King's Cross

Old French Tales from Brittany

Marie de France: The Story of Guigemar

12th century, Old French: British Library, Bibliothèque Nationale Paris.

The lady greatly lamented the loss of his young life. She put her hand upon Guigemar’s chest and he at once awoke.

Guigemar got down from his horse and made his way up the gangplank onto the vessel, expecting to find men on deck who might be able to help him. But there was no one to be found. All he could see in the boat was a large bed, very richly made and adorned with drapes and covers of silk and gold thread. As to the pillow, anyone who lay his head on it would not get any older, and that is the truth! At the prow of the ship were two candelabra filled with lighted candles. Guigemar was intrigued and in such pain from his wound that he lay upon the bed in order to rest for a few moments.

When he came to again, he found to his dismay that the ship was already underway and far from land. He lay down again to sleep. But there was no need for him to worry, for ahead lay the place where he would be healed of his wound.

The city to which Guigemar was bound was an ancient one, ruled by a jealous old man with white hair who kept his young wife incarcerated behind the stonework of his castle. She was of high birth, noble, courteous and wise, but was allowed no contact with the people of her city; instead, she was forced to live her days behind a wall of marble, whose only entrance was guarded night and day, and whose only other access was from a little harbour on the side of her prison that faced the sea.

On this particular day the lady came into a small garden that lay beside her harbour. Looking out to sea, she and her maiden saw approaching them the vessel carrying the young knight. It was not at all clear that anyone was at the helm, but it came safely enough into the haven.

The knight looked very handsome, and it grieved this lady very much to see him lying there. She greatly lamented the loss of his young life.

She put her hand upon Guigemar’s chest and he at once awoke.

Story fragment retold from: Burgess, Glyn S., and Busby, Keith, 1986. The Lais of Marie de France. Translated from Old French with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Guigemar, pp 43–55.


The Breton lai of Guigemar, abridged and retold.

Weird Tales—discussion.


Breton Lays – Wikipedia


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