The legend of Bevis of Hampton is extant in three great families of redactions: the Anglo-Norman, the Continental French, and the Italian. The Italian versions are the only ones to link Bevis with the legend of Charlemagne, but this post treats of the Continental French Redaction. It is the least interesting of the three, except for those who wish to puzzle over the great and still unsolved mystery of which version came first.
The Continental French family consists of the following versions.
The First Redaction: Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung I, 1911.
The Second Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung II, 1912. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes.
Beufves de Hantonne. The French prose rendering. Based on the Second verse redaction. The only edition, according to Arlima, is Beufves de Hantonne, version en prose, éd. Vérard, présentée et transcrite par Marie-Madeleine Ival, Aix-en-Provence, Publications du Cuerma (Senefiance, 14), 1982, 339 p.
The French chapbooks, descended from the prose redaction.
Beuvijn von Austoen. The Dutch translation. A verse translation survives in fragments. The prose rendering survives entire, and is the ancestor of the Dutch chapbooks. As far as I know there are no modern editions.
The Third Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung III, 1914. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes.
The First Redaction
Gui of Hantone weds Beatix, daughter of King Edward of Scotland, who loves Doon of Maience. Hantone is not Southampton, but a town on the Maese. Boeve is fifteen when all goes down. He is sold to King Hermin of Armenia, at whose court he slays a man who accused him of being a peasant. Hermin is impressed, and Josiane falls in love, and gives him her horse Arondel. Boeve enters the world of chivalry one May, when Josiane finds him weeping that he is too poor to enter a tourney, and helps him out. After he does very well in the tourney, King Danemons of Persia lays siege to Armenia, for love of Josiane. As Boeve fights the war, he and Josiane fall in love. Two traitors, Foré and Gouse, betray their love to the king, who tries to get Boeve killed in the war, but Boeve wins, taking Brandimond of Damascus prisoner. Hermin spares him, so that he can put into motion his plot to kill Boeve. As Boeve is going to Damascus with his death-note, he kills a boar, then meets a pilgrim, who is not Terri seeking for him, and does not offer to read the letter. [In fact, he is fairly irrelevant]. Boeve does not demolish the idols of Damascus. In the dungeon he kills cockatrices, but no dragons. Meanwhile, Josiane pleads with her father not to wed her to King Yvorin, but to no avail. She enchants Yvorin to keep her maidenhood, making him think he has taken it. Arondel is not imprisoned, but cared for richly by her. Boeve is freed by an angel, kills the guards, and heads to Jerusalem. He does not make a miraculous leap to escape. After the giant’s castle, he kills four robbers who robbed a pilgrim, and then reaches Jerusalem, not speaking with the Patriarch.
Passing Monbranc, he recognizes Josiane and Arondel. They recognize and escape as usual, Boneface is killed by the lions, who drag Josiane to their den, whither Boeve tracks them and kills them, with Arondel’s help. Garsile sends Ascopart, and all goes as the Anglo-Norman, until they reach Cologne, only without the comic baptism scene. Boeve goes to Doon, pretends to be a merchant named Aïmer of Hungary, and then meets Sobaut’s nephew David and joins Sobaut. In the war, he kills Hate and Fromont, the men who sold him to the Saracen slave traders.
Meanwhile, in Cologne, Count Audemar, the Emperor’s nephew, has forged letters telling of Boeve’s death, lured Ascopart into a dungeon, and wed Josiane. Boeve walks in on the wedding, and kills Audemar just as Ascopart arrives, panting. With Ascopart’s help, Boeve defeats Doon, in a very long war. Doon is hanged, Ascopart marries a rich noblewoman and exits the story, and Boeve and Josiane settle in Hampton, which seems to now be Southampton in England again.
After a year, Boeve attends the king’s feast, at which the prince tries to buy Arondel after Boeve wins a race with him. When Boeve won’t sell, the prince, egged on by Doon’s nephew Rohart, tries to steal him. In the ensuing battle, both are killed, along with three stablehands. The King banishes Boeve, who stops by Southampton to pick up Josiane and to have his mother locked in a tower until he comes back. Only her confessor is to be allowed in. Boeve, Josiane, Terri [Sobaut’s son], and Arondel now depart for the Acre, but a storm drives them to Monbranc, in Africa. Here, in the wilderness, Josiane goes into labor. The men blindfold themselves to help her. After the twins are born, Terri goes to town to buy food, but is followed home by foresters, who tell King Yvorin, who kidnaps Josiane and her children. In a subsequent battle, Boeve kills Garsile, but he is hopelessly outnumbered, and flees on Josiane’s orders. He and Terri come to Siviele, where they save the Queen Eglantine from Escorfaut of Majorge [Majorca?], in a very long and very tedious siege. She compels Boeve to marry her, but he places a sword in their bed every night.
Meanwhile, Josiane and the boys are in prison. One Bertram, of Bar-sur-Aube, joins with Sobaut to go look for Boeve. They find Josiane in Monbranc, and rescue her uneventfully, bringing her home to Hampton. They take the children to the king in London, who stands godfather to one of them, naming him after himself, and making him his heir. King Oduars of Scotland names the other one his heir. Sobaut and Josiane, the latter guised as a minstrel, now resume the search for Boeve. They come to Sevilie, where Arondel recognizes her, as she sings a song about Boeve. Her husband recognizes her too, and there is much rejoicing. Terri weds Queen Eglantine, and Boeve and Josiane go home to Hampton, and meet their sons, Boevon and Guion. They live happily, and have a third son, but then word comes that King Hermin is besieged. Boeve rescues him, and kills Braidimons. Guy and Buevon inherit England and Scotland, Sobaut is given Hampton, and Boeve and Josiane move to Armenia, where they live happily until their death, when their son Hermin inherits it.
Though there are many minor differences between the three redactions, the most notable difference between the them is that in the Second Redaction, as in all others, Bevis and Josiane have twin sons, Bevis and Guy. In the First and Third Redactions, they have two pairs of twins: firstly Guillaume, who grows up to be King of England, and Hermin. Bueve and Guy are born later.