Young Tristram leaves Liones and Cornwall at this point, and goes to France, with his tutor Gouvernail. In France he learns how to speak French and how to play the harp. Tristram is the best harpist of his generation, you guys. I guess Sir Launcelot doesn’t play the harp? Otherwise Tristram would be stuck at second-best.
After seven years in France, Tristram goes back to Cornwall, where he learns how to be a knight. His curriculum has a lot of variety to it, but what he’s best at is venery. Venery comprises basically three arts: hunting wild animals with trained dogs, hunting wild animals with trained hawks, and having sex (not with wild animals). Tristram is the best at all of these arts, and in fact they’re known as the arts of Sir Tristram, an expression Malory is surprised you haven’t already heard. Really, Tristram should be held in the highest esteem by the nobility, since hunting and hawking are the sports of the aristocracy. That’s how you can tell if someone is a gentleman, says Malory: whether they’re any good at venery.
But Malory has kind of lost the thread of his narrative here. Tristram grew up, went back to Cornwall, and became a knight, not necessarily in that order. The king his father welcomed him back, and the queen his stepmother likewise, because she was so grateful for the whole not-lighting-her-on-fire thing and she loved him ever after.
Meanwhile, King Mark of Cornwall has decided to stop paying taxes to King Anguish of Ireland… who in Book V, Chapter II was the king of Scotland, not Ireland. Jeez, Malory. Seven years after Mark stops paying taxes, and it’s not explained why Mark had been paying taxes to Anguish, when both of them are vassals of King Arthur. Also, I feel I should point out, there was a King Anwiese of Ireland who was part of Team Lot & Mister 100 way back in Book I, and those two names sound very similar.
Maybe your comeback is, now, Jeff, are we sure that Anguish and Mark are both vassals of Arthur? Answer: yes. Check this science out. Anguish decides, seven years after Mark stops making his payments, to send Sir Marhaus to Cornwall to collect. Marhaus (last seen in Book VI when Launcelot rescued him and a bunch of other knights from Sir Turquine) is a Knight of the Round Table, and therefore a badass, and also Anguish is married to his sister. So Anguish is a loyal vassal of Arthur’s Round Table apparently; he’s entitled to call him in, brother-in-law to brother-in-law, and asks him to head out to Cornwall and get those taxes.
Marhaus heads on out, takes a boat from Ireland to Cornwall and gets his siege on, at good ol’ Castle Tintagil, which apparently Mark was using at the time. I don’t know why Castle Tintagil keeps coming up in these stories; it’s like Malory had the one set and wanted to keep reusing it.
Mark calls together a big counsel to figure out how to deal with Sir Marhaus’s expeditionary force, and he pulls out his Royal Whiteboard and they brainstorm and they brainstorm, but the only idea anyone can come up with is “go to Camelot and ask our liege King Arthur for the loan of his best knight.” Set a Knight of the Round Table to catch a Knight of the Round Table, you know?
But nobody actually thinks this plan will work, because everyone knows that Knights of the Round Table are sworn never to fight one another (this didn’t come up in Book III when Guenever drafted the knightly oaths, but whatever). And none of the Cornish knights, the Fighting Gamecocks, are up to the challenge of facing Sir Marhaus.
Tristram thinks they’re a bunch of cowards, maybe because he read the end of Book IV when Malory told us that Sir Marhaus died fighting Sir Tristram. Will young Tristram fight Marhaus and win, or will Malory just toss another continuity error onto the pile?