Le Morte d'Arthur

Le Morte d'Arthur Summary and Analysis of Book 8-10


Book 8 Chapters 1-8

Sir Tristram is born and raised a prince of Liones. He survives an attempted murder by his step mother and volunteers to defend Cornwall, which is ruled by his uncle, King Mark. Tristram defeats Sir Marhaus, a powerful Knight of the Round Table, who dies of his head wound.

Though King Arthur was High King of England, two lesser kings ruled in Liones and Cornwall, other parts of the country. They were King Meliodas of Liones and King Mark of Cornwall, and were brothers-in-law. Meliodas married Mark’s sister Elizabeth, and their marriage was happy. Soon after they were wed, she found herself with child. One day, Meliodas rode out on a hunt and was kidnapped by a sorceress who loved him. Beside herself with grief, Elizabeth set off to find him, bringing one of her gentlewomen as attendant.

While in the forest, Elizabeth went into labor and delivered her child; she named the boy Tristam after his sorrowful birth, and then died. Meliodas’s barons had followed the queen into the woods, and they tried to kill the baby so that he would not inherit the crown. However, the gentlewoman convinced them to spare Tristram, and they soon returned home with the dead queen's body.

In the meantime, Merlin rescued King Meliodas from the castle of the enchantress. He returned home to great sorrow.

Seven years passed, and Meliodas married the daughter of King Howell of Brittany. She had her own children by Meliodas, and grew therefore jealous of Tristram, who would inherit the crown over his step-siblings. She tried to kill him with a poisoned drink, but her own son was accidentally killed when he drank of it. A second attempt almost killed Meliodas, and he ordered her execution for treason. Tristam begged she be spared, and Meliodas reneged on the order.

Tristam was then sent from court to learn languages and feats of arms under the tutelage of Gouvernail, his servant. He became a master harp player, hunter, and hawker and was a credit to his nobility.

When Tristram was 18, King Anguish of Ireland demanded truage from King Mark, Tristram's uncle. On advice of his barons, Mark refused to pay the truage but suggested the issue be settled through a joust between representatives of the kings. Angry but committed, Anguish called his brother-in-law Sir Marhaus, a Knight of the Round Table, to fight as his proxy.

Sir Marhaus traveled to Cornwall from Ireland, and insisted Mark either pay the truage or appoint a proxy to fight. Because Marhaus was so well-known for strength, Mark could find no knight willing to represent him, and Sir Launcelot was too far away to be contacted.

When Tristram heard of the cowardice gripping the knights of Cornwall, he asked Meliodas to let him attempt the fight. Meliodas agreed, and Tristram was soon welcomed and knighted by King Mark.

When Tristram first arrived to the island where Marhaus stayed, the latter was dismayed to see such a greenhorn appointed, and begged the boy to leave before he was embarrassed or hurt. Tristram stood his ground and insisted he wanted his first fight to be with a worthy knight. They began to fight, and after a well-matched beginning, Marhaus stabbed Tristram in the side with his spear. They fought for half a day, and Marhaus, the bigger man, tired more quickly than the young Tristram. Tristram eventually defeated Marhaus by lodging his sword into the latter's skull; even when he removed it, some of the iron remained in his head.

Sir Marhaus fled for Ireland, and died after returning to King Anguish. His sister, the queen, kept the piece of iron from Marhaus's head, and swore vengeance against Tristram.

Book 8 Chapter 9-12

Tristram travels to Ireland to heal the wounds he sustained during his fight with Marhaus. There, he falls in love with the fair La Beale Isoud, daughter of King Anguish. Tristram is banished from Ireland when the queen learns he killed her brother, Marhaus.

Meanwhile, Tristram was not healing well from the wound that Marhaus gave him, for the spear he had used was tipped with poison. He saw many healers and surgeons, but no one could help him. It was suggested that he go to Ireland, were the poison originated. King Mark sent Tristram to Ireland as a guest of the king and queen, who took a great liking to him.

