Medieval Arthurian Legend
The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
16th century, Middle English, Bodleian Library, Oxford
Sir Gawain told King Arthur and Queen Guinevere how Dame Ragnelle had suddenly changed from being a revoltingly ugly woman to the beautiful creature they could all see before them.
With joye and myrthe they wakyd tylle daye, – they spent all night happily in bed and didn’t sleep a wink. But when dawn broke, the beautiful lady prepared to get up.
'You shall not,' said Sir Gawain. 'You will lie here with me and sleep until the sun is high. Then the king may well call us down to eat.'
'Very well,' said the lady.
And so they slept until it was noon.
'Sirs,' said King Arthur, who had only the previous day seen Sir Gawain marry the most hideous creature imaginable. 'Let us go and see if Sir Gawain is still alive. I have been terribly anxious leaving him alone with that fiend.' They paused hesitantly at the chamber door.
'Get up!' called the King. 'Why do you sleep in so late?'
'Mother of God!' replied Sir Gawain. 'Sir King, in all truthfulness, I would be glad if you would leave me alone. I have never been happier, nor more comfortable. Wait there! I will come to the door. You can see for yourself.'
Sir Gawain arose and, taking his fair lady by the hand, led her to the door and opened it. She stood in her nightgown by the fire. Her red hair fell to her knees.
'Lo! Here is my comfort and my retreat,' said Sir Gawain. 'Sir, this is my wife, Dame Ragnelle, who has recently saved your life.'
He told the Kyng and the Queen hem beforn howe sodenly from her shap she dyd torne – and he told King Arthur and Queen Guinevere how she had suddenly changed from being a revoltingly ugly woman to the beautiful creature they could all see before them.
Story 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 THE WEDDING OF SIR GAWAIN AND DAME RAGNELLE from Bodleian Library MS 11951.