The Legend of Mabrien

The Bibliotheque Universelle des Romans mentions a MS of Mabrien in verse, but no trace of such a romance has been found. The surviving versions of the legend of Mabrien, grandson of Renaud of Montauban, are as follows:

The prose versions, in MSS. Am and Lf of the Grand Prose of Renaud of Montauban.

The printed versions, starting in 1525, under a variety of titles, but usually changing the spelling to Mabrian. Adapted from the MSS by Guy Bounay and Jehan le Cueur.

THE MANUSCRIPT VERSION

Renaud’s son Yon is now king of Jerusalem, and is married to Queen Aiglentine, daughter of Robastre (once King of Jerusalem, before Renaud killed him), and brother of Baptamur (called Durandal before his baptism). Yon’s brother Aymon is king of Angorie and is married to Sinamonde, daughter of Danemont who was previously killed by Renaud. Yon and Aiglentine have a son. Six fairies, four queens and two kings, come to his cradle that night. The Queens are Morgan le Fay, Gloriande, Ydain the Fair, and Gracienne. The kings are Arthur and Gloriant. Arthur gives him the gift to be a great conqueror and the strongest knight since the days of Priam, and to visit them in Fairyland. Morgan gives him the gifts of wisdom and honesty. Gloriande grants him to be loved by all women and to be the strongest of men. Gracienne grants him to never be overcome in battle. Soon afterward, the boy is baptized Doon. He is kidnapped, however, and sold to the pagan Queen Mabrienne, daughter of King Fortin and wife of the Amiral Barré. Her husband is at war, so she passes the child off as her own and calls him Mabrien. Yon’s vassal Gerard de Blaives is regent of Jerusalem, but loses the city to Barré. That Amiral installs Acaire as king, much to the anger of his ally, King Murgalas, who thereupon becomes his enemy. Gerard, Yon, and Aiglentine escape to Acre. By the advice of Baptamur, they retake Jerusalem and kill Acaire.

Meanwhile, King Murgalas has laid siege to Admiral Barré in his city of Ordanne. The newly-dubbed Mabrien defeats him and takes his magical armor. Admiral Barré, excited by his son’s abilities, decides to besiege the Sultan of Babylon [not named. Babylon seems to be Old Babylon, and not Cairo]. Mabrien conquers him, too, and his “father” becomes the new Sultan. They next conquer Angorie, and King Aymonnet flees to his brother in Jerusalem. Mabrien next lays siege to Jerusalem, and the two kings send to Charlemagne for help. Charlemagne (for once) comes to help the Aymonids, bringing Roland and Oliver with him. Mabrien repels them all, however, kills his uncle Aymonnet, and takes Jerusalem, chasing the Christians to Acre (again). Charlemagne and the Peers retreat to France, and all seems lost. Fortunately for Christendom, Mabrienne falls in love with her adopted son. Even though she reveals his true identity, he still repulses her, so she sends him to the Sultan of Mecca with a Bellerophon-letter. He is accompanied, as usual, by Fortin and Sarragot. The three are imprisoned by the Sultan. Luckily, this Sultan has a daughter, Gloriande, who is smitten with the handsome prisoners and escapes with them.

