Bevis of Hampton 5: The Italian Version, First Redaction

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 family consists of the following versions.

The Italian family consists of the following versions.


Buovo d’Antona, in Franco-Italian assonanced decasyllables. Only surviving manusccript is part of the Geste Francor. Beginning lost, down to Bovo’s return to England and war with Do. Best edition is La Geste Francor, edited by Leslie Zarker Morgan. I refer you to Arlima for earlier editions.

I Reali di Francia: an Italian compilation of Carolingian legends, by Andrea da Barberino. Bevis’ story is in books IV and V. An abridged translation by Max Wickert can be found on his website, here.

Buovo d’Antona, in prose. Only a fragment survives as an independent work. Bib. Ricc. 1030. To be found in Pio Rajna’s “Frammenti di redazioni italiane del Buovo d’Antona. II. Avanzi di una versione tosca in prosa (continuaz. e fine) », Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 15, 1891, p. 47-87.” Runs from the beginning to Buovo’s rescue of Drusiana from Marcabruno.


Bovo d’Antona, in pure Italian rhymed decasyllables. Survives only in fragments. The largest fragment, the Laurenziano, is to be found in Rajna’s misleadingly titled work I reali di Francia. [Volume I:] Ricerche intorno ai reali di Francia, seguite dal libro delle storie di Fioravante e dal cantare di Bovo d’Antona. An analysis comes first, and the Buovo is stuck in at the end. Runs from Brandoria’s message to Dodo of Maganza to Drusiana’s meeting with Malgaria.

The other, much shorter, fragments of the rhymed Bovo, known as the Udinese fragments, are currently lost, but were printed by Rajna in « Frammenti di redazioni italiane del Buovo d’Antona. I. Nuovi frammenti franco-italiani », Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 11, 1887, p. 153-184. Runs from Do of Magance’s conquest of Hampton to after Buovo’s fight with Marcabrun.

Buovo d’Antona di 1480, in ottava rima. The only edition is Daniela Delcorno Branca’s Buovo d’Antona. Cantari in ottava rima (1480).

Bova Karolovich. Or Bova Korolevich , meaning “Prince Bova”. The Russian versions, which reached that country near the end of the 1500’s. There are five major redactions of the manuscripts and of the chapbooks based on them, each one more Russianized than the last in style. From these the story passed into oral tradition and is found in several collections of Russian folktales and ballads, where one would never guess it was not a native production if one didn’t know. I have read that the story is also known in several of Russia’s neighbors, but I cannot find any details. A chapbook version was translated by Robert Steele in The Russian Garland. A shorter, folklore version is to be found in Russian Wondertales II. Tales of Magic and the Supernatural, an absurdly expensive book by Jack Haney which is Volume 4 of his series The Complete Russian Folktale.

THE THIRD ITALIAN REDACTION, being a combination of the Italian and the Third French.

Buovo Riccardiano. Fragments of ottava rima. Not printed, so far as I know.

Buovo d’Antona by Gherardo. Ottava rima, in three books, of which only the second survives. Also not printed.

THE FOURTH ITALIAN REDACTION, being a combination of the First and Second Redactions with details from French sources, and several new adventures.

Buovo Palatino. A MS fragment that appears to have been from a text similar to the following.

Buovo d’Antona di Guidone Palladino. Rezunto e Reviso. (Bevis of Hampton, son of the Paladin Guidone, abridged and revised) in Ottava Rima, as first printed in 1497. This was frequently reprinted and became the standard Italian version.

Bovo Boek, a Yiddish poem, in ottava rima, by Elia Levita, from the Italian. Published 1541, though written 1507. Translated into English prose in Early Yiddish Epic, by Jerold Frakes. An earlier translation by Jerry Christopher Smith, published under the title Elia Levita Bachur’s “Bovo-Buch”, is so inaccurate that it is more honestly described as a retelling.


Celinos y la Adultera. Also called La Caza de Celinos. A Spanish ballad, from some form of the Italian, these being the only ones where, as in the ballad, Brandoria sits at her mirror admiring herself. The titles mean “Celinos and the Adulteress” and “The hunt of Celinos”, respectively.


A Franco-Italian chanson, in assonanced decasyllables, found in one MS: Marc. Fr. XIII, containing Bovo d’Antona (Part 1), Bertha Broad-Foot, Bovo Part 2, Karleto, Berta e Milone, Enfances Ogier, Orlandino, Chevalerie Ogier, and Macario.

