Book 7 Chapters 1-5
A young man arrives in King Arthur’s court, and is dubbed Beaumains. When a lady asks for a brave knight to accompany her on a difficult journey, Beaumains volunteers and is knighted by Launcelot. He reveals himself to be Sir Gareth, son of King Lot and Queen Margawse, and nephew to King Arthur.
As was the custom each year at Pentecost, King Arthur would not begin his meal until he had either heard of or had seen a great marvel. On this particular Pentecost, three men arrived at court, one of whom was much taller and broader than his companions and yet could not stand without their aid. When Arthur took note of this man’s beauty and physique, he immediately made room for him at their table and began to eat, for he sensed there was something more about the young man than his appearance suggested.
The young man blessed Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and asked the king to grant him three gifts, all of which he promised would be of reasonable value. He further asked that his first gift be given this night, and the next two in a year’s time. For his first gift, the young man asked that he be allowed to stay at court and eat his fill of meat and drink for a year. Arthur was happy to grant his request, and asked Sir Kay to facilitate it. Sir Kay was not a kind knight, and in fact was known for his sarcasm and mockery. He dubbed the young man Beaumains, or “Fair-Hands,” as the boy would not give his name. Kay set up a place for him in the kitchens, and proceeded to mock him daily.
Sir Gawaine and Sir Launcelot were upset over Sir Kay’s behavior toward Beaumains, who appeared meek and courteous to everyone. Kay argued that Beaumains must be low born because he had asked Arthur for food when he could have asked for armor. Beaumains stayed in the kitchens with the other kitchen lads, and was often asked to sup with Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawaine, who took pity on him. Sir Gawaine and Beaumains were actually kin, though the former did not yet know it.
Beaumains endured Kay's mockery and the kitchen life for a year, and was always well behaved. What pleased him most were jousts. When Pentecost came again, Arthur prepared for a new marvel or adventure. A squire arrived with news that the king could dine, since a damosel was on her way to speak of strange tidings.
The damosel (Linet, though her name is not given until later) arrived in need of a worthy knight. She knew of a lady whose castle was being besieged by a tyrant, and she asked that one of Arthur’s knights accompany her to the lady’s castle. She would not tell them the lady’s name, but did say the tyrant was called the the Knight of the Red Launds, whom Gawaine knew as a powerful beast of a man. (The Knight also went by Sir Ironside, though that name is not given until later).
Beaumains entered the hall and asked King Arthur to grant him his last two gifts; he wanted to be knighted by Sir Launcelot, and then to be allowed to aid the lady. Arthur gladly granted his wishes, but Linet was upset that a "kitchen page" would be assigned for her protection. She left in anger, but he armored himself quickly and followed.
Sir Kay followed Beaumains, as did Gawaine and Launcelot. Just as Beaumains caught up to the damosel, Kay announced himself. Overcome by the memory of the year's torments, Beaumains insulted and threatened Kay. Kay charged him, but Beaumains handily unseated him. He then took Sir Kay's spear and rode off.
Launcelot, who saw the joust, next challenged Beaumains. They fought for over an hour, and Launcelot was impressed, believing Beaumains fought more like a giant than a man. Launcelot called a halt, fearing he might actually lose the fight.
Launcelot asked Beaumains’s real name, so that he could knight him. Beaumains made Launcelot swear he would not reveal his name to anyone, and then admitted he was Gareth, son of King Lot and Margawse, and brother to Sir Gawaine, Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine, and Sir Mordred. Launcelot was glad to know Gareth’s identify, and gave him the order of knighthood. Sir Gareth then departed from him.
Book 7 Chapter 6-14
Beaumains defeats several knights, all brothers, despite the animosity of the young lady who travels with him. He quickly establishes himself as a knight of valor and strength.
Meanwhile, Beaumains caught up to Linet. Although she had seen him best Sir Kay, she continued to mock him as cowardly and common. Beaumains insisted he would follow her on her quest no matter how harshly she insulted him.
