HORN IS DUBBED KNIGHT
Retold by F.J.H. Darton
The country to which Horn and his comrades had come was called
Westerness: Aylmer the Good was king of it. But of that the wanderers
knew nought as yet.
They journeyed far over hill and dale, ignorant of the way, and seeing
no living man, until, as the day drew to an end? there met them Aylmer
the king himself. "Whence do you come, friends?" asked he. "Who are
you that are so fair and straight of body?"
Horn spoke up for them all, for he was wisest and most skilled in the
use of courteous words. "We are from Suddenne, sire, of good lineage
and Christian faith. The pagans came to our land, and slew my father
and many others, and drove us from our homes. We thirteen whom you see
were set adrift in a boat, to be the sport of the sea; a day and a
night have we travelled without sail or rudder, and our boat brought
us to this land. We are in your hands, sire: slay us, or keep us
bound as prisoners; do with us as you will."
The good king was no ungentle boor: he spoke them fair and
graciously. "Tell me, child," he said, "what is your name? No harm
shall come to you at my hands, whosoever you he."
"Horn am I called, sire."
"Horn, child, you are well and truly named: your fame shall ring like
a horn over dale and hill. Now, Horn, come with me. You and your
comrades shall abide at my court."
They set out for the king's palace. When they were come thither,
Aylmer entrusted them to his steward, Athelbrus, whom he charged to
bring them up in knightly ways. They were added to Aylmer's household,
and taught all that squires of kings should know. But Horn was to come
to greater things than this. He learnt quickly, and became beloved by
every one; and most of all, Rimenhild, the king's daughter, loved him
from the day when she first set eyes on him. Her love for him grew
daily stronger and stronger, though she dared speak no word of it to
him, for she was a princess, and he only a squire rescued by chance
from the sea.
At length Rimenhild could hide her love no longer.
She sent for Athelbrus the steward, and bade him bring Horn to her
bower. But he, guessing her secret from her wild looks, was unwilling
to send Horn to her, fearing the king's displeasure; and he bade
Athulf, Horn's dearest companion, go to the princess instead, hoping
either that the princess would not know him from Horn (for she had as
yet spoken to neither of them, and they were much alike in face and
mien), or that by this plan she would see the folly of her desire.
Athulf came to Rimenhild's bower, and she did not know that he was not
Horn, and received him lovingly. But soon the trick was made plain,
for Athulf, as beseems a loyal heart, could not hear himself praised
above all other squires at Aylmer's court, and vowed that Horn was far
fairer and better than he. Then Rimenhild in a rage sent him from her,
and bade Athelbrus bring Horn to her without more ado. And thus at
last Horn came before the princess.
"King's daughter," said he with reverence and courtesy, "Athelbrus,
the steward, bade me come to you here. Say what you would have me do."
Rimenhild rose, answering nothing till she had taken him by the hand,
and made him sit by her, and embraced him lovingly. "Welcome, Horn,"
she said; "you are so fair that I cannot but love you. Take me to
wife; have pity on my love."
Horn knew not what to say. "Princess," he began at last, "I am
too lowly for such a wife as you. I am but a thrall [Footnote: A slave
or bondsman.] and a foundling, and owe all that I have to the king
your sire. There is no meet wedding between a thrall and the king's
daughter." At those words Rimenhild fell into a swoon; and Horn was
filled with pity and love at the sight, and took her in his arms, and
"Dear lady," he said, "be brave. Help me to win knighthood at the
hands of my lord the king; if I be dubbed knight my thraldom is ended,
and I am free to love you, as I do in my heart already." For Horn had
long loved the princess secretly, but dared not hope that she would
give him her love in turn.
Rimenhild came to her senses as he spoke. "Horn," she said, "it shall
be as you wish. Ere fourteen days have passed you shall be made a
Thereupon she sent for Athelbrus again, and bade him pray the king
Aylmer to dub Horn a knight; and, to be brief, Horn was speedily
knighted, and, asking the king's leave, himself knighted in turn his
As soon as he was knighted, Rimenhild called him to her; and Athulf,
his dear comrade, went with him into her presence. "Sir Horn, my
knight," she said, "sit by me here. See, it is time to fulfil your
word. Take me for your wife."
"Nay, Rimenhild," answered Horn; "that may not be yet. It is not
enough that I am knighted. I must prove my knighthood, as all men do,
in combat with some other knight. I must do a deed of prowess in the
field for love of you: then if I win through with my life, I will
return and take you to wife."
"Be it so, Horn. Now take from me this carven ring of gold. On it is
wrought: 'Be true to Rimenhild.' Wear it always on your finger, for
my love's sake. The stone in it has such grace that never need you
fear any wound nor shrink from any combat, if you do but wear this
ring, and look steadfastly upon it, and think of me. And you, Athulf,
you too, when you have proven your knighthood, shall have such another
ring also. Sir Horn, may Heaven bless and keep you, and bring you safe
to me again."
With that Horn kissed her, and received her blessing, and went away to
prove his knighthood in brave feats of arms.