Study Guide

Ivanhoe Chapter 2

By Sir Walter Scott

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Chapter 2

  • The epigraph for Chapter 2 is a passage from Geoffrey Chaucer's "General Prologue" to the Canterbury Tales, written in the 1390s.
  • This particular section of the Canterbury Tales describes a greedy, worldly monk – so we know what this chapter is going to be about.
  • Gurth and Wamba rush down the road, but the horsemen catch up to them.
  • There are ten men on horseback, two of whom are important.
  • One is a high-ranking churchman dressed in rich clothing. The other is an athletic-looking guy who seems brave, stern, and kind of mean.
  • This guy is harder to figure out, since he seems half like a priest and half like a knight.
  • The whole outfit of this group suggests that they are just returning from a Crusade against the Muslims (whom Scott calls "Saracens") occupying Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
  • The churchman's name is Prior Aymer, and he has a good reputation in the neighborhood even though he is obviously not very holy.
  • The Prior may be greedy and selfish, but he also pays money to the right people to keep his place in high society. He is also connected by blood to the best Norman families.
  • The Prior asks Wamba and Gurth if there is any hall (a big house owned by a lord) nearby where their group can spend the night.
  • The military monk demands to know the location of the home of Cedric the Saxon (a.k.a. Cedric of Rotherwood, Gurth's lord).
  • Gurth doesn't want to show them the way, and he and the military monk nearly get into a fight.
  • But Prior Aymer jumps between them, telling the military monk "Brian" (Brian de Bois-Guilbert – we will call him "Bois-Guilbert" for short) that they can't get into sword fights now that they are back in England.
  • Still, he insists on knowing where Cedric's home is.
  • Wamba gives them directions and the horsemen set off.
  • Gurth mutters to Wamba that he's given the horsemen bad directions.
  • The two men agree that it would be better if the Normans didn't arrive at Cedric's hall.
  • Prior Aymer might take too much of a liking to Cedric's ward, the Lady Rowena, and Cedric and Bois-Guilbert might fight. (By the way, a ward is like a foster child: someone who may not be related to you by blood, but for whom you take responsibility.)
  • Meanwhile, Bois-Guilbert is complaining to Prior Aymer about Gurth and Wamba's rudeness: how dare they?!
  • Prior Aymer blames their Saxon blood.
  • But Prior Aymer has something that will cheer Bois-Guilbert up: tonight, they will be seeing a beautiful woman.
  • The two men soon get into an argument about which way to turn at a crossroads.
  • They see a man lying on the ground and wake him for directions.
  • The man speaks French and agrees to serve as a guide to Cedric's home.
  • He tells Prior Aymer that he is a "Palmer" returning from the Holy Land. (A palmer is a pilgrim, someone who has made a trip to visit an important religious site.)
  • The Palmer is a native of this part of Yorkshire. He leads Bois-Guilbert and Prior Aymer straight to Rotherwood, Cedric's home.

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