So they rode into the woods and met some adventure involving thieves and a kind knight. One day, they encountered the Knight of the Black Laund, a knight clad in black resting under a tree. When he saw the damosel, he asked Beaumains if he was her chosen champion, and she denied being represented by such a lowly knight. The Knight of the Black Laund insulted him as well, so Beaumains challenged him to a duel, insisting he was of higher lineage than either of his them knew. Beaumains easily defeated and killed his opponent, after which he took the black knight's armor and rode on with Linet.
They rode together and soon met the Green Knight, the Black Knight’s brother, who learned that Beaumains had killed him. The Green Knight fought Beaumains, and eventually yielded. He promised to forgive his brother's death, and promised loyalty to Beaumains. Beaumains asked that he show his loyalty to King Arthur instead. Linet was still not impressed, and insulted Beaumains again before traveling on. Yet again, he followed her.
They eventually came upon a snow-white tower, where many knights and squires were gathered for a tournament. The lord of the tower, the Red Knight, saw Beaumains approaching, and thinking he would make a worthy challenger, rode out to fight him. He was brother to the Green and Black knights. Beaumains defeated him in a joust, after which the Red Knight pledge himself and fifty of his men to Beaumains's service. Again, Beaumains asked that those favors be granted King Arthur in his stead. Beaumains and Linet slept at the castle that knight, and when they set off the next day, she continued to mock him.
They next met the Blue Knight, brother to the Black, Green, and Red Knights. Like his brethren had, he fought and fell to Beaumains, after which he offered a service of 100 men.
Soon, Linet and Beaumains set out for the Castle Perilous, her sister's castle, which the Knight of the Red Laund was besieging. She then gave her proper name, and identified her sister as Dame Lionesse. They were warned that the Knight of the Red Laund had the strength of seven men, and that he was prolonging his siege in the hopes of battling Sir Launcelot or another of Arthur’s knights.
If Beaumains were to defeat the Knight of the Red Laund, he would then be considered the fourth most powerful knight in the kingdom, after Sir Launcelot, Sir Tristram, and Sir Lamorak. Beaumains confessed his true identity to Linet, and swore her to secrecy.
Book 7 Chapters 15-18
Linet asks that Beaumains defeat the Knight of the Red Launds who is besieging her sister’s castle. Beaumains agrees and battles the other knight. They are evenly matched, but Beaumains’s new found love for the lady of the castle inspires him to win the day. The Knight of the Red Laund pledges his loyalty to King Arthur.
The next day, Beaumains and Linet approached Castle Perilous to observe the mighty siege of the Knight of the Red Launds. Beaumains was appalled to see forty knights hanging from a nearby sycamore tree. Linet warned him that he would be hanged if he lost. Beaumains then challenged the Knight of the Red Launds, who appeared with his shield and armor blood red in color. All those both in the castle and in the siege watched in anticipation.
As Beaumains prepared himself, Linet pointed to a castle window from which her sister Lionesse was was watching. Beaumains looked on Lionesse and fell in love, deciding he would win this fight to make her his lady.
The Knight of the Red Launds taunted Beaumains until they began to fight. Both showed great strength, and the audience was impressed to see Beaumains hold his own against this great knight.
They fought till past noon, and both were wounded and exhausted. They agreed to rest for the night. As they prepared to sleep, Beaumains saw Lionesse gazing down at him from the window, and felt such love that he insisted they continue fighting immediately. The Knight of the Red Laund won an early advantage, and pinned Beaumains to the ground. Linet cried out in pity for him, which inspired Beaumains to overpower the other knight until he yielded. He asked mercy for those he had killed, claiming he was avenging the brother of his beloved, who had been killed by one of King Arthur's knights.
Many earls, barons, and knights pleaded with Beaumains to spare the Knight of the Red Laund’s life. Beaumains agreed to spare him if he surrendered to Lionesse and then pledged fealty to King Arthur.
