“The Boy and the Mantle”


A boy enters King Arthur's court wearing a rich mantle. He offers the mantle to whichever woman proves virtuous (the appearance of the mantle will show who is chaste and who is not). Only one woman in the court proves virtuous.


The custom in Arthur's court of always having an entertainment before dinner (at least on a high day) occurs also in the (somewhat earlier) "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," Stanza 4 (lines 85-106) -- a story in which, interestingly, it is the *man's* fidelity which comes under attack.

The contest over women's fidelity is common in folklore; in the Child canon, cf. e.g. "The Twa Knights" [Child 268]. Flanders-Ancient mentions the French fablaiu _Le Mantel Mautaillie_ and von Zatzikhoven's _Lanzelet_.

Incidentally, the Sir Craddoccke (Caradoc) of this song makes a brief appearance in Gilbert and Sullivan: In _The Pirates of Penzance_, the Modern Major General tells us that "I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's"; one suspects Gilbert got it from Percy. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Child 29, "The Boy and the Mantle" (1 text)
  2. Percy/Wheatley III, pp. 3-12, "The Boy and the Mantle" (1 text); cf. pp. 315-323, "The Boy and the Mantle" (a rewritten version)
  3. Flanders-Ancient1, pp. 257-264, "The Boy and the Mantle" (1 text, from "The Charms of Melody" rather than tradition)
  4. Leach, pp. 113-118, "The Boy and the Mantle" (1 text)
  5. OBB 17, "The Boy and the Mantle (A Ballad of King Arthur's Court)" (1 text)
  6. DT 29, BOYMANT1
  7. Roud #3961
  8. BI, C029


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1765 (Percy)