Gerflet, Giffles, Gifflet, Gifles, Giflet, Giflez, Girfles, Girflet, Girflez, Gofrei, Griffonet, Grifles, Griflet, Grimfles, Gryflet, Gryflette, Gyfflet, Gyfles, Gyflet, Gyffroun, Gyrflet
A Knight of the Round Table, son of Do de Carduel, and brother of Lorete who first appears in Chrétien de Troyes’s Erec. He is a ubiquitous character, but rarely a central one. He may have origins in the non-Arthurian Welsh hero called Gilfaethwy, son of Don. The Arthurian knights Jaufré and Jofrit are probably derivatives. His first notable adventure is provided by Chrétien’s Perceval, in which Girflet sets out to find adventure at the Castle Orgeluse. He apparently failed and was taken prisoner, because in the First Continuation of Perceval, Arthur and his knights embark on a mission to rescue him from the castle.
In Renaut de Bâgé’s Le Bel Inconnu, Girflet is noted as the lord of Becleus and overseer of a sparrowhawk tournament (Thomas Chestre calls him Gyffroun). The most beautiful woman was supposed to win the sparrowhawk, but Girflet used his skill at arms to continually defeat every challenger and award the prize to his lady, Rose Espaine, who was unattractive. Guinglain, Gawain’s son, eventually defeated him in the name of the Lady Margerie.
A combination of episodes from the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate romances provides the following biography: Girflet joined Arthur’s service at the beginning of the king’s reign.
on All Hallowmass at the great feast, sat in the hall the three kings [Arthur, Ban of Benwick, and Bors], and Sir Kay seneschal served in the hall, and Sir Lucas the Butler ... and Sir Griflet, that was the son of Cardol, these three knights had the rule of all the service that served that kings.
Shortly after this feast, Sir Griflet proved a good man in the battle of Bedegraine. A few chapters further on, however, we find Griflet still a squire.
Then on a day there came in the court a squire on horseback, leading a knight before him wounded to the death, and told ... how there was a knight in the forest had reared up a pavilion by a well, and hath slain my master, a good knight, his name was Miles [Mylis]; wherefore I beseech you that my master may be buried, and that some knight may revenge my master's death ... Then came Griflet that was but a squire, and he was but young, of the age of the king Arthur, so he besought the king for all his service that he had done him to give the order of knighthood. Thou art full young and tender of age, said Arthur, for to take so high an order on thee ...
Sir, said Merlin, it were great pity to lose Griflet, for he will be a passing good man when he is of age, abiding with you the term of his life. And if he adventure his body with yonder knight at the fountain, it is in great peril if ever he come again.
Nevertheless, Arthur dubs Griflet, who goes out to joust with the knight at the fountain. The knight at the fountain is King Pellinore, who leaves Griflet badly wounded; Arthur then has a go at Pellinore, and Merlin finally stops the fighting by casting Pellinore into sleep. Although Griflet failed in his quest, he earned a reputation as a valiant knight afterwards.
He fought against the rebellious kings and the Saxons. During the battle with the five invading kings on the bank of the Humber, when things looked bad for Arthur’s side, Griflet jousted Arthur, Kay, and Gawaine in trying to get Guenevere to safety; the invading kings catching up on them, Griflet did his part and slew one of the enemy monarchs. It was after this battle that Griflet – along with King Uriens, Sir Hervise de Revel (Hervi de Revel), a couple of older knights called the King of the Lake and Sir Galagars (Galligar the Red) (whom Malory mentions only this once), Gawain, Kay, and Tor was made a companion of the Round Table.
His subsequent adventures consisted largely of various imprisonments, leading Gawain to remark that
there never was a man so frequently taken prisoner as Girflet has been.
He was betrothed to one of Guenevere’s maidservants. Griflet’s epithet “le Fise de Dieu” (‘the son of God’) seems to suggest religious learnings. It is therefore surprising that we do not hear more of him during the Grail Adventures.
According to Malory, Griflet was one of those slain by Lancelot’s party during Lancelot’s rescue of Guenevere from the stake. During the Grail Quest, Palamedes, Galahad and Samaliel all defeated and wounded Girflet. In the Vulgate, however, Griflet and Lucan were the only warriors to survive the battle of Salisbury, and they bore the mortally wounded Arthur to the Ancient Chapel. Griflet, not Bedivere, is the last knight left alive with Arthur and the one who must throw Excalibur into the lake. He saw Arthur’s body carried away by Morgan le Fay. Later finding Arthur’s tomb at the chapel, he ordered it exhumed and found it empty, he became a hermit but he died shortly afterwards. I cannot make up my mind whether Griflet is one of the more minor of the “major” knights or one of the more major of the “minor” ones.
Griflet’s origins are Celtic: he is derived from Gilfaethwy, son of Do, in the Mabigonion story of Math, Son of Mathonwy, where he is the brother of Gwydion. As Gwydion seems to have been a British smith god, Gilfaethwy was presumably also a deity. Griflet’s father, Do, seems to come from Don, the goddess who was Gilfaethwy’s mother in British tradition. Surely he is to be identified with Chrétien’s Griflet, making him one of the earliest knights of Arthurian romance.
In the list beginning at line 1691 of Erec & Enide, Chrétien identifies Girflet as the son of Do. In Perceval, Chrétien gives Griflet two further cameo appearances: about line 2882: Griflet simply rises to obey Arthur’s commands when Clamadeu comes to court; about lines 4721-23, in the sudden questing-fever roused by the Loathly Damsel, Griflet the son of Do vows to go and find the Castle Orgulous that she has just described. He may be identical with Jaufré, the hero of a Provencal romance.
Erec | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Tristan | Béroul, late 12th century
Le Bel Inconnu | Renaut de Bâgé, 1185–1190
Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Mort Artu | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Le Livre d’Artus | Early 13th century
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Mort Artu | 1230-1240
Escanor | Girart D’Amiens, c. 1280
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470