Linet then helped heal the wounds of both knights. The Knight of the Red Launds asked forgiveness from Lionesse, which she granted, then he traveled to King Arthur’s court to relate his tale and pledge loyalty.
Book 7 Chapters 19-23
The lady of the castle, Lionesse, discovers Beaumains's true identity. The two quickly fall in love, but their attempts at consummation are interrupted by an enchanted knight who cannot be killed.
After some confusion and adventure, Beaumains and Lionesse fell in love with one another. They were both staying with Lionesse’s brother, Sir Gringamore. After Beaumains revealed himself to be Sir Gareth of Orkney, he and Lionesse were given permission to marry.
Gareth was pleased to learn of the close relationship between Lionesse and her sister; however, he also recognized how deeply he lusted after Linet, even though he never acted on it.
One night, Lionesse told Gareth to sleep in the hall, and that she would come to his bed. Linet was displeased, believing that Lionesse and Garth should wait to consummate their relationship until their wedding night. Using her subtle crafts, she planned to intervene. After supper that night, Gareth retired to the hall where a feather bed had been prepared for him. At midnight, Lionesse arrived and they began to kiss, but were interrupted by an armed knight. Gareth fought the knight, and was wounded in the thigh. Gareth then beheaded the knight before fainting from the pain.
Linet arrived, and using a magic ointment, put the dead knight's body back together. The knight then walked to Linet's room, and she confessed to Lionesse she had acted to keep their family honor intact.
Soon, Gareth was whole again, dancing and gaming with Lionesse. They made a promise to meet that night in his bed. Linet sent the knight again, and he fought with Gareth. This time, he chopped the knights head into little pieces but Linet, using her crafts, revived the knight and again prevented her sister and Gareth from consummating their relationship.
Book 7 Chapter 24-35
King Arthur and his knights arrive at Lionesse’s castle for a tournament. Sir Gareth dominates the field but does not divulge his identify, and instead conceals himself behind a magic ring. Sir Gareth’s identity is revealed and, after some adventure, he is reunited with his brother Sir Gawaine, and with King Arthur. Gareth and Lionesse marry.
Meanwhile, Pentecost had arrived, and King Arthur was celebrating with his knights. On this day, the Green, Red, and Blue Knights arrived with all of the men they had promised Gareth. They each told Arthur how they were overcome by a knight called Beaumains. Arthur was amazed by their stories, but was most amazed when Sir Ironside (the Knight of the Red Launds) arrived with five hundred men and a similar tale. Arthur named Sir Ironside a Knight of the Round Table because of his prowess.
Around this time, Gareth's true identity was revealed by his mother, the Queen of Orkney, who was enraged to learn that her son had been so ill treated by Sir Kay. Arthur asked where he could find Gareth, and was eventually told to contact Lionesse, which he did. Gareth suggested Lionesse hold a tournament, offering her hand in marriage to the winner. King Arthur arrived at the Castle Perilous with his noble knights, including Gareth’s brothers (Gawaine, Agravaine, and Gaheris), as well as with Queens Guenever and Margawse. Meanwhile, Lionesse was hosting a great array of knights and their men in the castle. Gareth asked that no one reveal his identity so that he might fight without preconception. To this end, Lionesse gave him a ring that would change his appearance, as well as the color of his shield and armor; she also made him promise to return it because it increased her beauty.
The tournament began, with wins and losses on both sides. Gareth fared quite well, and other knights marveled at both his skill and his ability to change his color.
The tournament wore on, and many knights were award high honors. Launcelot finally realized that Gareth was the colorful knight. Soon, Gareth faced one of his brothers, Gawaine, and bested him. Sir Tristram asked after him, and Sir Ironside revealed both Gareth's identity and details of his love for Lionesse. King Arthur eventually learned that the colorful knight was Sir Gareth as well. At one point in the tournament, Gareth lost his ring and ran into the forest. While there, he passed a fair number of adventures, including the defeat of the Brown Knight.
