THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE
Sir Gareth was the youngest son of King Lot and Morgause of Orkney, which made him the youngest brother of Sir Gawain as well. Playing a significant role in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Gareth plays one of the most important roles of defending King Arthur and ultimately his death at the hand’s of Lancelot. The “Tale of Sir Gareth” was apparently created by Thomas Malory, and presents Sir Gareth as a prime example of chivalry. Gareth served as page to and is ultimately knighted by and devoted to Sir Lancelot, which makes his passing even more tragic.
In addition to his loyalty and bravery, Gareth was one of the most chivalrous knights. His continued chivalrous and respectful attitude toward and treatment of Lady Lynette, even after her abuse of him shows the true gentleman that he was.
Sir Gareth of Legend
Sir Gareth, who even avoided his own brothers when they acted less than chivalrously, is one of the characters that comes together in the final scenes of Le Morte d’Arthur to produce the tragic ending. Sir Lancelot blindly killed Sir Gareth accidentally in his rescue of Queen Guinevere from burning at the stake. When Sir Gawain, Gareth’s older brother heard of Gareth’s death at Lancelot’s hands, he turned against Sir Lancelot and demanded that King Arthur find and punish him. It was this rift between Lancelot and Gawain that ultimately set the stage for Mordred’s takeover of the Kingdom.
When Sir Gawain, Gareth’s older brother heard of Gareth’s death at Lancelot’s hands, he turned against Sir Lancelot and demanded that King Arthur find and punish him.
In Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idyll of Gareth and Lynette Sir Gareth, like almost everyone in Camelot, is not what he seems, and yet he proves himself better than he seems to Lady Lynette and the judgmental Sir Kay who both misjudge him. Following his dealings with Lynette, Gareth defeated a series of knightly opponents and rescued Lyonors. Sir Gareth also makes appearances in more modern literary works like T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and E. M. R. Ditmas’s Gareth of Orkney (1956).
Painting of Sir Gareth by Arthur Hughes.
According to History
Sir Gareth (or Guerrehet) first appears in Chrétien de Troyes’s French work: Perceval ou le conte du Graal. His death by Sir Bors de Ganis in the The Lancelot-Grail, also known as the Prose Lancelot or the Vulgate Cycle, differs from Mallory’s take (having him killed by Sir Lancelot). The legend of Bors killing Gareth (during Lancelot’s rescue of Queen Guinevere from being burned at the stake) is told in the Death of Arthur, the final volume of the cycle.
Gareth is portrayed differently in Lancelot vs. the Death of Arthur. In the former he is the most beloved brother of Sir Gawain, but in the latter, Sir Gaheris is the favorite of Gawain.