Palamedes

Knight of the Questing Beast
Palamides, Palamidez, Palamidesso, Palomides, Palomydes

A Saracen knight whose character was born in thirteenth-century French romance. His first appearances are in Palamedes, the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and the Prose Tristan. He was commonly known as the “Knight of the Questing Beast”, the Questing Beast being a demon that Palamedes pursued throughout his career. Palamedes’s nobility and prowess were almost unsurpassed.

His father was King Esclabor, and his many brothers included Safir (Safere) and (in Malory) Seguarades. His sister was named Florine.

Like Tristan, Palamedes loved Isolde, which led to a number of tense situations between the two knights, who otherwise respected and admired each other. When Tristan came to Ireland, to be cured of his wound, he found Palamedes suing for Isolde’s hand, but he defeated him in single combat. Among other offenses, Palamedes kidnapped Isolde after returning Brangain, Isolde’s maidservant, whom he had found in a forest (this abduction replaces one by Gandin in Gottfried’s version). On this occasion, as in others, Tristan and Palamedes clashed in battle over Isolde’s love. After these battles, the two knights generally reconciled but remained bitter.

In various adventures, Palamedes championed a lady against the evil Sir Gonereys, won the love of the King of Baghdad’s daughter by killing a malicious knight named Corsabrin, avenged the murder of King Armant of the Red City, defeated Sir Atamas at the Spring of Healing, freed the Giant’s Tower, and helped repel King Mark’s invasion of Logres. In the culmination of a life-long quest, he slew the Questing Beast at the Lake of the Beast.

He continually refused baptism until Galahad defeated him and forced him to become a Christian as a condition of his surrender. (In Malory, however, he fought with Tristan and his sword was knocked from his hand, and in that moment, it was said, he became a Christian. The fight was stopped, never to be resumed.) He was present at Corbenic (Carbonek) for the completion of the Grail Quest.

Accounts of his fate vary. The Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal tells us that, shortly after the Grail Quest, he was slain by Gawain, causing his father to commit suicide. In Malory, he helps Lancelot rescue Guinevere from the stake, for which Lancelot makes him the duke of Provence. In the Serbo-Russian Povest’ o Tryshchane, he receives a mortal wound from Tristan at the castle of the Foul Heathen. In the Italian I Due Tristani, he tries to abduct Isolde, the daughter of Tristan and Isolde, and is slain in the attempt by Palante, Tristan’s cousin.