Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Perceforest Reader

A Perceforest Reader: Selected Episodes from Perceforest: The Prehistory of Arthur's Britain

Translated by Nigel Bryant
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 130
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81j2k
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Perceforest Reader
    Book Description:

    Perceforest is one of the largest and certainly the most extraordinary of the late Arthurian romances, and is almost completely unknown except to a handful of scholars. But it is a work of exceptional richness and importance, and has been justly described

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-935-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The French romance of Perceforest is a work of exceptional richness and importance, creating a prehistory of King Arthur’s Britain and an ancestry of all the major Arthurian figures – Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot and many more. But it is much more than a mere prelude to more familiar tales. It is a magnificent epic story in its own right, and offers a wealth of intriguing material to all medievalists – to historians as well as Arthurian enthusiasts: it has, indeed, been justly described as ‘a veritable encyclopaedia of fourteenth-century chivalry’ and ‘a mine of folkloric motifs’.¹ But in the field...

  4. How Perceforest earned his name
    (pp. 5-10)

    ‘My lord,’ Nicorant replied, ‘I’ll do all you command except fetch timber from the forest! No workman would dare go there to cut or fell: he’d be lost in an instant, spirited away by the enchanters who dwell there!’

    ‘Go and buy the stone, Nicorant,’ said King Betis, ‘and I’ll see to the forest!’

    A little later, Betis fell asleep after dinner in the warmth of the afternoon; and he dreamed that the dwarf who’d directed him to the place of his coronation appeared before him and said:

    ‘Cowardly king! How shameful it is that you don’t go and see...

  5. The Perilous Temple
    (pp. 11-18)

    Alexander and Floridas rode all day until they met a cowherd at the foot of a steep mountain. He told them it was the Mount of the Marvel, where none but knights ever ventured. Intrigued, they climbed to the top and found it planted thick with oaks, and the grass came up to their horses’ knees. They rode along the mountain top and came across a great expanse of holly trees so dense that they couldn’t see a foot inside. The king said to Floridas:

    ‘Here’s a sturdy hedge indeed!’

    They rode along the outside till they found a narrow...

  6. The Adventures of Claudius and Estonné
    (pp. 19-23)

    After dividing from Alexander and the others in the search for Perceforest, the English knight Claudius and the Scottish lord Estonné⁴ rode for three days without incident – or indeed food. They were hungry – unsurprisingly, though the people in those days were of a stronger constitution and were not so richly fed. But Estonné caught sight of a herd of deer and, being an excellent hunter, quickly made a kill. Then he cut off a leg and said:

    ‘Now, my noble companion, you shall eat – and so shall I!’

    ‘We would indeed, if we had a fire,’ said...

  7. The Wonders at Gadifer’s Coronation
    (pp. 24-26)

    That morning King Gadifer and Queen Lydore left the temple of Mars and made their way in a magnificent procession to the place of coronation, where a great scaffold had been built so that the vast crowd who’d gathered there would be able to see clearly. And as they approached the scaffold they saw that a vine had grown above it, casting enough shadow all around to shade two thousand people, and so laden with grapes that there were as many bunches as leaves. The common folk wondered what this fruit could be, for there had never been a vine...

  8. King Gadifer’s Wound
    (pp. 27-30)

    Six leagues from the castle they passed into a vast forest, and beside a stream from a spring they saw the ground interestingly disturbed. Le Tor was sure they were the marks of ‘the hugest, mightiest boar I ever saw: he’s caused me more trouble than any other!’ King Gadifer was eager to see the beast, so Le Tor sent his escort ahead to find lodging while he and the king rode into the woods with some huntsmen and a pack of hounds.

    They’d been searching for some time when suddenly, in a ditch in the shade of a massive...

  9. Zephir the Trickster
    (pp. 31-38)

    Estonné and Narcis rode on until, a little after sundown, they came within a league of Branius’s castle. They began to climb a mountain towards a great forest, and it grew so dark that only a glimmer of moonlight lit their way. And then, as they rode, they were astonished to see their helmets and the ears of their horses covered in will o’ the wisps – a countless number, flickering all around them so that their path was all aglow. Estonné was amazed. The will o’ the wisps kept following them, jostling and swarming like a cloud of gnats,...

