Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for Knights of all kinds

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is Representation and Diversity in Traditional Stories. I am looking for rare and interesting motifs in folktales, fairy tales, and legends that add variety to the well-known canon.

"Chivalry is not dead" you hear way too often - usually from guys who expect a badge for holding a door open for you. Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Cory O'Brien, posted an epic takedown of the idea of what chivalry really refers to (hint: Not your dating game).
With that said, people love knights. Kids, especially, love knights. Heck, I love knights. Who could be considered a "knight" in the middle ages was fairly limited - but in the world of story, there are some spectacular exceptions that allow knighthood for people who would not traditionally be included.

Chivalry is for everyone.

Let's hear it for the girls! Silence is a 13th century French romance about a girl who is raised as a boy in order to allow her to inherit. She is named Silence for the secrecy, and she becomes a knight, going through epic adventures.
(Read the book here. Also, Dolores Hydock has an epic storytelling performance of Silence, and you can even buy it on a CD!)

Another famous female knight, from Ariosto's 16th century epic Orlando Furioso. She is in love with a Muslim hero, and rescues him from captivity, among other adventures. While not technically a traditional story, Orlando Furioso is built on medieval legends and folklore. Also, this is the source Rowling got the hippogriff from.
(Read about her here)

In addition, here is an entire book on female knights in Chinese folklore!

How about a knight of color? The Romance of Antar is an amazing Arab epic from the early middle ages, one that is said to have influenced many European romances of chivalry. Antar himself is the son of an Arab chief and a black slave woman, and he becomes the hero known all over the Middle East.
(I blogged about the romance of Antar last year)

Sir Palomedes
One of the famous knights of King Arthur's court, Sir Palomedes, is also described as a "Saracen" which in medieval literature refers to Muslims (he converts to Christianity later) and Arabs. He is one of the hunters of the Questing Beast, and he appears in a number of Arthurian legends.
(Read about him here)

Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell
Also known as Sir Gawain and the Loathy Lady; I am including it because it is one of the quintessential feminist tales in most modern storytellers' repertoire. The moral of the story is that what women desire in the world more than anything is to be able to decide their own fate. Sir Gawain is proven to be a knight that learns this lesson, and gives up his privilege as a man to allow freedom to the woman he marries.
(Read about the story here)

Bisclavret / Gorlagon
Just for the heck of it: Both stories (one from Marie de France, and one from a 14th century author) involve a knight who is also a werewolf. He gets stuck in wolf form because his wife betrays him, and goes to live in the court of a king (usually King Arthur) until the truth comes to life and he can return to human. I am including it because lycanthropy is often symbolic for physical or mental conditions in tradition.
(Read about Bisclavret here, and Gorlagon here)

Who is your favorite knight and why?


  1. Fascinating as always. More tales for my TBR :-) The only knights I know are from the Round Table - really difficult to choose only one favourite ;-)

  2. This reminds me that I like knight stories too. I haven't read any since I was a child. Of course my memory is of sir Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table

  3. The Loathly Lady appears in folk songs and other stories. There's the Wife of Bath's Tale in Chaucer, of course, and the song "King Henry" of the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There's a telemovie of the 1980s, I think, with King Arthur played by Malcolm McDowell, in which Gawain simply decides to marry Dame Ragnell because he's in love with her(which sort of missed the point of the original story, but was sweet!)
    The Loathly Lady has even appeared in science fiction, in a novella by Lois McMaster Bujold, in which her very knightly hero, Miles Vorkosigan does a King Henry, making love to the ugly young girl(huge and fanged, with claws)at her insistence, after feeding her and finding her water and then tells her he was sent to slay a monster and found instead a princess.
    I know about Bisclavret, wrote a YA novel inspired by it! ;-)

  4. I don't know about my favorite knight but my favorite movie about knights has to be The Holy Grail.

    1. Mine too. Monty Python And... :-) Actually, I remember seeing it while I was doing my Honours Thesis on King Arthur and laughed especially hard, because the writers clearly knew what they were talking about. There were in jokes that made it even funnier if you'd read the mediaeval stories.

  5. The idea of knights who are also werewolves intrigues me!

    1. Those are fun stories to tell, especially to teenagers.

  6. I've always loved Sir Galahad. He's such an alluring character and, of course, Lancelot--so deliciously tragic.

    Meet My Imaginary Friends

  7. Don Quixote, by far my favorite "knigt".

    Oooo...another storyteller. Glad I went looking at the beginning of A to Z list.


  8. knights were one of my favorite things as a kids. i got all giddy as i was reading each one and was clicking on all the links. love this one!

  9. O gosh! When I saw the word "knights" I knew I wanted to mention Sir Gawain. Great post!

    Joy @ The Joyous Living

  10. Sadly, many women wait for a knight in shining armor only to later discover that he expects her to keep it clean. I'll have to read some of your tales.

  11. Sadly, many women wait for a knight in shining armor only to later discover that he expects her to keep it clean. I'll have to read some of your tales.

  12. Another wonderful collection. I've always been delighted by the Loathy Lady tale.

  13. I'm so intrigued by the tale called Silence! I love those kinds of stories, and I have no idea why. Really enjoying your tales this year.

  14. Hi Csenge!
    You have a fascinating theme going here...
    I like Don Quixote!

    It was great hanging out with you and a few others over at Samantha Redstreake Geary's place today!
    Writer In Transit

  15. My favourite is Gawain, because he's so very human, with a bad temper in Malory, he does dreadful things and then he's sorry. In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, he's brave and courteous, but fails the last test for understandable reasons.

    1. I do love Gawain too, he is one of my favorites :) Him, and Sir Kay.

  16. Hmmm ... Knights ... I always liked Mandorallen from the Belgariad, even if he starts off a bit of an idiot - he learns ... although slowly :)
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  17. My most favorite Knight in shining armor is.... wait for it.... is ..... MY HUSBAND OF COURSE. He's also my hero and he has saved me from a horrible future and now I only have happiness & love waiting for me in my future. He's absolutely my soulmate and I look forward in growing old together for we'll stay young and in love for the rest of our lives. I just know it!

  18. Fantastic collection of stories.
    Yeah, yeah, I fell in love with Arthurian legends a long time ago. So yes, I'm very much into knights myself ;-)

    The Old Shelter - Jazz Age Jazz