‘The Badly Cut Coat’, ‘The Evil-Shapen Coat’
La Cote Male Tailée
Breunor Le Noir, Breunor the Black, Brewnor le Noir, Bruin Le Noire
Called the Black. La Cote Male Taile was brother to Sir Dinadan.
The tale of Sir Breunor (Brunor the Black) in Malory IX parallels or – I think – parodies the tale of Sir Gareth in VII. Again we have the young arriving at court and being given a nickname by the ever-important Sir Kay in mockery. Breunor is called La Cote Male Taile (“the evil-shapen coat” or “the badly cut coat”) because he wears his father’s coat with the mark of his father’s death wounds, being determined to avenge his father’s murder.
Breunor gets off to a more visibly promising start than Gareth. At his request, Arthur knights him the day after his arrival, and almost immediately afterwards when a lion breaks loose from its tower and comes hurtling at Queen Guenevere and her knights, only Breunor stands his ground to slay the beast. That same day the damsel first called Maledisant and finally Beauvivante comes into court looking for a knight to achieve the quest of a great black shield, with a white hand in the midst holding a sword, which she carries with her.
Breunor takes the quest and, like Lynette, Maledisant promptly and continuously mocks him. Unlike Lynette, however, Maledisant later confesses that she has been prompted all along by love for Breunor, wanting to get him off the dangerous quest because he seems too young and likely to be killed on it. Also, in Malory’s version of Gareth and Lynette, Gareth finally weds not Lynette but her sister; the romancer corrects this in the later tale and matches Breunor with Maledisant-Beauvivante.
I confess I lose the trail of Breunor’s quest with Maledisant and cannot quite figure out what it was all about; Breunor, however, unlike Gareth, is sometimes realistically allowed to be defeated on his first quest. Eventually Lancelot makes him lord of the castle of Pendragon (Pandragon Castle) in place of Sir Brian de les Isles. A little of this, La Cote is made a knight of the Round Table. He does finally succeed in avenging his father, though Malory does not give the details. The last we seem to hear of La Cote Male Taile, aside from his appearance at the attempt to heal Sir Urre, is as one of the guests at Guenevere’s small dinner party when Sir Patrise is poisoned.