Tristram (or Tramtrist, as he called himself there), was cared for by La Beale Isoud, the king’s daughter and a fine surgeon. She healed Tristram and they quickly fell in love. Isoud was, at that time, the fairest woman of the world, and was being courted by Sir Palomides. Needless to say, there was great animosity between Tristram and Palomides. At a tournament soon after, Tristram bested Palomides and made him swear to give up his courtship of Isoud.

One day, the queen and Isoud drew a bath for Tristram. The queen noticed his sword lying on his bed, and unsheathed it to discover that a part of its tip was missing. When she realized it was he who had killed her brother, she attempted to kill him while he bathed, but was stopped by others.

The queen then informed Anguish of Tristram’s deception. Though Anguish was impressed by Tristram's accomplishment, he could not keep him at court for love of his wife and his brother-in-law. Tristram swore allegiance to the king, and said he would come to his aid if ever needed. He also promised Isoud that he would never fail her.

Before he left Ireland, Tristram and Isoud exchanged rings, and Isoud promised not to wed for seven years without Tristram’s consent.

Book 8 Chapters 13-29

Tristram returns to Cornwall and is welcomed into King Mark’s court, but the King soon turns against his nephew over the love of a woman. Tristram is ordered to bring Isoud to Cornwall to marry Mark, an order he obeys despite his own love for Isoud.

Tristram left Ireland and returned to Cornwall. Unfortunately, Sir Tristram and King Mark both fell in love with the same woman, an earl's wife. Although neither man won her in the end, this incident caused Mark to hate Tristram. Unaware of his uncle’s feelings, Tristram remained loyal to Mark, and even agreed to retrieve La Beale Isoud from her home in Ireland so that she might marry the king.

Tristram set sail for Ireland for this purpose, but a tempest led his ship astray and he landed near Camelot. There, he met King Anguish of Ireland, Isoud’s father. When Tristram helped King Anguish settle a dispute, the king promised Tristram anything he wanted in return. Tristram asked that Isoud be betrothed to his uncle. Anguish had wanted Tristram to marry Isoud, as he knew of their great love; however, he agreed to the match, and sent Isoud and Bragwaine, her servant, with Tristram to Cornwall. While on the ship, Tristram and Isoud accidentally drank a love potion that had been intended for Isoud’s wedding night, and it forced them to fall into a deep love that never faded.

On their sea journey, they stopped at the Castle Pluere (or the Weeping Castle), where they weathered an adventure involving a strange custom that forced a competition between the castle's lady and lord, and their guests. Tristram and Isoud were victorious in the competition, and set out for Cornwall again.

In the meantime, Sir Launcelot saved Sir Gawaine from the false but powerful knight Sir Carados. This noble feat placed Gawaine forever in Launcelot’s debt.

Book 8 Chapters 30-35

Sir Palomides, Isoud's former suitor, steals her away, but Tristram saves her. Mark uncovers Tristram and Isoud’s affair, and both are punished. Tristram is banished, and Isoud is sent to a leper colony from which Tristram later saves her.

After her arrival in Cornwall, Isoud was married to King Mark. The ladies of the court were jealous of Dame Bragwaine, whom Isoud loved best, and so they bound her to tree in the forest and left her to die. Fortunately, Sir Palomides discovered her and took her to a nunnery to heal. Meanwhile, Isoud missed Bragwaine, and searched for her in the forest. There, she found Palomides, her former suitor, who told her he would return Bragwaine if she promised to grant him a wish. Hesitantly, the queen agreed and Bragwaine was returned to her. She and Palomides then returned to court to speak with King Mark.

When King Mark learned of his wife's promise, he was not pleased but could not recant her pledge. Therefore, he had to let Palomides take her when he requested it. Both Mark and Isoud acquiesced easily, assuming Tristram would rescue her. Palomides left with Isoud, who was able to escape and lock herself away in a castle.

When Tristram finally learned of the queen’s predicament, he set off after her, eventually finding Palomides napping near the castle where she hid. They fought while Isoud watched from a window, worrying Tristram would slay Palomides, whom she considered worthy despite his offenses. She finally called down for mercy, saying Palomides was a Saracen who should not die unbaptized. She insisted Palomides leave Cornwall in penance, and travel to Camelot, where he should give the King and Queen her regards. Palomides acquiesced, and Isoud was returned to Mark.

