Pelleas and Ettarde by Mary MacGregor
Far away in a dreary land there lived a lad
called Pelleas. The men were rough and
the women grave in the dreary land where
To this far-away country there had come
tales of the gay lords and ladies of Arthur’s
Pelleas heard, in great astonishment, that
the men in Arthur’s country were brave and
gentle, and that the women smiled. He
would go away from his own land, he
thought, and see these strange and happy
Soon the rough men in his country laughed
at Pelleas, for he began to grow brave and
gentle like the knights who were so often in
And the grave women looked at each other
in surprise, as they saw the lad’s bright face
and caught the smile on his lips. Pelleas
had been dreaming about the gay ladies he
had heard of, till some of their gladness had
passed into his face.
When he was older Pelleas left his country
and all the land that belonged to him there.
He would take his horse and his sword and
ask the great King Arthur to make him
one of his knights, for had he not learned
knightly ways from the wonderful tales he
had heard long ago?
After many days Pelleas reached the court.
And when the King had listened to the
young man’s story, and had seen his beauty
and strength, he gladly made him his knight.
Then Pelleas was ready to begin his adventures.
He would go to Carleon, where,
for three days, the King’s tournament was to
The King had promised a golden circlet
and a good sword to the knight who showed
himself the strongest. The golden circlet
was to be given to the fairest lady in the
field, and she was to be called the ‘Queen of
On his way to Carleon, Pelleas rode along
a hot and dusty road. There were no trees
to shelter him from the scorching sun, but
he rode on steadfastly, for he knew that a
great shady forest lay before him.
When at last Pelleas reached the forest,
he was so hot and tired that he dismounted,
and tying his horse to a tree, he lay down
gratefully under a large oak and fell asleep.
Sounds of laughter and merriment woke
him, and opening his eyes he saw a group of
maidens close by.
Pelleas was bewildered. Could they be
wild woodland nymphs, he thought, as, only
half-awake, he lay there, and watched them
flitting in and out among the tall trees.
They wore bright dresses, blue and yellow
and purple, and to Pelleas the forest seemed
The maidens were talking together, and
looking first in one direction and then in
another. They were lost in the forest, on
their way to the great tournament at
Then the lost maidens caught sight of the
knight, lying half-asleep under the oak-tree.
‘He will be able to show us the way,’ they
said joyfully to one another, for they guessed
that he too was on his way to the tournament.
‘I will speak to the knight,’ said the Lady
Ettarde, the tallest and most beautiful of
all the maidens, and she left the others and
went towards Pelleas. But when she told
the knight that she and her lords and ladies
had lost their way, and asked him to tell
her how to reach Carleon, he only looked
at her in silence. Was she one of the
woodland nymphs? Was he still dreaming,
and was she the lady of his dreams?
As the lady still stood there, he roused
himself and tried to speak. But because he
was bewildered by her beauty, he stammered
and answered foolishly.
The Lady Ettarde turned to the merry
lords and ladies who had followed her. ‘The
knight cannot speak, though he is so strong
and good-looking,’ she said scornfully.
But Sir Pelleas was wide-awake at last.
He sprang to his feet, and told the Lady
Ettarde that he had been dreaming, and
that she had seemed to him a part of his
dream. ‘But I too am going to Carleon,’
he added, ‘and I will show you the way.’
And as they rode through the forest
Sir Pelleas was always at his lady’s side.
When the branches were in her way he
pushed them aside, when the path was
rough he guided her horse. In the evening
when the Lady Ettarde dismounted, Pelleas
was there to help her, and in the morning
again it was Pelleas who brought her horse
and helped her to mount.
Now the Lady Ettarde was a great lady
in her own land; knights who had fought
many battles and won great fame had served
her, and she cared nothing for the young
untried knight’s love and service.
‘Still he looks so strong, that I will
pretend to care for him,’ she thought, ‘and
then perhaps he will try to win the golden
circlet for me, and I shall be called the
“Queen of Beauty.”’ For the Lady Ettarde
was a cruel and vain lady, and cared more
for the golden circlet and to be called the
‘Queen of Beauty,’ than for the happiness
of the young knight Pelleas. And so for
many days the Lady Ettarde was kind to
Sir Pelleas, and at last she told him that she
would love him if he would win the golden
circlet for her.
‘The lady of my dreams will love me,’
the knight murmured. And aloud he said
proudly that if there were any strength
in his right arm, he would win the prize
for the Lady Ettarde.
