2004
Volume 27 Number 2
  • ISSN: 0929-8592
  • E-ISSN: 2667-1689

Abstract

Abstract

Irish kings eager to conquer Britain are rare in episodic Arthurian romance. Even so, belligerent rulers of Ireland show up in the thirteenth-century and (‘the Knight with the Sleeve’). The Irish king’s appearance in the Flemish derives from an episode in the (cf. Besamusca 1991 and 1993, 110-114), while his similar role in the second romance may be attributed to an adapter, the compiler of the , who probably inserted four additional adventures in his reworking of the Flemish original. The episode of Arthur’s war against the Irish in differs significantly from the story as told so far. When the hero is sidetracked in a separate adventure, a dozen knights of the Round Table suddenly take center stage in an interlaced episode that perfectly fits with the narrative style of the ‘historical’ Lancelot-Grail Cycle. In this dark episode, King Arthur appears as a vulnerable and negligent sovereign, in need of reproach by his illustrious nephew Walewein (Gawain), the Round Table’s foremost knight and the prime guardian of courtly values. Apparently, the compiler intended to align the Flemish romance with the cycle’s content and narrative technique of interlace, to revitalize the character of Walewein (until then only a pale version of his former self), and to expose a crack in the Round Table in order to foreshadow the final demise of Arthur’s kingdom. If we accept this hypothesis, one important question remains: what did the Flemish look like before the compiler reworked the story, added new episodes and, in the process, maybe even changed the storyline?

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