[The beginning is lost] Bovo has Clarença, which Druxiana gave him. Do de Magançe is besieging San Simon. Synibaldo’s wife recognizes Bovo. Now he and Terigi disguise themselves as physicians to enter Antona, where they make alliance with one Uberto de la Cros, and rouse the citizens. He sends Do off on a palfrey, who returns to Magançe. He locks his mother, Brandoia, in a small room where she can hear Mass said. The news of his victory runs to Sydonia, to Braidamont, who writes to Bovo, requesting him to come back and marry her. Meanwhile, Druxiana has been for seven years wandering as a minstrel with her sons Synibaldo and Guion, and has come to Armenia, where she does not reveal herself, but is taken into favor anyway, for her talent. Braidamont, despite the fact that Bovo killed her brother Luchafer, wishes to marry him, and sends a messenger, offering to convert. Bovo agrees to wed her, and travels to Sydonia, where Druxiana also comes and reveals herself in song. [Pulican was killed by lions, the song says]. Braidamont is married to Teris, and Bovo and his family return home to Hampton. Do, meanwhile, has persuaded King Pepin of France to send messengers to Hampton demanding the release of Brandoia. The messenger is Garner, son of Brandoia and Do. Bovo refuses, and threatens war.

[The story of Bertha Broad-foot follows. Bovo resumes afterward.]

Pepin, son of King Angelo, leads Aquilon of Bavaria, Bernardo of Clermon, Do of Magançe, his brother Albrigo, and others against Bovo, against the advice of all his non-Maganzan advisors. Bovo sends for aid to Teris, who comes. Negotiations fail, and fighting begins. Teris kills Albrigo, Bovo captures Aquilon and Bernardo. They are received hospitably in Hampton, while Bovo kills Do, and then captures Pepin. Bovo releases his prisoners on condition they send their sons, Names of Bavaria and little Charles, as hostages. They do so, the war is ended, and Bovo releases his hostage-children. Teris goes home to Sydonia, and there are seven years of peace. At that time, however, Bovo’s uncle, king Guielme of England invites him to his son Folcon’s wedding, to a daughter of an emir. The prince offers to buy Rundel [there is no race] but is refused, for Bovo is too fond of him, and remembers how Druxiana had fed him for three years while he languished in Syndonia. Folcon tries to steal Rundel, who kills him. The King wishes to hang the horse, but is content to send Bovo on pilgrimage to Jerusalem instead. Bovo leaves his wife, children, and city in the care of Synibaldo, and departs. As he is visiting the Holy Sepulchre, the Persian Corcher [Khosroes?] arrives to besiege it. Bovo succors the city and converts Corcher and all his people. Baldechin, however, the son of Corcher, will not convert, and Bovo slays him in a duel. He gets lost pursuing the fleeing Paynims, and comes to a cave wherein a dragon lives. He slays the dragon, and returns to Jerusalem. Once the four years of his exile are fulfilled, he returns to England, and tells his wife all the story.

[Here the story ends, and the MS moves on to Karleto]


This is the form in which the legend was known to Boiardo.

Guido d’Antona weds the daughter of King Ottone de Bordeaux, in Gascony, and begets Buovo within a year. He is named after Bovetto. His tutor, no relation to him, is Sinibaldo dall Rocca a San Simone [of Saint Simon’s Rock]. Sinibaldo’s wife is Luzia, his son Teris. Luzia suckles Buovo until he is seven years old(!), and sends him home to his father at ten. By then, his mother Brandoria is twenty-four, and very annoyed that her husband is old and feeble. She sits in front of the mirror and remembers how Guido had once killed Count Rinieri of Maganza, who left two sons: Duodo [Doon de Mayence] and Alberigo, who are now about thirty-five, and both unwed. She sends her servant Antonio “Gascon” to Duodo, who comes with eight thousand knights. Meanwhile, Brandoria pretends to be pregnant and to have a craving for wild boar. On August 1st, she persuades Guido to go to the hunt without his armor, so as to be quicker. Duodo kills Guido, and takes Antona after a slight battle. In the confusion, Buovo, aged eleven, hides into the stables, where Sinibaldo finds him. Duodo catches them as they try to escape, and Brandoria locks Buovo in a chamber. Duodo dreams that he is killed by a lion cub, and orders Buovo dead. Brandoria serves him poisoned bread, but the maid warns the lad, who refuses to eat it. She then sets him free, and he flees to Amusafol, on the coast. His mother tells Duodo he is dead. They have a son, Gailone, and Duodo lays siege to Sinibaldo in San Simone.