While in the forest, he ended up jousting with another knight whom Linet eventually revealed as Sir Gawaine. After they embraced as brothers, Linet healed their wounds, and Sir Gareth sent her to fetch King Arthur. King Arthur brought his entourage to celebrate the reunion, and he gave his blessing to the marriage between Gareth and Lionesse.
They were married by the Bishop of Canterbury, and Gareth was attended by all of the knights he had defeated in his adventures. King Arthur then decreed that Sir Gaheris would wed Linet, while Sir Agravaine would wed Gringamore’s daughter, Dame Laurel.
Many of the knights in Le Morte d’Arthur disguise their identities for a variety of reasons. For instance, Lancelot, Lamorak, and Tristram usually hide their identity during jousts, tournaments, and adventures so as to not compete with their reputations. Sir Gareth’s identity is masked throughout the first half of Book 7, as he arrives in King Arthur’s court and asks for a boon. Even as he suffers the indignity of Kay's insults and living with the commoners of the kitchens, he maintains the disguise, all of which builds expectations both for his peers and the reader.
As is the case with Sir Launcelot, Sir Gareth is a respectable knight for more than simply his jousting prowess. He is described as “the fairest that ever they all saw, and he was large and long, and broad in the shoulders, and well visaged.” His honor is reflected through his persistence in helping Dame Linet, even when her insults are vicious and unceasing. He does not pursue superfluous jousts, though he is also quick to defend himself when insulted by another knight. Finally, he shows great loyalty to King Arthur, who was kind to him, by sending all the knights he defeats unto the king.
In many ways, the idealization of Gareth and his disguise suggests the set-up of a fairytale (consider "The Ugly Duckling.") However, the epic makes no simple moral of his tale. Instead, Gareth creates his own minimal expectations by refusing to acknowledge his birthright. He creates a situation that requires him to prove himself with virtue and strength, rather than simply expecting it because of family connections. It falls well in line with the code of chivalry: this knight will be acknowledged as great before he is acknowledged as noble. He persists with this intent even through the final tournament, when he uses the ring to disguise his appearance.
Book 7 is a specific tale of one Knight of the Round Table, but it also illustrates the height of peace within the fellowship of King Arthur’s utopian society. There are other ways in which Gareth's story reads like a fairytale. He vanquishes many foes, all of whom are brothers and defined by a specific color. He uses a magic ring to change his own appearance, and there is a 'happily ever after' sense to his marriage. As opposed to his sinful brother Sir Gawaine, Sir Gareth is a perfect hero who earns his place on the Round Table through his embrace of utopian virtues.
In addition to the themes of identity and the quest, the theme of the role of women becomes very apparent through Linet, an outspoken gentlewoman who challenges Gareth’s ability to handle the difficulties of his quest. Linet is reprimanded several times for her treatment of Gareth, but is persistent in determining her opinion for herself. She is not afraid of danger, and in fact never asks Gareth to fight for her. The entire quest has been undertaken for the sake of her sister. Linet is more of a companion than a helpless damosel, which contrasts her with Maledistant in the tale of La Cote Male Taile (which comes later in the epic). Where Maledistant reflects the most unsavory of female stereotypes, Linet is admirable in her strength and agency.
On the other side of female representation is Lionesse, who both waits to be saved and waits to learn Gareth's true identity before admitting her love. Lionesse reveals a weakness by attempting to consummate the relationship before marriage, giving in to her lust, whereas Linet reveals strength by refusing to dishonor their family. Disregarding a contemporary moral lens on premarital sex, we see how the tale draws a sharp contract between feminine weakness and strength.
Structurally, Book 7 is very similar to the other the tales of Le Morte d‘Arthur; however, it is perhaps the only original tale in the text. Scholars have yet to identity an alternative source for Gareth’s tale in the French romances from which Malory drew these stories. Its plot is certainly recognizable through its fairytale elements, and the construction was common at the time. However, it appears to be of Malory’s own creation, which sets it slightly apart from its contemporaries.