Meleagant, Meleagraunce, Meliagrant, Meliakanz, Meljacanz, Meljaganz, Meljahkanz, Miljanz, Milienc
The son of King Bagdemagus of Gorre.
Gorre had a custom by which any knight or lady that entered became a prisoner. Since Gorre could only be entered by crossing two dangerous bridges – one a sword, and the other underwater – it was not difficult to enforce this custom. Eventually, Meleagant captured Queen Guinevere, sending several of Arthur’s knights after him. Some of the would-be rescuers were defeated, Kay was captured, Gawain got lost, and Lancelot became the one who eventually succeeded in the quest and rescued the queen.
Meleagant’s father disapproved of his son’s actions, and prevented him from harming Guinevere during the abduction. When Lancelot survived the perilous journey to Bagdemagus’s castle, Bagdemagus urged Meleagant to turn over the queen. Meleagant, however, opted for a fight and was defeated by Lancelot. He yielded on the condition that they meet again to battle in one year. Meanwhile, however, Lancelot slept with Guienevere in Bagdemagus’s castle. He had been injured, and left blood on Guinevere’s sheets. Meleagant assumed the blood was from the wounded Kay, and accused Guinevere of treason. Lancelot agreed to champion her at their scheduled fight, but Meleagant had Lancelot captured and imprisoned in a special tower called the Tower of the Fens.
At the appointed time, Meleagant went to Arthur’s court to fight the battle, expecting to either win by default or to be assigned a lesser knight to fight. Lancelot, however, had been freed from his prison by Meleagant’s sister, and arrived just in time. He killed Meleagant in the subsequent duel.
Malory adapted this story for a chapter in Le Morte D’Arthur, with a number of differences: first, Meleagant’s motivation for capturing the queen, according to Malory, was not pride, but love. He thought her the most beautiful woman in the world, and nearly fought Lamorat to the death to prove his claim. The second difference is Meleagant’s general incompetence as a knight: it had occured to him to kidnap Guinevere, but he delayed acting on this for many years because he was greatly afraid of Lancelot, and he relaized that any attempt to take the queen would be swiftly avenged by her champion. At tournaments, he was generally defeated. Third, Meleagant does not reside in his own land, but is a Knight of the Round Table, and simply holds a castle near Camelot, in Lambeth.
In Wolfram’s Parzival, Meleagant also abducts a lady named Imane of Beafontane, who is rescued by Karnahkarnanz of Ultertec. Later, he fights in a war declared by King Meliant of Lis on Duke Lyppaut of Bearosche. In Wolfram’s mind, Meleagant must have survived the duel with Lancelot because his crhonology places the war at Bearosche after Lancelot’s rescue of Guinevere.
A Welsh version of this story, which uses Meleagaunce’s Welsh name, Melwas, says that he was the ruler of Somerset, and carried off Guinevere to Glastonbury. Arthur (not Lancelot in this tale) laid siege to the town, but the Abbot and Gildas beseeched Melwas to return his captive, which he did.
Lancelot, or Le Chevalier de la Charrete | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470