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Bitterfer [weap:sword] [English Romance]

Horn (son of Haþeolf) (HC = Horn Childe, Auchinleck MS.)*1, Horn (son of Murry) (KH = King Horn,, MS. (C) = Gg.4.27.2 Ms.) son of Morye (ib., MS. (O) = Laud, Misc. 108) son of Allof (ib. (L) = Harley 2252) *2 [ME]; Horn (son of Aaluf, Aalof) (Anglo-Norman Horn et Rimenhild)*3[OF/AF];

Bitterfer (Auchinleck ms. 403) Bitter-fer (ib., Joseph Hall ed. King Horn, Appendix.) [ME];
The sword given to Horn by Princess Rimneld in one of the versions of the metrical romance. It was deemed the king of swords, forged by Weland and of the same make as ⇒Miming.

Blauain (Auchinleck ms. 804) [ME];
The sword that Horn apparently recovered by slaying Malakin , a king of Ireland and a principal villain of the romance. The sword rightfully belonged to the royal house of Finlak of Ireland or his father Elidan of Wales, whom Horn was serving at the time; but the grateful Finlak granted Horn the possession of the sword during his lifetime.

«(Rimnild's) ring» (Auchinleck ms. 568), «ring of gold» (   "   955) [ME];
«(Rymenhild's) gold ring» (Cambridge Gg.4.27.2 ms. 567) [ME];
1) The ring in the Auchinleck version is a ring of fidelity given by Princess Rimnild to her chosen mate, Horn before he has fallen out of the king's favor and forced into exile. When the stone grows pale that means Horn's heart has changed and no longer cares for Rimnild. When the stone grows red, it signifies that she was unable to guard her virginity and remain true to Horn.
Horn enters service under a Welsh king, but when he has won victory in a campaign in Ireland, the stone changes color and he hurries back to England. He discovers Rimnild is about to marry King Moging/Muging. He gets himself invited to the feast dressed as beggar, and pursuades Rimnild to serve the meat and drinks to him. She fails to recognize him immediately, but during the parlay he cast the gold ring in the drinking horn for her to see, and says it is their "tokening" (signification).

2) The ring in the variant version rather different; it is a ring of invunerability given by Rimenhild when he told her he must be off on knight-errantry first before he will marry her and quench her love-pain. It is a richly ornamented gold ring upon which is engraved "Rymenhild the young", and if he looks upon it while thinking of her, it will protect him from any blow sustained in battle. She also gave a similar ring to his sworn "brother" Sir Athulf.

horn ..michel & vnride.. al yuore is the bon.. Sett wið mani a riche ston "a horn large and ungainly, all ivory-bone, set with many rich stones" (Auchinleck ms. 386-) [ME];

Another gift of Rimnild. Either a hunting horn or battle-horn. It was strapped with a baldric of gold which she herself has worn, no doubt symbolizing the bond between her and "Horn".

a stede blac "a black steed" (Auchinleck ms.) [ME];
stede whit "white steed (given to him by King Almair)" (Cambridge Gg.4.27.2 Ms., 505),
«his gode fole,/Also blak so eny cole» (Cambridge " 593-4)
*1 Horn Childe & Maiden Rimnild @ the Nat. Lib. Scot. site. The "Scottish text" Horn Childe (denoted HC) in the Auchinleck MS. ff.317va-323vb; conventionally distinguished from the KH King Horn below.
Text is also appended to F. Michel's and J. Hall's edited volumes below.

*2 KH = King Horn aka The Geste of Kyng Horn found in three manuscripts:
(L) = Brit. Lib. MS. Harleian 2252
(O) = Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Laud, Misc. 108
(C) = Cambridge Univ. Lib., MS. Gg. iv. 27. 2
They are edited in parallel in: Hall, Joseph, ed., King Horn: a Middle-English Romance (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1901) [books.google]

*2a The Project Camelot/TEAMS online text King Horn is based on the (C) text (Cambridge MS.) and is an e-text derived from Four romances of England : King Horn, Havelok the Dane, Bevis of Hampton, Athelston , Edited by Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake, and Eve Salisbury (1999).