Then the lords and ladies that were with
Ettarde pitied the young knight, for they
knew their lady only mocked him.
At last they all reached Carleon, and the
next morning the tournament began.
And the Lady Ettarde watched her
knight merrily, as each day he overcame
and threw from their horses twenty men.
‘The circlet will be mine,’ she whispered
to her lords and ladies. But they looked
at her coldly, for they knew how unkindly
she would reward Sir Pelleas.
At the end of three days the tournament
was over, and King Arthur proclaimed that
the young knight Pelleas had won the
golden circlet and the sword.
Then in the presence of all the people,
Sir Pelleas took the golden circlet and
handed it to the Lady Ettarde, saying
aloud that she was the fairest lady on the
field and the Queen of Beauty.
The Lady Ettarde was so pleased with
her prize, that for a day or two she was
kind to her knight, but soon she grew tired
of him, and wished that she might never
see him again.
Still even when she was unkind, Sir
Pelleas was happy, for he trusted the
beautiful lady, and said to himself, ‘She
proves me, to see if I really love her.’
But the Lady Ettarde knew she would
never love Sir Pelleas, even if he died for
Then her ladies were angry, as they saw
how she mocked the knight, for they knew
that greater and fairer ladies would have
loved Sir Pelleas for his strength and great
‘I will go back to my own country,’ said
the Lady Ettarde, ‘and see my faithful
knight no more.’
When Pelleas heard that the Lady
Ettarde was going home he was glad.
He remembered the happy days he had
spent as they rode together through the
forest, and he looked forward to other
happy days in the open air, when he could
again shield the lady from the roughness
of the road.
But when the Lady Ettarde saw that
Sir Pelleas was following her into her own
country, she was angry.
‘I will not have the knight near me,’ she
said proudly to her ladies. ‘I will have an
older warrior for my love.’ And they knew
their lady’s cruel ways, and in pity kept
the knight away.
As they rode along the days seemed long
to Pelleas, for he neither saw nor spoke
to the Lady Ettarde.
When she got near her own castle, she
rode on more swiftly, telling her lords and
ladies to follow her closely. The drawbridge
was down, and the Lady Ettarde rode
across it, and waiting only till her lords and
ladies crossed it, ordered the bridge to be
drawn up, while Pelleas was still on the
The knight was puzzled. Was this a
test of his love too, or did the lady for whom
he had won the golden circlet indeed not
care for him? But that he would not believe.
‘She will grow kinder if I am faithful,’ he
thought, and he lived in a tent beneath the
castle walls for many days.
The Lady Ettarde heard that Pelleas still
lingered near the castle, and in her anger she
said, ‘I will send ten of my lords to fight
this knight, and then I shall never see
his face again.’
But when Pelleas saw the ten lords
coming towards him, he armed himself, and
fought so bravely that he overthrew each
But after he had overthrown them, he
allowed them to get up and to bind him
hand and foot, and carry him into the castle.
‘For they will carry me into the presence of
the Lady Ettarde,’ he thought.
But when she saw Pelleas, the Lady
Ettarde mocked him, and told her lords to
tie him to the tail of a horse and turn
him out of the castle.
‘She does it to find out if I love her truly,’
thought Sir Pelleas again, as he struggled
back to his tent below the castle.
Another ten lords were sent to fight the
faithful knight, and again Pelleas overthrew
them, and again he let himself be bound
and carried before the Lady Ettarde.
But when she spoke to him even more
unkindly than before, and mocked at his
love for her, Sir Pelleas turned away. ‘If
she were good as she is beautiful, she could
not be so cruel,’ he thought sadly.
And he told her that though he would
always love her, he would not try to see her
Now one of King Arthur’s knights, called
Sir Gawaine, had been riding past the castle
when the ten lords attacked Sir Pelleas.
And Sir Gawaine had looked on in dismay.
He had seen the knight overthrow
the ten lords, and stand there quietly while
the conquered men got to their feet. He had
seen them bind him hand and foot, and carry
him into the castle.
‘To-morrow I will look for him, and offer
him my help,’ thought Sir Gawaine, for he
was sorry for the brave young knight.
The next morning he found Sir Pelleas in
his tent, looking very sad. And when Sir
Gawaine asked the knight why he was so
sad, Sir Pelleas told him of his love for
the Lady Ettarde and of her unkindness.
