide that
she wolde fayne be deed. And he agein sette hir upon horse, and she fill down
agein to grounde and seide as longe as she myght lyve, sholde he never lede thens
for no power that he hadde. And whan he saugh that he myght not hir maistrie, he
hente hir be the tresses and drough hir towarde the horse trailinge, and smote hir
so that she was all covered in blode, what from mouthe and nose. And so he hath
hir trayned and drawen, that the lady myght no lenger crye ne brayen; she was so
hoorse and so brethles that on hire feet myght she not stonde ne sustene.
And whan the knyght saugh the lady so evell besein, he seide to Gawein, "Now,
Gawein, knowest thow not that lady yonder? And yef ever ye hir loved dayes of
youre lyf, thinke hir to rescowen and to avengen." And as soone as Gawein saugh,
he knewe hire wele; than he was so full of angwissh that ner he yede oute of his
witte; ne he wende never to have sein the hour to have come therto. Than he
smote the horse with sopores all that he myght, and hielde agrete shorte spere,
the heed right sharp and trenchaunt. And mydday was somdell passed and the
sonne right high, and Gawein cried to Taurus, "Leff the lady, traitour fitz a putain!
In evell tyme hast thow her so dolerous mette, for never in thi liff didest thow foly
that thow shalt bye so dere."
And whan Taurus saugh hym come that so gretly to hym cried and menaced,
he lete the lady falle, and righted his armes and toke a grete spere and a rude, and
lete renne his horse agein hym. And Gawein and he smote togeder as harde as
theire armes myght dure, and Taurus brake his spere; and Gawein smote hym so
rudely thourgh shelde and hauberke that the spere heede shewde thourgh his chyne
an arme lengthe, and he blussht so harde to grounde that his nekke brake asonder.
And Gaheret and Gaheries and Agravain alight down, and oon smote of his
heed, and another thriste hym thourgh with his swerde, and the thirde smote of
bothe his armes, for it was not inough to hem that Gawein hadde don, but made of
hym smale peces. And these other smote in amonge the Saisnes and made of hem
soche martirdom and soche occision that thei slough mo than ten thousand er thei
leften. And Gawein slough so many that he was all wete in blode and brayn that
his armes dropped down as he hadde be wete in a flode.
And whan that the Saisnes saugh the grete occision that upon turned, thei fledden
alle that myght thourgh wode and thourgh playn. And Gawein repeired thideras he
saugh hys moder ly, and alight on foote, and toke hir in his armes and fonde hir
even as deed. And he wepte sore that the teeris ronne down from his iyen as
thikke as water hadde be throwen in his visage, and cried and wrange his handes
and made soche doell and sorowe that alle his felowes were therwith anoyed, and
hadden therof grete pité, that ther nas noon but wepte water with his iyen. And
whan the bretheren of Gawein com thider, ther began the doell and sorowe so
grete that noon erthly man myght devise noon gretter.
Whan the lady undirstode the brayes and the cries that the bretheren madeaboute
hir, she opened hir iyen and saugh hir sone Gawein that hir heilde in his armes,
and knewe hym wele anoon; and [she] lifte up hir handes joynynge towarde hevene,
and thanked oure Lorde of that socoure that He hadde hir sente. Than she spake as
she myght and seide, "Feire sone Gawein, be stille and wepe no more, for I have
not the harme that I sholde dye fore, but hurte I am right sore."
And than she asked hym where his bretheren were, and anoon thei com before
hir makynge grete doell. And whan she hem saugh she thanked oure Lorde; and in
a while aftere anoon she seide, "Haalas! My sone Mordred have I loste, and my
lorde youre fader, that this day hath suffred grete peyne me for to rescewen and
socour; for whan he hadde alle loste his men, I saugh hym fight longe agein five
hundred men, and abode while oon myght have gon half a myle of grounde upon
his feet. And therfore I have grete drede that he be wounded to the deth, for I
saugh hem launche at hym knyves and gavelokkes and dartes soche foison as it
hadde reyned from hevene. Ne never wolde he voide the place ne me forsake till
I hym conjured, for that he loved beste in the worlde, that he wolde gon his wey;
and than he dide, so sorowfull that no man myght more."
"Dame," quod Gawein, "of Mordred my brother I can telle yow tidinges, for
the squyer that it bar hath hym kept wisely, and us abydeth in this foreste; but of
the kynge my fader I can not sey."
