Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Perilous Bed

Bed of Marvels, Lit Merveile

An enchanted bed encountered by Gawain in Chrétien’s Lancelot, Chrétien’s Perceval, Wolfram’s Parzival, Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Crône, and the Vulgate Lancelot.

The heart of the adventure was that any knight who lay on the bed would swiftly find himself assaulted by arrows or flaming lances, and that only by covering himself adequately with armor would he survive. Generally, the missile assault is then followed with an attack by lions, leopards, dragons, or other fiends.

Chrétien places the bed in Canguin Rock in Galloway; Wolfram’s Perilous Bed is in the Castle of Marvels in the Terre Marveile; Henrich names the castle as Salie; and the Vulgate Version places it in the Grail Castle.

The first three stories also include the additional peril of a fierce lion, which Gawain slays, and his success lifts the enchantments from the castle. The Vulgate version says that Sir Bors also braved the bed, and was wounded by a fiery lance that came out of nowhere. Wolfram tells us that the bed was enchanted by the sorcerer Clinschor (Klingsor).

When Gawaine went to rescue certain captives at a castle, at the frontier of the Terre Foraine (Strange Land) of Gore, he were to know that no one could sleep in this bed without being maimed or killed. On entering, he saw the bed scudding around on its own. Gawaine jumped onto it and it shot from wall to wall, smashing itself against them. When it ceased its gallivanting, five hundred pebbles were unleashed at Gawaine from slingstaves (sling-shots). Crossbow bolts were then aimed at him but happily his armor was sufficient to protect him.

Lancelot later stopped here for a night during his pursuit of Guenevere and her captor Meliagrant. Lancelot took the risk and slept in the bed. At midnight the house trembled, a whirlwind swept through it, and a fiery lance came in the window and advanced toward the bed with such force that it entered half a foot into the ground. Lancelot got up, cut the lance in half with his sword, and went back to bed.

This bed may be identified with the one that Malory tells us Merlin made.

R.S. Loomis though that the Perilous Bed was originally associated with the Turning Castle motif, and that it originated ultimately in Irish legend.

See also
Adventurous Bed | The Legend of King Arthur
Castle Meliot | The Legend of King Arthur
Castle of Marvels | The Legend of King Arthur
Castle of the Deadly Bed | The Legend of King Arthur
Klingsor | The Legend of King Arthur
Wondrous Bed | The Legend of King Arthur
Merlin’s Bed | The Legend of King Arthur

Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Lancelot, or Le Chevalier de la Charrete | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200–1210
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Diu Crône | Heinrich von dem Türlin, c. 1230