Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book V Chapter VI, continued
So to recap the first part of this chapter: Gawaine and Bors went to Lucius on a mission of peace, and it didn’t go well, and then Gawaine broke truce and killed Lucius’s cousin. Coming back from the commercial break, Gawaine and Bors are sprinting through the Roman camp and across the countryside, back towards Lionel and Bedivere, who have their horses and soldiers. They’ve got the entire Roman Empire, basically, chasing them.
Bors and Gawaine get to their little camp just as the Romans catch up to them, and there’s a big ol’ fight. The highlight reel of this battle shows a Roman, Caliburn of Pavie, killing a bunch of Arthur’s soldiers before getting slain by Bors. Also Sir Feldenak, another Roman, tries to kill Gawaine in vengeance for Gawaine’s assault on Sir Gainus yesterday, but Gawaine sees him coming and pulls his patented single-massive-blow-to-the-skull finishing move, taking Feldenak out, which causes the Romans to retreat.
Unfortunately after the Romans pull back, they regroup toot sweet, and then they hit Gawaine’s camp hard, taking a bunch of the surviving soldiers prisoner and scattering the knights. Gawaine panics, because he’s sure King Arthur will blame him for this, and probably kick him off the Round Table and how can he possibly go home to the Orkneys with that kind of shame? His solution is to pull out his sword, Galatine…
…interlude, Galatine is another sword from the same set that the Lady of the Lake had, from which Arthur took Excalibur. How Gawaine ended up with it Malory doesn’t explain…
Gawaine pulls out Galatine, and grabs a couple of soldiers and leads a daring commando raid motivated by fearful panic, in the middle of the battle, which muddies things up and everyone’s fighting everyone and Gawaine ends up down to like five hit points. He sends a courier to Arthur, telling him that the Romans have attacked them and unless Arthur sends reinforcements ASAP they’ll all be taken prisoner and in no way is it Gawaine’s fault.
Arthur wastes no time in mobilizing a strike force, and swings down into the skirmish at the last minute, driving most of the Romans back to their camp and capturing a big ol’ pile of prisoners. Nobody important on Arthur’s side is killed — no named characters except for Gawaine were injured, even, though they lost some number of soldiers. Roman causalities of course were in the thousands or tens of thousands. It’s as though the author of the story were subtly pulling for one side over the other.
After he’s spent an appropriate amount of time visiting the injured soldiers, by which I mean Gawaine, Arthur authorizes an extra liquor ration and dispatches Sir Cador and his new knight, young Sir Launcelot, to escort their various prisoners to the city of Paris for safekeeping.
Discussion Question: Is Sir Feldenak a good knight name or a bad knight name? I can’t even tell any more.
Bonus Extra-Credit Project: Do Malory one better, and come up with your own explanation for how Sir Gawaine ended up with a magic sword from the same set as Excalibur. (Idea: at some point in the story Gawaine throws a tantrum.)
Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book V Chapter VI, continued — No Comments
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