Authors: Gerald Morris
Text copyright Â© 2008 by Gerald Morris
Illustrations copyright Â© 2008 by Aaron Renier
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Sandpiper, an
imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Originally
published in hardcover in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children,
an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publishing Company, 2008.
SANDPIPER and the SANDPIPER logo are trademarks of
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
For information about permission to reproduce selections
from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company,
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The text of this book is set in Post Mediaeval.
The illustrations are brush and ink
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file
ISBN: 978-0-547-24818-9 pb
Manufactured in the United States of America
EB 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ORRIS, MY FAVORITE LIBRARIANS.
That Little Fellow
Givret's First Quest
The Most Beautiful Lady in Limors
Sir Erec's Brilliance
Sir Erec's Next Quest
The Silence of Lady Enide
The Battle of the Hundred Knights
Givret the Marvelous
In all England's history, the storytellers say no king was ever as great as King Arthur. No castle was as splendid as Arthur's Camelot, and no king ever held such magnificent feasts and tournaments. Most of all, no king helped the poor and weak as Arthur did. All the knights of his court vowed to defend the defenseless. Among them were famous knightsâlike Sir Lancelot the Great, Sir Kay the Loyal, and Sir Gawain the Trueâas well as others, like Sir Pellinore the Absent-minded, Sir Griflet the Tidy, and Sir Caranos the Usually Washed. Whatever their special qualities, though, these knights brought justice to England and made King Arthur's reign the Golden Age of Adventures.
It was Easter when one adventure came to the court. King Arthur was holding a holiday feast at Camelot, when a heraldâthat's what they used to call messengersâappeared in the banquet hall. "O King Arthur Pendragon," the herald announced, 'High King of All England, Protector of the Weak, Defender of theâ"
"Yes, yes, here I am," interrupted the king. "May I help you?"
"I bring tidings of a most prodigious adventure: a hunt for a wonderly marvelous stag!" He could have said I've come to tell you about an amazing [[graphic]]stag," but heralds always used difficult, flowery language. No one knows why.
"And what is so marvelous about this stag?" asked the king.
"Not only is the creature uncannily white in hue, but legend saith that the knight who captures this wondrous beast earns thereby the right to kiss the fairest damsel in the world!"
Arthurs knights looked puzzled. "You mean whoever catches this stag gets to kiss the most beautiful lady in the world?" asked the king.
"That's what I said," replied the herald. "But I prithee peradventure thou be aforewarned! The quest bringeth with it dire peril!" (Which is to say, "Be careful; it's dangerous.")
"A quest isn't supposed to be easy' the king said. He looked at his knights. "What do you say, my friends? Shall we go hunting?"
Before anyone could reply, one young manâwho wasn't even a knight yetârose to his feet. He was named Givret, though few called him that. Nearly everyone referred to him as "that little fellow," because he was easily the shortest man at court. "My liege?" said Givret.
"I wouldn't do this," said Givret.
Other knights stared at Givret, but the king only said, 'Why not?"
"It doesn't seem wise, sire."
At that, Sir Lamorak the Hasty exclaimed, "Of course we should do it!
not afraid of dire peril."
"I agree!" shouted Sir Gareth the Valorous. "The direr the better, I say! If that little fellow is afraid, he doesn't have to come!"
Other knights joined in, calling for the hunt to begin and sneering at Givret's cowardice. Givret grew red, but he held his tongue.
At last another young man rose. This was Sir Erec, a newly made knight and the son of King Lac of East Wales. Sir Erec cleared his throat. "My friends," he said. "You do wrong to call Givret a coward."
He smiled at Givret, then added, "After all, we shouldn't expect to find great hearts in little bodies." Givret didn't smile back.
King Arthur held up a hand. "Enough of this. Thank you for your advice, Givret, but I see no harm in this adventure. Let us go hunting!"
