The Switching of Names in Le Morte d’ArthurEdit
Malory renders French Guerrehet as Gareth and French Gaheriet as Gaheris from Book I to Book X, chapter 48 (ignoring book VII, “The Story of Sir Gareth” which is of unknown origin). But from Book X, chapter 55 to the end of the romance Malory reverses this practice and renders French Guerrehet as Gaheris and French Gaheriet as Gareth. (In the French romances Gaheriet is almost always far more prominent than Guerrehet.)
Malory's tale of Sir GarethEdit
Malory’s Gareth was the son of King Loth of Orkney and Morgause, sister of Arthur. In Book VII, Malory tells a tale otherwise unknown about about the first adventures of Gareth which disagrees with stories told of the early exploits of Gaheriet or Guerrehet in other romances.
Related to the “Fair Unknown” Story TypeEdit
The tale is related to the “Fair Unknown” story type. The core “Fair Unknown” stores are the French Le Bel Inconnu, the English Libeaus Desconnus, and the German Wigoleis, all of which relate the adventures of Gawain’s son Guinglain. Two other romances which tell mostly the same adventures are the Italian Carduino in which a knight named Carduino is the hero and The Knight of the Parrot in which a newly enthroned, young King Arthur is the hero.
But there are more distant versions of the tale, for example the adventures of Hector in the Prose Lancelot, the adventures of the knight known as La Cote Mal Taillée in the Prose Tristan, some adventures of Gawain in the Livre d’Artus, and the unique adventures of Gareth in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. In all these versions, an attack by a number of knights at once in the core version is replaced by single combats with individual knights at river crossings.
A summary of Malory’s TaleEdit
According to Malory, Gareth arrived at the court without revealing his name, and Kay took him on as an assistant kitchen boy for a year, calling him Beaumains (‘Fair-hands’). In the story, Gareth comes to the rescue of Lynet, a damsel who came seeking help from Sir Lancelot. Gareth is knighted by Lancelot, another feature found only in Malory. During the adventure, Lynet constantly despises Gareth, ignorant of his true identity and worth, and thinks that Gareth is a kitchen helper only. Lynet appreciates her champion only after Gareth has slain the Black Knight and defeated in succession the Green Knight, the Red Knight, and the Blue Knight, and performed other worthy feats.
Gareth rescues Lyones, Lynet’s sister, and marries her.
Some see a connection between Lynet and Lunette in Chrétien de Troyes’ romance of “Yvain”. Also, in Wolfram von Exchenbach’s Parzival, Gawain’s brother is named Beacurs which seems to be French Beau-corps (‘Fair-body’).
Idylls of the KingEdit
The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his adaptation of the first part of Malory’s tale has Gareth marry Lynette. Tennyson renames Dame Lyones as Dame Lionors.
Gareth in the Roman WarEdit
The Winchester manuscript Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur contains a sentence near the end of the account of the Roman war (here modernized in spellings):
Then he [Arthur] moves over the mountains and doth many marvels and goth in by Godarte—that Gareth soon wins.
.Malory’s source here is the English Alliterative Morte Arthure (lines 3102–4):
Now he moves his might with mirthes of herte
Over mountes so high, those marvelous wayes,
Gos in by Goddard, the garret he winnes,
Some Name VariationsEdit
MALORY: Gareth -e, Gareth, Gareths.