Tristram and Lamorak met back up at the forester and collected Kehydius, and then the three of them rode back to the ship where they’d gotten wrecked back in the first place, and met the folks they left there, Gouvernail and Bragwaine. Then they all (Sir Tristram, Sir Kehydius, Gouvernail, and Bragwaine) sailed back to Cornwall together.
“But wait!” is what you’d be protesting if you were paying sufficient attention, which, it’s okay, that’s why I’m here. “Wasn’t the ship wrecked, and didn’t the knights go out into the woods in order to scout out safe passage for the others, because they were going to need to find alternate transport? Did the ship just magically fix itself?”
To which we can only answer, apparently! Apparently it did magically fix itself. Do you have any other questions?
“While we’re at it,” you say, “wasn’t Isoud the White on the ship with them? Didn’t she get left behind along with Gouvernail and Bragwaine?”
To which we can only answer, congratulations! You’ve remembered about the existence of Isoud the White, which puts you one up on Malory! As near as I can tell, Malory and Tristram both just plain forget she exists, because she’s never mentioned or brought up again.
The whole gang (minus a certain wife) went direct to Cornwall with no further shipwrecks. When they arrived at King Mark’s court at Tintagil, the lovely Isoud and Tristram immediately picked up where they left off, with regards to their illicit affair. Carrying out the affair took some work; to be on the safe side, Sir Tristram kept a low profile such that Mark didn’t even know he was back in Cornwall. Fortunately Sir Dinas, Mark’s seneschal, had no respect for his liege; Dinas arranged plenty of opportunities for the lovely Isoud and Tristram to be alone together. During the logistics of smuggling them around, Sir Kehydius met the lovely Isoud for the first time, and fell for her immediately. But don’t worry, Malory tells us: eventually he would die pining for her.
Kehydius wrote a series of letters to the lovely Isoud, declaring his love, explaining that he knew that she was married to Mark and was the illicit lover of Tristram when she wasn’t getting “abducted” by Sir Palomides, but if there was space on her dance card for a fourth-in-line knight, he’d have been much obliged.
She wrote back to him with a series of noncommittal but sympathetic-sounding notes. “You poor dear,” that sort of thing. Somehow Tristram got ahold of one of these notes, leaped to all the wrong conclusions, and went off on a tear at the lovely Isoud, confronting her and Kehydius both.
“Alas Madam the good love that I have loved you, and many lands and riches have I forsaken for your love, and now ye are a traitress to me, the which doth me great pain.”
“Forsaken lands… do you mean we’re not going back home to Brittany?” asked Kehydius
Tristram had some choice words for Kehydius, all about the various good things Tristram did for Kehydius’s family (slaying Grip, saving Kehydius from the shipwreck, accepting rulership of Brittany, marrying ol’ what’s-her-name and only going to second base). At the climax of his rant, he pulled out his sword and waved it around, to emphasize his points. Naturally the lovely Isoud fainted. While the lovely Isoud’s fainting spell distracted Tristram, Kehydius dove out a nearby window!
He fell one story and lands on top of King Mark. Mark had been hanging out in the garden playing chess with himself. He wondered why Kehydius fell from a second-story window onto him like that. Kehydius explained he had been leaning out the window admiring the view, and then fell asleep.
Mark accepted this without comment.
Times passed. Sir Tristram and the lovely Isoud continued their affair for an indeterminate amount of time, until one day Tristram grew tired of having to sneak around Tintagil behind Mark’s back. This double life was tearing him apart! He decided to confront his uncle in the showiest way possible. To that end, Tristram mounted up with his best arms and armor, extravagant new pieces he had obtained in Brittany. He rode forth from Tintagil His plan was to circle back with a grand entrance, all splendid and awesome, but before he did, he bumped into another knight headed towards the castle.
“Yo, stranger,” said this knight. He was Sir Gingalin, adult son of Sir Gawaine and thus adult grandson of Queen Margawse (cf Lamorak’s skippable adventure). He and Mark had met during an nonspecific earlier strange adventure, and so he had come to visit.
“Yo yourself,” retorted Tristram.
“Those are fighting words! Let’s joust!” Gingalin cried. Young and eager, he would joust at the drop of a hat. The kid ran at Tristram, broke a spear. Tristram knocked him upside the head with a sword, boom, and that was that.
