Guenevere - Abduction Stories

Even the earliest Arthurian bards seem to have attached an abduction story to Guinevere. Such a tale is represented on an cathedral archivolt in Modena, Italy (c. 1135): Guinevere is abducted by Carados of the Dolorous Tower, who gives her to Mardoc, his master. Arthur gathers his knights and mounts a rescue, and it appears to be Gawain who successfully retrieves the queen, though Yder is also present. Another depiction appears in Caradoc of Llancarfan’s The Life of St. Gildas (c. 1130), where Guinevere’s kidnapper is King Melwas of the Summer Region (probably the origin of Meleagant (Meleagaunce). Although Arthur (presented in the tale as a tyrant) rouses warriors from Devon and Cornwall to pursue, it is the Abbott of Glastonbury and St. Gildas who shrewdly win her freedom.

In Ulrich’s Lanzelet (c. 1200), Guinevere’s abductor is King Valerin of the Tangled Wood. Valerin had lost, in combat against Lancelot, a claim that Guinevere should be his because of a promise of marriage made when Guinevere was a girl. Unsatisfied with his loss, Valerin kidnapped Guinevere and hauled her back to his fortress of the Tangled Wood. Arthur besieged the magic fortress - an effort that proved futile until he enlisted the aid of the wizard Malduc, who destroyed the palace’s defenses and allowed Arthur and his knights to seize the castle. Guinevere’s son Loüt (Loholt) played an important role in the rescue.

Heinrich von dem Türlin (c. 1230) presents an interesting abduction tale: Gasozein of Dragoz arrives at Arthur’s court claming that Guinevere is actually his wife. Guinevere refutes his claim, but her brother Gotegrin believes her wrong and kidnaps her, intending to kill her for her wickedness. Gasozein rescues her, but then kidnaps her himself and tries to rape her. She is finally saved by Gawain, who forces Gasozein to confess the falseness of his claim.

In Durmart le Gallois, she is kidnapped by Brun of Morrois and rescued by Durmart. Finally, in the Livre d’Artus (c. 1240), she is kidnapped and briefly held by King Urien during the war between Arthur and the rebellious kings.

Guenevere shows to better advantage in the adventure of Sir Meliagrant. Meliagrant and his men ambushed Guenevere and her party while they were out a-Maying, she kept her head; seeing her ten unarmored knights outnumbered, defeated, and wounded, she surrendered rather than let them be slain, even calling on the four who were still on their feet to leave off fighting, since it was hopeless. She managed, however, to slip her ring to a child of her chamber and send him back to Lancelot. Meliagrant took the Queen to his castle in Gorre, where Bagdemagus, Meleagant’s father, prevents Guinevere from being mistreated.

When Lancelot arrived and cowed Meliagrant, Guenevere seems to have promoted the cause of peace and truce, though she prudently insisted that, as long as they remained in Meliagrant's castle, her wounded knights should be put in her own chamber so that she could be sure they received the best treatment. Lancelot came to her at the garden window that night, injured his hands in pulling out the window bars to get in, and so left blood in her bed, giving Meliagrant the chance to accuse her of lying with Kay, who is wounded and sleeping in the queen's outer room. Again Lancelot had to fight her trial by combat to save her from burning, and this time she

wagged her head ... as though she would say: Slay [Meliagrant],

which may have been more prudence than bloodthirstiness and was certainly understandable, all things considered.

Lancelot enters the tournament at Pomeglai (Pomelegloi), and Guinevere is present. To test his love, she tells him to act like a coward, and he does. At Arthur’s court, Lancelot kills Meleagant. In a later adventure, it appears that Lancelot is dead, and Guinevere is heartbroken. She rejoices when she learns he is alive.

See also
- Background of Guenevere / Guinevere
- Becoming a Queen
- The Invading Kings
- The Flower Bride
- Lancelot and Guenevere
- The Poisoned Apple
- The False Guenevere
- Abduction Stories
- Guenevere's Sentence
- The Abbess Queen
- The Character