King of Gore.
While the Bademagu who appears in Chrétien’s Lancelot clearly became the Bademagus (Bagdemagus) of later romance, Phyllis Ann Karr see enough scarcely reconciliable differences to give them separate entries. For one thing, she finds no suggestion that Chrétien’s King Bademagu would ever become a vassal or Arthur or any other early king, let alone one of Arthur’s company of Round Table champions. Bademagu is too self-contained and, quite possibly if not probably, too unearthly.
From whatever source Chrétien drew the material for his version of the Knight in the Cart story, Bademagu’s realm shows its otherwordly roots – whether Celtic faeryland or thinly Christianized afterlife – more clearly than the kingdom of Bagdemagus was later to do. Despite his country’s custom of holding all foreigners who stray into it prisoner, Bademagu shows himself at every step an exemplary man and monarch, devoted to honor and loyalty, consistently if often unsuccessfully aiming for peace and justice in all things – in contrast to his son Meleagant (Meliagrant), who always strives for the opposite of everyting for which his father stands.
When Meliagrant brings them back captive from Arthur’s court, Bademagu keeps Guenevere safe from ravishment and Kay alive, despite his son’s designs upon the lady and attempts to do in the wounded knight by getting the doctors to use baneful treatments.
Bademagu also provides a good surgeon for Lancelot when the latter arrives wounded, having left horse, arms, and some of his armor behind in order to cross the Sword Bridge; the new horse and arms the hero needs to fight Meliagrant are provided by Bademagu.
Much as Meliagrant exasperates Bademagu, the father continues to love his son, successfully pleading with Guenevere to ensure that Lancelot spare Meliagrant’s life, for his parent’s sake, during their first combat, and managing to stop their second in time to prevent bloodshed. At last, boasting of what he will do at Arthur’s court, Meliagrant appears to succeed in breaking the bond between himself and his father; but this scene comes in the finishing pages, allegedly added by one Godefroi de Leigni with Chrétien’s approval, and one may wonder if the break would truly have been final.
While Lancelot, like other knights, is often acclaimed, within his own story and in certain situations, as “the best knight in the world”, one may venture to guess that it is Bademagu’s pronouncement to this effect, on seeing Lancelot cross the Sword Bridge, that marks the beginning of Lancelot’s ascendancy over Gawaine in later works by other authors. It was also for the later romancers to solidify and demythologize Bademagu into Bagdemagus, giving him and his land a human history and raionale; but, since Chrétien himself clearly did quite a bit of demytholizing, how can we logically complain?
King of Gore.