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Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

‘Sir,’ said a knight to Balin. ‘Your shield is too small. I will lend you a bigger one.’ And so Balin took the unfamiliar shield, leaving his own behind.

The lady of the castle said: Knight of the two swords, ye must have ado and juste – you must joust with a knight on an island nearby, for no one can pass here without doing so.’

‘This is an unfortunate custom,’ said Balin.

‘Well, you need joust with only one knight.’

‘If I must, then’ replied Balin. ‘Men who are travelling are often weary after a day’s riding, and their horses also, but although my horse is tired my heart is still eager for battle, and I am happy to die on that island.

‘Sir,’ said a knight to Balin. ‘Your shield is too small. I will lend you a bigger one.’ And so he tooke the sheld that was unknowen and lefte his owne – and so Balin took the unfamiliar shield, leaving his own behind and rode to where a large boat was waiting to take him over to the island. On the other side he met with a damsel. She said:

O, knyght Balyn, why have ye lefte your owne sheld? Allas! ye have put yourself in grete daunger, for by your sheld ye shold have ben knowen.

Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Tale of King Arthur. II. Balin, or the Knight with the Two Swords, p 56.

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