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 VI, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VI, Stanzas 41-60

41
King Galifron, the father of the lady
Is ancient. Peace at any cost he prizes.
No quarrel with the Prince of Tartars made he,
Who’s strong and bold, and vast his army’s size is.
His lovely daughter ‘gainst all reason bade he
To wed this man whom she so much despises.
Unto her father’s will she’ll ne’er submit.
She’d rather die than even think of it.

42
Unto Albracca did the lady fly,
A day’s ride past the borders of Cathay,
Which is a castle strongly fortified
Which can withstand a siege for many a day.
The courtly lady now is trapped inside,
Angelica, who through the world is famed;
For Heaven’s star that shines most brilliantly
Has lost its light, and is less fair than she.

43
The herald takes his leave and disappears.
Orlando gallops off with all his power.
He seems already to behold his dear
Angelica, and tread within her bower.
As thus in rev’ry rides the cavalier,
He sees a  mighty wall around a tower.
A pair of mountains was this fort between.
To reach them was a bridge across a stream.

44
Upon the bridge there stood a fair young maid,
Who held a crystal chalice in her hands.
When she espied the cavalier, she bade
Him stop, and with a gladsome countenance
And sweet voice said, “O baron, thou art stayed.
Thou canst ride on no further, nor advance
On foot. Thy strength and cunning may not serve.
The custom of this place thou must observe.

45
The custom is that ev’ry knight must drink
Out of this goblet ere he passes us.”
Of guile Count Orlando does not think;
He drains the brimming glass, but as he does,
Before he has the time to even blink,
He’s changed entirely from what he was.
He knows not whence, or how, or when he came,
Or whither he is bound, or his own name.

46
Angelica the beautiful is fled
Out of his mind. Extinguished is the flame
By which across the world he has been led.
He has forgotten Emp’ror Charlemagne.
All other thoughts are banished from his head.
Over his heart, this newcome lady reigns.
He does not seek for pleasance, but he stands
Obedient to what she shall command.

47
He rides his Brigliadoro through the gate,
That Count of Brava, rapt out of his wits,
And dismounts in a palace finely made,
And for astonishment he gapes at it.
On amber columns with fine gold inlaid
A large and finely-furnished loggia sits.
The floor was made of marble green and white;
The ceiling was with gold and azure dight.

48
A garden spread beneath the gallery,
Shaded by palms and cedars fresh and green,
And many other pleasant kinds of tree,
Beneath whose branches was a rich sward seen,
Where springtime flowers bloomed eternally.
A marble wall enclosed this pleasant scene,
Where from each herb and bush and tree and flower
A sweet scent wafted, filling all the bower.

49
The count stands marv’lling at the loggia’s three
Arcades, which have been richly decorated
By paintings which were wrought so skillfully
That Nature’s self looked not so real as they did.
As the Count looks on them amazedly,
He sees a noble hist’ry there related.
Ladies and cavaliers from days of old
Were painted with their names below, in gold.

50
They showed a damsel standing on a beach.
She looked so lifelike that you would have swore
That as you looked at her, you heard her speech.
She beckoned passing sailors to her shore,
But as they came, she turned them into beasts.
Their human shape away from them she tore.
Some became lions, others wolves or bears.
Boars’ or gryphons’ shapes do others wear.

51
A ship, arriving, could you painted see,
And a knight who was stepping off her decks,
Who with his handsome face and his sweet speech
Kindled the flames of love within her breast.
And she was shown in giving him the key
With which she locked the potion in a chest,
The potion by whose means the mighty dame
Turned into beasts all men who thither came.

52
There could be seen how she so much did glow
For that bold cavalier with such emotion,
That by her own enchantments she’s brought low.
He tricked her into drinking her own potion,
And thus transformed her to a milk-white doe,
And then that knight for whom she’d such devotion
(Circella was this hapless lady’s name)
Mounted his horse and rode to hunt the dame.

