Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book VII Chapters XXXI to XXXV
Most of this section feels like padding, which, coming as it does on the tail of three chapters of wall-to-wall jousting action, is saying something.
Gareth wanders around overnight and comes to a castle. He knocks on the door, identifies himself as a knight of Arthur’s court, and gets put up for the night, although the lady of the manor, Duchess Auburn, warns him that her husband Duke Auburn is an anti-Arthur partisan. Gareth is all, hey, I don’t want to talk politics, 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 doesn’t even meet the Duke, who apparently sleeps through his entire visit.
Next morning — nothing interesting happens at this castle — Gareth rides on and bumps into a random bandit-knight, Sir Bendelaine, who tries to take Gareth prisoner to hold for ransom, but Gareth beats him off. Bendelaine retreats to his castle, and Gareth chases him, and then all twenty of Bendelaine’s merry men sally forth to give Gareth a hard time, but no luck, he can take on twenty merry men without losing. They kill his horse, but he ends up taking one of theirs, so it’s a wash.
Castle number three on Gareth’s castle tour is laboring under some problems; the Brown Knight keeps showing up and ruining everything. He’s already killed nearly every knight in the castle when Gareth shows up. Gareth gives the Brown Knight what for, kills him, which is great, but of course all the dead knights are already dead, so it’s a mixed victory and the celebration afterwards is tinged with sadness. Gareth tells all the widows to go to Camelot and Arthur will take care of them.
And then, hey-o, it’s Duke Auburn! Weren’t expecting that, were you? Duke Auburn appears and he’s all, hey, you spent the night at my castle a few paragraphs back and you said you’d defend yourself if I picked a fight well fill your hand! Gareth is all, I know I should be concerned but this is just another guy with a color for a name, and sure enough he beats Duke Auburn handily and accepts his fealty and sends him to Arthur’s court.
No sooner has Duke Auburn left, then up rides a mystery knight who attacks! Gareth defends himself, and he and the mystery knight fight for a couple of hours, until Dame Linet finally catches up to Gareth — she’s been riding after him this whole time — and tells them to knock it off, because the mystery knight is Gawaine.
Gawaine pulls off his helmet, and it’s him, and he and Gareth laugh and embrace and have a good chat, catching up, and then they realized they were both losing quite a bit of blood, but fortunately Linet is right there with the magic ointment, and boom, it’s all better. Gawaine sends Linet back to Castle Perilous to fetch Arthur and his court, and he and Gareth sit and wait for them. Don’t ask me why Gareth is no longer motivated to avoid his mother.
Everybody arrives, there’s a heartwarming reunion ruined when Queen Margawse, Gareth’s mother, is overcome by emotion and faints, and then Gareth asks for permission to marry Lionesse.
Boom, there’s gonna be wedding, “at Michaelmas following, at Kink Kendaon by the seaside.” Also, Sir Gareth starts to avoid Sir Gawaine and to stick close to Sir Launcelot, because apparently Sir Gawaine decided he hated Gareth and vowed to murder him sometime in the last paragraph. It does not make sense to me, either.
The wedding takes place when and where Arthur decreed, at Michaelmas. In a minor twist, Arthur decides to go ahead and marry off Gawaine’s other brothers, Agravaine and Gaheris, also. Gaheris he marries to Dame Linet, of all people, and Agravaine gets Dame Laurel, a woman picked seemingly out of a hat. Nobody gets any say in who marries who, it’s all Arthur being kingly and making the decisions for them.
After the triple wedding, there is — guess what? A jousting tournament! All of the variously colored knights, Red and Green and Indigo and other Red and also Duke Auburn, show up for it. The ladies widowed by the Brown Knight tell everyone about how Gareth avenged their husbands, and everyone applauds. Then Lionesse whispers to Arthur, and he announces that none of the day’s bridgegrooms will paricipate in the joust. They need to save their strength for the wedding night.
So, then there’s a big joust, and Launcelot wins. The end! No moral.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “Launcelot wins” is the moral.