Time passed, during which Tristram and Isoud continued their affair. Sir Andred, Tristram’s cousin, was loyal to Mark and so told the king of the affair. Mark then rushed into her chamber and called Tristram a traitor. He tried to attack his nephew, but Tristram easily disarmed him. When Mark ordered his men to attach Tristram, none of them dared attempt it.

Mark fled, but Tristram caught and overpowered him, after which the young knight escaped into the forest. The next day, Mark sent two of his brothers after Tristram, but Tristram beheaded one and forced the other to carry the head back to Mark. After 30 more of Mark's representatives were killed in the pursuit of Tristram, Mark's barons insisted he make peace before Tristram join the Knights of the Round Table and grow even more powerful. Reluctantly, Mark allowed Tristram back to court.

Tristram continued to see Isoud every night, even as Sir Andred was watchful of them. One night, Andred saw Tristram enter Isoud’s chamber, so he gathered twelve knights with whom he surprised Tristram naked in bed. They tied him to the bed posts, and then took him to a chapel near the sea, where he was to be judged the next morning. Tristram, expecting to die, reminded everyone there of his great deeds. When Andred called him a traitor and prepared to kill him, Tristram used his binds to overcome his captors and free himself. He killed ten other knights, and then jumped out a window, onto the crags in the sea.

Book 8 Chapters 36-41

Tristram fights in a war for King Howel of Brittany and marries the King’s daughter, who is also named Isoud. Sir Lamorak and Tristram seek adventure on island, and defeat a giant called Sir Nabon.

Tristram’s men found him wounded on the crags, and helped him up. Tristram asked where Isoud was, and they told him she had been put into a lazar-cote, or leper house. Tristram soon rescued her, and they lived together in a manor in a forest for some time.

One day, Tristram ventured into the forest and was shot in the shoulder with a poisoned arrow. Meanwhile, Mark arrived at the manor with his knights to kill Tristram, but found only Isoud. He brought Isoud home, and made provisions to prohibit her from ever seeing Tristram again.

Tristram was heartbroken to find Isoud gone from the manor, especially since she was no longer around to heal his wound. A lady of Isoud's suggested he travel to Brittany, where King Howel's daughter, Isoud la Blanche Mains, was equipped to help him. Tristram soon arrived and was welcomed at King Howel's court. The king's daughter indeed was able to heal his wound.

After he was healed, Tristram was asked to fight in a war against King Howel’s enemies since Howel's son, Sir Kehydius, could not fight. Tristram killed over a hundred knights and earned much praise throughout King Howel’s kingdom. Tristram and Isoud la Blanche Mains fell in love, and were soon wed. On their wedding night, Tristram remembered his love for La Beale Isoud and would not consummate his marriage, to his wife's great disappointment. When La Beale Isoud learned of the marriage, she wrote to Guenever of her sadness over the betrayal, and Guenever replied that Tristram would eventually hate his wife and love her again.

Meanwhile, Sir Lamorak, son of King Pellinore and a Knight of the Round Table, was on a ship that crashed, killing his men and stranding him on the island of a great giant knight named Sir Nabon le Noire. As Sir Nabon had killed one of Lamorak's cousin, the knight swore revenge. Tristram landed on the island by chance, and they found together to kill the giant and liberate the island's people.

Lamorak left for Camelot, while Tristram returned to Brittany with his wife and her brother. The tales of Lamorak and Tristram had become widely known, and they were both received well wherever they went.

Book 9 Chapters 1-9

A young man dubbed La Cote Male Taile arrives in King Arthur’s court. He wears an ill-fitting coat, but is knighted by King Arthur for saving the Queen from a lion. La Cote Male Taile undertakes a difficult quest to protect Maledisant, a lady in need of a champion. Although she mocks him, La Cote Male Taile proves himself a worthy knight and is eventually awarded a castle. La Cote Male Taile and Maledisant marry.