King Mark happened to see this: he returned from a hunting trip just as a strange knight (dressed as though from Brittany) knock down his chum on his doorstep. Mark rushed to Gingalin’s side and pulled his helmet off. “Sir Gingalin! I know you! It’s me, Mark! It’s going to be okay!”
This would have been a fine time for Sir Tristram to confront Mark, but instead he panicked and fled. Mark hadn’t seen his face and Gingalin didn’t know him from Adam, but Tristram couldn’t bring himself to act rationally. He vanished into the forest, where he bumped into another one of his henchmen, Sir Fergus.
Fergus was Tristram’s third henchman so far, after Sir Lambegus and Sir Sentraille. Fourth, if you count his manservant Gouvernail, who continued to follow his boss around and help him into his armor and so on. Maybe it’s me, but I think Malory could have folded these dudes into a single henchman. But regardless, Sir Fergus’d had no idea Tristram was back in Cornwall!
“Great to see you, boss! But last I heard you were the king of Brittany! What’s new?”
This triggered a massively disproportionate response in Tristram. Something in his mind snapped! Rather than speak, he broke down sobbing, right there on the forest path. He just loved the lovely Isoud so much! And she was so married to Mark! Sir Tristram collapsed into a puddle and Fergus couldn’t rouse him! He just lay there crying, for days.
Much of a week later, Fergus had Tristram back on his feet with silky promises. Fergus would go to Tintagil and check in on the lovely Isoud, he said. He’d bear back missives of her love.
On the way there, he bumped into Palomides’s latest lady-friend, Maureen.
“Sir Fergus! You work for Sir Tristram, and therefore you’re just the man I want to see. I’m looking for Sir Tristram,” said Maureen. “Do you know where he’s been these last few days?”
“Yeah, well, keep it under your hat but he’s having a major depressive episode right now.”
“Dang,” said Maureen. “Where is he?”
“In such a place,” said Fergus. By which Malory means Fergus told Maureen where he’d left Tristram, but it’s not important enough for Malory to deign to share that information with us.
Fergus and Maureen split up. Fergus went to Tintagil, where in the absence of Tristram the lovely Isoud had taken to her bed and spent all her time wailing. Maureen went to wherever Tristram was, where he was doing basically the same thing. She tried to cheer Tristram up by seducing him, but nothing doing. With all Maureen’s wiles, the best she could do was get him back on his horse, riding with her to Sir Adtherp’s castle. Remember Sir Adtherp? He’d saved Isoud’s life in Book VIII, but then he’d died of his wounds after Tristram abandoned him? He’d had a castle? Yeah. Tristram arrived at that castle, where he met Adtherp’s widow, Angelica Adtherp.
“Tristram, is that you?” asked Angelica, but Tristram could only sob.
“It is him, yes,” said Maureen.
“Poor you.” Angelica clucked her tongue. “Pining over the Queen, still, huh? Let’s get you a nice hot bath.”
Malory explains that Tristram taught Angelica to play the harp (Tristram is the best harpist ever, as was established in Book VIII) and so she was well-disposed towards him, even if he was responsible (at least in part) for her husband’s death. Angelica and Maureen stripped Tristram. They bathed him, they plied him with sweetmeats and wine and harping and invitations to venery, but Tristram just lay there. Late that night he sneaked away, leaving his armor and stuff at Castle Adtherp, taking along only his harp.
And for most of a year he lived as a naked harp-playing crazy hermit in the woods. His only companions were shepherds, who sometimes offered him food and drink, and sometimes beat him with sticks for fun, because they thought he was a lowly mad hermit (below even a shepherd in the class system). Which he basically was.
While Tristram did the mad hermit thing for most of a year, some events transpired!
1) Sir Dagonet, King Arthur’s jester, visited Tintagil with some friends. While they were out in the woods one day, watering their horses at a well, Sir Tristram ran up behind them and threw Dagonet down the well! Dagonet survived the experience, and later went hunting for the crazy shepherd that attacked him. He eventually found Tristram, who beat him up with a tree branch and ran away. Dagonet complained to King Mark. Mark didn’t know Tristram had returned to Cornwall, so he theorized that Dagonet must have had a run-in with Sir Matto, this other knight who’d had a spell of madness and lived as a crazy hermit in the woods.