‘I would rather die a hundred times
than be bound by her lords,’ he said, ‘if
it were not that they take me into her
Then Sir Gawaine cheered Sir Pelleas and
offered to help him, for he too was one of
And Sir Pelleas trusted him, for had not
all King Arthur’s knights taken the vows of
brotherhood and truth?
‘Give me your horse and armour,’ said Sir
Gawaine. ‘I will go to the castle with them,
and tell the Lady Ettarde that I have slain
you. Then she will ask me to come in, and
I will talk of your great love and strength,
till she learns to love you.’
And Sir Gawaine rode away, wearing the
armour and helmet of Sir Pelleas, and promising
to come back in three days.
The Lady Ettarde was walking up and down
outside the castle, when she saw the knight
approaching. ‘Sir Pelleas again,’ she thought
angrily, and turned to go into the castle.
But Sir Gawaine called to her to stay. ‘I
am not Sir Pelleas, but a knight who has
‘Take off your helmet that I may see your
face,’ said the Lady Ettarde, as she turned
to look at him.
When she saw that it was really a strange
knight, she took him into her castle. ‘Because
you have slain Sir Pelleas, whom I hated, I
will love you,’ said the cruel Lady Ettarde.
Sir Gawaine saw how beautiful the lady
was, and he forgot her unkindness to Sir
Pelleas, and he loved her. And because he
was not a true knight, Sir Gawaine did not
think of Pelleas, who waited so anxiously
for his return.
Three days passed, but he did not go back,
and in the castle all was joy and merriment.
Six days passed, and still Sir Gawaine
stayed with the beautiful Lady Ettarde.
At last Sir Pelleas could bear his loneliness
no longer. That night he went up to
the castle, and swam across the river.
When he reached the front of the castle,
he saw a great many tents. And all the
lords and ladies were asleep in their tents,
and Sir Gawaine was there too.
‘He has forgotten me, and will stay here
always with the Lady Ettarde,’ muttered Sir
Pelleas in scorn, and he drew the sword he
had won at the tournament, to slay the false
knight Sir Gawaine.
Then, all at once, he remembered the vows
he had taken, when the great King had
knighted him, and slowly he sheathed his
sword, and went gloomily down to the
But Sir Pelleas could not make up his
mind to go away, and again he turned and
went back to the tent, where Sir Gawaine
lay, still asleep.
Once more Sir Pelleas drew his sword, and
laid it across the false knight’s bare neck.
When Sir Gawaine woke in the morning,
he felt the cold steel, and putting up his
hand, he found the sword that Sir Pelleas
Sir Gawaine did not know how the sword
had come there, but when he told the Lady
Ettarde what had happened, and showed her
the sword, she knew it was the one that Sir
Pelleas had won at the tournament, when he
had given her the golden circlet.
‘You have not slain the knight who loved
me,’ cried the Lady Ettarde, ‘for he has been
here, and left his sword across your throat.’
And then she hated Gawaine because he had
told her a lie, and she drove him from her
And the Lady Ettarde thought of her true
knight Sir Pelleas, and at last she loved him
with all her heart.
But when he had left his sword across Sir
Gawaine’s throat, Pelleas had gone sadly
back to his tent, and taking off his armour,
had lain down to die.
Then the knight’s servant was in great
distress, because his master would neither
eat nor sleep, but lay in his tent getting
more pale and more thin day by day. And
the servant was wandering sadly along the
bank of the river, wondering how he could
help his master, when he met a beautiful
maiden called the ‘Lady of the Lake.’
The maiden asked why he looked so sad,
and, won by her gentleness, he told her how
his master had been hated by the Lady
Ettarde, and betrayed by the false knight
‘Bring me to your master,’ said the Lady
of the Lake.
And when she had come to the tent and
saw Sir Pelleas, she loved him.
‘I will send him to sleep,’ she murmured,
‘and when he wakes he will be well.’ And
she threw an enchantment over him, and he
When Sir Pelleas awoke, he felt strong
once more, and at last he knew that the
cruel Lady Ettarde had never been the lady
of his dreams, and he loved her no longer.
But when the Lady Ettarde knew that Sir
Pelleas loved her no more, she wept sorrowfully,
and died of her grief.
Then the gentle Lady of the Lake asked
Pelleas to come with her to her own beautiful
Lake-land. And as they rode together, her
simple kindness made the knight happy
again, and he learned to love the Lady of the
Lake, and they lived together and loved each
other all their lives long.