We find Sir Tristram riding around the forests of North Wales. In theory he went to find help for his wife, Isoud the White, his manservant Gouvernail, and the lovely Isoud’s henchman Bragwaine; they had all been in a shipwreck together. But after ditching Sir Kehydius, his brother-in-law, at a hermitage, Tristram gave up on that in favor of aimless wandering. Although in theory it was a very remote bit of woodland that Tristram was in, he nevertheless kept bumping into knights! The latest in the line was Sir Kay, Arthur’s brother.

Tristram and Kay immediately got into an argument, the salient points of which run like so:

1) Cornwall was a country that had produced zero good knights.

2) Sir Kay was a braggart and didn’t deserve the honors he claims.

3) Tristram didn’t know what he’s talking about.

4) Kay only got to be in the Round Table because he was Arthur’s adoptive brother.

5) Shut up or I’ll give you something to shut up about.

6) Screw you.

The two of them rode along together, arguing. They reached a bridge guarded by, and you are not expecting this, Sir Tor! Good ol’ Sir Tor, Trixie’s son, whose tale had been told at some length back in Book III. Tor declared, just for fun, that neither Tristram nor Kay could cross the bridge unless one of them jousted him. So Kay jousted him real quick and loses. There was no malice there; the three of them shared a laugh about it. Tor invited Tristram to dinner with him and Kay and Sir Brandiles, Kay’s assistant caterer.

At dinner, Kay resumed his Cornwall smack-talking, and Tor and Brandiles played along. Tristram just sulked through dinner, hearing all that they say and he said but little, but he thought the more.

In the morning Tristram rose early. He wanted to ride off without bidding a proper farewell to Kay, Tor, or Brandiles. But they caught him on his way out of the camp, and just wouldn’t let him go! Brandiles offered to joust Tristram, just to the dehorsing, which Tristram reluctantly accepted. They jousted until Brandiles was dehorsed. Then Tor jousted Tristram; Tristram dehorsed him, too. Sir Kay wanted to joust Tristram, but Tristram remained sore at him and refused to joust the man. Tristram rode off.

“You know, I never caught your friend’s name,” said Sir Brandiles.

“Tell you what, let’s mess with him. We’ll ride him down and get him to tell us his name,” said Kay.

“Don’t you know his name already? I got that sense, that you knew him from before.” Brandiles was unsure it was such a great plan to go chase Tristram down like this. “Couldn’t you just tell me?”

“Hush,” said Kay. “Let’s ride!”

Kay and Brandiles rode after Sir Tristram and caught up to him. Tristram assumed they wanted to joust some more, but no, Sir Brandiles just wanted to ask his name. Tristram supplied his name. Brandiles wondered aloud if Tristram would like sponsorship into the Knights of the Round Table. Tristram declined, as he didn’t feel worthy. Kay assured him he was plenty worthy. Everyone marveled about how great Launcelot was, for no reason. Then they went their separate ways. The end!

What the hell was the point of this story? I’ve read all of Le Morte D’Arthur, and I gotta say, this story is the single least memorable. But that’s just my opinion. Which chapter do you think is most skippable?


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