Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur Book VIII Chapter 25
Tristram and the lovely Isoud get taken prisoner at Castle Weeping. They haven’t been imprisoned long at all before a knight and a lady come to visit them.
“Hey, buddy, we heard you got imprisoned,” say the knight and the lady. “Bummer, dude, super bummer.”
“What’s happening, now?” asks Tristram.
“At Castle Weeping if a knight and a lady come in on a boat they get taken prisoner and the knight has to fight Sir Breunor, and then he and the lady are slain. Heads go flying. Bummer, I know dude.”
“That doesn’t seem like a good tradition to honor,” says Tristram.
“It gets worse,” the knight. “The lady only gets her head chopped off if she’s less pretty than Breunor’s current concubine. If she’s lovelier, she replaces the old concubine.”
“That’s really skeevy,” says Tristram.
“Am I prettier than Breuor’s current concubine?“ asks the lovely Isoud. “Just for reference.”
“Of course you are,” says Tristram. “You’re the loveliest!”
“He’s right about that,” says the knight. “Compared to you, Bruenor’s concubine is just so much dirty laundry.”
“Well, regardless, I’d better get this joust over with,” says Tristram. “Can you tell Breunor we can fight, oh, tomorrow morning?”
“Usually there’s a settling-in period of a few days…”
“Okay, sure. We’ll leave you two alone here in the dungeon, then. Be back first thing in the morning, to escort you to the joust. Be ready! Don’t forget anything, because we won’t be able to come back and get it.”
CUT TO the next morning. Tristram and the lovely Isoud hang in one corner of Castle Weeping’s tournament field. Tristram’s got some armor and a horse he’s had to borrow from the residents of Castle Weeping, not his usual stuff. All the folks in Castle Weeping fill the stands to capacity, ready to cheer and egg on the bloodsports. And in the other corner, Sir Breunor and his concubine!
Bruenor is a big oaf of a guy and he’s got his concubine with him all wrapped up in veils and scarves. “All right,” he says, coming over to Tristram’s corner. “You understand the stakes?”
“I kill you and we get to leave,” Tristram says. “Pretty simple.”
“Whoa there cowboy, you’re getting ahead of yourself. First we determine whose lady is prettier.”
“Does that really matter?”
“Yes!” Bruenor snaps. “Get your woman to show off the goods, already. If she’s not as pretty as mine, she dies, and the winner gets my woman. Otherwise, vice-versa but with your woman.”
“This is stupid,” grumbles Tristram. “But fine.”
The lovely Isoud reluctantly steps forward and strikes a few poses. Apparently they aren’t provocative enough for Tristram, who, Malory says, pokes her thrice about with his naked sword in hand, so she vogues a bit and makes a mou and so on.
The crowd coos over the lovely Isoud, and start talking about how Breunor’s current concubine is just so much dirty laundry by comparison.
Breunor, for his part, pulls out his own sword and directs his concubine to pose a bit, which she does. Everyone agrees that the lovely Isoud is the winner of this particular beauty pageant.
“Well, shoot,” says Breunor. “By the customs of Castle Weeping, I’m supposed to behead my concubine, so we can fight over yours. I like my concubine, though. I’d rather not do that.” This isn’t going to end well for Breunor’s concubine, I think we can all see. I’ve resisted giving her any lines or a name for the same reason you don’t name the pig you’re going to slaughter for bacon. Okay, that is not a very flattering comparison, but Malory started it.
“Oh, oh, I see,” says Tristram. “You’d rather not kill your concubine just because the lovely Isoud is hotter? Now the shoe’s on the other side of the fence. How you like them apples?”
The crowd grumbles — they came to the joust expecting to see a woman get beheaded, after all.
“It’s just the way things are done here,” Breunor says. “Nothing personal. No reason to get snippy. Your wench is hotter than mine, is all. Now I’m supposed to behead my wench, and then we can joust, and…”
Tristram gets sick of Breunor’s hemming and hawing pretty quicklike. “Let me demonstrate just how ridiculous I think this whole situation is,” he says. Then he pulls out his sword and slices Breunor’s concubine’s head clean off.
Everyone is pretty shocked. The lovely Isoud shrieks.
“That… seemed like a better idea before I did it,” says Tristram.
“You… you… I can’t believe you… How dare you kill my wench!” roars Breunor. “You want to joust? I’ll give you a joust! Take thine horse!”
Ummm . . . wow. Are we going to file this away with Arthur and the dead babies?
I’ve been reading the Bible and there’s been the odd “and then Moses did what? ” moments there as well.