*2b French, Walter Hoyt and Charles Brockway Hale, Middle English Metrical Romances (New York: Russel & Russel 1964) also prints the (C) text but retains "thorn" and "yog" etc. and line numbering differs slightly.

*3a Anglo-Norman version sometimes attributed to the poet Thomas, found in these MSS:
C = Cambridge Univ. Lib., MS. Ff. 6. 17
O = Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 132
[Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc), f.22v]
H = Brit. Lib. MS. Harley 527
Michel, Francisque, 1809-1887 ed. Horn et Rimenhild. Recueil de ce qui reste des poëmes relatifs à leurs aventures composés en françois, en anglois, et en écossois dans le treizième, quatorzième, quinzième, et seizième siècles. (Paris: , Imprimé pour le Bannatyne Club par Maulde et Renou, 1845)

*3b Text of Anglo-Norman version is also in: Brede, E. (gen. editor Stengel, Edmund, 1845-1935), Ausgaben und Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der Romanischen Philologie VIII, Marburg, 1883.

§ Horn Childe & Maiden Rimnild of the Auchinleck ms.

In the Auchinleck version, Horn's father is named king Haþolf and he is a king ruling England north of the Humber (i.e. Northumberland), and Arlaunde [Harluand, Herlaund] was the name of his loyal retainer (* whereas in the version where the king is named Murray, and Hathulf Haþulf, Aþulf "the beste" is the loyal vassal. He and Fikenild "the werste" were Murray's two favorites. ll.26-30 ).

The King's realm is invaded by the Danish host, but they are successfully fended off. It seems the king is in good cheer, for he is later out hunting in Blakeowe More and holds a feast in Pikering. But when he rounds up the children brought up together in order to educate the royal son, the mood turns somber: many of these children have lost their fathers in the foregoing battle, and the king tells weepingly that it is his wish that the children would be the good comrades at Childe Horn's side, just as their fathers were to them.

In the next wave of invasion from Ireland under three kings, named Ferwele, Winwald, Malkan (var. Saracen hosts Sarazins l.42), the King loses his life (224). An earl of Northumberland (241) seizes the chance and annexes the land. With Arlaund's help, Horn must flee to the south of England, ruled by King Houlac*1.

King Houlac assigns the loyal Herlaund to be Horn's maister to tutor him in various arts (267) (var. King Aylmer[Almair]'s steward Athelbrus [Aþelbrus, l.229-] is assigned to be master) and the boy grows handsome and adept at every skill so that by age fifteen there was no knight that was his match in all of England (289ff). King Houlac's fair maid Rimnild [Rimneld] (var. Rymenhild 252) falls in love with him just from his reputation. So she instructed Arlaunde (var. Athelbrus) to bring Horn to her chamber. The master-tutor felt no good will come from this encounter so he sent Haþerof instead (323)*2.

Rimneld led the young man to a richly spread baudekin (332)*3, and gave him gifts of goshawk and hawking-glove and three grayhounds for hunting. By the end of the encounter though, she seems to be aware of the substitution for she says to the imposter "Whatever thy name be, thou shalt have this hounds three," telling Harlaund to bring (the real) Horn with him the next day*4.

The following day, the princess entertains the real Horn. She has readied many gifts to provide him as well: queyntise [cointise] of palle ("a skilled craftwork of pelt or mantle") to go with the horse. Then a large and cumbersome horn of ivory set with rich stones, and this was to be strapped across his breast with a gold-laid baldric which the princess herself had worn (ll.385-) -- and this no doubt symbolizes her inseparability attachment to "Horn". Then she brought a fine sword hanging by a ring (ll. 397-), described as thus:

400 ‘It is þe make of Miming,
Of al swerdes it is king
& Weland it wrouȝtt.
Bitterfer þe swerd hiȝtt,
Better swerd bar neuer kniȝtt
Horn Childe & Maiden Rimnild, ll.400-
400 ‘It is of the same craftsmanship as Miming,
And the king of all swords,
Wrought by Weland,
Bitterfer it is called;
Never a knight bore a better sword.

