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Maleagant is a villain from Arthurian legend. In a number of versions of a popular episode, Maleagant abducts Guinevere, necessitating her rescue by King Arthur and his knights. The earliest surviving version of this episode names the abductor Melwas. Maleagant debuts in Chrétien de Troyes' French romance Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, where he is said to be the son of King Bagdemagus, ruler of the otherworldly land of Gorre. However, all surviving versions seem to be later adaptations of a stock narrative of significantly earlier provenance.

Contents

Origins

The earliest version of the popular abduction of Guinevere episode appears in the early 12th-century Latin Life of Gildas by Caradoc of Llancarfan. In that text Melwas king of the "Summer Country" carries Guinevere off to his stronghold of Glastonbury. Arthur locates her after a year of searching and prepares to storm the castle, but Gildas negotiates her safe return. Melwas also appears in a fragmentary Welsh dialogue, indicating that this story was widely known in Wales. A monumental carving on the archivolt of Modena Cathedral in Italy contains a related scene, in which Arthur and his warriors besiege a castle where a character identified as "Mardoc" sits with "Winlogee", presumably Guinevere.[1]

Roger Sherman Loomis regarded the form Maleagant or Meleagans as directly derivative of the Brythonic Melwas. He listed a number of variants, including along with Mehaloas, Melians and Malvasius.[2]

Arthurian romances

Maleagant first appears under that name in Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes, where he brings Guinevere to his impenetrable castle. The queen is rescued by Lancelot and Gawain; this is the first major appearance of Lancelot in Arthurian legend. If he was ever more than an obscure villain, Maleagant's role seems to have diminished as Mordred became more popular; however, Maleagant appears in most accounts of Guinevere's kidnapping. He plays that part in the Lancelot-Grail cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.

In the romance Sone de Nansai, Sone visits an island said to have been Meleagan's. Meleagan's father was King Baudemagus and his grandfather Tadus. Meleagan's island is perfectly square and its walls are made of crystal. There is a palace at each corner and at the center, a fountain wells up through a gilded copper horn. The Sword Bridge connects the island to a causeway, a bowshot away, which leads to the mainland. In Meleagan's day, many men were beheaded there.[3]

Modern literature

Maleagant appears in modern retellings like Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, T. H. White's The Once and Future King (as Sir Meliagrance), and the film First Knight.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Stokstad, Marilyn (1991), "Modena Archivolt", in Lacy, Norris J., The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, New York: Garland, pp. 324–326 
  2. ^ Loomis, p. 359.
  3. ^ Loomis, p. 211.

References

  • Lacy, Norris J. (1991). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
  • Loomis, Roger Sherman (1997). Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance. Academy Chicago Publishers. ISBN 0-89733-436-1.







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