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Narrated for Relaxivity by Jana Elzabeth

Written and produced by Bertie Fraser

Image by Midjourney/Relaxivity

A romantic tail from the mythological times of King Arthur. Sir Lanval is a Knight of the Court of King Camelot. He is brave and good looking, chivalrous, and moral. But the other Knights of the Round Table do not like him. Perhaps his high moral tone irks them. As a result of his unpopularity, Lanval does not share in the rewards handed out by King Arthur. He falls into poverty, and, in despair, secretly leaves the court. On his travels he is wooed by a fairy queen, who gives him her love, and riches. The fairy queen makes one condition - he must not mention her to anyone. When he returns to Camelot, he attracts the eye of Queen Guinevere. He refuses her advances, and she decides to take revenge, making false accusations against him. It is based on the Lai of Lanval by Marie de France.

The original was written in Anglo Norman. Ours is a modern interpretation in easy to understand verse.

The story refers to some grown up themes. We trust you will find the magical and romantic story calming and diverting from the cares of modern life! Sit or lie back, and enjoy the story of a medieval Knight.

The Lai of Lanval

Lanval, a knight of the court of Camelot

Handsome, Brave, one of the best

Not as famed as Gawain or Lancelot

But perhaps more honest.

He was


by the rest.

Noone doubted that he was good and true

Fierce in war and kind in peace

Generous and open, they all knew

Constant, steady, no caprice

Only one thing he lacked in its entirety

That slippery quality:  popularity.

For unfortunately,

His nobility

Made other  knights feel

Their moral fragility.

In fact, scheming eyes could not wait

To see him meet some unpleasant fate.

Well, let us begin the story.

Arthur and his knights had spent a while

One summer in the cold city of Carlisle

Up North to fight the troublesome Scots

Who back then were a scrappy lot.

50 days they had fought

The men in kilts

And much blood had spilt

Then the  feast of Pentecost came

and they thought

They had time and cause

To pause their war

And pursuit of glory and immortal fame

And to care, instead, for their bodies and souls.


Knights on their knees said their prayers

And sung their psalms

Then escorted ladies on their arms

through the fairs

And clamouring crowds

With much celebration,

Festive feasting, and inebriation

Jousting, music, Dancing

Moonlit walks and talks of love

Sweet kisses and entrancing

For noble Knights knew how to woo

Just as well as to pursue.

That summer was meant to be

A time of plenty.

The King was a man of means

And knights were on the receiving end of things.

If a knight wished to be wed

Arthur set him up with a wife

And homestead

Lands for the gentry

Gold and silver aplenty.

For each loyal knight of the table that was round

Some rich gift had to be found.

Save for one.

Lanval received no lady’s hand

Still less a plot of  land

No gold

No Silver

No bronze

No cloak of ermine did  he don

Lanval alone of all the noble knights


Not a fig

Not a word

Not a nod

He was  forgotten

It was more than odd.

And unfortunately

He was falling, falling into penury

For knighthood demands not just arms and might

It takes money, and plenty, to fight the good fight

Horses and grooms don’t lodge for free

And knights can’t turn away the poor and needy

Without loss of name, fame and nobility


Their castle halls are often filled

with the grasping and the greedy

And while they’re away fighting wars

Their stewards steal from their stores

Their cooks guzzle down their wine

And servants help themselves to all that is fine

So one summer night in Carlisle

Lanval awoke

In his bed


And  broke.

He who knew no fear

Who in battle engaged any enemy

Sweated and felt queer

He could not face his poverty

He groaned.

Far away from home

In a state of lonely distress

At a moonlit hour, he stood up, and dressed.

The forlorn knight

went to find his horse once fine,

Whose mane had lost its shine

Whose neigh had lost its delight

He saddled him up himself

Mounted, and began to ride

Clattering through the half-deserted streets

Past the sleeping retreats

Of Arthur’s men in temporary lodgings

With chests of rich belongings

Who lied

Beside their one-night brides.

He rode out of the city and along the river

Called Eden

Because its banks are so green and fertile

And after he had ridden a while

And after the summer sun had risen in style

He grew hot, and his old horse began to sweat and quiver

And so he lied down in a field beside the cool river

And fell into a deep deep sleep

He was in no hurry

For once, without worry

And when he opened his eyes

He saw, a heavenly surprise,

Two girls, among the loveliest he had seen

Dressed in purple with white lace

Each with a face

That made him feel alive

Like sprinkles of  sweet spring water on his  eyes

“Sir Knight,” one girl  spoke,  “there is a lady who makes no pretence

She is impatient for your attendance

at her side

For if what her heart tells her is right

When  she saw you ride

by her pavillion

It was love at first sight.