2) Sir Palomides and Sir Kehydius made friends. They bonded over their shared unrequited love for Isoud, and their inability to rouse Isoud from her own depressive episode. They decided to go find Tristram; Kehydius knew from Fergus or Maureen or someone that he was somewhere in Cornwall living the mad-shepherd lifestyle.
3) Palomides and Kehydius hunted around for Tristram in the forest, but instead they found Mark, out hunting by himself. Sir Palomides took the opportunity to chew Mark out for driving Tristram mad, which entailed clueing Mark in on Tristram having been a mad hermit somewhere in the forest. Mark declared that a damn shame, as Tristram was such an excellent knight. Palomides challenged Mark to a joust. Mark declined, on the grounds that he’d left his jousting gear — spear, sword, armor — all at home. Kehydius offered to loan Mark his gear. Mark panicked and fled. Palomides and Kehydius then gave up their search.
Fun fact: Kehydius then wandered off and Malory never mentions him again. Just like his sister before him! Tristram’s wife, remember?
4) Old King Meliodas of Liones, Tristram’s father, died. Tristram’s cousin Sir Andred, whom you may remember from Book VIII, desired his crown. Andred talked his girlfriend into claiming that she had just had an affair with Tristram and that he’d killed himself at the end of it and she buried him and everything; Tristram was totally dead. Andred petitioned Mark to grant him the estate of Liones, as the next of kin.
5) The lovely Isoud heard this scurrilous rumor about Tristram having died in the arms of another woman. She decided to kill herself (this would be her second suicide attempt, so far). She stole a sword from somewhere, carried it out to the garden, and stabbed a plum tree, shoving the sword blade all the way through the tree trunk and out the other side. Then she went around to the other side of the tree and prepared to run into the sword point, impaling herself. It was a pretty elaborate suicide plan! However King Mark discovered her just before she did the running. He stopped her and locked her up under a suicide watch.
6) Tristram’s clothes wore out and he was stuck wandering around naked. As you can imagine, he lost a lot of weight and grew a lot of hair.
Contemporaneous with the tail end of Tristram’s bout of madness, a giant named Tauleas (or Sir Tauleas) emerged from hiding. For seven years or more, Tauleas had lived in fear of Tristram, specifically of Tristram one day declaring himself a giant-slayer. But with Tristram supposedly dead, Tauleas figured he was free to rampage about the countryside. During said rampage, Tauleas encountered a Cornish knight name of Sir Dinant, who inevitably became locked in mortal combat with him. They sparred and wrestled, knight and giant, for some time, rolling around, stabbing, slicing, all that fun stuff. Tristram and some shepherds watched this happen.
“He’s going to get himself killed!” cried Tristram. “We’ve got to help him!”
“Mmm, yeah, no,” said the shepherds. “We’re noncombatants.”
“Fine,” grumbled Tristram. “I’ll do it myself.” And he ran over to the melee, scooped up Sir Dinant’s sword from where it fell, and sliced off Tauleas’s head with it. “See?” he said to the shepherds. “That wasn’t so hard!”
Sir Dinant didn’t stick around to gab; he grabbed Tauleas’s severed head and carried it to Tintagil for the reward. Afterwards he filled Mark in on the combat with the giant, how it went, how brave Dinant had been, how a naked hermit had helped him at a crucial moment, how Dinant had been totally the main guy on the kill though…
“Naked hermit?” asked Mark. “Really?”
“Yeah, absolutely,” said Dinant.
“I’d like to see this naked hermit,” announced Mark. “Tomorrow we’ll go on a naked hermit hunt!”
The rest of Mark’s court displayed less excitement than he did about hunting for a naked hermit, but they went along with it, since he was the king. Everyone went out to where Tristram and the shepherds had camped, and sure enough, there he was, still cradling Dinant’s sword and muttering to himself.
“Wow, how naked and thin and weatherbeaten that fellow looks,” marveled Mark. “I daresay he could be a long-lost relation of some kind, and I wouldn’t know him, the shape he’s in. Fellows, be good knights, and take that naked man with fairness and bring him to my castle.”
The knights rolled their eyes, but they did it. The dudes surrounded Tristram, and threw blankets on him. Then they waved hot food under his nose, and led him back to Tintagil, where they fed, washed, and shaved him. None of them recognized him as Tristram, though, thanks to the trauma of his wilderness year.
The lovely Isoud heard about Mark’s new naked man. “The first thing since my beloved’s death to pique my interest!” She called in her henchwoman Bragwaine, and together they sneaked off to Tristram, where he lounged semiconscious in the garden.
