Agavez, Ahariés, Caherihés, Gaciés, Gadriet, Gaharies, Gahariet, Gahereit, Gaheries, Gaheriet, Gaheriez, Gaherjet, Gaherss, Galeres, Galerot, Gariens, Gariés, Garriés, Ghaharies, Ghaheriet, Guerrehet, Guerrehes, Kaheret, Keheriet, Waheriés
The third son of King Lot and either Belisent and Morgause, and his brothers included Agravain, Gareth, and Gawaine. Half-brother of Mordred and nephew to Arthur.
In Der Pleier’s Meleranz, his parents are Anthonje and the King of Gritenland. The earliest form of his name is so similar to the earliest form of Gareth that the two brothers may have originally been the same character. Chrétien de Troyes is the first writer to mention him, although scholars have suggested a derivation from the Welsh Gweir. In Wolfram, he is a cousin rather than a brother to Gawaine. The Vulgate romances are the first to give Gaheris a series of his own adventures, which are expanded in the Post-Vulgate and in Malory.
As Gaheriet, he appears among Arthur’s knights in the list Chrétien de Troyes begins in line 1691 of Erec and Enide. Presumably this is the same Gaheriet whom Chrétien has Gawaine name as King Lot’s third son in about line 8141 of Perceval. (Cline uses the spellings Gaheris and Gareth for Lot’s third and fourth sons in this passage; D.D.R. Owen uses the versions Gaheriet and Guerrehet; “Guerrehet” seems not nearly so close to “Gareth” as to “Guerrehes”, the name found in the Vulgate for Gaheris.) Vulgate IV remarks that Lot’s third son was a good knight, and that his right arm was longer than his left.
He first came to court in youth with his mother and brothers Gawaine, Agravaine, and Gareth (who must have been very young indeed) when Morgawse visited Arthur between the two early waves of rebellion. Morgawse and her sons returned to Arthur’s court after the second rebellion, at the burial af Lot; Morgawse clearly returned home afterward with Gareth, but the three older boys apparently stayed. The Vulgate legends describe him with a prowess that rivals or exceeds Gawaine’s.
In the Vulgate Merlin, he defects with Gawaine and his brothers from Lot’s court to Arthur’s, battling hordes of Saxons along the way. In the Post-Vulgate and Malory, however, he arrives at Arthur’s court as Gawaine’s squire and serves his brother in his first quests, toward whom he acted, at the same time, as a sort of advisor and second conscience. Either way, Arthur eventually knighted him, and he enjoyed a number of adventures, some of which were prophesied by a madman at Arthur’s court named Marins. Gaheris freed his brothers from Lord Sorneham of Newcastle, liberated Gawaine and Morholt from the Rock of Maidens, killed a giant named Aupatris, befriended Perceval, and supported Tristan against King Mark of Cornwall.
He sometimes quarreled with his brothers Agravain and Mordred, who lacked his nobility. Malory says that he married the damsel Lynet (Lynette).
His noble deeds were offset by a number of regrettable murders. During the celebration of Arthur’s marriage, when Gawaine said he would kill Pellinore in revenge for King Lot’s death, Gaheris held him back,
for at this time I am but squire, and when I am made knight I will be avenged on him.
And besides, if they killed Pellinore now they would trouble the feast. Pellinore’s eventual death is not described in detail, but his widow complains that Gawaine and Gaheris
slew him not manly but by treason.
Gaheris unsuccessfully attempted to dissuade Mordred and Agravain from exposing the affair between Lancelot and Guenevere. However, he dutifully stood guard when Guenevere was to be burned at the stake. As Lancelot rescued her, he killed Gaheris and Gareth, prompting Gawaine’s later hatred for Lancelot.
When Gawaine was sent on the quest of the White Hart, Gaheris, still his squire, accompanied him. On this adventure Gawaine defeated Sir Ablamar and was about to ignore his plea for mercy when Ablamar’s lady came between them and took Gawaine’s stroke. As she fell headless, Gaheris rebuked his older brother:
Alas, said Gaheris, that is foully and shamefully done, that shame shall never from you, also ye should give mercy unto them that ask mercy, for a knight without mercy is without worship.
Retiring into Ablamar’s castle for the night, Gaheris shrewdly warned Gawaine not to unarm:
Ye may think ye have many enemies here.
Almost at once four knights angrily attacked Gawaine, and Gaheris fought very capably at his brother’s side.
Like all his brothers, Gaheris became a knight of the Round Table. While Gareth was out on his first series of knightly adventures, Morgawse visited Arthur’s court at Pentecost. Gawaine, Agravaine, and Gaheris, not having seen her for fifteen years, “saluted her upon their knees, and asked her blessing”. Later, however, Gaheris slew his mother in anger at her taking Pellinore’s son, Lamorak, for her lover. The two had an assignation at Gawaine’s castle near Camelot, where Morgawse was staying on another visit, at her sons’ invitation. Gaheris watched and waited as Lamorak went to the queen’s bedroom.