Within the hour all the court had gathered at the forest's edge for the hunt. Hounds bayed, horses snorted, and knights in bright hunting clothes milled about. Amid the splendor and confusion sat King Arthur's queen, Guinevere, on a white mare. When all the knights were ready to begin, King Arthur called out, "I need one man to stay with the queen, to be her guard and escort!"
There was a long silence. No knight wanted to be left behind. Then Givret urged his mount forward. "I will stay with Queen Guinevere, sire."
"Thank you, Givret," said the king. The hunting horn sounded, and a moment later Givret and the queen were alone.
"I thank you, too, Givret," said Queen Guinevere. "It must have been hard to volunteer to stay behind."
Givret shrugged. "Everyone thinks I'm a coward anyway."
"I do not," the queen replied. "But I cannot help wondering: Why
you advise against this hunt?"
Before Givret could reply, though, a strange knight in full armor rode out of the woods, followed by a lady on a gray mare. Givret wore no armor, but he had promised to protect Queen Guinevere, so he moved his own horse between the knight and the queen. "Good day, Sir Knight," he said politely.
"Who are all these blundering fools riding through the forest, kicking up mud?" the strange knight demanded. "They nearly spattered my lady, the most beautiful lady in the world!"
"They meant no harm," Givret replied soothingly "That was a hunting party from King Arthurs court."
"A hunting party that large? Ridiculous! My lady, who is the most beautiful lady in the world, scoffs at the very idea."
Givret glanced at the most beautiful lady in the world. She was picking a bit of grit from under her thumbnail and paying no attention. "Er, if you say so, Sir Knight," Givret said.
"Why would so many go hunting at once?" the knight continued.
"You see, they're after a magical white stag," Givret explained.
"Magical? What do you mean?"
"It is said that whoever catches the stag earns the right toâ" Givret broke off.
"Well? Right to do what?"
Givret shrugged. "The right to kiss the most beautiful lady in the world," he said.
"That they shall not!" roared the knight. "For
lady is the most beautiful lady in the world, and no one shall kiss her but IâSir Yoder, son of Nut!"
"That's your name?" Givret asked. "Sir Yoder, son of ... of..."
"Son of Nut, yes."
"I see. That would make me a bit testy, too," Givret commented.
Sir Yoder ignored him. "No other lady is so beautiful as my lady! Compared to her, even that lady beside you is a warty hag!
Sir Yoder placed his hand on his sword, as if expecting Givret to react angrily, but Givret only replied, "If that is so, Sir Yoder, then you must capture the white stag yourself. You should join the hunt at once!"
Sir Yoder drew a sharp breath. "Why, you're right!"
"And I will help you," Givret continued. "For I happen to know that Arthur's knights are chasing the wrong stag! The
magical stag is in ... in Scotland!"
Sir Yoder blinked. "Scotland? But that's days and days from here!"
"You'd better hurry, then," Givret said urgently, "before someone else catches the stag and earns the right to kissâ"
"You're right again!" shouted Sir Yoder. "Come, my lady! To Scotland!" And off they rode.
Queen Guinevere began to giggle. "Thank you, Givret, for getting rid of our rude friend. But did you have to send him so far?"
"Nothing wrong with Scotland," Givret replied. "Besides, it serves him right; he insulted you."
Now a new voice broke in. "What was that? Someone insulted the queen?"
It was Sir Erec, the prince of East Wales, who was just emerging from the woods. 'What are you doing back here, Erec?" asked the queen.
"I got separated from the others, then couldn't find my way back," Erec explained. "Odd thing, but trees all look alike. Ever noticed that? How anyone finds his way in a forestâbut never mind that! Answer me! Did someone really insult the queen?"
"Yes," Queen Guinevere replied, "a wandering knight named Sir Yoder called me a warty hag."
"Sir Yoder, son of Nut," added Givret helpfully.
"And what did you do, Givret? Did you face him in single combat?"
Givret shook his head. "The thing is, Erec, this son of Nut chap was wearing armor, and I'm not. So I sent him to Scotland instead."
