The jousting tournament occurred! (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 16!) Gareth assembled all his new vassals — the Red Knight, the Green Knight, the Indigo Knight, and the other Red Knight — and lined them up to be on his side in the big jousting tournament. Arthur arrived with all the knights everywhere, knights from Orkney and Scotland and Cornwall and so on. I’m not going to identify all of these knights, but rest assured Malory goes on for a long time. This jousting sequence is chapters long. Chapters! Eventually he just gives up and is all and more that cannot be recited. There are so many knights, Malory includes a couple who died earlier in the narrative, Sir Turquine and Sir Carados his brother.
Okay, here’s one knight name: Sir Grummore Grummursum. He’s Scottish.
At Castle Perilous they made all kinds of big plans and preparations for this jousting tournament. Among other things, Lionesse lent Gareth an enchanted color-changing ring, like a mood ring. It may have been magical in a way that would help Gareth win the tournament, and maybe it was just cosmetic and a symbol of her love. While he wore it his tabard and gear and all changed colors, cycling through all the colors of the rainbow.
Anyway. Then there are pages and pages and pages of jousting. I’m just going to give you a representative sample.
“And there encountered Sir Percival with Sir Carados, and either brake their spears unto their hands, and then Sir Turquine with Sir Lamorak, and either of them smote down other’s horse and all to the earth, and either parties rescued other, and horsed them again.”
I read that, I’m like, wait, didn’t Sir Launcelot kill Sir Turquine back in Book VI for all the knight-abducting he was doing? And wasn’t Turquine’s motivation avenging Carados’s death? But if Malory doesn’t care, why should I?
At one point someone noticed that a knight wearing a mood ring was being all badass, and Sir Tristram thought to ask the castle servants which knight that was, and they explained that it was Sir Gareth. Tristram, the jerk, figured he could show Gareth up and fetch him back to his mother, but Peter the dwarf was on the case! Peter figured out Tristram’s scheme, and told Gareth to take the mood ring off, such that Tristram lost track of which knight he was. King Arthur, however, was a sharp cookie and worked out that Gareth was the knight all in yellow, yellow being the color Gareth had been in when he’d removed the mood ring.
Arthur told Gawaine, and Gawaine chased after Gareth. Gareth hid by wearing the mood ring again. He escaped, with Peter’s help. Soon enough the two of them were hiding out in the wooded interior of Avalon, well away from Castle Perilous and the tournament and everything. Peter suggested they go back and return Lionesse’s magic ring to her, but Gareth feared his mother dragging him back to Orkney, and wouldn’t go himself. Instead he gave the ring to Peter and told the dwarf to drop it off while Gareth rodes away, which was what they ended up doing.
Most of this section feels like padding, which, coming as it does on the tail of chapters of wall-to-wall jousting action, is saying something.
Gareth, alone, wandered around overnight. Eventually he came to a castle, where the lady of the manor put him up for the night. He identified himself to her as a knight of Arthur’s court, which was slightly an exaggeration.
“That’s fine with me,” said the lady of the manor, Duchess Auburn. “But my husband Duke Auburn, or as the French say Duke de la Rowse, is an anti-Arthur partisan.”
“I don’t really do politics,” Gareth responded with a shrug. “If your husband picks a fight with me I’ll defend myself, but right now I’m just happy to be taking advantage of your knightly hospitality.”
Gareth didn’t even meet the Duke, who apparently slept through his entire visit. The next morning Gareth departed. He bumped into a random bandit-knight, Sir Bendelaine, who tried to take Gareth prisoner to hold for ransom. Gareth declined his offer, and Bendelaine retreated into a castle. Gareth chased him there, but then all twenty of Bendelaine’s merry men sallied forth to give Gareth a hard time. They were out of luck, it turned out: he could take on twenty merry men without losing. They killed his horse, but he ended up taking one of theirs, so it was a wash.
Castle number three on Gareth’s castle tour was laboring under some problems; the Brown Knight without Pity kept showing up and ruining everything. He’d already killed nearly every knight in the castle by the time Sir Gareth arrived, and had claimed their widows as his harem. Gareth gave the Brown Knight what for! He killed the villain easily, which was great, but of course all the dead knights remained dead, so the celebration afterwards was tinged with sadness. Gareth told all the widows to go to Camelot where King Arthur would take care of them.
And then, hey-o, Duke Auburn! Weren’t expecting that, were you? Duke Auburn appeared! He’d been chasing Gareth.
“Hey! Arthur fanboy! You spent the night at my castle a few paragraphs back and you said you’d defend yourself if I picked a fight! Well have at thee!“
Gareth knew he should have been concerned, but it was is just another guy with a color for a name. Sure enough he beat Duke Auburn handily. Afterwards he accepted his fealty and sent him to Arthur’s court, as per usual.
No sooner had Duke Auburn left, then up rode a mystery knight who attacked! Gareth defended himself, but the mystery knight didn’t go down easy. The pair fought for a couple of hours, until Dame Linet finally caught up to them. She reveals she had been riding after Sir Gareth this whole time, ever since he’d fled the jousting tournament. She told them both to knock it off, because the mystery knight was Gareth’s eldest brother, Sir Gawaine.
Gawaine pulled off his helmet. It was indeed him! He and Gareth laughed and embraced and had a good chat, catching up. Eventually they noticed they were both still bleeding from their fight, and in fact they’d both lost quite a bit of blood. Fortunately Linet was right there with her magic potion. As a result of this, Malory claims, Gareth and Gawaine would become bitter enemies and Sir Gareth would become a close confidant of Sir Launcelot instead. This doesn’t match up with what he says later in Book XX about the Gawaine-Launcelot schism, of course.
Gawaine sent Linet back to Castle Perilous to fetch Arthur and his court, and he and Gareth sat and waited for them. Don’t ask me why Gareth was no longer motivated to avoid his mother.
Everybody arrived! The heartwarming reunion was ruined when Queen Margawse, Gareth’s mother, was overcome by emotion and fainted. Then Gareth asked for permission to marry Lionesse.
Smash cut to the Michaelmas following, at Kink Kendaon by the seaside, where Gareth wed Lionesse. In a minor twist, King Arthur the Efficient decided to go ahead and marry off Gawaine’s other brothers, Agravaine and Gaheris, as well. Gaheris he married to Dame Linet, of all people, and Agravaine got Dame Laurel, a woman picked seemingly out of a hat. Nobody had any say in who married who; Arthur acted all kingly and made the decisions for them.
After the triple wedding, there was — guess what? A jousting tournament! (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 17!) All of the variously colored knights, Red and Green and Indigo and other Red and also Duke Auburn, attended. The ladies widowed by the Brown Knight described how Gareth had avenged their husbands, and everyone applauded.
Then Lionesse whispered something to Arthur, and he nodded. “Quick announcement, everyone,” he said. “None of today’s bridegrooms will participate in this tournament. They need to save their strength for the wedding night.”
Then Sir Launcelot won the tournament. The end! No moral.