You may have noticed that the narrative of the Tale of Sir Tristam lurches around a bit, compared to (for instance) the Tale of Sir Prettyboy in Book VII.  Well, here come some more hairpin narrative turns.


Mark, Palamides, and the lovely Isoud sit down in Mark’s throne room. The lovely Isoud (at Palamides’ prompting) explains about the boon and Bragwaine’s abduction and so on.  Mark isn’t happy about her having promised a boon, but he’s willing to listen.  Palamides asks to borrow the lovely Isoud for a while, decade or two, just until she isn’t so lovely any more.  Mark thinks about this, realizes that Tristram will rescue her, and agrees.  Palamides consults whether the lovely Isoud is okay with running off with him, and she shrugs.  She doesn’t love Palamides, but then, she doesn’t love Mark, either, and she’s reasonably certain Palamides won’t physically hurt her.  The lovely Isoud may as well run away with him.  It’s all the same to her.


Discussion Question: Is the lovely Isoud victim of depressive personality disorder?  Just think how differently this story might go if she had access to Wellbutrin!


That’s all the encouragement Palamides needs!  He rides off with the lovely Isoud.  Mark looks around for Tristram, but apparently he’s out practicing his venery.  Instead Mark turns up Sir Lambegus, one of Tristram’s sidekick knights whom Malory just hasn’t bothered to mention up to now.  (Sir Lambegus has been there this whole time!)  Sir Lambegus offers to rescue the lovely Isoud or else die in the attempt, and Mark accepts that offer.

Labegus catches up with Palamides.  Palamides is severely disappointed Tristram sent an underling.  “I had leifer thou hadst been Sir Tristram.”

“I believe you well, but when thou meetest with Sir Tristram thou shalt have thy hands full.”


Discussion Question: Did you know how old that idiom is?  It turns out it’s very old.


Palamides and Lambegus fight, and Palamides wounds Lambegus.  He’s ready to move on, but during the joust the lovely Isoud ran off into the woods to drown herself.  Malory doesn’t explain why the lovely Isoud would seek suicide at this point; maybe he just assumes all women are one personal revelation away from suicidal depression on account of they’ll never be men.  Malory’s a dick.  And again, this suggests Isoud has a depression-related disorder.  But I digress!  This passing knight, Sir Adtherp, sees the lovely Isoud thrashing around in a pond.  Adtherp dives in and rescues her!  He carries her off to his own castle, where he asks her what on earth is going on.

The lovely Isoud isn’t fully recovered from her drowning, but she gets out something about being taken prisoner by Sir Palamides.

“That ass!”  Sir Adtherp rides off to avenge her, which doesn’t go well for him.


Sometime later Sir Palamides rides up to Adtherp’s castle.  The lovely Isoud has the drawbridge pulled up and the gate closed.  Palamides shouts for her to come out and resume her new career as his property; she declines.  He makes camp right there on the road next to Adtherp’s castle.


It’s an eventful chapter!  And Tristram himself isn’t even in it!


Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur Book VIII Chapter 30 — 4 Comments

  1. I’d guess Isoud is suffering from “Thwarted Romance Disorder” which is pretty much indistinguishable from depression, although the treatment is Sir Tristram,

    And yeah, “have thy hands full” does sort of jump out. I had no idea it was that old.

    On the subject of idioms with surprising origins, my understanding is that “self-destruct” comes from the episode of Star Trek where Opie’s brother drinks tranya. In real life, ships are “scuttled” and rockets are destroyed by “range safety.” I’d love to see an earlier reference to it.

  2. I would be suicidal too if I were just property to be married off to guys I don’t care about. Also, what happened to Tristram’s decision to stay with Isoud and not bring her to Mark? I’m pretty sure that was a thing, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t a thing.

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