Caradoc Briefbas

Caradog, Carados, Caradus Bries Bras, Cardue Bries Bras, Garedas, Karadex Bries Bras, Karadin, Karadoc, Karados Briebras, Karadues, Kardels Bries Bras, Kardos, Vreichvras

An Arthurian knight who first appears in Robert Biket’s Lai du Cor, but who is known best through the Livre de Caradoc, an interpolation in the First Continuation of Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval.

Caradoc relates that Caradoc was the heir to King Caradoc of Nantes, but was actually the son of Caradoc’s wife Ysave and a sorcerer named Elïavrés, with whom Ysave had an affair. He was awarded knighthood at Arthur’s court and accepted a challenge from a mysterious stranger to engage in a Beheading Game: Each would take a swipe at the other’s head, and the one left standing would win. Caradoc went first, and shopped of his opponent’s head, but the stranger carefully picked up his severed head and secured it upon his neck again. When the stranger’s turn came, he refrained from decapitating Caradoc, revealing himself to be Elïavrés, Caradoc’s true father.

Caradoc established a reputation as the best of Arthur’s knights through a series of quests, including the rescue of the maiden Guignier from the knight Alardin. He made it a personal duty to punish his adulterous parents, locking his mother in a tower and publicly humiliating Elïavrés. In response, Elïavrés cast a spell upon Caradoc which attached a deadly snake to his arm. Guignier and her brother Cador helped him avoid death, by luring the serpent away from Caradoc to Guinger, and then killing it as it went from one host to the other (a remedy prescribed by Elïavrés after Caradoc and Cador shamed it out of him).

He was sent a horn by King Mangoun of Moraine which would betray the infidelity of the wife of any man who drink from it, Caradoc’s draught showed his wife to be faithful. This test forms the subject matter of Biket’s romance and several later chastity test tales. Biket contends that Arthur granted Caradoc the earldom of Cirencester as a reward for his wife’s fidelity.

Caradic explains that his surname, briefbras (‘shortarm’), derived from the fact that his arm was left shortened by the serpent that for a time was attached to it. Likely, however, the writer of the story simply mistranslated breichbras (‘strongarm’), the surname of the Welsh character Caradawg. Another Caradoc Shortarm appears in the Vulgate Cycle as the king of Estrangorre (Estrangor). Other than the similarity in names, however, the characters have nothing in common.

In Welsh tradition Caradog is regarded as the ancestor of the kings of Gwent as he may have founded the kingdom of Gwent in the fifth century, and the legendary ancestor of the ruling house of Morgannwg. His wife was Tegau Eufron, his father Llyr Marini, his son Meuric and his steed Lluagor.


See also
Morgan’s Drinking Horn | The Legend of King Arthur