‘Guivret the Little’, ‘Little King’
Cuiret, Gimires, Guimar, Guiret, Guivres, Guivrez, Gvires, Gwiffred, Guyart, Gyvreiz
He was a dwarf king of Ireland of entirely noble heart. So, at least, Chrétien’s translator D.D.R. Owen assures us, suggesting possible descent from Huon’s Auberon (Oberon). Guivret’s liegemen were all Irish, and he boasted that none of his neighboring lords went against his wishes. He appears in the Chrétien de Troyes’s Erec and the Welsh Geraint. His rich castle was called Pointure or Penefrec (Penevric). His two sisters were named Filledamor and Guenteflur.
When Erec and Enide escaped from Count Galoain’s land, they crossed a mown and hedged meadow, then passed over a drawbridge spanning a wide moat. Guivret looked down from his tower, saw them, and, calling for his arms and armor, rode after them for no other purpose than to measure his strength against that of the unknown knight. If we go by the romances, this must have been a perfectly legitimate way of getting one’s knightly exercise. Apparently it did not demand any initial declaration of intent, no doubt to guarantee that the attacked stranger fought back without stinting himself.
Though Guivret was a fierce warrior – his size made him agile and hard to strike – Erec and Guivret dealt each other mighty blows from 9 a.m. until after 3 p.m., no mean feat considering that in the initial joust, while knocking each other off their horses, each had driven the tip of his lance as far as the other’s intestines! At last the dwarf king’s sword broke and he reluctantly yielded, exchanging names with the conquering stranger.
Delighted to learn that his opponent was King Lac’s son, Guivret proposed repairing together to the manor house of a doctor of his, a mere seven or eight leagues distant; Erec, not to be outdone in manly endurance, insisted on continuing his own journey. So the two tore their shirt tails to bind up each other’s wounds (without benefit of plaster), swore friendship, and parted, Guivret promising to come to Erec’s assistance whenever needed.
This promise he fulfilled within thirty-sex hours: hearing that his neighbor Count Oringle of Limors had found a seemingly dead knight and wanted to wed his beautiful widow, the dwarf king – although only suspecting the young couple’s identity – set off at once with a thousand men to the rescue. He encountered Erec and Enide that night as they were already escaping after Erec had killed the count, and took them to his castle of Penevric, where his two sisters nursed Erec back to health.
Guivret then escorted Erec and Enide to Castle Brandigant and afterward to the court city of Robais, where they found King Arthur. On being told of their approach, Arthur remarked that he knew of no better lords anywhere than those two, which shows that Arthur had already known Guivret, at least by reputation.
It seems curious that Chrétien does not mention Guivret the Little much earlier in the romance, along with the other good dwarf kings, Bilis, Grigoras, and Glecidalan. Perhaps, unlike them, Guivret had not been Arthur’s vassal. In any case, at Erec’s insistence, Arthur invited Guivret, along with Erec, to remain at court, which both did – Erec until his father’s death called him back to rule Outre-Gales, Guivret possibly longer – he was still around, at any rate for Erec’s coronation.
Guivret’s coat of arms appears to have included gold lions. In Ulrich’s Lanzelet, a magical mantle brought to Arthur’s court reveals that Guivret’s wife hates him because of his dwarfish size. In the Prose Tristan, he appears at the tournament of Sorelois.
Chastity Test | The Legend of King Arthur
Dwarves | Myths and Legends
Erec | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Lanzelet | Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, c. 1200
Erec | Hartmann von Aue, late 12th century
Erex Saga | 13th century
Geraint and Enid | 13th century
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240