Back in Camelot, a young man in an ill-fitting coat arrived at court and asked to be knighted. Sir Kay mocked the man, calling him La Cote Male Taile, meaning “the evil-shapen coat.” His real name was Breunor le Noire and he descended from a noble family, but because his father had been killed wearing the coat, Breunor wore it as a promise to avenge his father's death. One day, La Cote Male Taile saved the Queen from a lion attack and was subsequently knighted by Arthur.

Later, a damosel arrived with a black shield accentuated by a white hand holding a sword. She asked that a good knight take up the quest of the knight whose shield she carried, since that knight had been grievously wounded. Sir Kay volunteered, but she turned him down. Then, La Cote Male Taile offered to go, with the King’s blessing.

The damosel, who was named Maledistant, was displeased to be assigned a knight so young and so ill-attired. Throughout their journey, she mocked him constantly, until they were later joined by Sir Mordred and Sir Launcelot, who convinced her to cease in her mockery.

La Cote Male Taile performed wonderfully on his adventure, and was given the Castle of Pendragon as a reward. At the next feast of Pentecost, La Cote Male Taile was made a Knight of the Round Table and he married Maledistant. He also, eventually, avenged his father’s death.

Book 9 Chapters 10-16

Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorak become companions and are defeated by Sir Palomides, who is searching for the Questing Beast. Sir Lamorak, Sir Meliagrance, and Sir Launcelot fight for the honor of their queens.

Meanwhile, Isoud sent a letter to Tristram asking him to return to her, saying he could bring his wife with him. Tristram set sail with his wife and her brother, Sir Kehydius. They were blown off course, and Tristram, Kehydius, and a servant went into the forest near the Castle Perilous to seek adventure. They soon encountered another knight whom Tristram challenged. To his astonishment, Tristram was defeated.

The mysterious knight turned out to be Sir Lamorak. Tristram tried to yield to him, but Lamorak would not accept it. Instead, he and Tristram agreed to become friends and help one another in the future.

Sir Palomides arrived, in pursuit of the Questing Beast, also called Galtisant. A mythical creature with the head of serpent, the body of a leopard, the buttocks of a lion, and feet like a hart, the Questing Beast would consume much of Palomides's life. Sir Palomides jousted with both Tristram and Lamorak, and unseated them with one spear. He would not stop to fight them on foot, but instead continued on his quest. Tristram vowed to prove himself a better knight than Palomides.

Tristram and Lamorak then parted ways. Lamorak came upon Sir Meliagrance, who declared his love for Queen Guenever, who he told Lamorak was the fairest woman alive. When Lamorak claimed that Margawse was the fairest woman alive, they fought over the question. Fortunately, Sir Launcelot arrived to separate them, for Knights of the Round Table had sworn an oath not to fight one another. However, when Launcelot learned that Lamorak thought Margawse was more beautiful than Guenever, he also took up arms to defend his Queen. Sir Bleoberis, who was traveling with Launcelot at that time, stopped the fight by saying beauty was in the eye of the beholder. These wise words put the other knights to shame and they parted ways.

Book 9 Chapters 17-23

Tristram encounters and unseats several Knights of the Round Table, and is invited to join their fellowship. He saves King Arthur’s life after the king is enchanted by a sorceress. Tristram is reunited with La Beale Isoud, but goes insane with jealousy because he believes she is having an affair with his brother-in-law. Tristram runs amok in the woods and is later banished from Cornwall. He travels to Camelot.

Meanwhile, Sir Tristram encountered several other Knights of the Round Table, including Sir Kay and Sir Tor, who spoke ill of Cornish knights. When he defeated them all in a joust, they invited him to join their fellowship. Not believing himself yet worthy, he deferred his acceptance of the offer. Later, Tristram saved King Arthur from an unfortunate situation involving a sorceress.

Tristram and Lamorak met and finally sailed to Cornwall together. There, Tristram was secretly reunited with Isoud. Tristram’s brother-in-law, Sir Kehydius, also fell in love with Isoud and wrote her love letters and ballads. One day, Tristram found one of the letters Isoud had written to Kehydius, and accused her of being unfaithful to him. Tristram left the castle and rode into the forest, where he grew mad with jealousy.

