This week I read the bildungsroman of Gareth in Mallory’s Morte de Arthur. The story of Gareth and Lady Savage has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl, but I had never read the original. Mallory’s telling includes all sorts of details I had not known. One of these is that Morgause had sent Gareth to court with all the accouterments of a young prince, and Gareth had chosen to hide most of that and appear before Arthur’s court without his mother's wealth and name. This brought to mind Percival and the garments his mother had made him, and also Lancelot arrayed all in White, courtesy of the Lady of the Lake. There is something in these stories about how mothers send their boys off to become warriors, and how those boys choose to use their mother's gifts that is interesting to me.
When I was told this story as a child, it bothered me that Gareth should end up marrying Lyonesse rather than Lynette. It still bothers me. Lynette is the one he actually gets to know throughout his adventures. She is the one who slowly discovers his nature, who observes him and mocks him, and it would make sense in the story for her to learn to love him. I like Gareth a little less for his falling madly in love with a woman he can’t really see in a window of a tower rather than the woman he has traveled so far with and served so well. Of course, that may be Hollywood showing up in my brain. Maybe Lady Savage is just a wee bit too crazy for him, what with her hiring brigands to wound his balls so he can’t sleep with her sister. It just seems like a missed opportunity to have hate turn to love in the face of chivalry.