The author at this point assures us that, unlike the histories of Arthur, Lancelot du Lac, Perceval, Tristan, Huon of Bourdeaux, and others, his story is true. The foursome sail away, but are forced by a storm to land in Ludie [Lydia?], ruled by the Sultan of Mecca’s vassal, King Vast. So many of King Vast’s vassals attack them that Fortin, Sarragot, and Gloriande are captured and Mabrien is forced to retreat to sea in the boat. He is shipwrecked on the Island of Adamant, the same where Huon of Bordeaux landed. This island is magnetic, and thus irresistably attracts all ships that come near. It is also home to the Becqus, a race of humanoid monsters that swim like fishes, have heads like birds’, and eat sailors who are shipwrecked on the island. Mabrien repels them, and constructs from the flotsam and jetsam a ship made entirely of wood. He sails away, reaches the mainland, and wanders until he finds a tree planted by King Arthur which marks the border of Fairyland. The fairy Gracienne (the same who came to his cradle) has hung a shield thereon which is only for the best knight in the world. Mabrien takes it and journeys on, until he meets Sir Eubrom, a knight of Arthur’s. Arthur reigns over Fairyland with his sister Morgan, and they wish to test Mabrien. Mabrien overcomes the Red Knight, the White Knight, the Black Knight, the Green Knight, the Rainbow Knight, the Blue Knight, and ten others [they are not named] to win admission to Arthur’s castle. At this juncture, a damsel-errant comes, seeking a champion for her lady, the the fairy Gracienne. Mabrien goes to succor her, and defeats a lion, a serpent, a dragon, and a luiton named Gaudice. He thereby wins the fairy’s favors, and begets on her a bastard named Gracien. Travelling with her, his infant son, and his new servant/friend Gaudice, he comes to the Abbey Adventurous, where he overcomes the knights who attack any traveller who blows the horn. He next comes to the Terreastiral Paradise, where Enoch and Elijah show him the famous Trees, and then to the sea, where Cain is floating in a nail-studded barrel. Farther on is the land of Prester John, whose people are all fed by the fruits from the Tree of Life. Mabrien receives one of these fruits to take home with him.

Meanwhile, King Vast plans to kill Fortin and Saragot because Gloriande refuses to marry him. Luckily, Mabrien returns and kills him, conquers his city, and converts his people to Christianity. He now journeys eastward with his companions, and kills the fifteen giants who guard the passage to India with their fifteen castles. They have such names as Ardouffle, Gallafre, Bruyant, Danebus, and the like. (Not all are named). Gallafre wisely surrenders, and becomes Mabrien’s servant. Our hero now returns to France, leaving Gallafre to guard his lady Gloriande in the castle of Macedonia [not the real Macedonia]. In France, he introduces himself by dueling Ogier, and is met with rejoicing. Charlemagne is desperate for good knights, since this is shortly after Roncesvalles, and Roland, Oliver, Avin, Avoire, Engelier of Gascony, and twenty thousand knights are dead. Mabrien gives Charlemagne the Fruit of Life to eat, and the ancient emperor again becomes a sprightly young bachelor. Charlemagne kindly tells Mabrien that his parents are alive and well, and living in Tremoigne. Mabrien again introduces himself by dueling, and fights his father to a draw before revealing himself. They all return to Paris, Mabrien having summoned his wife and friends from Macedonia, amidst much rejoicing. Mabrien and Gloriande are baptized [the author seems to have forgotten Mabrien was baptized already] and wed by the Bishop of Paris [Turpin does not appear in this romance].

Mabrien now leads the French overseas, conquering Acre, Jerusalem, and Angorie. The French return home. Mabrien and his friends are shipwrecked again. King Solimant of Nadres imprisons Gloriande, Sarragot, and Fortin. Mabrien lays siege to Nadres, conquers it, and converts Solimant and his people. He arranges for Solimant’s sister Rose to marry the King of Persia, and then sails away. Passing the homeland of Job, the land of the Amazons, Ethiopia, and India, he finds the city of Rocq, in the port of Siet, and converts its king Sanguin by defeating the king in a duel. He next travels to Marrocq, where he kills King Polus and takes possession of the land. At this juncture, his wife Gloriane gives birth to a son, named Regnault, or Regnauldin. Now Mabrian wars on King Bruyant of Cana. He kills King Agoulafre of Hault Assis, rescues King Sanguin from invading infidels, but is imprisoned by Bruyant. At this juncture, however, Gracien, now grown to manhood, arrives, rescues his father, and kills Bruyant. Mabrien proceeds to kill King Tenebre of Simoubar and convert his kingdom, whereupon the [Christian] Great Khan sends him a beautifully wrought golden apple in tribute.

