Le Bel Inconnu

Beaujeu, Renaud de (1165–1230), translated by Kline, A. S. (contact-email)

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Sir Gingalain, known as Le Bel Inconnu (the Fair Unknown), is a figure from Arthurian legend, primarily featured in this late 12th-early 13th century romance by Renaud de Beaujeu. The work recounts the adventures of the knight Gingalain, the Fair Unknown, who is torn between the love of two women, la Pucelle a Blanches Mains (‘The Maid of the White Hands’) mistress of Ile d'Or (the Golden Isle), and Blonde Esmerée (‘The Fair and Radiant One’), Queen of Wales. As the son of Gawain and the fay Blanchemal, Gingalain grows up ignorant of his heritage until circumstances lead him to Arthur’s court to become a knight. His quests encompass the rescue of Blonde Esmerée, and the defeat of Malgier le Gris - an unwanted suitor to Pucelle. Although Gingalain intends to marry Pucelle, participation in a tournament held by King Arthur requires him to forfeit his love for her and enter into a political marriage with the newly crowned Queen of Wales. He subsequently learns of his father’s true identity as Gawain. Gingalain’s narrative, which features in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, contributes to the Fair Unknown trope in medieval literature, influencing tales of knights like Gareth and Percival.

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Kline, A. S.

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