Buovo is taken about by sailors, and calls himself Agostino. He is sold, by his will, to King Erminione of Erminia [lesser Armenia, in Turkey today]. He serves and carves there for five years, until he speaks the language like a native. He tames Rondello, who has been chained for seven years. Drusiana begins to fall in love with him [she is fourteen, he sixteen], asks him to dance, kisses him under the table when he kneels to pick up the knife she dropped on purpose, and summons him to her bedroom, where he flees her seductions. A year passes, during which Buovo refuses to admit that he loves her. When Buovo is seventeen, King Erminione holds a tournament to find a husband for Drusiana. King Marcobruno of Polonia [not Poland] is favored to win, but Buovo “borrows” armor and a lance, and, riding Rondello, overthrows Marcobrun and slips away. Only Drusiana recognizes him. She summons him that evening, the first time they’ve spoke in a year.

Meanwhile, the King of Buldras has a son, Lucafero, who wishes to wed Drusiana. He arrives with fifty thousand soldiers just as the tourney ends. In the ensuing battle, Lucafero captures Erminione, his brother Ugolino, and Marcobrun. Drusiana arms and dubs Buovo, giving him a sword which used to be Sir Lancelot’s. Some English knights had brought it here. His shield bears the arms of his father Guido. They are engaged, and Buovo reveals his identity. He then kills Lucafero, and reveals his true identity to the king. After the celebrations, Ugolino walks in on Buovo and Drusiana kissing, and calls Drusiana a whore, whereupon Buovo beats him. Erminione decides to give Drusiana to Buovo, so Ugolino and Marcobrun make a plan. Ugolino lies in the king’s bed, and pretends to be the king, dictating to a scribe a “kill-the-bearer” letter for Buovo to take to Lucafero’s father. Buovo leaves Rondello behind, but takes his sword Chiarenza [Clarence]. He finds Sinella in Ischiavonia [Slavonia]. But, on the way, a thief drugs him and steals his horse and sword. Buovo does not break any idols on his arrival, but is still imprisoned. The king’s daughter, Margalia, hears his lament. There are no snakes or dragons in the dungeon, but she brings him out of it and hides him in a much more comfortable tower. For three years and four months she brings him food, trying to win his love, but in vain.

After two years, Erminione has decided Buovo probably is gone for good, and betroths Drusiana to Marcobrun. She agrees to marry him if Buovo does not return in one more year. She spends that year in his country, with where cousin Fiorigio, with Rondello, and with a slave named Pulicane, who is a dog from the waste down and a man from the waist up, talks like a man and runs like a dog. He was the son of a Christian lady of Cappadocia, who married the Turkish King of Liguria, on condition that he convert. Instead, he stripped her and threw her to his dog, whence Pulicane. Naturally, they keep him chained.

Buovo has been in Sinella for three years and four months. Since he won’t starve to death, they decide to kill him. He overcomes the two guards-turned-assassins and escapes. He persuades sailors to take him to Constantinople, and kills King Baldras’ nephew Alibrun, who had pursued him to the ship. They sail by Polonia, where Buovo hears the news of Drusiana. He stays there, meets the pilgrim who robbed him, and recovers Chiarenza. Two merchants give him food, but flee when he mentions Buovo’s name. A lady takes him to Drusiana’s palace, where he fights the cooks, kills the seneschal, and meets Fiorigi, who takes him to Rondello and Drusiana. Buovo, still in disguise, tells her that he met Buovo in prison, and that he is now married to Margalia. Drusiana weeps so loudly at this that Marcabruno comes in to ask what’s wrong, and is put off with an excuse about the palmer’s life-story being so sad. They hear Rondello neighing, and Buovo is able to tame him, whereupon Drusiana and Fiorigi [Boniface] recognize him. They escape that night, and ride for Montefeltrone, the castle of Duke Canoro, who hates King Marcabruno.