Mabrien is now beginning to tire of war, and so he crowns Regnauldin king and weds him to Eglantine, the daughter of Bruyant. He then retires to a hermitage. Twenty years later, King Barufle of Morinde makes war on Regnauldin, and Mabrien leaves his hermitage to help his son. He slays Barufle’s brother Escorfault, and is mortally wounded by Barufle in turn. Regnauldin kills Barufle, but Mabrien dies. Gracien and Regnauldin bury their father in a rich sepulchre in Cana, where he is venerated as a martyr. Regnauldin’s son Aymon, many years later, conquers the Morindians.

THE PRINTED VERSIONS

Guy and Jehan alternate between abridging the MS and showing off how many Latin synonyms they know. In their prologue, they plump for Renaud’s sons fighting the sons of Foulques of Morillon, and place the Conquest of Trebisond immediately after said duel. The printed version begins by summarizing the last adventures of Renaud, and proceeds to relate, at some length, the Death of Maugis, as we have given before.

ORIGINS

Very, very much an example of the late school of romances of chivalry. The wars are simply one thing after another, the love affairs and intrigues are mostly perfunctory, and the least uninteresting parts, the adventures with the Fairies, are mostly stolen from Ogier the Dane. For the curious, Jerusalem changes hands four times in this story. What more is there to say? A bad fanfic continuation is a bad fanfic continuation, no matter what century it was written in, and we may at least be grateful that no one ever wrote the adventures of Aymon III.

Book I, Canto IX, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto IX, Stanzas 21-40

21
She ceased her talk, descended to the ground,
Where the beast lurked, prepared for fresh attacks,
And there the knotted cord the dame unwound,
And from its pan she threw the cake of wax.
The monster snatched it in its jaws, but found
Its teeth stuck fast, and it began to wax
Exceeding wroth, and snorted, shook, and leapt,
And straightway got entangled in the net.

22
The damsel left it in its hempen prison,
And flew away as swiftly as she’d come.
By that time was the lovely star arisen
Which mounts up in the East before the sun.
The growing light brought to Rinaldo’s vision
The beast, whose jaws were sealed and who had run
Smack-dab into a mazy web of knots.
It could not move a hands-breadth from its spot.

23
Immediately he leaps down to the ground,
Where the ferocious freak of nature lies
And bellows so that all the folk around,
Despite their wall, with fear are paralyzed.
Rinaldo quickly his Fusberta found,
And to assault the monster great he tried.
But such thick skin possessed the beast accurst,
It seemed Fusberta would be broken first.

24
Rinaldo searches for its weakest place.
He strikes the right side now, and now the left,
And now he stabs its legs, and now its face,
But still the monster’s skin he hasn’t cleft.
Fusbert can split a rock or iron mace,
But of incisions is the beast bereft.
But bold Rinaldo isn’t took aback.
At once he switches to another tack.

25
To leap upon the monster’s back he rushed,
And threw his arms around its ugly throat,
His knees into the monster’s flanks he pushed.
This is the wildest steed he ever rode!
The baron’s visage crimson red was flushed.
All of his power in this fight he showed,
More strength than he had ever used before,
Till the abomination breathed no more.

26
After he beast’s completely suffocated,
Rinaldo starts to ponder how to fly.
The field was circumscribed (as I have stated)
By an enormous wall both thick and high.
There was one window only, which was grated
With latticed iron work. Rinaldo tries
To slice it open with Fusberta, but
The grate’s too thick and strong for him to cut.

27
Rinaldo realizes at this pass
He’s still a pris’ner in this castle vile.
The folk won’t life him o’er the wall, alas!
And with starvation he must reconcile.
He searches all around, till on the grass
He finds, just lying there, a massive file.
Angelica had left it on the sod.
The baron thinks it must have come from God.

