Tristan and Iseult: The Wonderful Bell

Here is the translation of the Roman de Tristan et Iseult of 1900 by Joseph Bédier. Here is the fourteenth part: Le Grelot Merveilleux.

The Wonderful Bell

The Wonderful Bell

Tristan took refuge in Wales, on the land of the noble Duke Gilain. The duke was young, powerful, debonair; he received him as a welcome guest. To do her honor and joy, he spared no pains; but neither adventures nor parties could soothe Tristan's anguish.

One day when he was sitting next to the young duke, his heart was so painful that he sighed without even realizing it. The duke, to ease his pain, ordered his favorite game to be brought to his private room, which, by spell, at sad, charmed his eyes and his heart. On a table covered with a noble and rich purple, they placed his dog Petit-Crû. He was an enchanted dog: he came to the Duc de l'île d'Avallon; a fairy had sent it to him as a present of love.

No one can in words skill enough describe its nature and its beauty. His hair was colored with shades so marvelously arranged that one could not name its color; its neck seemed at first whiter than snow, its croup more green than cloverleaf, one of its sides red like scarlet, the other yellow like saffron, its belly blue like lapis lazuli, its rosy back; but when you looked at it longer, all these colors danced in your eyes and changed, alternately white and green, yellow, blue, purple, dark or fresh.

He wore around his neck, suspended from a golden chain, a bell whose tinkling was so gay, so clear, so sweet, that upon hearing it Tristan's heart softened, appeased, and his grief eased. melted. He remembered no more of so many miseries endured for the queen; for such was the marvelous virtue of the bell: the heart, hearing it ring so sweet, so gay, so clear, forgot all pain.

And while Tristan, moved by the spell, caressed the enchanted little beast which took away all his grief and whose dress, to the touch of his hand, seemed softer than samit cloth, he thought that this would be a beautiful present for Isolde. But what to do ? Duke Gilain loved Petit-Crû above all else, and no one could have obtained it from him, either by trickery or by prayer.

One day, Tristan said to the duke:

“Sire, what would you give to anyone who would deliver your land from the giant Urgan the Hairy, who demands heavy tribute from you?

— In truth, I would give his conqueror to choose, among my riches, that which he would hold to be the most precious; but no one will dare to attack the giant.

"Those are marvelous words," resumed Tristan. But good never comes to a country except through adventures, and for all the gold in Milan I would not give up my desire to fight the giant.

"Then," said Duke Gilain, "may the God born of a Virgin accompany you and defend you from death!" »

Tristan reached Urgan the Hairy in his lair. For a long time they fought furiously. At last prowess triumphed over strength, the nimble sword over the heavy club, and Tristan, having severed the giant's right fist, brought it back to the duke:

“Sire, as a reward, as you promised, give me Petit-Crû, your enchanted dog!

"Friend, what did you ask for?" Leave it to me and take my sister and half my land instead.

“Sire, your sister is beautiful, and beautiful is your land; but it was to win your fairy dog that I attacked Urgan the Hairy. Remember your promise!

“Take it, then; but know that you have taken away the joy from my eyes and the gaiety from my heart! »

Tristan entrusted the dog to a wise and cunning juggler from Wales, who carried him on his behalf. Cornwall. He reached Tintagel and secretly handed it over to Brangien. The queen was greatly rejoiced, gave ten gold marks to the juggler as a reward and told the king that the Queen of Ireland, his mother, was sending this dear present. She had a dog's kennel preciously inlaid with gold and precious stones made by a goldsmith and, wherever she went, she carried it with her, in memory of her friend. And every time she looked at him, sadness, anguish, regret faded from her heart.

At first she did not understand the marvel: if she found such a sweetness in contemplating it, it was, she thought, because it came to her from Tristan; it was, doubtless, the thought of his friend which soothed his grief. But one day she knew that it was a spell, and that only the ringing of the bell charmed her heart.

“Oh! she thought, should I know comfort, while Tristan is unhappy? He could have kept this enchanted dog and thus forgotten all pain; out of great courtesy, he preferred to send it to me, give me his joy and resume his misery. But it should not be so; Tristan, I want to suffer as long as you suffer. »

She took the magic bell, tinkled it one last time, untied it gently; then, through the open window, she threw it into the sea.