Medieval Arthurian Legend
Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle
Middle English, c. 1400, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
The Carle measured two yards across at the shoulders and was nine yards in height.
When Sir Gawain, Sir Kay and Bishop Baldwin entered the hall of the Carle of Carlisle, or the 'Violent and Uncouth Menial of Carlisle', they found him seated with four monstrous pets lying at his feet beside a fire: a wild bull and a wild boar, a lion with ferocious teeth and a huge bear, unchained and able to wander about anywhere.
They rose and came the knyghttus agayn, - the animals sprang up and approached the three knights who had just entered, but the Carle shouted at them:
'Ly doun,' he sayd, 'my whelpys four. ‘Lie down, my four little ones!’ he shouted. The lion looked menacingly at the knights, the bull snorted and the boar sharpened his tusks against the stone floor; ‘Lie still! Stay where you are!’ shouted the Carle once again. The animals fell to the floor in obedience and fear, and crept under a table.
The Carle looked sternly at his three visitors. He had a huge head, a great stub of a nose, a grey beard and hair that hung down to his chest. He measured two yards across the shoulders and he was nine yards in height, with long, powerful legs –
nine taylloris [tailors’] yerdus [yards] he was hyghtht [tall}, and therto leggus longe and wyghtht.
Story fragment recounted from: Hahn, Thomas (Ed), 1995. Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales, Kalamazoo, Michigan: Western Michigan University for TEAMS. Medieval Institute Publications. The Middle English text of SIR GAWAIN AND THE CARLE OF CARLISLE from National Library of Wales MS Porkington 10, the Brogyntyn Manuscript.