28
The magic file swiftly cuts the bars.
The knight’s about to make his getaway.
From the bright heaven disappear the stars,
As rosy-fingered dawn leads forth the day.
But lo! a giant strolling by, who mars
Rinaldo’s plans not in the slightest way.
For when he sees the knight, he gives a yelp,
And turns, and runs away, and shouts, “Help! Help!”

29
Rinaldo’s sawed completely through the grate,
And from the window he removes the bars,
But the scared outcries of the giant great
Have summon all the wicked folk to arms.
Rinaldo issues from the window straight.
He has Fusberta drawn. He must look sharp,
For ‘gainst him come the people of the castle,
More than six hundred armed and angry vassals.

30
The worthy baron doesn’t care at all;
Were they six times their strength, he’d face them yet.
Leading the rabble is a giant tall,
Who tries to snare Rinaldo in a net.
That false poltroon, whose virtues are but small,
Rinaldo dodges, and he does not fret,
But strikes the giant just below the knee,
Without his legs upon the earth fell he.

31
He left him there; against the rest he sped.
Death and destruction with Fusbert he rained,
And soon he stood alone; the rest were fled.
Not one of all the Saracens remained.
Some left their arms behind, and some their heads.
The courtyard now is even more blood-stained.
The old hag in the keep is barricaded.
With her last soldiers for Rinald she waited.

32
The other giant in the room there stood.
Rinald arrives and doesn’t gape or gawk,
But strikes the door and batters through the wood
Until the door is off its hinges knocked.
The mighty giant in confusion stood,
In terror and embarrassment and shock.
Although he armored is from head to toe,
Not till the door is open does he go

33
Leaping out, brings his club down with a roar;
On Don Rinaldo’s head his great blow fell.
Rinaldo merely laughed at him and swore
“I do thee honor, wretched infidel.
To take thy death from Montalbano’s lord –
Thou wilt be honored for it, down in Hell,
Where thou wilt shortly meet, I dare assert, a
Mighty host I’ve sent there with Fusberta.”

34
The worthy cavalier’s discourse is brief.
He strikes a mighty blow and does not flag
Till he has cleft the giant to the teeth.
The others flee; Rinaldo does not lag,
But hunts and slays them all, with no relief.
But the black-hearted, unrepentant hag
Is standing on a narrow balcony,
And leaps down when the cavalier she sees.

35
The balcony rose up a hundred feet.
You may be well assured the hag is dead.
When Don Rinaldo saw that mighty leap,
“Go to the Devil with thy men!” he said.
The blood upon the chamber floor was deep;
But Don Rinaldo, sword in hand, still sped
In hot pursuit, but, not to tell it all,
He left no soul alive within the walls.

36
And then he left and walked back to the sea.
He did not trust the magic bark; instead
Traipsing along the coastline traveled he,
Until he met a lady fair, who said,
“Alas! Ah, woeful wight! Ah, misery!
My life is dreary, would that I were dead!”
But Turpin speaks no more about her here,
And turns to Don Astolfo, England’s peer.

37
Astolfo had departed lovely France;
Upon the good Baiardo travels he.
In gilded armor, with the golden lance.
Alone he journeys, without company.
He passes through the region of Mayence,
And through great Germany, fair Hungary,
The Danube, Transylvania he’s gone,
And through White Russia till he saw the Don.

38
Reaching this place, to the right hand he swings,
And into mountainous Circasse he’s come.
All of that territory’s bustling.
He sees the folk in armor, every one,
For Sacripante, the Circassian king
A mighty war had recently begun
With Agricane, king of Tartary.
Both of the lords were full of chivalry.

39
The war did not begin for reasons of
A recent insult, nor for ancient hate,
Nor for one king another king to shove
Off of his throne, or to extend the state,
But all these men were armed to fight for Love.
For Agricane wanted as his mate
Angelica, and with her he would wed.
She answered him, she’d rather she were dead.