During his madness, Tristram was cared for by the inhabitants of a castle. There, they fed and healed him during several months of sickness. Convinced that Tristram was dead, Isoud tried to kill herself, but Mark prevented her. Soon after, Tristram was brought the court but was not recognized because of his wildness. He had been running amok in the forest, had beheaded a giant, and had thrown King Arthur’s fool down a well.

Isoud heard of the tale of the wild man, and visited him in the hopes of healing him. When Isoud saw Tristram, she was overjoyed to find him alive. Unfortunately, Mark also realized the wild man was Tristram, and banished the knight from Cornwall for ten years. Tristram then set sail for Camelot with Sir Dinadan.

Book 9 Chapters 23-44

Tristram enters a tournament and is awarded many high honors. He fights with and against Palomides, his friend and enemy. They are imprisoned by a knight whose sons were killed by Tristram, but are released. Tristram is captured by Morgan le Fay and made to carry a provocative shield that depicts Launcelot’s affair with Guenever, in the hopes that King Arthur will see it and understand its meaning.

Tristram and Dinadin entered into a tournament in which Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur were also fighting. Tristram performed very well, and was award the prize. There, he met Launcelot for the first time, and both were equally impressed with the other. Tristram was injured during the tournament, and was taken in to heal by the lord of a nearby castle. Palomides found him there, as did Dinadan.

Sir Darras, the lord of the castle in which Tristram stayed, found out that his three sons were killed by Tristram during the tournament, and so he locked Tristram, Dinadan, and Palomides in the castle’s prison. Tristram grew ill with a sickness, and Palomides, despite his animosity, took care of him.

They were kept imprisoned at Sir Darras’s castle for a long time, until Tristram grew so weak that he would die if not released. Darras would not allow so noble a knight as Tristram to die from illness, and so he allowed them to leave on the condition that Tristram would forever be in Darras's debt, and would protect his two remaining sons.

The three knights departed each other’s company, and Tristram was soon captured by Morgan le Fay, who promised to release him if he carried a certain shield to the castle of Hard Rock, where King Arthur was holding a tournament. The shield depicted a King and Queen with a knight standing above them, with one foot on each of their heads. She would not tell Tristram the meaning of the shield because it was a slander against Sir Launcelot, and indicated the knight's affair with Guenever. She hoped the shield would communicate the truth of cuckoldry to her brother Arthur. Tristram agreed to carry the shield, and was released.

Book 10 Chapters 1-15

King Arthur is disturbed by Tristram’s shield, but forgives him. Tristram and Palomides promise to fight one another, but Tristram battles with Sir Launcelot by mistake. Tristram is made a Knight of the Round Table.

Tristram performed marvelously well in the tournament while carrying the slanderous shield. King Arthur wondered over the shield's message, though Guenever understood its meaning and was very upset and worried. When one of Morgan's ladies told King Arthur the shield’s meaning, Arthur grew angry and kept his eye on Tristram, who had not yet revealed his identity. The king finally confronted Tristram, who explained where he had obtained the shield.

Tristram departed in search of Launcelot, but could not find him. Instead, he came upon Sir Palomides battling against nine other knights. Tristram thought the odds were unfair, so he rushed in to help Palomides. Together, they won the battle. Because of their long history of love and hate, Tristram challenged Palomides to a joust, but Palomides declined, claiming fatigue. Instead, they set a future date to meet in Camelot to fight with one another.

Six days later, Tristram defeated two Knights of the Round Table in a joust, and then traveled to Camelot to meet Palomides for their joust. On his way, he passed the tomb of Sir Lanceor. Merlin had once prophesied that the two greatest knights would battle on this spot.

When Tristram arrived at the tomb, he looked about for Sir Palomides but saw another knight whose shield was covered in white. The knights rode towards one another and had a momentous battle. Hours later, Tristram learned his opponent was Sir Launcelot. Overjoyed to meet one another, they both yielded, and traveled together to Camelot.

King Arthur was thrilled to have Tristram in his court, and asked him to join the Knights of the Round Table. Tristram agreed.

