Fair Unknown

Biau Desconneü, Le Bel Inconnu, Lybeaus Desconus, Lybius Disconyus

In Renaut de Bâgé’s Le Bel Inconnu and its adaptations, the name given to Gawaine’s son Guinglain when he came to Arthur’s court, ignorant of his name and paternity. As the ‘Fair Unknown’, Guinglain completed a number of adventures before his name was revealed to him in the Desolate City. In Robert de Blois’s Beaudous, the true name of the character is Beaudous.

As a theme, the “Fair Unknown” encompasses the numerous instances in which a knight arrives at Arthur’s court ignorant of – or unwilling to divulge – his own name, generally because he (or his guardian) wishes to win honor through his prowess, and not simply because of his lineage. Typically, the Fair Unknown’s name is revealed to both the hero and the court after the knight is victorious in a series of adventures. The ‘Fair Unknown’ theme occurs in the early tales of Perceval, some of the stories of Lancelot, the Italian romance of Carduino, and in Malory’s tale of Gareth.

See also
Bewfys | The Legend of King Arthur

Le Bel Inconnu | Renaut de Bâgé, 1185–1190
Second Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Attributed to Wauchier of Denain, c. 1200
Beaudous | Robert de Blois, mid to late 13th century
I Cantari di Carduino | c. 1370
Lybeaus Desconus | Thomas Chestre, late 14th century