Gaheriet is generally the most prominent of Gawain's brothers in Arthurian romance and is a Knight of the Round Table. He is sometimes conflated or confused with his brother Guerrehet who may earlier have been the same character.
Confounded with Guerrehet in Le Morte d’ArthurEdit
Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte d’Arthur renders French Guerrehet as Gareth and French Gaheriet as Gaheris from Book I to Book X, chapter 48 (ignoring book VII, “The Story of Sir Gareth” which is of unknown origin). But from Book X, chapter 55 to the end of the romance Malory reverses this practice and renders French Guerrehet as Gaheris and French Gaheriet as Gareth.
The Order of Birth of Gaheriet and his BrothersEdit
Gaheriet is first mentioned in a list of knights in Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval where he appears between Yder of the Dolorous Mountain and Kay. Gaheriet arguably first appears as Gawain’s brother in Chrétien’s Perceval where he is listed after Engravain (= Agravain) but before Guerrehet. However in the list of King Loth’s sons in The Story of Merlin attributed to Robert de Boron, the sons are listed as “Mordrez et mes sires Gauvains et Garées et Gaheriet” in Alexandre Micha’s edition.
In the Prose Lancelot (beginning at Micha II:LXIX;Sommer IV:358) occurs a complete description of Gawain and all his brothers. The descriptions of Gaheriet and Guerrehet as translated by Roberta L. Kreuger in Norris J. Lacy’s Lancelot-Grail, volume III, are:
The next after him was called Gaheriet. He was the most charming of all the brothers; he was valiant in chivalry, brave, swift, handsome, and noble. His right arm was longer than his left. He performed numerous acts of prowess without speaking of any, unless he was forced to. He was the most restrained of all his brothers but, when overcome by anger, he was the most unruly. He was the least well spoken of all his peers.
The next after him was Guerrehet. He was a fine knight, valiant and diligent, who never ceased seeking adventures during his whole life. He was strong and had a marvellously handsome face; he always comported himself more elegantly than any of his brothers. He had such great endurance that he could suffer great pain; even so, he did not have Gawain’s prowess. He was a lover of ladies, and they loved him greatly; he was very generous, and he did many good deeds as long as he lived. He was the brother whom Sir Gawain loved the most, and he loved Sir Gawain more than all the others.
But, according to The Death of Arthur, it was Gaheriet whom Gawain most loved, and who was most generally loved. Assuming that the names have here been reversed does not solve the problem, as in the later Prose Tristan and in the Post-Vulgate Arthurian Cycle it is stated of Gaheriet that his reputation was less than it should have been, because Gaheriet never spoke of this deeds unless forced to, while Gawain was always speaking of his deeds. And Gaheriet being more unruly than the others appears in his slaying of his own mother when he finds her in bed with Lamorat.
This is the only place in Arthurian romance where it is mentioned that one of the brothers had a right arm longer than his left.
The Prose Lancelot tells that on Saint John’s Day, those of the kingdom of Orcanie, where King Loth had formerly ruled, attempted to have the kingdom given to Gaheriet, whom they thought better fitted to be their king than any of his brothers. But Gaheriet refuses to have any land or be crowned until after the end of the quest of the Holy Grail, for he would rather remain a knight, rather than become a lord, at least until then.
Gaheriet in the Vulgate MerlinEdit
In the Vulgate Merlin, Gaheriet is described as younger than Guerrehet and the best of the brothers. Gawain and all his brothers except for the infant Mordred are knighted at one time, with many others of their companions.
When Gawain asks this brothers what they would do if they had a fair damsel completely in their power, Agravain declares he would lie with her whether she wished it or not, Guerrehet says he would only lie with her if she wished it, and Gaheriet says he would not lie with the damsel. Gaheriet then teases Agravain and this enrages Agravain until he attempts to kill Gaheriet.
Gaheriet in the Prose TristanEdit
According to the Prose Tristan, Gaheriet is a far better knight than Gawain. Gaheriet first appears as a younger companion of the Morholt when he comes to Cornwall, and is later a companion of Tristan, Palamedes, and Dinadan at the tournament of Lonazep.