So come, and on her fair forehead you may set your gaze

We have reason to think you will be amazed.”

Pavilion? He had not seen any structure made by human hands

He had only ridden past green and pleasant lands.

They led  him by both hands  until

Upon a hill

They came to the lady's tent.

It stood beside an ancient apple tree

Held up by poles of gold and gilded cord

Its sides were made of rich tapestry

Each flap was more than a king could afford

They depicted histories in their scenes

Dido,  the Carthaginian Queen



Zenobia -

And Sheba of Ethiopia.


He found the lady who had summoned him

Her shapely form

Lying on a bed like bud on a branch in may

The cover she had pushed away

To be the cooler, it was sweltering that summer’s day

All she wore was a slip of silk

He could see

Her neck, her arms, her bosom

All as white as milk

Or a lilly

Or the hawthorn flower.

“Lanval,” she said, in a voice lined with velvet power

“Sweet love,  you are dear to me, so step forward and sit near to me.

I have heard that you are courtly and true.

Because of you

I have journeyed from my land

I understand

That you are rich in honour, honesty and courage

Though despite these precious gifts

You may require a helping hand.

I have no art

I speak from the heart

I love you

And want to help you.”

And when he heard these words

Love struck him like a spark

And desire set  fire to his heart

“Lovely one,” he said.

“Your wish is my command

I will never leave you

I will always believe you

I shall  do anything you demand

Foolish or wise

For you

And only you

Anything you say

It is my greatest joy to obey.”

And when she heard that Sir Lanval was ready to give himself to her

She gave herself to him

Her love and her body

Now at last Lanval was progressing!

And when they had done with their caressing

She offered him another gift:

Anything he might need, no matter what the expense

From henceforth

Make no mistaking

It was his for the taking.

He only had to say

And she would send it his way.

“Do not doubt what I have told you.

My word is as good as gold for you.

No more need to be poor.

So long as you stay true to me

Wealthy, you shall always be”

He thanked her kindly, as you might expect

In one whose manners were so perfect.

But then she added one condition

“You must obey this, my command,  or  suffer the perdition

Of losing me,

My love

My body

And never again will you enjoy my generosity

If one word of our union slips from your lips

Your sorrow will follow swiftly on the morrow.

Mention me, and I’ll be lost to you, you’ll see.

And this is what I truly think:

Your fortunes, once more, will sink.

But my love, there is no need to fret

So long as this one stipulation

You do not forget.”

And when he understood what she wanted

He was quite undaunted.

Sir Lanval did not hesitate to agree

To swear an oath of total secrecy.

And then he closed his eyes

And he would have lied by his lover’s side

For many blissful hours

But instead

She ordered him out of bed

“You can’t stay here,” she said.

The maids came with water and robes

And washed and dressed him in the richest clothes

Then the lovers sat down to dine on fine dishes

And between the dishes

The sweetest kisses.

After dinner, the maids brought him his own horse

Watered, rested and restored to health.

“Lover,” said his lady.  “Any time you miss

My conversation or my kiss

Call me, and say my secret name - which she told him -

And I shall come



Save to you

My love who is true.”

So, Sir Lanval

More content than he had ever felt

The picture of confidence and wealth

Was ready to begin

His journey to the nearest inn.

And on his arrival

Before he took his rest

He paid for food and drink for all the guests.

And thereafter,  wherever he went

He freely spent

And no one knew who was this handsome man

Who did not stint

To pay a jailed knight’s ransom

Or to clothe a juggler who was skint.

And no one knew that

It was his secret delight

To call his fairy lover each and every night.

And far as anyway knew

He was alone in his life

And had no lover

Nor a wife.

It was sometime past midsummer’s day

When Sir Lanval was on his way

Little did he know that a lady’s eye

Spied on him as he rode by

She was hidden, but near

In a tower up on high

Her name, was Queen Guinevere

And not so long after, when the days were still hot

Perhaps by chance

But maybe not

Sir Lanval met Sir Gwain in the inn

Sir Gwain greeted him

With open arms

And did not lack for charm

“Sir, we have missed your presence at  my uncle’s court

if there was anything we ought

To have done for you.