Book 10 Chapters 16-21

King Mark arrives at Camelot, seeking vengeance against his nephew. He has his own adventures, and is hated by the Knights of the Round Table. Tournaments are held, and Sir Lamorak defeats the Orkney brothers; Gawaine swears revenge.

In the meantime, King Mark grew jealous of Tristram’s growing renown. Mark, in disguise, traveld to England with two knights to kill Tristram. One of the knights, Sir Bersules, refused to take part in Mark’s plan, and so the king killed him. The other knight, Sir Amant, was appalled by Mark’s behavior and threatened to tell King Arthur of Mark’s plan. Amant then buried Bersules and departed from Mark.

King Mark was resting one day when Sir Lamorak arrived and confessed his love for Queen Margawse. When he recognized Mark's Cornish accent, he also spoke ill of King Mark, whom he did not recognize, for his treachery against Tristram.

Then, Sir Dinadan arrived and challenged Mark to a joust, but he declined. Mark did fight Lamorak, and lost. Dinadan and Lamorak fought, and Dinadan lost. The three men traveled together, and arrived at Sir Tor’s castle, where they found lodging. Unfortunately, one of the knights there recognized King Mark and swore vengeance upon him, claiming Mark had killed his father. Lamorak and Dinadan were not pleased to learn that Mark was their companion.

They next encountered six knights of Arthur’s court, and Mark fled from fear of them. Sir Dinadan would not reveal Mark's identity, though none of them thought well of the king.

Dinadan, Uwaine, Agravaine, Mordred, and others rode together to a nearby castle, where they spent the night. There, Dinadan saw King Mark and asked him why he fled. Mark replied that there were too many Knights of the Round Table, and that he could never defeat them all. He was also fearful of Launcelot. Dinadan lied by telling Mark that Launcelot was amongst them. He claimed that Launcelot carried a shield of silver and black bands, which was in fact Sir Mordred’s shield.

Dinadan told his companions that the “Cornish knight,” as he called Mark, was afraid of Launcelot, and about his lies. Mordred gave his shield to Sir Dagonet, who used it when he challenged Mark to a joust. When Mark saw the shield, he fled into the forest, with Dagonet chasing. The other knights burst out laughing, and then followed. They did not want Sir Dagonet harmed, as he was King Arthur’s fool and a favorite of the court.

In the forest, King Mark came across a mysterious knight who offered to defend him. The knight unseated Dagonet and the others who followed. They asked the knight’s name, but he refused to tell. He and Mark set off together, and the knight revealed himself as Sir Palomides, currently in search of the Questing Beast. Palomides left Mark in the forest as soon as he could.

King Mark made his way to Camelot, where he was confronted by his former knight Sir Amant for the murder of Sir Bersules. King Arthur commanded that they battle, and Mark killed Sir Amant, after which he fled from Camelot. Before Sir Amant died, he told the court of Mark’s treachery, and of his plan to murder Sir Tristram. Arthur was deeply upset, and Launcelot pursued Mark to bring him back to court. When they returned, King Arthur reluctantly forgave Mark, whom Launcelot had dubbed “The Fox King.” In turn, Mark agreed to serve Arthur.

King Arthur held a joust, at which his nephews of Orkney and his son Mordred performed well. Lamorak, known as the Knight with the Red Shield, arrived and defeated many of the Knights of the Round Table, including Sir Gawaine. King Arthur thought him the best jouster he had ever seen. Gawaine and his bothers swore vengeance on Lamorak.

Later, King Arthur made King Mark promise to respect Sir Tristram, and to bring Tristram back to Cornwall in peace. Mark swore to uphold his promises to Arthur, but secretly intended to betray Tristram. He and Tristram departed.

Two more sons of King Pellinore arrived in court: Percivale and Aglovale, brothers of Sir Lamorak and Sir Tor. They were knighted by King Arthur, and Percivale was led to the Siege Perilous by a mute damosel who spoke for the first time to tell Sir Percivale he would discover the Sangreal (the Holy Grail). She then departed and died soon after.

