For no clear reason, Tristram bugs out in the middle of the tournament. Launcelot had been watching him, but boom, loses track. Sir Dinadan and Gouvernail go too, but no one cares. Dame Bragwaine had been chilling with Guenever, telling her how the lovely Isoud was doing, and so on, but has to excuse herself and go looking for Tristram. Also Arthur had planned to give the Day Two prize to Tristram again, but with him gone, ends up giving it to the King of Northgalis instead.

Everybody else at the tournament cries into their beer about how much better Tristram is than they could ever hope to be, but Bragwaine goes into the woods and finds him. Turns out he’s just out in the woods looking for Sir Palomides, who ditched the battle early in Chapter 31. Bragwaine finds Palomides first, in fact, but then finds Tristram and tells him where Palomides is.

Palomides sulks. That’s what he does. He sulks by a well out in the middle of the woods, where he berates himself for losing to Tristram every time they come up against one another. He makes many strange signs and tokens, which I think is Malory’s way of reminding us that he’s Muslim and also that Malory knows jack about Islamic practices. Eventually, he works himself up into such a sullen frenzy that he throws his sword down the well and tries to dive in after it!

Forunately, I guess, Tristram intervenes and snatches him before he does any serious self-harm. Tristram’s still in disguise, and Palomides doesn’t see through it, although two days earlier in Chapter 28 when Tristram wore the exact same disguise Palomides penetrated it easily. Somehow, anyway, Tristram talks Palomides down. Palomides feels very sorry for himself, because he’s actually a very good knight but Sir Tristram keeps showing him up. Sir Launcelot and Sir Lamorak also defeat him regularly, though they don’t bother Palomides as much.  Still, he’s the fourth-best knight in Arthurian Britain!  That really ought to count for something.

Tristram invites Palomides back to Old Sir Pellounes’s place for dinner, and sends Gouvernail on ahead to clear it with him and Sir Persides (and warn them that Tristram is in disguise, which makes no sense inasmuch as Sir Persides also doesn’t know Tristram is Tristram, and hates Tristram, according to Chapter 27). That night they drink and Tristram and Persides make an effort to cheer up Palomides, which effort is at best partially successful. Afterwards they head back to the Castle of Maidens, for the third and final day of the tournament.

I can’t say I believe Tristram’s motivation, here. He’s well-established as a jerk, plus a few chapters back Palomides managed to unhorse him and Tristram vowed vengeance. “I will revenge myself,” he said. He even joined up with the non-Arthur side in the tournament just because Palomides was on the Camelot side! And then he turns around and acts like Superman, or Captain “Shazam!” Marvel, or any other hero who is often derided for his compassion and gentle nature? I just don’t buy it, Malory.

(Maybe Tristram just likes to make friends with knights who hate him, using an assumed identity.  Then later he reveals that Sir Guy Incognito, the best man at Persides’s wedding, was actually his hated foe Tristram all along!  And then: volcano duel!)


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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book IX Chapter 32 — No Comments

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