Please accept my apology.

It is my feeling we may have wronged you.

It pains me.

I feel the deepest regret.

Believe me.

Sir Lanval.

We did not mean to forget you.”

Generous was the nature of Lanval

And freely, of his own will

Perhaps more than he ought

He found it easy to forgive.

So he returned to court with Sir Gwain forthwith

And if you care for Sir Lanval’s sake

You might feel that this was

His biggest mistake.

So far….

The following Sunday

When the court was supposedly at prayers

The Queen was giving him stares

And at every chance

She sent him the most artful glance

Her intent

And what she meant

Lanval  perceived precisely

But though he liked to treat a lady nicely

There was nothing he might give her

What she wanted,

He could not deliver.

But the more he resisted

The more the queen persisted

Somehow she was always near

To the noble knight whom she found so dear

One day, when he was  alone, in an orchard

deep in thought

She found him, and he was caught.

“Lanval,” she said, temptingly.

“When others neglected you

I always respected you

And then,

When you disappeared

The worst I feared

I could not sleep.

I realised my love for you ran deep.

And  when thankfully you returned

How my passion  sparked and burned!

I am yours for the taking!

Why are you waiting?

This is the season  for our love making! “

But though the queen was ready to give her all

Lanval was not at all enthralled.

He was not like other men she had met

For whom adultery was a step they would not regret.

“My queen,” he said.

“I am flattered with all my being.

I am honoured by all you mention

And thank you for your attention

But please understand

I cannot be your man.

For this reason

It would be treason.

I serve your husband

As his knight, loyal and true

And to wrong him

Would be the very worst

I could do.”

“What is this?” exclaimed the queen.

“You resist my kiss?

Your effete manners I held dear

Now I see how far I was mistaken

My love is forsaken

Because….You, Gallant Knight

Are a queer!

“My lady I assure you I am not.” exclaimed Sir Lanval quite shocked

“Your lies cannot disguise it any more.

It’s well understood.

That It’s quite common among the brotherhood.

Oh you hunky knights!

I know how you spend those summer nights!

Now it’s clear why you had to disappear

You went off to enjoy

Your  friend

Who is A boy!”

“No no,” pleaded Sir Lanval. “I love another, that much is true.  That is why I cannot be with you. “

“Oh now you make me grieve!

Stop this nonsense - This make-believe!

….Or else,

If what you claim is true

Tell me

Who? Who Is she?

This secret lady

Whom you prefer so much to me!

Much beauty must she posses

But her Identity, I cannot guess.”

“Well, since you ask,

She’s  a lady whose beauty does surpass

All other women I have seen

And that includes you

My queen.”

“Well now. That was a low blow.

Your good manners, Sir Knight,

are not quite what they seem.”

Though it was his courtly code to be polite

When his blood was up,  he was not one to retreat from a fight.

He was far from finished yet.

He had much more to say that he would bitterly regret.

“My lady’s lowliest handmaid

The poorest creature

Of the humblest station

Is more beautifully made

In body, and in face,

And in education

Than you

In fact her whole retinue

Is far exceeding

In manners and in breeding

And In all that is beautiful and true!”

Oh Sir Lanval!

What have you just said?

Not only, have you broken your troth of delicate secrecy

You have all but lost your handsome head.

Surely you should know

That the queen will  NEVER  let a comment like that go?

She is wounded in this verbal fight

But she knows how to pierce her noble knight

No shining armour will protect you.

From the weapons she shall  project at you!

So don’t be taken by surprise

When they start to fly

Those poisoned and pointed lies

This was her track

And her line of attack.

In those dark and mediaeval times

The love of man on man

Was a crime.

And if you were so inclined

Your life was always on the line.

And even if you weren’t

The mere suspicion could get you burnt.

Unless of course you were a lord or a king

Which meant, like now, you could get away with anything.

The queen waited In the bridal room

Where she prepared the most shameless stunt.

She messed up her hair and scratched her own face

She was a right… disgrace.

And when Arthur  returned from the hunt

She was crying

She was sick

And the more she was tearful

The more fearful became the king

“Did you fall? Did you hurt yourself my dear?

You can tell me now, I am here.”

Then she spoke a terrible thing.

She was sick

Because a Knight of the Round Table

Had played an ignoble trick.