Book 10 Chapters 17-39

Sir Gaheris kills his mother for her affair with Sir Lamorak. King Mark kills his brother, whose grandson will one day kill Mark. Alisander, the son of Mark’s deceased brother, becomes one of the best knights of his generation, and marries Alice la Beale Pilgrim, despite Morgan le Fay’s interference.

The brothers of Orkney sent for their mother, who was staying at a castle near Camelot where Sir Gaheris waited. They wanted to lay a trap for Lamorak, who soon arrived at her chamber. Gaheris surprised them in bed, and beheaded his mother. Lamorak jumped from bed but did not have armor to fight. Gaheris promised to kill Lamorak both for sleeping with his mother and because his father, King Pellinore, had killed Gaheris's father King Lot. Lamorak soon left the court, sad.

Arthur was angry to learn that Gaheris had killed his own mother. Gawaine was also upset, though moreso because Gaheris allowed Lamorak to escape.

In the meantime, Cornwall was under attack by the Sessions, a foreign enemy. Mark was reluctant to ask Tristram to fight, but his council convinced him to do so. Tristram had been wounded in a joust, but he nevertheless agreed to fight. While Tristram finally recovered, Mark led a host against the invading army, and many men died. While Mark barricaded himself in the castle of Tintagil, Tristram arrived with ten other Knights of the Round Table.

Tristram devised a battle plan that successfully held their enemy at bay by destroying their navy. Then, Tristram met with the leader of the Sessions in single combat. Tristram fought like a lion and won. The enemy soon departed.

King Mark held a great celebration in honor of the victory, but soon afterwards, the Saracens, another enemy force, invaded. Mark’s popular younger brother, Prince Boudwin, stopped the invasion by lighting three Cornish ships on fire and sailing them into the fleet of their enemy. Displeased that Prince Boudwin gained such a victory, Mark killed him and set out to kill his family. They escaped, however, and swore vengeance on Mark. Years later, Prince Boudwin’s son Alisander became a knight of some renown. His won son would become one of the best knights of his generation, and would ultimately slay the treacherous King Mark.

Book 10 Chapters 40-88

Sir Galahalt hosts a tournament in which Tristram and his companions perform wonderful feats of arms. Tristram and Launcelot fight one another, but remain friends. Palomides grows jealous of Tristram, and has an adventure of his own.

A knight named Sir Galahalt asked King Arthur for permission to hold a joust in Surluse. Arthur agreed, but as he could not personally attend, he sent Launcelot and Guenever in his place. Launcelot, in disguise, performed marvelously well during the first day of the tournament, as did Palomides and Lamorak.

Another tournament was soon scheduled, intended to facilitate Launcelot's death, since that knight had too long dominated all others. When King Mark heard of this intention, he sent Sir Tristram disguised as Launcelot (who was not actually attending the tournament after all). Sir Galahalt and his knights set upon Tristram to kill him, but he still won the tournament.

King Mark secretly drugged Tristram, took him to a different castle, and imprisoned him there. Tristram was rescued by allies of Isoud, but was soon imprisoned again by Mark. Eventually, he was freed by Sir Percival, and Mark was imprisoned instead. Then, Tristram and Isoud sailed away together.

After their escape from Cornwall, Tristram and Isoud came to a tournament in which Launcelot was participating. He invited Tristram and Isoud to his home, Joyous Gard. Then, King Arthur ordered a tournament to be held in honor of Tristram.

One day, Tristram went out hunting and encountered the Questing Beast, which was being pursued by Palomides. The two men greeted one another and were soon told of Sir Lamorak's death - he had been killed by Sir Gawaine and Sir Mordred.

Tristram later met Dinadan and Gareth in the forest. With Palomides and Isoud, the companions traveled to compete in a tournament being held at Castle Lonazep. There, they spoke of Lamorak's death, and Gareth admitted he did not approve of the way his brothers had acted.

Before they arrived at the tournament, Palomides sailed to the coast of Humber and avenged the death of a noble knight at the Red City. Also, Tristram and Lamorak fought against the King with the Hundred Knights over a case of mistaken identity.