The hour that Horn and Rimnild spend has given the maiden a "love wound" and she promises to give away Hir maidenhod to mede, that is, "her virginity as reward" as soon as he gets himself dubbed knight.
    The knighting happens within a forthnight, but before the love relationship can further develop, a tournament is called*5. Horn takes the prize and the King gives him leave to chose a wife among available ladies of the court. Rimnild obviously prevails upon him to desist, since no maiden but she should be his leman "spouse".
    Horn's companions (six of them, named earlier) are off to France and Britanny after this event. Except Wigard and Wikel*6, the brothers mentioned earlier as being fikel "treacherous" and would foist lesinges "lies" have quite another intent. One day when Horn suffered from a malady and went home to treat it by blood-letting, the brothers tell the king that Horn had assaulted Rimnild and beat her till she bled but she managed to flee before he could violate her. The king believes the villains.

    When Horn visits Rimnild, she is lying on the bed, her mouth and nose bleeding. Horn inquires, but she is more concerned for him than herself, since she fear he will be flemed "banished" because of the slanderers. Rimnild also has foresight into the future. For seven years she can protect her purity, but after that there will be an emperor seeking her in marriage and there will be no protection against him. She even knows that on the morrow after he returns from hunting roebucks the king will say what is on his mind and tell him to begone from the board (table). It happens just so, the king tells him if he lays sight on him ever again, he will have him drawn and quartered by wild horses and hanged by the gallows (563-4).

    When Horn comes to Rimnild, she imparts him a ring (566), whose virtues (properties) she describes thus.

‘Loke þou forsake it for no þing,
It schal ben our tokening,
570 Þe ston it is wel trewe.
When þe ston wexeþ wan,
Þan chaungeþ þe þouȝtt of þi leman,
Take þan a newe;
When þe ston wexeþ rede,
575 Þan haue y lorn mi maidenhed
Oȝtaines þe vntrewe.’
Horn Childe & Maiden Rimnild, ll.568-
' See that thou forsake it under no circumstance,
It shall be our little code,
570 Its stone will be faithful,
When thee stone grows pale,
Your thoughts about your betrothed one is changed,
Take thou a new bride,
When the stone grows red,
575 I have lost my maidenhood,
Unfaithfully against thee.

In exile, Horn went by the pseudonym Godebounde (602, *var Cutberd) and he seeks haven in Wales (*var Ireland) where the king is named Elidan (*var Thurston).
In the present version, Horn first defeats an armed knight. He is then informed that King Elidan will hold a joust for seven days, and if he could survive, he may gain audience on the eight. Horn finds the king in Snowdon (662) and on the eighth day, proves his worth by outjousting the king. Horn is hired for a thousand pounds a year salary.

Without a break in the story, messengers arrive from Ireland, bearing a letter from a king who is being troubled by agressors and is direly seeking military assistance. It is told in passing that this king (Finlak) is Elidan's son (a fact which is more explicitly iterated on ll. 747-9).
The newly hired Horn is dispatched with this mission, and he arrives in a port named ȝolkil in Ireland, near which King Finlak held court.