Sir Lanval had advanced upon her

And when she commanded him to be gone

And reminded him that she was loyal to only one

He broke down in the most queer tears

And sobbed out his heart to the queen

Like a girl of fourteen

And only then

Did he confess

What they all should have guessed

That what what Sir Lanval was really after

At the court of King Arthur

Was men.

King Arthur was outraged!

How could he let Camalot be so defamed

By the love that dare not speak its name!

What would their enemies say?

They would laugh at them all the way

Into battle

So If this crime could be proved

The stain had to be removed!

A court was swiftly convened

And Lanval was brought before it.

There sat the tearful queen

The King

And all his lords

As well as a curious crowd

All there to see Sir Lanval be demeaned.

The accusation was read out loud


All the dirt that Arthur’s spies could find

All the meanest gossip

That appealed to the lowest minds.

And to this, Lanval replied

The only part  of this accusation that is true

Are the words that I told the queen

That I faithfully serve

A lady

Who is the loveliest I have ever seen.

And every knight who was there

Well knew  that the accusations were unfair

But none of them would dare

To speak in defence of him

When to do so, was to go against the king

Save one

Sir Guain

Who was Arthur’s Brother’s son

“I have always found Sir Lanval to be

A valiant knight

Who has stood firm in many a fight

And who has been

A good friend to me.

But this I do own

He likes to be alone.

And when he stands aloof

Some like to see that as proof.

He thinks that only he is free from sin

And looks down on those around him.

But the mean words that we have heard spoken

Were first meant as a joke

A low attack

A stab

In the back

Of an all round

Good bloke.

But here, today, they are taken seriously as fact.

That can’t be right

Someone needs to take those words back.”

But Sir Gwain’s loyal defence

Only caused the King the greatest offence

“Impudent youth!

It is my wife you accuse

Of playing fast and loose with the truth.

If Lanval’s plea is to be believed

Let him show us the proof.

Where is his lovely lady whom no one else has seen.

Is she some sort of invisible fairy queen? “

Sir Gwain’s keen eyes looked all around

Surely somewhere in this crowd, his friend’s lover could be found?

Whom Sir Lanval was too honourable to name

For to call her, in court, would cause her shame.

And Sir Gwain was soon aware of a suspicous pair

Seated side by side,

Like sisters

Their silken finery could not hide


Features and forms

Most pleasing to the eye.

Sir Lanval, he said,  nodding toward the two beauties.

Is one of them your love?

No, replied he, I swear by the Lord above,

I’ve not seen them before.

And soon after, two more arrived,

Whose beauty outshone

Not only the first two,

But all the women who were in view

Eclipsing even the queen

And, it could  be conceived

Every woman who had ever breathed.

And I must say

No Knight of the round table could keep his eyes away.

And each everyone thought

By God!

There must be

Sir Lanval’s lovely lady

And the sort who were more depraved in mind.

Assumed he kept two of the same kind

But instead

Sir Lanval Shook his head

And denied it.

And Arthur

Conscious that his impatient queen

Was restless for justice to be seen

Called on his lords for a guilty verdict

For he thought his case was won.

But the expression on Sir Lanval’s face

Was far from the picture of disgrace

His lips turned up and his eyes shone

For he had spotted his beloved one!

Just in the nick of time she had arrived,

an arabian horse she did ride.

The whole town upon her gazed

And each and everyone was amazed

by her beauty

And her silken finery.

Even the angry king was completely charmed

And all his army was quite disarmed.

Your Majesty, Declared she

I have come to prove your prisoner not guilty!

He never spoke an untrue thing

And has always remained loyal to his king.

Only in one way has he strayed

When he mentioned me, he broke his oath of sacred secrecy

I am the one he has betrayed.

And Sir Lanval fell to his knees and begged his lady please

to forgive.

As Long as he lived

For all his days

He would regret that brash boast that he had made.

“Lanval,’ said she.

I gave you fair warning.

If you mentioned one word of me

Retribution would come for you quite swiftly

And it must be said

You almost lost your head.

The  Jealous Queen got you by the throat

And your comrade knights

Wanted you as their scapegoat.

For every act they have accused you of

They are ten times more guilty

And their greatest sin I see

Is Rank, Stinking Hypocrisy!”

And when I look around this court full of men whom I detest

I still see that you are far better than the rest

So, Lanval, my love,

Mount your horse and follow me.

For I have come to rescue thee.