Whan the lady undirstode that, it hevied her herte and [she] swowned in Gaweins
armes; and he her kiste and wepte right sore. And whan she com agein from
swownynge, she yaf a sore sigh, and with that the coloure com agein into her
visage. And than she asked Gawein watir to waisshe hir face that was all soilede
with blode; and oon it brought in an hatte of stiele, and than she wossh hir visage
as softely as she myght. And than thei ordeyned hir a litier upon two palfrayes,
and leide her therynne fresch gras and erbes plenté and clothes, and than leide her
therynne softely, and than gadered the prayes that thei hadde wonne of the Saisnes,
and wente forth to Arondell a goode spede.
And thei hadde but litill while riden whan the squyer com before hem with the
childe. And than was Gawein gladde, and rode forth with the childe till thei com
to Arondell, whereas thei sojourned eight dayes full till the lady was hooll. And
than thei departed from thens and wente to Logres, the chief citee of the Kynge
Arthur, alle the company togeder. But two hundre squyers thei lefte at Arondell to
kepe the castell, and ledde with hem the lady and hir litill sone.
And the foure bretheren swore that never sholde the Kynge Loot her fader have
agein theire moder till that he hadde acorded with Kynge Arthur theire uncle. Of
this thinge that thei seide was the lady gladde. And so thei spedde theire journeyes
till thei com to Logres, where thei were receyved with grete honoure and rever-
ence. And Doo of Cardoell made to hem grete joye and feeste, and so dide alle the
citee. But whan thei parceyved the lady, thei made moche more joye, and hir dide
as grete worship as myght be don to eny lady of the worlde. And every man was
gladde of the aventure that God hadde hem sente.
And than made Gawein to enquere and serche yef eny man knewe the knyght
that hadde hem ledde to socour his moder; but noon cowde telle of hym no tidinge.
And so the tidinges ronne up and down that Doo of Cardoell it wiste, that was a
noble knyght and a sure and a wise, and thought well in his herte who this knyght
myght be. And than he com to Gawein and seide, "Sir, knewe ye never that man
that brought yow firste tydinges of Seigramor and also of Ewein youre cosin?" "I
never hym knewe ne saugh before," quod Gawein.
"Nor hym," quod Doo, "that taught yow where was youre moder, ne knowe ye
no hym?" "No, truly," quod Gawein.
Than thought Doo anoon what he was, and gan to smylen. And Gawein merveiled
moche why he dide aske, and than he hym conjured be the feith that he ought to
the Kynge Arthur his lorde, and praied hym dierly also to telle hym whi he asked
hym that demaunde and wherfore he lowgh. And than he seide, "Gawein, Gawein,
so moche ye have me conjured that I shall telle yow whi. But be well ware that ye
lete no man knowe of nothinge that I sey unto yow."
And Gawein seide, "Nay," for hym were lever to have his tonge drawen oute.
"Knowe it verily," quod Doo, "that he that alle these tidinges hath brought, it is
Merlin, that is the beste devynour that is in all the worlde or evere was."
"How, sir," quod Gawein, "speke ye of that Merlin that was so well beloved of
Uterpendragon, that was begeten of the devell upon a woman?" "Of that same,"
seide Doo, "speke I withoute faile." "A! God mercy!" seide Gawein, "how myght
this be or bifalle that I have seyn hym in so many maner formes, for I have seyn
hym in thre semblaunces." "Wite it well," quod Doo, "how that ever ye have hym
seyn, it is he verily, for he is so full of stronge art that he hym chaungeth into as
many semblaunces as he will."
Than Gawein hym blissed for the merveile that he therof hadde, and seide that
he wolde with hym be aqueynteth yef it hym plesed, "For I wote well now that he
us loveth, whan that he entermeteth hym of oure deedes." "Knowe it well," quod
Doo, "yef it plese hym ye shall it wite, for we may nothinge do ne sey but he it
Thus abode the squyres at Logres, gladde and myrry of that oure Lorde hadde
hem assembled togeder. And thei kepte the contrey aboute that the Saisnes ever
more loste than wonne. But now leveth the tale of hem and speketh of the knyght
that ledde Gawein for to socour his moder.
Go To Merlin and Nimiane