53
All of her history the walls relate,
How he pursued her, and restored her shape.
The painting was so rich and so ornate,
The gold lit all the garden, without jape.
The count, whose mind is in a mazed state,
Can do nought else than simply stare and gape,
But as he’s standing there, his wits without,
He hears within the park a mighty shout.

54
But ere I tell you how he ran toward
That noise, and why that clamor was begun,
Somewhat of King Gradasso I’ll record,
Who was all armored like a champion,
Beside the sea, upon the sandy shore,
Where all day he awaited Aymon’s son.
He thought that leaving early would be wrong.
The seashore was two thousand good leagues long.

55
But as the starry heavens he perceived,
And of his foe Rinaldo not a sign,
Then was he certain he has been deceived.
He hurried back towards the battle lines.
I’ll sing of Ricciardetto, sorely grieved,
For when he saw the day to eve decline,
And that his brother dear was not yet come,
He thought he must be dead or overcome.

56
Think of how dreadful must have been his grief!
But sorrow did not so possess his heart
To stop his summoning the Christian chiefs,
And bidding them make ready to depart.
That very night, as silent as a thief,
The army left, nor did the Pagan guards
Perceive them, for, prepared for all events,
Rinald had camped three leagues from Marsil’s tents.

57
Without a rest they hurry on their path,
Until they see once more the land of France.
Now turn we to Gradasso. In his wrath,
He bids his men at daybreak to advance.
Poor King Marsilio now much terror hath.
His champions are gone, his army scant.
Pris’ners are Ferragu and Serpentin.
The Christians fled, Rinaldo nowhere seen.

58
He went himself to where Gradasso sate,
And knelt before him, bowing low his head.
The outrage of the Christians he relates,
And how the glutton Don Rinald has fled.
He offers to give up his kingship straight,
And hold his lands from King Gradass instead.
With few words more, the terms of fee are fixed,
And the two armies are together mixed.

59
Grandonio comes from Barcellona town,
And swears an oath at King Marsil’s command,
That he will follow King Gradasso’s crown
Against King Charlemagne and all his land.
The king in secret vows he will burn down
All Paris to the ground, if to his hand
They do not give Baiardo, and he yearned
To see each bit of France it such wise burned.

60
Don Ricciardetto all the army brought
Back to the palace of King Charlemagne,
But of Rinaldo he could tell them nought
And from his silence a great outcry sprang.
Those of Maganza villainously sought
To have Rinaldo instantly proclaimed
A traitor, but the villains he defied,
And wished to prove by combat that they lied.

Childe Rowland and the Dark Tower

The most famous Roland in English-speaking countries today is probably the “Childe Rowland who to the Dark Tower came”, but that Rowland was no relation to our Roland/Orlando. That Rowland is from a Scottish story, half-fairytale, half-ballad. He was the son of a Scottish knight, and had two brothers and a sister, Burd Helen (Fair Ellen). Burd Helen was kidnapped by the Elf-king, and locked in his Dark Tower, whence Childe Rowland rescued her, after his two older brothers had failed. This Rowland is the one that Edmund sings about in King Lear, whilst pretending to be insane.

“Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.”

Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland (1855) is a bizarre yet very powerful fantasy poem, featuring perhaps the most heroic character in all literature. Certainly no one else ever faced so great a peril with so little support: no family, no friends, only the certain knowledge that he will fail his appointed task just like all his companions who went before him,

“And yet,
Dauntless the slughorn to my lips I set,
And blew. ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.’”

The poem was inspired by the first line of Edmund’s song in Lear, but has nothing to do with the Scottish story, which was not presented to the reading public until Joseph Jacob’s English Fairy Tales, in 1886. Jacobs heard the tale in Scotland, and dressed it up slightly for publication, replacing the generic wizard who advises Rowland with Merlin, and the generic castle with the Shakespearean Dark Tower. Stephen King’s sprawling The Dark Tower series is loosely inspired by Browning’s poem, but again has nothing to do with the Scottish fairy tale, or with Roland the Paladin.