This story comes in the middle of Tristram’s story, at the beginning of Book IX, but it has nothing to do with the stories before it or after, so I’ve moved it to this volume. Hear now the tale of Sir Breunor, aka the Black Knight (one of many), aka the Knight in an Ill-Fitting Suit, or La Cote Male Taile.
Once fine day we find King Arthur relaxing in his court with a small collection of intimates: Sir Kay, Sir Lamorak, and Sir Gaheris. A man entered, nearly a boy. He wore an ill-fitting suit: a high-quality garment, made of cloth of gold and belted, but clearly cut for someone roughly twice his size. It was also perforated with stab holes and featured suspicious bloodstains.
“Have you been helped?” asked Arthur, looking up from his issue of the Squared Jousting Arena.
“Sire, I’m awesome. I’m here to become a knight. You see, my name is Breunor, the Black…” the kid began, but Sir Kay cut him off.
“Sir Ill-Fitting Suit is more like it, am I right? I’m right, of course I’m right!” Kay chortled.
“Listen, Sir Ill-Fitting Suit,” said Arthur. He had not been paying close attention. “What’s this about? How did you get in here? Did someone leave the door open again? Do you want your suit tailored, is that what you’re here for?”
“Sire, sire, I can explain!” Breunor held up his hands. “My father was a worthy knight. He was! Very recently while he was out hunting, he lay down the middle of the forest to take a nap, like you do. Alas, along came my father’s hated enemy, who stabbed him to death. While he wore this very suit! Not the enemy, my father. You see? It has all these stab holes in it. I wear it to remind myself of my oath to avenge Dad’s death. So you can see why I should become a knight.”
“Hmm,” said Arthur. “I’m not easily swayed by fanciful tales of stabbings.”
Sir Lamorak piped up. Or maybe it was Sir Gaheris? Malory can’t be expected to keep track of everything, people. Anyway. One of those two guys. “Say sire, you know who Sir Ill-Fitting Suit here reminds me of? A young Launcelot. A little bit around the eyes — you know what I mean? Launcelot got knighted and that turned out well. Maybe you should think about knighting this kid.”
“Mmm, well, fine. Tell you what, Ill-Fitting Suit. We’ll go on a hunt tomorrow, and then, well, we’ll see how it goes. If the hunt goes well, then I’ll knight you.”
The next day Arthur and most everybody went on a hunt. For reasons Malory doesn’t bother to go into, even though the hunt was in his honor, Breunor stayed back at Camelot. He, Guenever, and a skeleton crew were stuck at home while everyone else was out having a good time. Also for reasons Malory doesn’t explain, at Camelot there was a stone tower containing a captured lion. You with me so far? Okay. The lion escaped and started rampaging around Camelot, like you do. Arthur and basically none of the knights were home; it was just Breunor and Guenever and eleven other knights who’d been deemed too puny to go hunting. Breunor stepped up while everyone else panicked and ran around in circles! He killed the lion! He was the hero! No way was this carefully staged! There just happened to be a lion!
After Arthur returned he congratulated Breunor for saving the day. “Man, and to think Kay here was calling you Sir Ill-Fitting Suit,” he said. “No more of that derogatory nickname. Full knight status. Sword!”
Someone handed Arthur a sword. He did the shoulder tap thing. “I knight thee Sir Breunor the Black!”
“Sire,” said Breunor, “I ask that you knight me Sir Ill-Fitting Suit, in honor of this day and to rub everyone’s nose in how awesome I am and what a jerk Kay was for being rude to me yesterday.”
“Fair enough. Sir Ill-Fitting Suit I dub thee, and let all in Camelot know you by that name!” cried Arthur.
“Ha!” cried Breunor. “That shows you, huh Sir Kay?”
“Is it really me that’s getting insulted here?” Kay asked Arthur quietly. “I mean, I’m a big boy, I can take it, but we’re supposed to call this kid Sir Ill-Fitting Suit?”
“Enh, let him have his fun.”