Sir Percevale of Galles

General Information

(N)IMEV: 1853
Form: Tail-rhyme stanza of sixteen lines, rhyming (sometimes roughly) aaabcccbdddbeeeb
Date of Composition: First half of the fourteenth century
Place of Composition: North-east Midlands
Keywords: Animal, Crusade, Disguise, Education, Forest, Friendship, Heraldry, Hunting, Marriage, Military Combat, Mistaken Identity, Monster, Quest, Saracen, Secular Spaces, Siege, Supernatural, Tokens of Recognition, Tournament, Urban Spaces

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

Sir Perceval of the Round Table marries Arthur’s sister Acheflour, but is killed in a tournament by the Red Knight. Rejecting knightly culture, Acheflour retreats into the forest with their young son, also called Perceval, taking only some goats and a small spear. After fifteen years she explains Christianity to Perceval and, excited by her stories, he searches for God in the forest. He meets Ywain, Gawain and Kay and, seeing their rich clothes, asks which one is God. When Gawain informs him that they are Arthur’s knights, Perceval resolves to be knighted too. He mounts a wild mare, and although his mother is upset, she advises him on courtesy and gives him a ring.

On his way to Arthur’s court, Perceval enters a hall and finds a lady sleeping; he kisses her and exchanges her ring for Acheflour’s. When he arrives, Arthur recognises his uncouth nephew and agrees to knight him, but as they dine the Red Knight bursts into the hall and steals Arthur’s goblet. Perceval promises to retrieve the cup: riding out of the court before Arthur can give him armour, he pursues the Knight and kills him with his spear. The youth takes his horse but, confused by his armour, attempts to burn it off the body. Gawain arrives and helps him put it on, but Perceval decides to seek more adventures. He kills the Red Knight’s mother, a witch, then encounters an old knight and his sons, who are delighted to hear that he has slain their enemy.

A messenger on his way to Arthur’s court informs Perceval that Lady Lufamour of Maydenland is being besieged by a Sultan. He immediately sets off, and Arthur, delighted to learn that Perceval is alive, follows him with three knights. Perceval arrives in Maydenland and defeats the Saracens overnight. He is welcomed by Lufamour, who promises to marry him if he kills the Sultan. The following day he defeats the Saracen reinforcements then rides against Arthur, mistaking him for the Sultan. He jousts with Gawain but they recognise one another and are joyfully reunited. The Sultan arrives, demanding to fight a champion: Arthur knights Perceval who soon beheads his enemy. He and Lufamour are married, while Arthur returns to court.

After a year, Perceval sets out to find his mother. On his way he meets the woman with whom he exchanged rings: her lover, the Black Knight who gave her the ring (a protective charm), has accused her of infidelity. Perceval fights the knight, but spares him when he promises to forgive his lady. Perceval offers to re-exchange rings, but the knight has given Acheflour’s ring to the Sultan’s brother, a ferocious giant. Perceval beheads the giant and retrieves the ring, but learns from a porter that his mother saw the ring and, believing her son to be dead, went mad and fled into the woods. Perceval replaces his armour with goat skins and sets off on foot. He finds Acheflour by a well and carries her back to the castle, where she is cured. They return to Maydenland together and Perceval joins the crusades where he is slain after many victories.

From: Mary Flowers Braswell, Sir Perceval of Galles and Ywain and Gawain. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995.
Manuscript: Lincoln Cathedral Library, MS 91 (Thornton Manuscript)


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Lincoln Cathedral Library, MS 91 (Thornton Manuscript) (folio: 161r-176r)c. 1440, North Yorkshire. Unique copy. 2288 lines.

Modern Editions

Dean Richard Baldwin, ed., Sir Perceval of Galles: An Edition (PhD Dissertation, Ohio State University, 1973)Edited from Thornton MS.
F. S. Ellis, ed., Syr Perecyvelle of Gales (Hammersmith: Kelmscott, 1895)Edited from Thornton MS.
J. Campion and F. Holthausen, eds., Sir Perceval of Gales, Alt- und Mittelenglische Texte 5 (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1913)Edited from Thornton MS.
J. J. Griffiths, ed., Sir Percevell of Gales (Masters Thesis, University College of North Wales, 1977)Edited from Thornton MS.
J. O. Halliwell, ed., The Thornton Romances, Camden Society 30 (London: Printed for the Camden Society by J. B. Nichols and Sons, 1844)Edited from Thornton MS.
Maldwyn Mills, ed., Ywain and Gawain, Sir Percyvell of Gales, The Anturs of Arther (London: Everymans Library, 1992)Pp. 103-160. Edited from Thornton MS.
Mary Flowers Braswell, ed., Sir Perceval of Galles and Ywain and Gawain (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995)Pp. 1-76. Edited from Thornton MS.Available online at:
Walter Hoyt French and Charles Brockway Hale, eds., The Middle English Metrical Romances, 2 vols (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1930; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell, 1964)Vol. 2. Pp. 529-604. Uses Madden's transcript of the Thornton MS.


Immediate source unknown.