Gaheriet in the Post-Vulgate Arthurian CycleEdit
Gaheriet is KnightedEdit
In the Post-Vulgate Arthurian Cycle, when King Loth’s wife comes to Arthur’s court, and Mordred is begotten, we are told clearly that the order of birth of the Queen of Orcanie’s elder sons is Gawain, Gaheriet, Agravain, Guerrehet. And Gaheriet appears as Gawain’s squire on Gawain’s first quest. There Gaheriet expresses the desire to aid Gawain in avenging their father’s death on King Pellinor, which is not in agreement with Gaheriet’s avoidance of an attempt at vemgeance in the Prose Tristan and in the later Post-Vulgate Arthurian Cycle.
Later Merlin, from his tomb, tells Bademagu that Gawain and the Morholt will only by released from a magic imprisonment on the Rock of the Maidens when Gaheriet is made knight. Gaheriet will free them. When the news becomes known, Agravain believes that he is more likely to free his brother Gawain because he believes that he is lighter, stronger, and more agile than Gaheriet, and he is later indicated, three times, to be older than Gaheriet. King Arthur prepares to knight the three brothers Agravain, Gaheriet, and Guerrehet at Christmas, along with twenty other younger men. As the king prepares to knight Agravain first, a madman who has not spoken in fifteen years suddenly starts speaking and declares, on the authority of Merlin, that Gaheriet should be knighted first and that Gaheriet, with his own hand, should knight his brothers and the others. So Gaheriet is knighted first. Then Guerrehet asks Gaheriet to knight him, and so Gaheriet does. Gaheriet also knights all the others save for Agravain who insists that he will not be knighted by a younger brother but only by the king. So the king knights Agrvain.
At the following banquet, a damsel appears, and bestows on Gaheriet a chaplet of fresh roses from the Queen of the Fairy Isle. The former madman then declares that Gaheriet would surpass in goodness and valor all the Knights of the Round Table save for two (presumably Galahad and Lancelot) were it not for the death of his mother which Gaheriet will cause through his sin.
Gaheriet sets out in quest of Gawain and the Morholt, is attacked by the envious Agravain and defeats him, and eventally rescues both Gawain and the Morholt. He accompanies the Morholt to Ireland.
Gaheriet Beheads his MotherEdit
Years later, Gaheriet arrives at the castle of Rethename in Orcanie in the early hours of the morning, and finds Lamorat in bed with his mother. In rash anger Gaheriet at once beheads his mother. But Gaheriet cannot bring himself to slay Lamorat, because Lamorat is an unarmed knight. Gaheriet allows Lamorat to go free. Arthur would have removed Gaheriet from the Round Table for this deed, but cannot, for Gaheriet’s name still appears on Gaheriet’s seat at the Round Table. Gawain, Agravain, and Mordred set out in search of Gaheriet to slay him. Gaheriet is warned by his brother Guerrehet, but eventually his three other brothers find Gaheriet with Hector. They attack Gaheriet and Hector, and Gawain would perhaps have defeated Hector and Agravain and Morded would have beheaded Gaheriet who would not resist against his brothers, save that Lamorat came by and joined in on behalf of Gaheriet and Hector. Lamorat declared that any vengeance on Gaheriet ought to be left to God and that the killing of such a knight as Gaheriet would be more lamentable than the death of any lady.
Gawain is convinced and orders Agravain and Mordred to let Gaheriet alone; and they obey, though unwillingly. But on learning that the knight who had persuaded him to spare Gaheriet was Lamorat, the son of King Pellinor who had slain his father, Gawain refuses to accompany him or have anything more to do with him.
Gaheriet Battles LancelotEdit
Gaheriet later has many other adventures in which he becomes fiends with Perceval, Lamorat’s brother and battles Lancelot when Lancelot is hiding under the alias of the Ill-made Knight on the Joyous Isle. Lancelot defeats Gaheriet without great difficulty, but then feigns to break off combat as though they were equals. Gaheriet recognizes the courtesy of the knight but does not recognize that his opponent is Lancelot.
