Firumbras (Fillingham)

General Information

(N)IMEV: 944.5
Form: Couplets
Date of Composition: Last quarter of the fourteenth century
Place of Composition: East Midlands
Keywords: Conquest, Conversion, Crusade, Disguise, Familial Discord, Friendship, Marriage, Merchants, Military Combat, Monster, Rape, Religious Spaces, Sacrament, Saracen, Secular Spaces, Siege, Supernatural, Treachery

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

[Begins incomplete] The imprisoned French Peers, led by Roland, attack the Saracens while they are dining. The Sultan Balam escapes through a window, and the knights barricade themselves into his castle. Balam and his generals plot their revenge, bemoaning the treachery of his daughter, Floripas, who is in love with Sir Guy of Burgundy. She has a magic girdle which provides food, but when Balam’s magician breaks into the tower to steal it and rape her, Guy throws his body, along with the girdle, into the sea. The siege continues for seven days until Floripas faints with hunger. The Peers destroy her idols then sally out of the castle: they kill many Saracens and seize supplies, but Guy is taken hostage.

Floripas begs the other Peers to rescue him, threatening to surrender the tower and then offering them the relics of Christ’s Passion [which her brother Firumbras had stolen from St Peter’s in Rome]. The knights worship the relics then set out to recapture Guy. Saracen reinforcements arrive, but Guy is inspired by Floripas’ love and the French fight their way through, returning to the tower with more supplies. Balam continues his assault, but when the tower’s walls begin to crumble Floripas halts his attack by throwing his treasure to the ground, which he orders his men to gather up.

During this lull, Richard of Normandy rides out to seek Charlemagne’s help. He distracts the Saracens by stealing a horse and releasing his own steed, then escapes across the river Flagot, led by a white hart. He finally reaches Charlemagne, who is debating whether to turn back to Spain or follow Ganelon’s advice and retreat to France. On hearing that his Peers are alive and have the relics, the king resolves to rescue them. He and his troops follow Richard back to Agremare, capturing the dangerous bridge of Mautrible by tricking its gigantic Saracen porter. On hearing of this, the furious Balam smashes his idols, but his generals persuade him to repent and redouble his attack on the Peers. The knights are using the relics to blind their attackers when they see Charlemagne’s approaching banners and rejoice.

On the advice of Firumbras, who has adopted Christianity and joined Charlemagne’s retinue, the king offers to spare the Sultan’s life if he converts. Balam refuses and the battle begins: Firumbras fights bravely and the Peers abandon the tower to join Charlemagne’s troops. Finally, Balam is captured by Oliver and Firumbras, who again urges his father to convert. Despite his pleas, the Sultan refuses baptism and is executed. Floripas is christened and married to Guy, whom Charlemagne presents with Balam’s crown and kingdom. In return she gives him the relics, whose authenticity is confirmed by miracles. Charlemagne departs, taking the relics and Floripas’ maidens to Paris.

From: M.I. O’Sullivan, ed. Firumbras and Otuel and Roland. Edited from MS Brit. Mus. Addit. 37492, London: Oxford University Press, 1935. EETS o.s. 198.
Manuscript: London, British Library, MS Additional 37492


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London, British Library, MS Additional 37492 (Fillingham) (folio: 1r-30r)Second half of the fifteenth century. Unique copy. Lacks beginning. 1840 lines.

Modern Editions

M. I. O Sullivan, ed., Firumbras and Otuel and Roland, EETS o.s. 198 (London: Oxford University Press, 1935; rpt. 1971)Pp. 1-58. Edited from Fillingham MS.


Fierabras, a Chanson de Geste c. 1170 (Vulgate Tradition)*