Lamwell, Lambewell, Landevale, Landevall, Lanfal, Launall, Launfal, Launfalle, Lenval, Linval

The hero of several poems and lays, beginning with Marie de France’s Lanval (late twelfth century). Curiously, he does not appear in any of the chronicles or cycles, save one mention in the Vulgate Merlin as a knight who fights in a tournament at Carhaix. Marie’s Lanval, or its source, was adapted in the early fourteenth century as Sir Landeval, by Thomas Chestre in the late fourteenth century as Sir Launfal, and in the sixteenth century as Sir Lambewell and Sir Lamwell.

Lanval was a gracious and generous knight who was appointed as “steward” of Arthur’s other knights. Lanval disliked Queen Guinevere for her numerous infidelities, and she overtly returned the disdain. He made an excuse to leave Arthur’s court and went to Caerleon, where he lived for a year but fell into debt. Eventually, he became so poor and depraved that everyone in Caerleon made fun of him, and he left Caerleon to seek adventures.

He came upon a pavilion in a forest where he met a beautiful and mysterious maiden named Triamour, and he immediately fell in love with her. Triamour gave him a horse, a servant, a banner, an unlimited amount of gold, a suit of armor, and an enchantment which insured that Lanval would not be harmed in joust or duel. In return, Lanval had to love Triamour exclusively, and had to agree not to tell anyone about their relationship.

When Lanval returned to Caerleon rich and powerful, he suddenly found himself with a lot of friends. A tournament was held in his honor, which he won. A knight in Lombardy named Valentyne heard of Lanval’s prowess and offered a joust; Lanval traveled to the city of Atalye in Lombardy and killed Valentyne. Throughout all of these adventures, Lanval continued his relationship with Triamour, whom he had to meet in secret.

Eventually, Arthur heard of his knight’s adventures and asked him to come back to court. Lanval complied and returned to the merriment at Arthur’s court in Cardiff. While he was there, Queen Guinevere tried to seduce him. Lanval rebuked her advances and said that he loved a fairy woman whose ugliest servant was more beautiful than Guinevere. Guinevere, furious, went to Arthur, told of Lanval’s boast, and said that Lanval had made advances on her. Arthur swore to kill Lanval. Meanwhile, all of the items and enchantments that Lanval had received from Triamour disappeared, as he had broken hos promise by telling Guinevere of his love for the enchantress.

Arthur captured Lanval and set up a royal court to judge the knight, but the court decided that Guinevere was probably at fault. They said that Lanval simply had to bring his lover to the court and prove her existence; otherwise, he would have to be hanged. They gave him a year and two weeks to find Triamour and bring her back to Cardiff.

Lanval was unable to find Triamour in the given time. When he returned to Cardiff, Arthur demanded that he be hanged, but members of the court argued instead that Lanval should be sent into exile. As they debated, Triamour arrived at court with her servants, and their radiant beauty proved that Lanval’s claim had been a true one. Without even a look on Lanval she again left the hall, but he followed her, and when she finally understood that he rather give up life than her she took him with her to the Fairyland, where they lived happily ever after.

Lanval’s story was grafted onto another knight in the non-Arthurian Breton lay of Graelent, and to Gawain in the Italian La Pulzella Gaia. Echoes of the tale appear in the Der Pleier’s Meleranz.

Lanval | Marie de France, mid to late 12th century
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Daniel von dem blühenden Tal | Der Stricker, 1210-1225
Sir Launfal | Thomas Chestre, late 14th century
Sir Landeval | Early to mid 14th century
Sir Lambewell | 16th century