Galaad and Bors at the court of King Brutos




From A Demanda do Santo Graal, ed. Augusto Magne, vol. 1 (Rio de Janeiro, 1955).

The Demanda is the 15th century Portuguese translation of the post-vulgate Arthurian romance Le Roman du Graal, 'The romance of the Grail', written probably in the late 1230s. It differs from earlier versions of the Quest for the Holy Grail in that the central character is King Arthur, the tone is realistic rather than mystical, and blind fate is an important factor in determining the fortunes of characters rather than their own behaviour. In this story, the young knight Galaad (French for Gilead, the balm who heals the people's sins - i.e., Christ) has an unfortunate encounter with an amorous young lady of fifteen - one year younger than Galaad himself. She has fallen in love with Galaad on sight, and despite her governess' admonitions to think of her honour and her father's honour, she believes that love forces her to act...

When the young lady thought that Galaad was in bed and was asleep, she got out of bed in her underslip, very much ashamed of herself and heavy-hearted at the thought of what she was about to do: for at Love's command and against her own will she, a young lady, was being forced to go and beg a knight for his love - which a maid should never do. She came to the chamber where they [Galaad and Bors] were lying, and went in, so afraid that she hardly knew what she was doing. Then she resorted to her original plan and followed love's prompting, and - against her will - she forced herself to go to Galaad and get into his bed and lie down next to him. And Galaad, who was sleeping very heavily because of the long ride and the effort he had had that day, did not wake up.

When the young lady saw that he was asleep, she did not know what to do... she said to herself under her breath: 'Miserable wretch, I am lost and I will never have honour again. Through my sin and my deed I have come to beg love from this strange knight whom I never saw before in my life.'

Then she said:'Oh, silly thing, what are you saying? Nothing you could do for this knight would be dishonour or shame for you.'

And she thought that while she was lying next to him, that he would notice her and would not be angry because she was pretty and of good birth and he would never be so base as to refuse her wish. So she moved closer to him - but when she felt the hair shirt that he was wearing - for he wore it night and day - she was terrified, and said: 'Oh, miserable wretch! What's this I see! This is not a knight like other knights, whom they say are amorous, but he is a continual penitent... In no way will I be able to get what I want from him... These are two knights of the quest for the Holy Grail. Alas that I ever saw his beauty!'

Then she began to grieve, but as quietly as she could, so that she would not be heard.

After a while, Galaad woke up and turned over to face the young lady, and - when he felt her - he was amazed as to what it could be. When he realised that it was a young woman, he was alarmed and angry and moved as far away from her as he could and said: 'Oh, young woman! Who sent you here? They gave you bad advice, and I never thought that you would act like this. I ask you, for courtesy and for your own honour, to leave at once. I would be a fool and lose my soul if I did what you want.'

When the young lady heard this, she was very disappointed, and did not know what to do. The reply of Galaad, whom she loved so much, seemed to deny her all hope. He said, 'Oh, young woman! You have acted ill-advisedly; think about what you are doing, and think of your good family and your father, and don't bring dishonour upon yourself.'

When the young lady heard that, she replied like a woman out of her senses: 'My lord, that's what I intend to do, since you beg me so much. All I seek is my death. I have come to my end; I will kill myself with my own hands and that will be a greater sin than if you did what I ask of you, for you will be the cause of my death when you could have prevented my death if you wished.'

Then Galaad did not know what to say, and he said to the young lady that if she killed herself as she said for such a reason then he understood that he would be the reason for her death. But when he became a knight he had made a vow of virginity to God, and he did not wish to break it; he wished to die a virgin. When the young lady heard this, and saw that she could not persuade Galaad, she said: 'What? Knight, are you so base that you will not try to save me?'

'No,' he said, 'I wish you well and I want you to be safe.'

'By faith,' she said, 'that is foolish; for you will die before you leave this place.'

'I don't know what will happen,' he said, 'but I do not wish to destroy my vow or do wrong.'

She waited no longer, but leapt out of the bed and seized Galaad's sword, which was hanging on the door of the room. She drew it out of the scabbard and held it in both hands and said to Galaad: 'Sir knight, see how my first love has deceived me. And alas for me that you are so beautiful, for I must pay dearly for your beauty.'

When Galaad saw that she was holding his sword in her hand and that she meant to strike herself, he leapt out of his bed and cried: 'Ah, good lady! Wait a moment and don't kill yourself like this, for I will do all you desire.'

But she, who was in such a state that she could do no more, responded: 'Sir knight, you were too long in saying that!'

Then she raised the sword and struck herself with such force in the chest that the sword went right through her and came out her back, and she fell dead to the ground.

When Galaad saw this, he was horrified at this amazing event, and he pulled on his clothes as quickly as he could and leapt out of bed crying, 'Oh, Holy Mary! What am I seeing?'

At this, Bors woke up and leapt out of bed and said: 'My lord, what's happening?'

'By God, Bors,' Galaad said, 'the most amazing thing you ever saw. This young lady just killed herself with my sword.'

When Bors saw this, he said, 'The devil made her do it. Now think what we are going to do, for her father won't believe us, but will condemn us to death.'

'Don't worry,' Galaad said, 'For God will direct us and aid us.'

That was the end of the young woman who killed herself for love of Galaad.

(pp. 147, section 113- p. 153, section 117)

Translation by H. J. Nicholson, January 2000.

This is not a precise translation, but the reader will get the general idea. A translation from the French version (published by Professor F. Bogdanow as Le Post-Vulgate Roman du Graal) would have been preferable, but it is not available to me just at present. The original French is slightly different to the Portuguese: just before she kills herself, the young woman says: 'Pray God I be avenged on your arrogance'. - i.e., for refusing her; and Galaad tells Bors that the young woman has just killed herself for no reason - as if human love means nothing to Galaad.