They eventually arrived at the tournament, in which the Knights of the Round Table took part. Tristram and his companions performed well, although all were wounded in the end. King Arthur was displeased with Tristram for fighting against the fellowship, and he asked Launcelot to joust with Tristram. In the fight, Tristram was unseated. Palomides won the prize two days in a row, inspired by his love for Isoud.

Tristram felt defeated after losing to Palomides. Both knights secretly switched the color of their armor, and fought again. Through many fights involving other knights, much confusion ensued, and Launcelot ultimately awarded the day's prize to Tristram for his strong performance.

After they left, Isoud told Tristram how Palomides had switched his shield to overcome Tristram. The knights begrudgingly forgave one another, and parted companies. Later, Palomides remarked that he missed the company of Tristram and Isoud.

One day, Palomides sang a ballad of his love for Isoud near a well. Tristram overheard the song, and they argued over whether love was free. They promised to meet 15 days later to fight, but in the interim, Tristram was injured by a hunter who accidentally shot him in the thigh. Though Tristram healed and had more adventures, he always looked for Palomides, anxious to fight. Tristram and Isoud stayed on at Joyous Gard and were always together.


Books 8-10 deviate from the central plot, mostly focusing on Tristram. Its accompanying tales and adventures rarely enhance the overall story, a trait scholars of the text are quick to point out. Although some of the central themes, such as love, revenge, and identity are manifest here, Tristram’s story tends to veer in other directions, concentrating on the power struggle between Tristram and Mark, which is somewhat similar to that of Launcelot and Arthur, but with a vindictive air. There is little of the loyalty in their story that defines the latter conflict. The Knights of the Round Table are brought into this narrative primarily through jousts and tournaments.

These particular books within Le Morte d’Arthur have a different structure than their counterparts; there is no definitive middle or end to Tristram’s story. We later learn that King Mark kills Tristram, but it takes place outside of the plot. This parallels the the revelation that Sir Lamorak was killed by Sir Gawaine and his brothers. Considering that both these characters are treated as significant protagonists in the story, the absence of their deaths is an interesting oversight.

Perhaps the fault lies within the extensive sources from which Malory was using to compile his work. Many scholars agree that the ‘Tristram Tales’ detract from the stories of the other more central figures such as King Arthur, Launcelot, and Guenever. In fact, Tristram’s tales are collectively far longer than any other single work within Le Morte d’Arthur, and yet have not stood the test of time as well as their counterparts. The love of Tristram and Isoud remains the most notable story arc within Books 8-10, while most of his adventures are not as apparent in culture.

The theme of love does easily connects with the broader story. The love between Tristram and Isoud is pure and unadulterated, up to a point. Like Launcelot, Tristram is driven to extremes to prove his love of Isoud, and also goes mad when he thinks she is being unfaithful. However, both are frequently involved with others. There is a complacency between them for many years, and when they finally rest together at Joyous Gard, they find a complacent peace, a comfort more than a burning passion. Of course, their story is not over - Mark will ultimately kill Tristram for this betrayal. However, in the scope of what is on the page, their adulterous love produces comfort.

Isoud is apparently quite a stunning figure, since she also drives Sir Palomides to devote his life to her. Palomides and Tristram have an intensely ambivalent relationship, in which they despise one another over Isoud, while respecting one another for their prowess. In many ways, they are too similar, both in terms of their love and abilities.

Although Palomides’s actions are not always honorable (consider how he abducts Isoud from Mark), his actions are understandable because they are fueled by an overabundance of emotion. This is a rare characteristic within Le Morte d’Arthur. Palomides is a victim of his own depression and rages. He acts according to his emotions, and displays courtly love as it ideally was meant to be shown - in ballads and battles fought for love rather than glory. The argument he has with Tristram - in which Palomides stresses that love is free - suggests a romanticism that often gets overlooked in the incessant quest for glory and fame.

Finally, King Mark is one of the epic's most unambiguous villains. He is not only treacherous, but also a coward. Most of the evil characters in the epic can be understood through their complicated motives or their physical prowess, but Mark relies simply on the authority of his crown. Without this, he is a cowardly man easily shown inferior by knights in certain circumstances. It is natural that everyone in Camelot despises him, since his sense of leadership is so antithetical to that of King Arthur.