King Arthur and King Cornwall

General Information

(N)IMEV: 638
Form: Quatrains, rhyming xaxa
Date of Composition: Late fifteenth century
Place of Composition: Uncertain
Keywords: Animal, Bedchamber, Disguise, Friendship, Monster, Other-world, Pilgrimage, Quest, Secular Spaces, Supernatural, Travel

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

[The opening section of the poem is missing and the rest of the text is heavily mutilated.] Arthur boasts to Gawain about his Round Table, but Guinevere replies that she knows a better one, which stands in a palace worth more than his whole kingdom of Little Britain. When she refuses to reveal its location, Arthur vows to seek it. He and four knights – Gawain, Murramiles, Tristrem and Bredbeddle (the Green Knight) – dress as pilgrims and travel far and wide [until they arrive at a castle]. A porter, dressed entirely in gold, informs them that it belongs to King Cornwall, the richest man in Christendom. Arthur asks for a night’s lodging, [and the disguised knights are brought before Cornwall]. Suspecting that they come from Britain, the king boasts that he has fathered a beautiful daughter with Arthur’s wife. He also boasts of a miraculous horse, [and other magical items which are better than any in Arthur’s court: a horn, a sword and a powerful sprite called Burlow Beanie].

Arthur and his knights retire to bed, and Cornwall’s household conceal Burlow Beanie in their chamber to spy on them. Arthur vows to kill his rival before returning home, while Gawain pledges to carry off his daughter. [They discover the sprite] which has seven heads and breathes fire. Sir Bredbeddle fights the spirit: all his weapons break, but he finally subdues it with the help of a holy book that he found by the seaside. [Burlow Beanie agrees to obey him] and Sir Bredbeddle orders the sprite to bring forth Cornwall’s horse. Sir Murramiles attempts to ride it, but is unable to make it move. On Bredbeddle’s orders, Burlow Beanie fetches the golden wand that controls the horse, [as well as the other magical items], including Cornwall’s horn, which he shows them how to use. Bredbeddle presents Cornwall’s sword to Arthur, who uses it to cut off his rival’s head. [Sir Gawain abducts Cornwall’s daughter and the knights return to Little Britain].

From: Thomas Hahn, ed. Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000.
Manuscript: London, British Library, MS Additional 27879 (Percy Folio)


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London, British Library, MS Additional 27879 (Percy Folio) (folio: pp. 24-31)c. 1650, Lancashire. 303 lines. Unique Copy. Heavily mutilated, about half the text survives in a series of fragments.

Modern Editions

Francis James Child, ed., The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 vols (New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1884-1898; rpt, New York: Dover Publications, 1965)Vol. 1. Pp. 274-88. Edited from Percy Folio.
Frederic Madden, ed., Syr Gawayne: A Collection of Ancient Romance-Poems by Scottish and English Authors Relating to That Celebrated Knight of the Round Table (London: Bannatyne Club, 1839)Pp. 275-287. Edited from Percy Folio.
John W. Hales and Frederick J. Furnivall, eds., Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romances, 3 vols. (London: N. Trübner, 1867–68)Vol 1. pp. 59-73. Edited from Percy Folio.
Thomas Hahn, ed., Eleven Gawain Romances and Tales (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995)Pp. 422-436. Edited from Percy Folio.Available online at: