Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur Book VIII Chapter 31
Eventually Tristram finds out that the lovely Isoud was abducted, more or less, by Sir Palamides. Sort of she was abducted, sort of Mark gave her away… Malory phrases it as she “was gone with” him, which is a decent way of putting it for once. Anyway, Tristram gets pretty angry about the whole thing, not least at himself. If he hadn’t been out practicing his venery, he’d have been around to save her.
He mounts up and goes off to rescue Sir Lambegus, whom he just knows isn’t nearly knightly enough to give Palamides proper what-for. He and his henchman/French tutor ride down the road and find Lambegus, lying slowly dying. Tristram carts him off to a handy hermit’s hut and leaves him there to recuperate. Then he rides out again, finds Adtherp lying slowly dying in the road as well.
Adtherp recognizes Tristram, even if Tristram doesn’t know him, and explains that he saved the lovely Isoud from drowning herself and tried to stop Sir Palamides, but it didn’t go so hot.
“Right, Isoud! My Isoud! Where is she?”
Adtherp coughs helplessly, then murmurs that he left her in his castle. Also, he’s severely injured and while he’s too knightly to mention it, he’d really appreciate a ride over to a hermit’s hut or a convent or someplace.
But Tristram has already ridden off, abandoning Adtherp to die alone of his injuries. Once again, Tristram is massive jerk for no reason whatsoever! I wish I could say Adtherp will be fine, but a quick text search reveals Malory never mentions Sir Adtherp again. Tristram’s just in such a hurry, I guess, that he rides straight over to Adtherp’s castle, where he sees Palamides, camping. Palamides snores loudly as he lies sprawled out across the road.
“Gouvernail, my man! Go wake Palamides up so we can joust!” Tristram cries.
Gouvernal tries to wake Palamides up twice — first by gently whispering to him, and then (at Tristram’s urging) by poking him with a stick and shouting. Again, jerk move, Tristram, getting your French tutor to poke Palamides with a stick.
Palamides does eventually wake up! I guess this was a dramatic beat? If Palamides had just lay there sawing logs, Tristram couldn’t have jousted him, and of course simply slitting the man’s throat like a peasant would be out of the question.
Anyway, Palamides mounts his horse, dons his armor, not necessarily in that order. He and Tristram joust, first on horseback and then on foot, for hours. Eventually the lovely Isoud, who’s been watching from the top of the castle walls, calls out.
“Alas!” she cries, “A deathly fight between the knight I love and also another knight whom I don’t love but with whom I have no particular quarrel, inasmuch as he stole me away from a husband for whom I feel nothing! You’re both so badly wounded, and surely Palamides will lose and die. My darling Tristram defeated you once already, you remember. And if you die now, you will die a Saracen.” Malory doesn’t know much about Islam, but he’s pretty sure that they don’t receive the sacrament of baptism, and therefore are doomed to hell for eternity. That’s just implicit. The lovely Isoud would prefer Palamides not end up in hell. She’s a softie that way.
“So… what, exactly?” asks Tristram. “You’re not asking us to quit jousting, are you? I mean, I love you and all, so I’d quit if you told me to, but…” He gestures vaguely. “Killing people for no good reason is increasingly my thing,” you know?
“Can you defeat him without killing him? That’s all I’m asking, really,” is the lovely Isoud’s response.
“Not really… I mean, are you willing to call it here? Draw?” Tristram turns to Palamides.
“I’d really rather not,” says Palamides.
“You see? My hands are tied. I’ve got to kill him.”
“Please?” The lovely Isoud clutches her chest and squeaks at Palamides.
“Okay, okay.” Palamides can’t resist a woman squeaking. “Fine. It’s a draw. Is there anything else you need from me, milady?”
“Oh, you know what? Yes, actually!” Isoud was thinking about this the other day. “If you could take a message from me to Camelot, that’s be super.”
“Go to Camelot, and tell Queen Guenever that I’m a nice lady she should befriend. We should be pen pals! And also tell her I said that the only love in these islands that compares to hers and Launcelot’s is mine and Tristram’s.”
Palamides sighs and looks down and kicks at the dirt and otherwise looks all dejected. “Fine. Whatever.” When he asked if there was anything else Isoud wanted from him, courier service wasn’t what he had in mind.
“And also tell her I said that the only love in these islands that compares to hers and Launcelot’s is mine and Tristram’s.”
Wow, really? Awwwwkwaaaaaard …
Also, I wouldn’t put it past Tristam to just slit his throat. His venery-practice notwithstanding.
Yeah, it’s really hard to read Isoud’s message as anything but “hey, let’s be friends, and incidentally I know a dark secret about you.”
Or does she? One of the most striking things in Illiad is Helen’s comment to Paris along the lines of “Yes, I love you, because the Goddess of Love did you that favor. But I want to go back to my husband, because my love for you doesn’t trump my duties as a wife. And that’s not even mentioning the whole ten years of war that could have been avoided if you had just left me alone.”
So maybe it’s a situation where everyone know that Guenevere is in love with Launcelot, but as long as she doesn’t commit adultery, that’s okay because love just happens.
Rest in peace, Sir Adtherp.