‘Breuse the Pitiless’
Brehauz, Brehuz sans Pitie, Breunis Saunce Pit/Pyté, Breus the Pitiless, Breuz, Bereuse, Brehu, Brehus, Breusso, Breuz, Brun sans Pitié/Pité, Bruns Saunce Pit, Bruyn saunz Pitee
The antithesis of knighthood in French romance – a murderer, rapist, thief, coward, and traitor – featured in the Prose Tristan, Palamedes, and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.
The “most mischievoust knight living” in Arthur’s day, Sir Breuse, while not without skill and prowess at arms, regularly practiced every dirty trick available to force or guile. He even enlisted the aid of other knights by claiming that he was an innocent victim and the knight chasing him was Breuse Sans Pitie (the unreliability of shields as identifying devices enabled him to get away with this one for a while).
His tactics included attacking by surprise, killing maidens (because his father, Brun or Arrouans, was killed through the treachery of a maiden), trampling knights with his horse, and running away whenever any knight challenged him. A pervasive character, he first appears in the First Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval as one of Arthur’s knights. He next shows up in the Prose Lancelot as a tormentor of Gawaine during the latter’s quest to find Lancelot. Among his favorite tricks was riding over an unhorsed knight; on one occasion, for instance, Breuce outjousted Gawaine and then rode over him twenty times in an effort to kill him.
Although he had at least one castle somewhere, Breuse seems likely to turn up almost anywhere; attack, kidnap, murder, and rape anyone, child or adult, for the sheer devilitry of it; and then disappear again, often pursued but never brought finally to justice. Unlike almost all other villains in Malory, Breuse seems never to be captured, utterly defeated, and either slain or converted to Arthur’s side and the company of the Round Table. (Of course, Breuse was not afraid to turn tail and run when occasion demanded.)
Dixon-Kennedy says Breuse was one of Arthur’s enemies, whom Gareth slew. He had the ability to be in more than one place at a time, and he had originally been knighted by Arthur.
In one passage, Malory gives Breuse a brother, Bertelot, but Bertelot is not nearly so prominent. Another time, King Mark writes to Morgan le Fay and the Queen of Norgales begging them to rouse up Breuse Sans Pitie, among others, in a general manhunt for Alisander le Orphelin. The fifteenth-century Catalan romance Tirant Lo Blanc shows Breuse, or Breunis, in an unexpectedly good light, as the single aged, and obviously loyal, attendant of King Arthur.
According to the Vulgate Merlin, he served Clarion and Escant, two of the northern kings who rebelled against Arthur, and the Livre d’Artus has him joining the Saxons against Arthur. In L’Atre Perilleux, he is called the King of the Red City. Gawaine defeats him in combat. Girart d’Amiens gives him a brother named Colivre, and Malory makes him the brother of Bertelot. In Palamedes, he discovers the tomb of Febus, a great ancestor of Guiron the Courteous. In Tavola, he has a lady – of whom he is extremely jealous – name Galiena.
Several knights, including Tristan, Lancelot, Dinadan, Palamedes, Gaheris, and Bleoberis chased Breus in vain. If caught, Breus used trickery to escape. After he stole a shield that the Lady of the Lake sent by messenger to Lancelot, Lancelot tracked him down and finally slew him.
Brown Knight Without Pity | The Legend of King Arthur
First Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Attributed to Wauchier of Denain, c. 1200
Second Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Attributed to Wauchier of Denain, c. 1200
Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Fourth Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Gerbert de Montreuil, c. 1230
L’Atre Perilleux | Mid-13th century
Escanor | Girart D’Amiens, c. 1280
La Tavola Ritonda | 1325–1350
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470