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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "Sir Gawain & the Lady Ragnell"

Sir Gawain & the Lady Ragnell

One day King Arthur was hunting in Ingleswood Forest with his men when a deer stepped into view. "Hold still, everyone," said the king, "I'll stalk this deer myself." Holding his bow in one hand and his arrows over his shoulder, the king crept upon the deer until, deep into the forest, he slayed the deer with one shot. As the animal fell, a tall figure stepped from the shadows.

"How fortunate for me that we meet this way, with your arrow released from your hand," boomed the voice of a strong and mighty knight. "King Arthur, for many a year, you have done me wrong. Now it is time to quiet you here."

It was Sir Gromer! Thinking quickly, the king said, "To slay me here, armed as you are and I clothed but in my greens, would bring you no honor. All the knights will refuse to sit by you, and shame will follow you evermore. I'll grant you anything - name it - land or gold, to spare my life."

"There is no land or gold that I desire," said Sir Gromer. "However I will get what I seek in an honorable way. I'll give you a chance to solve a riddle. One year and a day from now, you must appear before me, here in the woods as you are, without friends to come with you and without weapons. If at that time you are unable to solve this riddle, no man will object that I will take your life. But if you answer the riddle correctly, there will be no battle. You must swear on your honor that you will return in one year and a day, as I have said."

"Lo, I agree," said the king. "What is the riddle?"

"You must tell me what it is that women desire most, above all else."

"I assure you," says King Arthur, "as I am the true king, that I will come again in one year and a day and bring you the answer that you seek."

And so Sir Gromer left. The king blew his bugle and his hunting companions found him with the slain deer at his feet. Yet rather than finding their ruler in good spirits as they would expect, his companions saw heaviness in their king's face.

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