Orgelleuse, Orgelus, Orgeluse
A proud lady who appears in the works of both Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach, and who maintained that the only way to gain fulfilment in courtly love was through persistence of courtship and deeds of outrageous courage. Duchess of Logres found in Chrétien’s Perceval, Wolfram’s Parzival, and Perlesvaus. In Chrétien, she escorts Gawain through his adventures in Galloway, attempting to lead him into danger at every turn. Her lover was Orguelleus of the Narrow Passage.
Perlesvaus and Wolfram both built on Chrétien’s description of the character, but in very different ways. In the former, she is a wicked, marginally-sane woman who prepares tombs in the chapel of her castle (also called Orguelleus) for Gawain, Lancelot, Perceval, and herself.
Expecting that if any of these knights came to her castle, they would want to pray in her chapel, she rigged a sharp blade to behead anyone kneeling before the chapel’s altar. In this way, she planned to dispatch the three best knights in Britain and entomb herself with them. She made the mistake of revealing the entire plan to Gawain, who was lodging with her incognito, and Gawain warned his comrades to stay away from her castle. A similar character called the Maiden of the Narrow Wood appears in Hunbaut.
In Wolfram, Orguelleuse inherits the castle of Logres from her late husband, Cidegast, after he is killed in battle against King Gramoflanz. She dedicated her efforts to finding a knight to marry her and exact revenge on Gramoflanz. Many knights failed Orguelleuse’s test – which involved pitting her prospective husband against the powerful Duke Lischois Gwelljus. Until Gawain, only Perceval had proved promising, but Perceval shunned Orguelleuse in favor of his wife Condwiramurs (Kondviramur) and the Grail Quest.
Anfortas, Wolfram’s Fisher King, was another suitor – and one for whom Orguelleuse seemed to genuinely care – but he was injured in the groin in Orguelleuse’s service and had to retire to the Grail Castle. Gawain encountered Orguelleuse and fell in love with her immediately, despite Orguelleuse’s cruel treatment and spiteful tongue. Gawain’s honor and compassion had no effect on the duchess until he defeated Lischois Gwelljus in combat and won the deadly adventure at the Castle of Marvels.
Having accomplished this, and having revealed his identity, Orguelleuse reciprocated Gawain’s love and explained her situation. Gawain agreed to fight King Gramoflanz, but was distressed to find that his own sister Itonje was in love with the king. Arthur intervened and convinced Orguelleuse to forgive Gramoflanz and abandon her vendetta. Gawain and Orguelleuse were then married.
Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Perlesvaus | Early 13th century
Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200–1210