King Finlak's oppressor turns out to be King Malkan (i.e., one of the three Irish invaders that took Horn's father's life).
Before the confrontation, the Welsh messenger recounts Horn's gallant deeds and reassures King Finlak he need not fear King Malkan, but to have the courage to battle against him. Yet Malkan's power is mighty (732), and none in Ireland has dared go against him save Finlak alone. Malkan boasts, "If you fight you shall be slain, if you remain, you will be captured, it is best for you to flee." (742). But three weeks hence was set as the date of battle. The anticipated reinforcement, a contigent of troops led by King Elidan is not able to arrive in time to help his son (King Finlak) due to harsh winds and waves. This setback frightens Finlak and he is inclined to flee, but Horn and the kings son are ready to fight. There is a lacuna here in the manuscript, but the outcome is that Horn has slain Malakin (thus also accomplishing vegence upon one of the three kings responsible for his father's slaying)*7. He has as a consequence also recovered the sword Blauain (804). The sword was one that rightfully belonged to Elidan. But Finlak, in gratitude, tells Horn to retain possession of the sword while he lived.

Horn, King Finlak and his sons have all been wounded. The king's daughter Acula is seen tending to the king's and to Horn's wound (790-794), and after Horn is rewarded with all of Malakin's former dominion, she professes her love to him. But Horn explains that everything he has earned it was all for the sake of his beloved Rimnild. At that moment, his ring is seen to change hue. Seven years has passed since his departure from England (830-840)*8.

Horn sails straight back to England, and as he rides, rudely stops a beggar for news. The poorly attired man is in a huff over not being more courteously addressed as "good man", even so, he starts his blabbing: that he has sought ceaselessly after the whereabouts of a man named Horn and that was the reason of his riven and tattered clothing; that today was the day Moging the king was to wed Rimnild. The beggar turns out to be one of Horn's original companions, Wiard. Horn reveals his identity. Giving his friend his robe, he dons Wiard's "poor weed (clothing)" so he can spy the goings-on in court in a beggar's habit. He tells his friend to lead the host hiding in the woods.

Horn dressed as beggar approaches the gleeful sound of tambours and trumpets. When he lays hands on a horse's bridle, he is stuck by Wikard (this is the evil Wigard, and not the faithful Wiard). The king feels sorry and offers the beggar a boon. Horn asks to have the maiden Rimnild and the king grows wroth. Horn says some riddling words alluding to his seven years wait (it also sounds like the ravings of one not wholly sane). He now asks for a different boon: declaring he is the leader of sixty beggars or more, he would like them all to be invited to the wedding at court and be given fowls and ham and such. (937-). This the king grants.

At the feast, the beggar brings up the supposed custom that the bride should be the one to first serve the meat. Though face to face, the princess doesn't recognize Horn because of his mean disguise. Horn speaks to Rimnild in hints, about demonstrating for all to see that she has not forgotten the one knight who was master of the tourney. When she fetched a drinking horn full of wine, the beggar seems to say that if her thoughts are still with Horn, prove it by drinking from the same horn. The beggar drinks his fill from the horn, and drops the ring of gold. She realizes Horn must be nearby. Calling Hatherof [* Horn's sworn brother], she tells him to go to the herbarium to gather periwinkle and ivy, grasses of strength (1012-4). It is decided that Horn should carry her away, and Hatherof is sent away to contact Horn to plan it out. Hatherof describes the embroidery worn by the two false traitors (Wikard's is white as snow with birds black as crows in silkwork; Wikel's is yellow and green, fleur-de-lys set in-between). When the eating was over and the guests, bearing gonfanon and spears, well armed and mounted on their horses, rode out, and Horn with his hundred knights. In tourney fashion they fought. Horn waved his sword and clove Wigard's head, and smote out Wigel's eyes (1187-9).

Horn is now reconciled with the deceived Houlac, and with his blessing is wedded to Rimnild. He still has a score to settle with the earl of Northumberland, Þorbrond, who had seized his father's territory, but at this point, the manuscript breaks off. (* In the variant, Horn unwisely spares Fikenhild while he leaves to reclaim Suddene, his mother's country. He is successful and is reunited with his mother and with Athulf's father. In his absence, Fikenhild attempts to wed Rymenhild for himself. But his crowned head gets smitten off by Horn who has returned.j

*1 (var. the Saracens spare Horn and companions on account of their good looks (ll.81-). But they force the youths to row off by ship. They make it ashore, and Horn reveals he is born from Suddene [* Isle of Man? the location is disputed]. He speaks to the ship telling it that if it should ever find Suddene, to tell his mother Godhild he is safe. Horn now meets with King Almair of Westernesse (ll.155-7) [* Wirral peninsula near modern-day Liverpool]).