“He’s had a big day,” explained a guard.
The lovely Isoud peered at Tristram. “You know, there’s something familiar about him, but I can’t place it.”
Tristram heard the lovely Isoud, and awoke. He turned and saw her: she didn’t recognize him, but he recognized her. Tristram felt enormous shame: he was all naked and filthy and half-starved. He turned away from her to sulk.
You’ve probably forgotten this, but back early in Book VIII Tristram received a delivery of a puppy bouquet from a French princess. I’m going somewhere with this. Famous Hebes made the delivery; this happened. Additionally, and here is where it ties in to this scene: while Malory never got around to mentioning it, Tristram had kept one of those puppies and had given it to Isoud when she’d arrived in Cornwall. That little brachet had grown up into the original purse dog; Isoud carried it with her everywhere she went. But just then, seeing Tristram, the brachet leaped from Isoud’s arms and ran over to Tristram and started barking and licking him and jumping up. Because the brachet recognized him.
Bragwaine gasped. Then, because the lovely Isoud still hadn’t figured it out, she added “It’s Sir Tristram!”
The lovely Isoud fainted, as was her duty in this kind of situation. Eventually she came to, lying on a couch with Tristram and Bragwaine and the little purse-dog all looking down at her.
“Oh, Tristram, darling, you know you can’t stay here,” the lovely Isoud said as soon as she regained consciousness. “Mark will exile you or kill you or I don’t know. Go, beloved, go to Camelot where all your friends dwell. When the coast is clear I’ll send for you, whenever that is. Mark can’t reign forever. I may be an old woman by then, of course, but them’s the breaks.”
“Seriously? You want me to leave again? I just got back,” whined Tristram.
Can’t you see how much these two were mad for one another? The affection just drips from the page!
Isoud left, but her dog stayed with Tristram, and barked at anyone who came near. This included King Mark and Sir Andred, who came to visit “Naked Hermit Hero Man” not long after Isoud departed.
“Look, sire, the queen’s brachet bays for him! You think he might be Tristram?” Andred asked.
“Nah,” said Mark. “That’s a pretty crazy thought. Tristram’s dead, right?” He turned to Tristram. “Good fellow, we haven’t been formally introduced. Might I know your name?”
“Indeed,” said Tristram. “I am Sir Tristram of Liones! Andred was right! How do you like me now! Har har har!” He cackled maniacally.
“Holy —-!” swore Mark. “Why did I invite you into Tintagil, jeez, I shoulda just left you in the woods oh man oh man!” Mark cringed and fidgeted in the least kingly way possible.
Mark called in all his barons, and held a roundtable discussion on the matter of Tristram. Mark wanted to put him to death, but he was in the minority. Mostly the barons — including Sir Fergus, Sir Dinas, et cetera — liked having Tristram out there as a shining beacon of Cornish might. A compromise was reached: banishment. Tristram met up with Sir Dinadan (not to be confused with Sir Dinas or Sir Dinant), a knight from Camelot, who agreed to escort him to Arthur’s court.
On his way out of Cornwall, Tristram gave a little speech, the salient points of which follow.
1) You people are idiots.
2) I killed Sir Marhaus for y’all.
3) Also I freed us from paying taxes to Ireland.
4) King Mark is a jackass. You all know it!
5) I brought the lovely Isoud, whom practically everyone agrees is the hottest lady in Christendom, to our shores.
6) That included saving her from the dungeons of Castle Weeping.
7) You haven’t seen the last of me, jerks.
8) Remember when, for the sake of goodwill between Cornwall and Ireland, I fought Sir Bleoberis (Launcelot’s cousin) on King Anguish’s behalf?
9) I also pounded on Sir Lamorak a bunch.
10) And I beat Mister 100 — the Great Welsh Hope — during that whole Servage fiasco.
11) Also the King of Northgalis, in an adventure Malory didn’t bother to tell anyone about.
12) Just now I killed Tauleas!
13) I will be back and it will suck for my enemies and the Knights of the Round Table could have beaten you guys up at any point; they only didn’t yet as a favor to me. You guys suck! This is unfair! Total BS!
14) Oh, also I saved the queen from Sir Palomides. I almost forgot that one.
Then Tristram boarded the boat and sailed off in a huff. And in the boat.