40
She sent out messengers through ev’ry land,
Both near and far, to palaces and tents,
To knights most lowly and to knights most grand,
Inviting one and all to her defense.
And so a myriad, uncounted band
To save the lady, ready their offense.
But Sacripante’s first of all the throng,
Because this worthy king has loved her long.

Book I, Canto IX, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto IX, Stanzas 1-20

ARGUMENT

Angelica by Don Rinald is spurned,
Though she arrives to save her by her arts.
He slays the beast, and then he sorely yearns
To raze the castle. Duke Astolfo starts
His quest, by Sacripant away is turned,
And meets the noble heathen Brandimart.
Orlando in the magic bower he sees,
But they two fight, and Duke Astolfo flees.

1
You’ve heard already of the shape miswrought
The horrible and wasted monster bore,
Which had for long against Rinaldo fought,
And how Fusberta from his hand it tore.
And we shall leave him here, unhelped, distraught,
For now another matter needs me more.
Now of a lady who with love doth burn
I sing, then to Rinaldo I’ll return.

2
Me gracious lords, most humble I request
Ye to recall Angelica the bright.
How she met Malagise on a quest
And watches for his coming day and night.
Now as she waits, her spirit is oppressed.
As all may guess who’ve waited for delight,
And one’s who’s waited for a lover knows
All other waiting seems a pleasant rose.

3
She stands for hours gazing at the sea,
And then for hours looking o’er the land.
And if a ship the poor girl chanced to see,
Or any speck, as she th’horizon scanned,
She whispers to herself that certainly
The gallant Don Rinaldo was at hand.
And when a beast or cart came down the road,
She thought the lord of Montalban there rode.

4
Behold! When Malagise there appeared,
(But no Rinaldo stood there by his side)
Haggard and pale, with a disheveled beard.
Upon the earth he fixed his tired eyes;
His clothes were ragged and with grime besmirched.
He looked like one who from a dungeon flies.
The damsel sees him, seeming hard bestead,
“Alas!” she cries out, “My Rinaldo’s dead!”

5
“He isn’t dead. At least he isn’t yet,”
Says Malagise to the damosel,
“But he cannot endure. He’s hard beset,
And will be eaten by a monster fell.
Confound the day and hour that did beget
A soul who dared to thus ‘gainst Love rebel!”
And then in full detail he makes report
How he had lured Rinaldo to that court.

6
And how the folk had sentenced him to die,
And how a quick and painful end he faced.
You need not wonder if the lady’s nigh
To death. Her spirit sinks, so much abased
She cannot move, cannot let out a cry,
But stands with vacant eyes and icy face.
But strength returning just an instant later,
She says to Malagise, “Ah! Thou traitor!

7
“Traitor, cruel, ribald brute, forsworn.
How dost thou dare to tell me such a tale?
When thou hast left thy cousin all forlorn,
So close to death, and hopest he will fail?
But if thou dost not help him, be forewarned,
Thy demons and enchantments won’t avail,
But I shall have thee burnt immediately,
And then I’ll throw thine ashes in the sea.

8
“Make no excuses, thou deceitful cad,
Saying thou’st thought to give me vengeful joy.
Didst thou not know, I would be far more sad
Were he unhappy than if I should die?
The height of beauty and of strength he had,
A vile and a luckless woman I.
And furthermore, I told thee, witless lout,
Thy cousin Rinald I can’t live without.”

9
Quoth Malagis, “If thou dost so much care,
There is a way to help him, even now.
But thou must be the one to help him there,
And do just as I say. I’ll tell thee how.
He, although he is crueler than a bear,
Despite himself, to Love he soon will bow.
Make thyself ready, then, without delay.
He may well die if we an instant stay.”

10
As he is speaking thus, a rope he brings,
Tied into loops about a palm around;
A cake of wax which to his fingers clings;
A magic file which makes ne’er a sound.
He tells the damsel how to use these things.
Angelica a demon black has bound
To serve her, and he flies her through the air
To the Cruel Rock and her beloved there.

