Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Bagdemagus of Gorre

Bademagu, Bademagus, Bademaguz, Baeddan, Bagomedés, Bagommedés, Baldemagu, Baldemagus, Bandemagu, Bandemagul, Bandemagus, Bando de Magus, Bando di Mago, Bangdemagew, Bano of Magoç, Basdemegus, Baudemagu, Baudemagus, Brandymagus, Poydiconjunz

Although Bagdemagus seems pretty well forgotten in our day, he was one of the more important companions of the Round Table. King of Gorre (Gore) and father of Meleagant (Meleagaunce), one of Guinevere’s abductors. He had brothers named Tarsan and Donadix. He was a cousin of Arthur and the nephew of King Urien, from who he inherited his kingdom.

His first appearance is in Chrétien’s Lancelot, in which he prevents his son from mistreating the kidnapped Guinevere. He makes a brief appearance in the Second Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval as a knight whom Kay hung by his feet from a tree. The Vulgate and Post-Vulgate Cycles expound upon his character, and offer somewhat conflicting stories of his early days. His origin seems to be Baeddan in the Welsh Culhwch and Olwen, possibly conflated with the name of another character.

At the time Arthur interred the second group of rebel kings with all honors, Merlin revealed to him that Bagdemagus was Arthur’s cousin as well as Uriens’ kinsman (Malory spelled the name Basdemegus, but there is no reason to doubt the identity).

The Post-Vulgate story, by contrast, presents Bagdemagus as a young companion of Gawain and Yvain. Long before he became the king of Gore, he was knighted by Arthur and served the King. He was furious when Tor was elevated to the Round Table ahead of him, and he departed Camelot intent on proving his worth – even against Knights of the Round Table. When he rode into the forest, Bagdemagus and his squire came to a cross where Bagdemagus stopped to say his prayers. The squire noticed a preduction written on the cross, saying that Bagdemagus would not return to court until he had won a knight of the Round Table, fighting body to body.

So, sir, said the squire, here I find writing of you, therefore I rede you return again to the court. That shall I never, said Bagdemagus, till men speak of me great worship, and that I be worthy to be a knight of the Round Table. And so he rode forth, and there by the way he found a branch of an holy herb that was the sign of the Sangreal, and no knight found such tokens but he were a good liver.

Bagdemagus also found the rock under which Merlin was imprisoned and spoke with Merlin, but could not lift the rock.

And so Bagdemagus departed and did many adventures, and proved after a full good knight, and came again to the court and was made knight of the Round Table.

Strangely enough, after the incident of the holy herb (that was a sign of the Sangreal), Bagdemagus did not achieve the Holy Grail. Indeed, when he started out on the Quest, he attempted to take the Adventurous Shield, with a red cross on it, reserved for Galahad, and as punishment was stricken down by an apparently angelic (white) knight in white armor outside the abbey.

Later, he came upon Mordred raping a maiden, and he wounded him in the subsequent combat. Gawain, seeking to avenge his brother’s wound, and not knowing the identity of the knight who wounded him, chased after Bagdemagus and challenged him to combat. Bagdemagus was mortally wounded in the subsequent duel. Gawain lamented when he discovered Bagdemagus’ identity, and Bagdemagus forgave him before dying. Gawain had him buried in a hermitage. The Stanzaic Morte Arthur says that he survived the Grail Quest and joined Lancelot’s defection from Arthur’s court. When Bagdemagus was killed on the Grail Quest, Arthur mourned his loss more than that of any other three together of those killed.

Once, at a tournament, Bagdemagus requested a knight named Sauseise (Sauseyse) to strike down his son Meliagrant (Meleagaunce),

for I would he were well beaten of thy hands, that he might depart out of this field.

Sausieise would have succeded “had there not come rescues”. Malory tells us Meliagrant seems to have survived the tournament in good shape, despite the failure of his father’s tender ruse get him out of danger. Later, Lancelot was very nervous about how to tell Bagdemagus he had killed Meliagrant to defend the Queen; Bagdemagus, being a fair and just man, forgave him. Besides his son Meliagrant, Bagdemagus had at least one and possibly two daughters.

The Vulgate version places him in the role of antagonist to Arthur: Bagdemagus’ land had ben ravaged by Uther Pendragon, so when Uther died, he decided to repopulate it with Uther’s former subjects. Any person who strayed into Gorre was forced to stay. He joined his uncle Urien’s rebellion against Arthur, eventually forming a tentative peace only when necessary to expel the Saxons. He then allied with Galehaut of Sorelois and opposed Arthur again. He grew more benign with age, and objected to his son’s careless activities, including the kidnapping of Guinevere. When his son was killed, Bagdemagus bore no ill towards Lancelot. His friendship with the knight led to a position at the Round Table.

In other adventures, Bagdemagus slept with the wife of King Pellinore, for which Pellinore bound him, beat him, and left him for dead. He was rescued by Gaheris. He fought for Arthur in the wars against King Claudas, and he participated in several tournaments. Malory, in contrast to the Vulgate version, says that Bagdemagus hated Lancelot and plotted, with Sir Galehaut, to kill him; the plan went awry when the two knights attacked Tristan by mistake.

See also
Bagdemagu’s Daughter | The Legend of King Arthur

Compare with
Bademagu | The Legend of King Arthur
Daughter of King Bademagu | The Legend of King Arthur
Surgeon of King Bademagu | The Legend of King Arthur

King Bagdemagu’s Family and Retainers

Meliagrant / Meleagaunce

One or more

King Arthur

King Uriens

Morgan Le Fay

Melias de Lile

Lancelot, or Le Chevalier de la Charrete | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Second Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Attributed to Gauchier of Donaing, c. 1200
Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Arthour and Merlin | Late 13th century
The Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur | 14th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470