  10. Troylus in love
    (pp. 39-42)

    Lyonnel was overjoyed to meet Troylus again, and he told him he’d been well rewarded for everything he’d endured in his adventures with the lions, the serpent and the giant. He would undertake any challenge, he said, no matter how much suffering was involved, ‘to earn half the reward I’ve had for this!’

    ‘Then your prize, sir,’ said Troylus, ‘has been rich indeed! Is the prize in gold? Or in castles or cities?’

    ‘What do you mean, sir?’ Lyonnel replied. ‘You think you can compare my reward to gold or cities? If you were as Alexander ever was and you...

  11. A New Order of Chivalry – the ‘Franc Palais’
    (pp. 43-51)

    Supper had been prepared, spread on tables in a garden below the castle walls, for there were so many people that they couldn’t be accommodated in the hall.

    While they were seated there at the tables, celebrating as no one in the world had ever done for the return of the king and for the health restored to him, they heard the windows of the great hall slam shut all together with an enormous crash. They wondered what it could mean; and a moment later the windows reopened, and they saw a light shining in the hall as bright as...

  12. The God of the Sheer Mountain
    (pp. 52-62)

    The master mariner was awestruck to hear that such a young knight as Gadifer had undertaken the mission to the kingdom of the Sheer Mountain.

    ‘Do you know what the adventure entails?’ he asked him.

    ‘I know nothing about it, truly,’ Gadifer replied. ‘The maiden Pierote died before she could tell me what I was engaged to do.’

    ‘I know nothing, either!’ the mariner said. ‘Nor do I see how you can enter the kingdom from any direction! It’s a mountain about a hundred leagues in circumference, and on every side it soars sheer to the height of a bowshot:...

  13. The Fish-Knights
    (pp. 63-66)

    He searched the isle in vain for any sign of habitation. Then, as he wandered down to the winter sea and came to the shore, he saw the most extraordinary fishes come leaping from the water on to dry land. One of them had a head like an ox with a long horn, and it was all hairy; it had four legs, too, and although they were only two feet long its body and tail were as big as a bull’s. There were several fish like horned sheep, all covered in hair except for their fish-like tails. Other fish were...

  14. The Sleeping Beauty
    (pp. 67-83)

    Troylus was riding in search of the beautiful Zellandine, whom he loved more dearly than himself. He rode through a near-deserted land until he found himself by the sea and came upon a ship blown off course by wind and tide. The crew told him they’d been heading for England but were now at the furthest tip of Scotland. They’d been sent from their home country of Zeeland to find a knight named Zelandin, urgently summoned by his father because:

    ‘A great wonder has just occurred in our land. Zellandine, the daughter of our lord Zelland, returned recently from Britain,...

  15. The Marvellous Child
    (pp. 84-92)

    The good lady Priande’s labour lasted a day and a night and the next day till well past noon. The ladies attending her felt great pity for the trial she was suffering; but her fruit took a break from his struggling and she was able to rest and sleep. And as she slept she dreamt she was with her husband in the middle of a forest, and there the pains of childbirth began. And when her husband saw this he dismounted and started to build a bower around her to hide her secret business a little. Then he withdrew and...

  16. The Death of Caesar
    (pp. 93-99)

    But he had grave news: ‘Dear son, you’ve lost your mother and your dear grandfather – and two of your brothers also: they were killed in a battle fought by the senators against Julius Caesar who’s lately returned from Gaul.’

    ‘Truly, honoured father,’ said Ourseau, ‘it’s not the first harm Caesar’s inflicted on those close to us.’ And he told his father how, as he had bidden him, he’d gone to Britain to learn the truth about their ancestry, and found that Caesar had devastated the land. ‘I travelled for more than six months without finding a city, town or...

  17. The Adventure of the Red Sword
    (pp. 100-120)

    Gallafur rode to the pillar with all speed. But when confronted by the sword he was thrilled but also fearful of failure, very mindful that he would never be able to speak to the one he loved most in all the world until he’d achieved the adventure of the Red Sword. He was overjoyed when he took the sword, rose-red, from its hook with ease; and he set off with it through the forest, feeling that his life now depended on his success.

    Shortly after noon he came to a glade surrounded by a dense body of hazel trees. The...

  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 121-121)