Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 493
Context: The story of Gareth and how he became a Knight of the Round Table is an entertaining and rather typical example of the romantic tales which make up a large part of Arthurian legend. Gareth, brother of Sir Gawaine, desires knighthood and presents himself to King Arthur at the King's annual high feast. He does not reveal his identity, wishing to prove himself first; but he has three requests to make of the king. The first of these is for a year's food and lodging, which Arthur grants with his characteristic generosity. Gareth will not reveal his other two requests until the next high feast, and in Arthur's world there is nothing unusual in this action. He welcomes Gareth to the court and turns him over to Sir Kay the steward, who christens him Beaumains (Fair Hands), mocks him, and puts him to work in the kitchen. He is befriended by Sir Gawaine, who does not recognize him, and by Sir Launcelot, but he serves out his twelve months in the scullery. At the next high feast a damsel, Linet, arrives to tell the king that her lady is besieged by a cruel tyrant and desires that a knight come and rescue her. Gareth then makes his other two requests of Arthur: that he be allowed the adventure and that Sir Launcelot make him a knight. He then accompanies the damsel, who has a sharp tongue and dislikes kitchen boys. After a long series of battles and adventures he at length rescues the lady, Dame Liones, and falls in love with her; his affection is returned. The story culminates in a great tournament held at her castle, attended by Arthur and his knights. Gareth and Gawaine fight an epic battle; the damsel Linet intervenes, telling Gawaine he is fighting his own brother. There is a joyful reunion, and Sir Gareth and Dame Liones are then presented to King Arthur:
. . . And there the king asked his nephew, Sir Gareth, whether he would have that lady as paramour, or to have her to his wife. My lord, wit you well that I love her above all ladies living. Now, fair lady, said King Arthur, what say ye? Most noble King, said Dame Liones, wit you well that my lord, Sir Gareth, is to me more lever to have and welde as my husband, than any king or prince that is christened; and if I may not have him I promise you I will never have none. For, my lord Arthur, said Dame Liones, wit you well he is my first love, and he shall be the last; and if ye will suffer him to have his will and free choice I dare say he will have me. That is truth, said Sir Gareth; an I have not you and welde not you as my wife, there shall never lady nor gentlewoman rejoice me. What, nephew, said the king, is the wind in that door?