Gaheriet as Gareth in Le Morte d'ArthurEdit
Malory’s story of Gareth appears to be a reproduction of an earlier Arthurian tales, which provides yet another account of how Gaheriet came to court and was knighted. See Gareth for more information. Here Gaheriet/Gareth is given, by Kay, the nickname Beaumains (‘Fair-hands’), and fights under that name, keeping his true identity secret. There is probably some relation to Beacurs, Gawain’s brother in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, as Beacurs appears to derive from French Beau-corps (‘Fair-body).
Death of GaherietEdit
Gaheriet, along with Gawain (and Guerrehet in the English Stanzaic Morte Arthur) refuses to have anything to do with Agravain’s plan to reveal to King Arthur that Lancelot and Arthur’s Queen are lovers. Gaheriet invites Lancelot and his kindred to his lodgings, but tells him nothing of the plan.
Guerrehet and his brother Gaheriet only join the guard at the looked-for burning of Guenevere when Arthur insists on it (pushed by Agravain in the Mort le Roi Artu). In Malory’s account, both go unarmed.
According to the Mort le Roi Artu, Gaheriet slays one of Lancelot’s men, Meliaduc the Black and then another of Lancelot's men. Hector attacks Gaheriet, seemingly without recognizing him, and knocks the helmet from Gaheriet’s head. Lancelot riding by, does not recognize Gaheriet, and splits Gaheriet’s head to the teeth.
In La Tavola Ritonda no nention is made of Gaheriet's death, although Agravain and Guerrehet are slain by Lancelot when Lancelot abducts Guenevere.
The Stanzaic Morte Arthur merely mentions the death of the two brothers without giving details.
Malory has Lancelot kill both brothers unaware in the press of the fighting.
When King Arthur finds Gaheriet dead, his grief knows no bounds. As described in E. Jane Burns’ translation in Norris J. Lacy’s Lancelot-Grail:
... he ran to the body as fast as he could and embraced it with all his strength. He fainted and all his men were afraid he would die before their eyes. His faint lasted longer than it takes a man to go half a league.
When he regained consciousness, he said, loudly enough for all to hear, “Oh, God! Now I have lived to long! Oh, death, if you do not come now, I think you are far too slow! Oh, Gaheriet, if I must die of grief, it will be for you. Dear nephew, cursed be the day that the sword was forged that struck you, and cursed be the man who struck the blow, for he destroyed me and my lineage.”
Gawain is similarly devastated, and ends his lament with: “... I no longer have any desire to live, except just long enough to avenge myself on the traitor who did this to you.”
Gaheriet’s body is buried in a very rich tomb in the church of St. Stephen in Camelot, between the tombs of his brothers, Agravain and Guerrehet. Later Gawain’s body will be buried in that same tomb beside the body of his brother.
Some Name VariationsEdit
FRENCH: Gaheriet, -riés, -riez, Gahariet, -riés, -riez, Gaherys, Gaherietz, Gaheryés, Gariet, -riés, Garriés, Ghahariet, -riés, Ghaheriés, Gaciés, Gaeriés, Agavez; ENGLISH: Gaheriet, Gaheriez, Gaheryet, Gahereit, Gaher(i)et, Gaheries, Gaheryes, Gaheryet, Gaherieȝ, Gaherieȝ, Gaheryeȝ, Gaheryez, Gaheriert, Gaheres, Gaheris, Gaherss, Garrett, Gahenet, Gahanet; MALORY: See Gareth, Gaheris (Malory); GERMAN: Karyet, Beacurs; SPANISH: Gariete; PORTUGUESE: Gariet(e), Guaeriet, Gaariet, Gaeriet, Gaarihec, Gaariehec; ITALIAN: Gariet, Gariette; WELSH: =? Gwalhafed (Gwalhavet), Gaharyet [in Y Seint Greal].