In the morning, King Marcabruno is furious, summarily executes Fiorigi, and sends Pulicane to bring back Drusiana. Pulicane finds Buovo and Drusiana sleeping, Buovo and Pulicane fight, but Drusiana reconciles them, and they are received warmly at Montefeltrone. Marcabruno follows and lays siege. In a sally, Buovo kills Duke Sanguino, but Canoro is captured. After eight months have gone by, Marcabruno releases him, on promise that he will give his sons Lione and Lionido as hostages, and will betray Buovo. The duchess sends her sons as hostages, welcomes her husband, and is horrified at his proposal to betray their guests. He begins to beat her, and her cries alarm Pulicane, who comes, listens to their arguing long enough to learn about the treason (but not about the hostages), and then kills Canoro. He, Buovo, and Drusiana flee. They kill some commissariats of King Baldras of Sinolla’s on the way, for that king is on his way to help Marcabruno. The duchess surrenders the castle soon after. Meanwhile, Drusiana, in the middle of the forest, gives birth to twins: Guidone and Sinibaldo. They are hopelessly lost, however, and Buovo leaves to scout ahead for help. He finds a river and a merchant ship, who agree to wait for him for a day. While he was gone, however, Pulicane went out hunting, was badly mauled by lions, and Drusiana fled with the children for terror. Buovo returns to find a dying Pulicane, who does not know Drusiana is still alive. He baptizes the cynocephalus, and buries him when he dies shortly after. He then sadly returns to the merchants. Drusiana has gotten there first, however, and left with them, thinking Buovo dead. She comes to Armenia, but does not reveal herself to anyone.

Buovo, luckily, finds another ship, captained by Terigi of the Rock of San Simone, son of Sinibaldo. Terigi recognizes Buovo’s arms [red lion on blue field, with silver stripes], but Buovo conceals his identity, calling it a strange coincidence, and gives his name as Agostino. They return to the Rock, where one Riccardo of Conturbia becomes jealous of him, but is reconciled after losing in a tournament. Sinibaldo is still at war with Duodo of Magazna, lord of Antona, and after an inconclusive skirmish, they return to the Rock. Now Buovo’s nurse recognizes him, and to prove it, tells Sinibaldo to urge Buovo to bathe, and to look for the red cross on his shoulder. Buovo tries to conceal it, but at last reveals his identity. Now he and Terigi disguise themselves as physicians to enter Antona, where they make alliance with one Ruberto dalle Croce, rouse the citizens, and take Duodo, Alberigo, Brandoria, and Duodo and Brandoria’s son Galione prisoners. Buovo keeps his mother prisoner but lets the others go. They go straight to King Pepin of France, who goes to war against Buovo. In the war, Alberigo and Duodo are killed, and Pepin taken prisoner. Peace is made, Brandoria is executed, and Pepin grants Buovo and his descendants independence from every emperor and king. King William of England, Pepin, and Buovo next go to succor Princess Margaria, who is besieged by King Druano of Syria. Druano flees, and Buovo intends to wed Margaria. He announces far and wide that a tournament will be held at the wedding, and the news comes to Armenia, where Drusiana has been living for the last twelve years. Guidone and Sinibaldo do exceptionally well in the tournament, and then Drusiana reveals herself. Margaria marries Terigi. Buovo and family return to Antona, and Terigi takes his parents Sinibaldo and Aluizia to live in Schiavaonia with him.

King William of England sends for Buovo, and in London Buovo wins a race on Rondello. William’s son Fiore tries to buy Rondello, then to steal him, and is killed by his hooves. The King banishes Buovo, who leaves Antona in Drusiana’s hands, and leaves with his sons for Schiavonia, ruled now by Terigi and Margalia, who have a son, Sicurans. They go to war against Arpitras, the admiral of Dalmazia and Corvazia. In the war, Sinibaldo and Terigi are slain, but Ascilacca, Arpitras’ city, is taken, and the Admiral slain. Sixteen months later, King Arbaull of Hungary, successor to Buldras, makes war on the Christians now, and after a long war, the Christians are victorious. Sicurans is now king of Sinella and Hungary as well as Schiavonia. He grows up to beget King Filippo, Ughetto, and Manabello. Buovo stays in Sinella for fourteen years.

The King of Langle, a realm between England and Ireland, dies, leaving a daughter Orlandina, whom he wishes to marry Buovo’s son Guido. It is done. Erminione dies, leaving Armenia to Sinibaldo, son of Buovo. Buovo at last returns to Antona, and his third son, Guglielmo, is crowned King of England. Guido has a son named Chiaramonte, who dies at sixteen. A castle is named in his memory, and in this castle Guido has another son, Bernardo, and hence Bernardo descendents are called the House of Clairmont. Galione, now lord of Flanders, Maganza [Mayence], Pontiers, Bayonne, and more, has five sons. Riccardo, Guglielmo, Spinardo, Tolomeo, and Grifone the father of Ganelon. His wife is pregnant with Ghinamo of Baiona. Galione a church called Santo Salvadore, three miles from Antona, and favored by Drusiana and Buovo. Galione kills his half-brother while he is praying, and then flees to Babylon, where he converts to Islam and is honored richly by the Sultan. Drusiana swoons over Buovo’s body, but lives for another fifteen days. They are buried in one tomb.

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