Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Gareth’s Dwarf

When Gareth first came to Arthur’s court, he was accompanied by two men mounted on horseback like himself and a dwarf on foot, who held all three horses while the men escorted Gareth into the hall. Once Gareth was established at court, the two men and the dwarf seem to have left, all without saying a word. Presumably they were servants or retainers from home and returned to Orkney. At the end of Gareth’s year in the kitchen, when he obtained Lynette’s adventure, the dwarf, apparently the same one, showed up again with his young master’s horse and armor. After conquering Kay, Gareth mounted the dwarf on Kay’s horse.

Little is said of the dwarf’s opinions or services during the journey to Castle Dangerous; after Gareth had conquered the last knight on the way, the dwarf was went on ahead to the castle, where he sang his master’s praises to Lyonors, describing all his victories and telling the lady that her champion was the king of Orkney’s son, nicknamed Beaumains by Sir Kay and dubbed knight of by Sir Lancelot – he declined, however, to give Gareth’s real name. Lyonors had the dwarf carry ample provisions to a hermitage in her territory and then guide Beaumains and her sister to the hermitage from Sir Persant’s city to spend the night, all which instructions the dwarf capably fulfilled. Returning alone to Castle Dangerous, the dwarf met Sir Ironside and boldly defied him on Gareths behalf, again praising his master and telling Ironside,

... it is marvel that ye make such shameful war upon noble knights.

Later, when Ironside were conquered and Lyonors had sent Gareth away, supposedly to prove his worth for a year, she made the dwarf the nub of lover’s prank. Her brother Sir Gringamore (Guingomar), acting on her instructions, came stalking up from behind and kidnaped the dwarf while Gareth slept. Awakened by the dwarf’s cries, Gareth promptly got up and rode in pursuit. Meanwhile, Gringamore go the dwarf to his own castle, where Lyonors and Lynette were waiting to question the dwarf as to Beaumains’ birth and lineage, playfully threatening him with lifelong imprisonment unless he told all.

Probably recognizing the farcical nature of the affair, he replied that he “feared not greatly” to reveal his master’s name and family (in effect, this entailed only adding Gareth’s true name to what he had already told Lyonors) and met her threat with another in kind, mentioning all the damage Gareth would do in the country if he were angered. Gareth arrived, still thinking the matter was in earnest, and no doubt really would have done great slaughter in order to save the dwarf, whom he had had considerable trouble in tracking, had any slaughter proven necessary.

In the tournament at Castle Dangerous, Gareth fought wearing Dame Lyonors’ ring, which concealed his identity by continually changing the color of his armor. When he rode off the field to “amend his helm” and take a drink of water, however, the dwarf took charge of the ring, ostensibly by prevent Gareth’s losing it while he drank.

Whether Gareth’s returning to the field without the ring was due to his own eager haste and forgetfulness or to the dwarf’s cunning is unclear, but certainly the dwarf was well pleased to keep the ring, for he wished his master to be recognized. After the tournament, the dwarf followed Gareth into the woods, returned briefly to the castle to deliver Lyonors her ring and her lover’s au revoir, and then rejoined Gareth. Presumably, although the dwarf now fades from attention, he continued to accompany and serve his master.

Malory gives much more information about Gareth’s dwarf than about any other, but Gareth’s may perhaps be considered an example of dwarf-knight relationshiops and of the duties of dwarfs to knights, which seem to resemble closely the duties of squires, except that squires would be expected to fight at need.