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The Romance of Tristan

The Romance of Tristan


by Béroul

The Romance of Tristan Part 15 Summary

Yseut's Ambiguous Oath

  • Tristan leaves his hiding place dressed in the poor, soot-blackened clothes of a leper (that not bathing thing has worked out pretty well), with a sword hidden under his clothes.
  • Governal advises him to take care not to be recognized. That's for sure.
  • Tristan asks Governal to be in hiding near the ford with his horse, shield, and lance. He intends to joust in disguise later on.
  • Tristan makes his way to Malpas, where he seats himself on a mound near the crossing. When people pass by, he begs for alms.
  • Some people give him alms, but others abuse him and attempt to hit him. He strikes out at the latter with his crutch. (Yeah, we laughed, too.) Everyone believes he is really a leper.
  • The crowd begins to gather in the marsh: people build pavilions and tents, and the hooves of the knights' horses tear up the soft mud until they begin to sink in up to their chest.
  • Everyone gets very muddy; Tristan laughs at them and continues to ask for alms.
  • Arthur and his knights joust nearby. Tristan asks Arthur for alms, commenting on the richness of his clothing and begging for his hose, which Arthur gives him. Yes, folks, King Arthur just took off his pants and handed them over to leper Tristan. We'd like to see that in the movie version.
  • When Mark rides by, Tristan begs from him and receives his fur cloak.
  • Tristan tells Mark that he is a Welshman who contracted leprosy from his lover, the wife of a lord. Mark laughs when Tristan tells him that only Yseut is as beautiful as his lover. Oh, Tristan, you devil, you.
  • Coatless Mark meets hoseless Arthur and informs him that Yseut is on her way through the Malpas, with the help of Sir Andret. They keep watch for her.
  • When the three evil barons ask Tristan which is the best way through the pass, he points them to the muddiest quagmire, where their horses sink up to their chests. This stuff is getting good.
  • Tristan tells them to flap their arms, a technique he promises has helped many others.
  • Yseut laughs when she arrives and sees the spectacle. Tristan offers Denaloan his staff to help pull the baron out of the muck, but Tristan lets go at the last second, claiming his muscles and joints are weak. You're killing us, Tristan.
  • Yseut sends her horse across the marsh alone, then stands at its edge and calls for Tristan.
  • Yseut asks Tristan to carry her across the bridge so she can avoid muddying herself, instructing him to turn his back to her so she can ride him like a horse. Ahem.
  • Everyone gapes at the strange sight of the queen riding the "leper."
  • After they have crossed the bridge, Tristan asks Yseut for alms. Arthur and Mark encourage her to give them. Yseut refuses, however, claiming that she felt lots of food in his pouch. (The medieval sexual innuendo just keeps coming!) She also adds that he can earn lots of money by selling the rich clothes Arthur and Mark gave him.
  • Tristan finds Governal. They mount two fine horses. Tristan covers himself completely with black serge, and Governal covers his face with white cloth.
  • Attached to Tristan's lance is a pennant Yseut has made for him.
  • When Governal and Tristan pass through Blanche Lande, Sir Gerflet tells Sir Gawain that he thinks they must be enchanted knights of the Black Knight of the Mountain. Mark and Arthur notice the two men because of how well they wear their armor.
  • Tristan jousts with Andret, unhorsing him.
  • Governal kills the forester who betrayed Tristan and Yseut's bower to the king.
  • Some of Arthur's knights ride after Governal and Tristan, but let them escape when they are too scared to follow these "phantoms" over the ford.
  • Everyone makes their way to the encampment at Blanche Lande, where fancy tents and pavilions are set up, the floors covered with flowers instead of rushes.
  • That night, the kings hear the requests of their people. Rich people exchange gifts with one another.
  • Mark visits Arthur in his tent. The two men discuss how Yseut will acquit herself the next morning.
  • Everyone gathers before Mark's tent when the watchmen sound their horns at daybreak.
  • In front of the tent, a rich gray cloth lies covered with all the holy relics in the kingdom.
  • Before all the people gathered there, Arthur tells Mark that those who have accused Yseut have acted disloyally, and that Mark should not believe their lies. He promises to defend Yseut against anyone who accuses her in the future.
  • Arthur announces that Yseut will hold her right hand out over the relics and swear that she never loved Tristan or any man shamefully.
  • Mark claims that he believed the barons' lies against his will, but that after the trial, anyone who dishonors the queen will have to answer for it.
  • Arthur tells Yseut that she must swear that Tristan never loved her wrongfully, but only with the love he owed his uncle's wife.
  • Yseut swears by the relics before her and all the relics in the world "that no man ever came between my thighs except the leper who carried me on his back across the ford and my husband, King Mark." Well played, Yseut. Well played. But seriously, folks, is that the truth? Is it a lie? What are we supposed to think?
  • Those who hear Yseut's oath applaud it for its completeness. They curse anyone who mistrusts her now.
  • Arthur declares to the three barons in particular that anyone who speaks wrongly of Yseut from now on will have to defend himself before Arthur.
  • Arthur tells Yseut that he has made Mark promise never to believe slander about her again.

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