Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK V CHAPTER V

Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Index  BOOK V  Previous  Next 


How a man of the country told to him of a marvellous
giant, and how he fought and conquered him.

THEN came to him an husbandman of the country, and told him how
there was in the country of Constantine beside Brittany, a great
giant which had slain, murdered and devoured much people of the
country, and had been sustained seven year with the children of
the commons of that land, insomuch that all the children be all
slain and destroyed; and now late he hath taken the Duchess of
Brittany as she rode with her meiny, and hath led her to his
lodging which is in a mountain, for to ravish and lie by her to
her life's end, and many people followed her, more than five
hundred, but all they might not rescue her, but they left her
shrieking and crying lamentably, wherefore I suppose that he hath
slain her in fulfilling his foul lust of lechery.  She was wife
unto thy cousin Sir Howell, whom we call full nigh of thy blood. 
Now, as thou art a rightful king, have pity on this lady, and
revenge us all as thou art a noble conqueror.  Alas, said King
Arthur, this is a great mischief, I had liefer than the best
realm that I have that I had been a furlong way to-fore him for
to have rescued that lady.  Now, fellow, said King Arthur, canst
thou bring me thereas this giant haunteth?  Yea, Sir, said the
good man, look yonder whereas thou seest those two great fires,
there shalt thou find him, and more treasure than I suppose is in
all France.  When the king had understood this piteous case, he
returned into his tent.

Then he called to him Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere, and commanded
them secretly to make ready horse and harness for himself and
them twain; for after evensong he would ride on pilgrimage with
them two only unto Saint Michael's mount.  And then anon he made
him ready, and armed him at all points, and took his horse and
his shield.  And <157>so they three departed thence and rode
forth as fast as ever they might till that they came to the
foreland of that mount.  And there they alighted, and the king
commanded them to tarry there, for he would himself go up into
that mount.  And so he ascended up into that hill till he came to
a great fire, and there he found a careful widow wringing her
hands and making great sorrow, sitting by a grave new made.  And
then King Arthur saluted her, and demanded of her wherefore she
made such lamentation, to whom she answered and said, Sir knight,
speak soft, for yonder is a devil, if he hear thee speak he will
come and destroy thee; I hold thee unhappy; what dost thou here
in this mountain? for if ye were such fifty as ye be, ye were not
able to make resistance against this devil: here lieth a duchess
dead, the which was the fairest of all the world, wife to Sir
Howell, Duke of Brittany, he hath murdered her in forcing her,
and hath slit her unto the navel.

Dame, said the king, I come from the noble conqueror King Arthur,
for to treat with that tyrant for his liege people.  Fie on such
treaties, said she, he setteth not by the king nor by no man
else; but an if thou have brought Arthur's wife, dame Guenever,
he shall be gladder than thou hadst given to him half France. 
Beware, approach him not too nigh, for he hath vanquished fifteen
kings, and hath made him a coat full of precious stones
embroidered with their beards, which they sent him to have his
love for salvation of their people at this last Christmas.  And
if thou wilt, speak with him at yonder great fire at supper. 
Well, said Arthur, I will accomplish my message for all your
fearful words; and went forth by the crest of that hill, and saw
where he sat at supper gnawing on a limb of a man, baking his
broad limbs by the fire, and breechless, and three fair damosels
turning three broaches whereon were broached twelve young
children late born, like young birds.

When King Arthur beheld that piteous sight he had great
compassion on them, so that his heart bled for sorrow, and hailed
him, saying in this wise:  He that all <158>the world wieldeth
give thee short life and shameful death; and the devil have thy
soul; why hast thou murdered these young innocent children, and
murdered this duchess?  Therefore, arise and dress thee, thou
glutton, for this day shalt thou die of my hand.  Then the
glutton anon started up, and took a great club in his hand, and
smote at the king that his coronal fell to the earth.  And the
king hit him again that he carved his belly and cut off his
genitours, that his guts and his entrails fell down to the
ground.  Then the giant threw away his club, and caught the king
in his arms that he crushed his ribs.  Then the three maidens
kneeled down and called to Christ for help and comfort of Arthur. 
And then Arthur weltered and wrung, that he was other while under
and another time above.  And so weltering and wallowing they
rolled down the hill till they came to the sea mark, and ever as
they so weltered Arthur smote him with his dagger.

And it fortuned they came to the place whereas the two knights
were and kept Arthur's horse; then when they saw the king fast in
the giant's arms they came and loosed him.  And then the king
commanded Sir Kay to smite off the giant's head, and to set it
upon a truncheon of a spear, and bear it to Sir Howell, and tell
him that his enemy was slain; and after let this head be bound to
a barbican that all the people may see and behold it; and go ye
two up to the mountain, and fetch me my shield, my sword, and the
club of iron; and as for the treasure, take ye it, for ye shall
find there goods out of number; so I have the kirtle and the club
I desire no more.  This was the fiercest giant that ever I met
with, save one in the mount of Araby, which I overcame, but this
was greater and fiercer.  Then the knights fetched the club and
the kirtle, and some of the treasure they took to themselves, and
returned again to the host.  And anon this was known through all
the country, wherefore the people came and thanked the king.  And
he said again, Give the thanks to God, and depart the goods among

And after that King Arthur said and commanded his <159>cousin
Howell, that he should ordain for a church to be builded on the
same hill in the worship of Saint Michael.  And on the morn the
king removed with his great battle, and came into Champayne and
in a valley, and there they pight their tents; and the king being
set at his dinner, there came in two messengers, of whom that one
was Marshal of France, and said to the king that the emperor was
entered into France, and had destroyed a great part, and was in
Burgoyne, and had destroyed and made great slaughter of people,
and burnt towns and boroughs; wherefore, if thou come not
hastily, they must yield up their bodies and goods.