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Book V, Canto VIII

July 16, 2011

Arthegall sees a typical medieval sight: a damsel fleeing on a horse, chased by two knights, who are in turn chased by yet another knight. The hindmost knight overtakes one and Arthegall unhorses the other. After both of the pair are dead, the other knight attacks Arthegall, not realizing who he is.

The damsel stops this nonsense. It turns out the the knight who had been chasing the lady’s paynim pursuers is no other than Prince Arthur himself. The two knights apologize politely and listen to the damsel’s story.

She serves Queen Mercilla (yet another maiden queen) who is currently oppressed by a powerful man known as the Souldan. He seeks to ruin her kingdom and kill her person. His wife Adicia promotes this cruelty. Mercilla sent this particular damsel, named Samient, as a messenger to Adicia. Adicia refused to listen, threw Samient out her doors, and sent the two knights after her.

Arthegall and Arthur come up with a plan to avenge this harm. Arthegall dresses in one of the dead knight’s armor and takes Samient with him as his “prisoner”. They arrive back at the Souldan’s castle, followed closely by Arthur and Talus, who demand to have Samient released.

Now comes a strange fight. The Souldan gets into his chariot and thinks to kill Arthur with his wheel spikes or by trampling. Neither tactic works, and it becomes a chaotic game of Arthur trying to reach the chariot, yet stay away from the Souldan’s weapons. At last Arthur unveils his magic shield in the face of the horses. The brightness drives them mad and they run amock. The chariot flies all over the place, eventually overturning and killing the Souldan with his own “yron hookes and graples keene”.

Arthur beings back the Souldan’s armor and hangs it in front of the castle. When Adicia sees the armor, she grabs a knife and runs to kill Samient. Arthegall stops her, and she runs into the woods instead, where Spenser tells us she may or may not have been transformed into a tiger.

Then Arthegall overthrows all of the Souldan’s men in the castle and sets things aright.


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