"You didn't fight him?" exclaimed Sir Erec in dismay.
"Only a fool would fight in hunting clothes," Givret said.
"I shall fight him myself!" Sir Erec declared. "To Scotland!" Spurring his horse, he bounded away.
"But Erec," called Queen Guinevere, "Sir Yoder has already been punished!" But Sir Erec was already gone. "Oh, dear," said the queen, shaking her head sadly.
As it turned out, King Arthur himself captured the white stag, but all the knights had a splendid day of hunting, and with great goodwill they returned to Camelot to celebrate their day with a feast. The goodwill lasted through the meal, and as the last dishes were being cleared, Arthur rose to his feet and said, "There is only one matter left to deal with. By capturing the stag, I have earned the right to kiss the most beautiful lady in the world/' He turned toward Queen Guinevere.
"I suppose I have to allow it," interrupted one of Arthur's knights, Sir Gilbert the Lovestruck, with a sigh. "Here she is, Lady Mariana."
King Arthur hesitated. "Er, Lady Mariana?"
"Yes," declared Sir Gilbert, sighing again. "The most beautiful lady in the world!" Lady Mariana blushed, and King Arthur scratched his head. Things had gotten complicated.
Then another knight, Sir Cadmus the Handsome, rose. "Excuse me, Your Highness," he said. "I believe I can help you."
"Can you?" asked King Arthur. "I would be very grateful."
"Yes," Sir Cadmus said. "You should kiss
lady, Lady Gretchen."
Givret put his elbows on the table and covered his face with his hands.
Matters got worse. Sir Griflet the Tidy leaped to his feet. "I beg your pardon, Sir Cadmus, but
lady, Lady Winifred, is the most beautiful lady in the world!"
"Lady Winifred!" exclaimed Sir Cadmus with a snort. "Compared to my Gretchen? Tm afraid, my friend, that well have to change your name to Sir Griflet the Blind."
Sir Gilbert sniffed. "Well, if Sir Cadmus the Lackwit thinks that his Gretchen can hold a candle to my Marianaâ"
All around the banquet hall, each lady began looking at her knight with raised eyebrowsâas if to say, "Well?"-and the knights began to clear their throats and rise uncomfortably to their feet. "Actually,
lady is the most beautiful in the world!" ... "No,
is!" ... "You're all off your heads!
lady is far more beautiful!"
Sir Cadmus turned to the king. "Sire!" he called out. "I appeal to your judgment! Will you please tell Sir Griflet the Simplepate that compared to my Gretchenâ"
"My liege," interrupted Sir Griflet, "if Sir Cadmus the Stable-Trash-for-Brains is quite finished, would you please declare that my Winifred isâ"
"Silence!" commanded King Arthur. The room grew still. The king gazed sternly about the room, his eyes pausing briefly at Givret. "I will announce my decision in a moment," he said. "Ah, Givret, would you mind stepping aside with me for a moment?"
When the king and Givret were away from the others, King Arthur whispered, "Is this why you advised against the hunt?"
Givret nodded. "Yes, sire. You see, some knights will do anything to defend their lady's beauty."
The king grinned suddenly "Some will even go to Scotland." Givret blinked with surprise, but the king said, "Guinevere told me how you got rid of that rude knight in the forest. Quite brilliant. I don't suppose you could fix up this mess so neatly, could you?"
Givret thought for a moment. "I can try" he said. He turned to the gathered knights. "My friends, the king has chosen the most beautiful lady in the world."
King Arthur looked alarmed, but his knights began calling out, "Who? Who is it?"
Givret waited until the room was quiet. "I think we
know which lady is the most beautiful," he said calmly. "After all, true beauty should be obvious to everyone, or what would be the point of it? And, since we all know who it is, I don't even need to say her name."
The knights glanced at each other uncertainly.
Givret continued, "Moreover, the king has decided that such a beautiful lady should only be [[graphic]]kissed by her own true love, so he freely surrenders his prize to that lady's knight."