11
Now to Rinaldo must I turn my tale,
Who finds himself in woeful plight. Appalled,
It seems Death soon will catch him without fail.
Can swordless knight fight on, or even stall?
He runs away, the monster on his tail,
And lo, before him, halfway up the wall,
A cornice, some ten feet above the ground.
Rinaldo, running, takes a mighty bound,

12
Reaches it, with his hand he grabs the spit,
And pulls his body up with knightly force.
Now perched between the heaven and earth he sits,
And down below, the fearful monster roars.
Although most gross and ponderous is it,
It leapt up, with its savage claws it tore
The air alone; it could not reach the knight.
Rinaldo, nonetheless, is filled with fright.

13
And now the day gave way to darkling night.
Rinaldo, still upon his risky perch,
Knows not what chance or miracle has might
To bring him out of his imperiled lurch,
When he beholds, lit by the moon’s pale light,
(For not a single cloud the sky besmirched)
He knows not what, that through the ether came,
But by its shape, it seemed to be a dame.

14
It was Angelica, who hither raced
To bring deliverance to her cavalier.
But when Rinaldo recognized her face,
To throw himself upon the ground he’s near,
Because for her he had so much distaste
That less repulsive is the monster fierce.
Being devoured seems a lesser grief
That seeing her who’s come to bring relief.

15
She stands before him, hov’ring in the air,
And kneels on nothing, saying, “Cavalier,
One grief above all fills my heart with care:
That by my doing thou art prisoned here.
I must confess, such love for thee I bear,
At times I’m like to lose my wit, I fear.
But never could I do thee injury.
Ah! Couldst thou really think so ill of me?

16
“I but intended to give thee delight,
With joy and pleasure, and with sweet repose,
And so I brought thee to the island bright,
But now I find thee in such perilous throes
And so constrained, in so extreme a plight,
That I am almost slain to see thy woes.
But let all fear be put away from tee,
For I have come, and I can set thee free.

17
“Come, leap into my arms! Oh, be not shy!
And I shall carry thee across the skies,
And thou shalt see the earth below flit by.
Swifter than thought, almost, my whirlwind flies.
Didst thou not ever wish that thou couldst fly?
Thy wish is granted! From thy perch arise.
Come, mount me, worthy knight, and thou mayst find
I am no worse than that Baiard of thine.”

18
The brave Rinaldo was aggrieved full sore,
Whenas her loving words fell on his ear.
He answered thusly: “By Our Blesséd Lord,
I would far sooner meet my death right here,
Than flee this place with thee as my support.
Unless thou instantly dost disappear,
I swear I’ll throw myself down from this spit;
Now stay or leave, whate’er thou thinkest fit.”

19
Believe it well, no greater injury
Than for a loving dame to be rejected.
The man she once adored now hateth she.
Her passions are completely redirected.
But by this deathless animosity,
Angelica is not the least affected.
Her love towards Rinaldo hath such might
That all his injuries to her seem light.

20
She answers him, “I shall obey thy will,
For I lack power to do otherwise.
With my one hand myself I’ll gladly kill,
If I thought at my death you would rejoice.
But most unrightly thou with hate art filled.
I swear, as I have hope of Paradise,
I shall do anything thou dost decree,
Save the impossible: to love not thee.

Notes to the Ninth Canto, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto IX, Stanzas 1-20 Notes

7. It is unclear whether Angelica will do this herself by magic, or will have Malagise burnt at the stake. Anent this, please note that the burning of witches at the stake was not done out of cruelty, but to prevent their corpses from being stolen and used in further magical rites. It was customary  to strangle the criminals before burning their bodies; burning alive was a late development. The witch hunts had not reached their full height in Boiardo’s day, but the fear was growing. It should be noted, however, that only 50,000 people (one-third of them men) were executed for witchcraft in the entire history of post-Roman Europe. The figure of nine million women, frequently bandied around, is a lie.