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 closest version to the Italian
The Second Redaction
Incredibly padded out. Gui marries the daughter of Renier. Her first attempt to kill him is asking the cook to poison him. The cook refuses, and she throws him in the dungeon. The sellers of Bueves are named Fromont and Hate. The false courtiers of Hermin’s are named Gonsselin and Fourré. Josiane uses magic to keep her virginity, much to the annoyance of Yvorin (this is the only version where he is aware of what’s going on). There are ten robbers in the woods. No plot is used to free Josiane, they just flee. On arriving at Hampton, Bueve pretends to be “Girard de Digon”, to Soibaut. Doon de Maience recognizes Bueves, but Renier’s daughter does not (he beats her for daring to contradict him). Luckily, a spy he sends also concludes Girard is not Bueves. Aelis, Soibaut’s wife (not named in I and III) recognizes Bueves, who reveals himself. Soibaut goes with Bueves to pick up Josiane and incidentally foil the scheme of Huidemer, the Archbishop’s nephew. As they return to England, they are blown off course by a storn, and conquer the port city they arrive at (an interpolation found only here). Bueves fights so well when they finally get back to England that Doon flees to London to appeal to the King. Meanwhile, Bueves is taking Hampton and sparing his mother. He arrives in London, and the king is at last persuaded to do the right thing: let them duel. Bueves beheads Doon, and his wedding is celebrated at Hampton.
After seven months, Bueves goes to London, where in another interpolation, he encourages Maxin, a young knight whose circumstances are similar to his own, to regain his inheritance. Maxin is the one who persuades the king to spare Bueves’ life after Arondel kills the prince. Bueves helps Josiane give birth with no fuss. Yvorin kidnaps Josiane and one son, leaving the other. Bueves puts his other son in a boat and sets it on the sea. Yvorin is shipwrecked at St. Gille, whiter Soibaut comes to rescue Josiane, having heard the story. A fisherman, meanwhile, has rescued the other son, Gui. Soibaut falls ill when he returns with Josiane to Hampton. The Queen of Simile is named Vencadousse, and though Bueve is chaste for a while after their marriage, eventually they they have a son, Li Restorés. Soibaut finally recovers, and he and Josiane go to seek Bueves, with Josiane disguised as a male minstrel. Her identity is discovered, Tierri is wed to Vencadousse, and Josiane and Bueves go to Armenia, where they fight King Yvorin. Yes, they, for Josiane now fights in full armor. After a long, tedious war, Yvorin is converted, Hermin dies and makes Bueves king. Bueves and his son (by Josiane) Beuvonnet succor their new vassal Yvorin.
Meanwhile, Gui has been raised on the coast of France by Gui the fisherman, who apprentices him to a furrier. Young Gui’s noble blood shows, however, when he buys a horse instead of the goods his master told him to. A lord notices his resemblance to Bueves (who is now the heir to the throne of England, the old king being dead) and gives Gui his daugher in marriage. Gui passes through Simile, rescues it from a pagan host, and proceeds with his half-brother to Armenia, where there is much rejoicing. Bueves and Josiane leave Gui in charge of Aubefort and head hom to England, fighting pagans on the way. They hang Rohart, who led the prince astray. Soibaut’s wife is dead. Soibaut receives Hampton, and he dies soon after. After five years, Josiane dies. Bueves leaves the throne to Li Restorés, and retires to a hermitage, where he dies five years later, with his sons around him.
The French Prose Redaction
Moral reflections are added, more detail is given about characters’ psychology, and the general tone is more refined and less violent. Achoppart is again a traitor. He leaves Beufves to tell Ygnorin [Yvorin] what has happened, so that he invades Armenia. The Queen of Cyrelle is named Vaudoce. Josiane’s stint as a warrior is played up.
The Third Redaction
Gui’s wife is still Renier’s daughter. She sees her beauty in a mirror as she decides to kill him. She tries to poison Bueves, but he has been given a pomander by an abbot to protect him. He is suspicious of one of her meals, and feeds it to a dog, which dies instantly. Soibaut is very suspicious of Bueves’ disappearance, but is persuaded that he is with Oudart, the duchess’ brother. The Bellerophon letter is Hermin’s idea. Josiane uses a herb to stay chaste. The lovers send a forged letter to Yvorin from his uncle, and drug Garsiles. The lions eat Bonnefoi. Bueves and Josiane are married in Cologne. Bueves calls himself Miles, and bribes Doon’s minstrel-spy Jolipin to leave him alone. The traitors who sold him are hanged and burned. Açopart is killed in the war, before Doon and Bueves agree to fight a duel before the King Guillaume. Doon loses, confesses, and is hanged. Josiane persuades Bueves not to burn his mother. The prince is named Huon. Bueves blindfolds himself to help Josiane in labor, though as in I, he is very reluctant, and would rather fight against two men at once. They are betrayed by foresters. Bueves cannot overcome Yvorin’s army, and so flees. The Queen of Sivele is never named, but her niece and confidante is named Aiglentine. Bueves is wed, keeps his chastity awhile, but then begets a son, who is never mentioned again.
Meanwhile, Yvorin has had Hermin through his daugher and grandsons in prison. Soibaut and a relative rescue them uneventfully. The King of England stands godfather to the children. After the recognition in Sivele, Bueves returns to England, where he helps King Guillaume conquere King Brian of Ireland. He lives uneventfully in Hampton for seven years, having another pair of twin boys. He then goes on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, visiting Tierri on the way. He saves Hermin from Yvorin and Açopart (somehow resurrected). As his reward, he asks to duel Gonce and Fourré. He overcomes them, they are stoned, and Yvorin and his people convert. Bueves finally reaches Jerusalem, saves it from the pagans in a long and tedious war, and is crowned King. Since Guillaume and Hermin both wish to make him their heirs, and Cyprus, Rome and Germany have surrendered themselves to him spontaneously, Bueves has enough kingdoms to give to all four of his sons, and some of his vassals to boot. He and Josiane die together.