*2 (var. Athelbrus sends Athulf (289)/Aþulf (297 etc.), who is called "Hornes brother" but who is merely a "sworn brother." Later on they meet up with Athulf's true father.)

*3 baudekin, baudekyn, "a gold-embroidered stuff named from Bagdad cf. baldachin, a canopy on a four-pillar support"; var. bedde)

*4 (* In the variant, the princess is similarly deceived on the first encounter when Horn's brother Athulf is brought in his stead. She starts professing love to the young man before Athulf stops her saying his brother is much more worthy than he. She has made such a shameful spectacle that she is decidedly miffed by the deceit perpertrated on her, and even threatens the steward Athelbrus that she'll have him hanged on the gallows. The steward defends his actions saying such rendezvous in the ears of the king could be perilous. She then orders him to have Horn dressed in a squire's guise and send him along the next day. In this version we do not see the princess giving horn gifts at this juncture, though she imparts with a magical ring as we shall see. She is insistent though that he marry her, and when Horn says he would have to be at least be made a knight to be a worthy match. This is arranged, and the king girds him with sword, puts on his spurs and gives him a white steed. When Rymenhild)

*5 (* In the variant, Horn wants to puts off his marriage and go off on knight-errantry. Rymenhild gives him a ring of invulnerability.
‘Tak nu her this gold ring:
God him is the dubbing;
Ther is upon the ringe
570 Igrave "Rymenhild the yonge":
Ther nis non betere anonder sunne
That eni man of telle cunne.
For my luve thu hit were
And on thi finger thu him bere.
575 The stones beoth of suche grace
That thu ne schalt in none place
Of none duntes beon ofdrad,
Ne on bataille beon amad,
Ef thu loke theran
580 And thenke upon thi lemman.
King Horn, ll.567-
' Take here now this gold ring,
Good are its trimmings,
And upon the ring
I've engraved "Rymenhild the young":
There is none better under the sun,
That any man can tell of.
For my love's sake,
Wear it on your finger.
The stone are of such grace
That thou in any place
Need be adread of any dint (sword-blow)
Striking thee on the field of battle,
If only thou look onto the ring
Thinking upon me, your sweetheart.

*6 (* In the variant, the traitor is named Fikenhild. He envies Horn his success, since he has single-handedly destroyed an army of invading Saracens. Fikenhild informs his king that Horn intends to take his life and take Rimenhyld for wife. ll.691-)

*7 (* In the variant, Horn defends Ireland for the sake of King Thurston by fighting with a Saracen champion of giant stature. During the bout, the giant says he has not felt such heavy blows since he killed Murray, Horn's father. Horn was enraged but as he drew the sword forgot not to look on to his ring and think of Rymenhild [which conferred him invulnerability] and thrust through the giant through his heart.)

*8 (* In the variant, King Thurston, being heirless, express his wish that Horn marry his daughter Reynild 911 and succeed his reign. But Horn receives news from Rymenhild's page that she is about to wed King Modi of Reynes [* Furness, Lancashire (F&H footnote)], an enemy of Horn's. Horn asks Thurston for assistance in thwarting this marriage from taking place, and promises to bring back his comrade Athulf as a suitable match for Reynild. )


§ Anglo-Norman Horn et Rimenhild

*1 Michel, Francisque, 1809-1887 ed. Horn et Rimenhild. Recueil de ce qui reste des poëmes relatifs. . etc.(Paris: Bannatyne Club / Maulde et Renou, 1845)



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