Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book IX Chapter 26
This short chapter is divided into two hilarious stories, neither of which reflect well on Sir Gawaine. I almost feel bad for him! Malory does not especially care for Gawaine, you ever get that feeling?
First off, Gawaine gets Tristram to go hunt down these thirty guys Trudy described. Tristram’s all for it inasmuch as he and Dinadan pounded thirty of Morgan’s knights just the day before; he’s confident they can manage a follow-up walloping. Gawaine and Tristram abandon Trudy and make their way to Morgan’s castle, where Gawaine shouts for Morgan to send out her thirty guys, so he and Tristram can beat them up. “Now I know your false treason, and through all the places where that I ride men shall know of your false treason, and now let see whether ye dare come out of your castle ye thirty knights!”
Morgan climbs up to her castle walls and shouts down at Gawaine. “Sir Gawaine, you jackass! I know you pretty well, from back in the day! My guys are not going out to fight you, but it’s got nothing to do with you! You’ve got Sir Tristram standing there next to you, and he’s the second-best knight after Sir Launcelot! If it was just you, I would come down and lead the charge against you myself. You’re a schmuck, Gawaine!”
“Dang,” says Gawaine. “That’s harsh. You didn’t need to be so mean about it.”
Gawaine and Tristram wait around a while, but nobody comes out of the castle, so they give up and leave.
A couple of days later, Gawaine and Tristram bump into Sir Kay and Sir Sagramore. Kay and Sagramore are happy to see Gawaine, and vice versa, but Tristram just gives them the stink-eye, and vice versa. You may recall a couple of chapters back when these two gave him some trouble. Still, they end up making a foursome and ride together, for another couple of days, until they stumble across Pitiless Bruce. Remember Pitiless Bruce? He’s assaulting some woman, Malory says.
“Pitiless Bruce! My nemesis!” shouts Gawaine, and signals for everyone else to hang back. “I’ll take him out myself. It’s him and me. Gawaine and Bruce. We’re going to make this happen!”
Gawaine charges Pitiless Bruce, shouting for him to quit assaulting the woman and face a joust.
Pitiless Bruce starts to flee, but then he figures out that the other knights are hanging back and he only has to deal with Sir Gawaine, so he just dehorses Gawaine and starts riding his horse back and forth on top of him.
After — I am not making this up — about the twentieth time Pitliess Bruce runs over Gawaine, trampling him to near death, Tristram finally decides to intervene. He rides up on Bruce, who flees.
Tristram gives chase, abandoning Sir Gawaine to his Arthurian buddies. Tristram chases Bruce over hill and dale, eventually losing him.
“Enh,” says Tristram, and stops at a well to water his horse and take a nap.
You gotta admit, that was pretty dang pitiless.