So when the knight, Sir Gaheris, saw his time, he came to their bedside all armed, with his sword naked, and suddenly gat his mother by the hair and struck off her head. When Sir Lamorak saw the blood dash upon him all hos, the which he loved passing well ... [he] leapt out of the bed in his shirt as a knight dismayed, saying thus: ... Alas, why have ye slain your mother that bare you? with more right ye should have slain me ... The offence hast thou done, said Gaheris, notwithstanding a man is born to offer his service; but yet shouldst thou beware with whom thou meddlest, for thou has put me and my brethren to a shame, and thy father slew our father; and thou to lie by our mother is too much shame for us to suffer. And as for thy father, King Pellinore, my brother Sir Gawaine and I slew him. Ye did him the more wrong, said Sir Lamorak, for my father slew not your father, it was Balin le Savage;
and as yet my father's death is not revenged. Leave thos words, said Sir Gaheris, for an thou speak feloniusly I will slay thee. But because thou art naked I am ashamed to slay thee. But wit thou well, in what place I may get thee I shall slay thee; and now my mother is quit of thee; and withdraw thee and take thine armour, that thou were gone.
After Duke Galeholt’s tournament in Surluse (Sorelois), Gaheris joined with his brothers (except Gareth) to ambush and kill Lamorak. As with other killings, Malory has his characters alude to the incident rather than describe it himself: finding that Gaheris and Agravaine have just killed a knight for saying that Lancelot was better than Gawaine. Tristram (Tristan) rebukes the two brothers both for this and for Lamorak’s death, of which he has just learned from Palomides. Tristram jousts them down and says he is leaving at that only for the sake of their relationship to Arthur. Remounting, they chase him in anger, and he unhorses them again.
Among other adventures, Gaheris fought the Cornish knight Matto le Breune (Mathan the Brown) and took away his lady, whose loss drove Matto out of his mind. Malory weds Gaheris to Lynette. Vulgate V gives him the Damoiselle de la Blanche Lande as a sweetheart. The accounts are not mutually exclusive. Gaheris, like other knights, demonstrates considerable taste for sampling various damsels.
On at least one occasion Gaheris visited King Mark, bringing him and Isoud news of the Castle of Maidens tournament. Mark and Gaheris seem to have enjoyed each other’s company well enough. Gaheris was among the guests at Guenevere’s intimate dinner party when Sir Patrise was poisoned; Agravaine, Gaheris and Mordred may have been present, however, largely because Gawaine and Gareth were invited. Gaheris took no part with Agravaine and Mordred when they tried to trap Guenevere with Lancelot. After Guenevere’s trial, Arthur asked Gawaine to help lead the Queen to the stake. Gawaine refused.
Then said the king to Sir Gawaine: Suffer your brothers Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth to be there. My lord, said Sir Gawaine, wit you well they will be loath ... but they are young and full unable to say you nay. Then spake Sir Gaheris, and the good knight Sir Gareth, unto Sir Arthur: Sir, y may well command us to be there, but wit you well it shall be sore against our will; but an we be there by your strait commandment ye shall plainly hold us there excused: we will be there in peaceable wise, and bear none harness of war upon us.
According to the Vulgate, however, they were armed and fought back when Lancelot and his men attacked the guard to save the Queen. It is also hard to believe that Gawaine’s statement of Gaheris’ youth is to be taken literally. The result was the same in any case: Gaheris and Gareth were both killed.
To Gaheris further discredit, the Vulgate records how he widowed Lancelot’s cousin “Iblis”. Vulgate V, however, also depicts him showing a concern for common folk which other knights might also have shown, but examples of which are rarely recorded. While involved in settling a quarrel among the knightly class, Gaheris accidentally frightened a poor man. The poor man fled, leaving his donkey alone in the woods. Returning, he found it devoured by wolves. As the donkey had been essential to his livelihood, he would now be forced to beg. Gaheris, having inadvertently caused the trouble, requested his host – whose life he had just saved, and who thus owed him a favor – to give the poor man a horse. The host obliged, and the peasant’s livelihood was saved.
Sir Gaheris is occasionally associated with his own shield. The design of the shield can vary, but it often incorporates symbols or imagery related to his skills as a warrior and his devotion to his family.
In Sommer’s edition of the Vulgate, the name Gaheris is given to the brother we know as Gareth, Malory’s Gaheris being called Guerrehes in the Vulgate.
Eries is a son of Lot who became one of Arthur’s knights. He may have been the same as Gaheris and became a separate character due to manuscript miscopying.
Clarisin | The Legend of King Arthur
Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Arthour and Merlin | Late 13th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Mort Artu | 1230-1240
Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
The Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur | 14th century