The Knight and the Lion

"The Hole in the Hill"

Yvain journeys down the path until he comes upon a hole leading through a hill. On the other side he finds himself in a golden meadow full of bright white flowers, and in the distance sees a silver city. Across this meadow leads a trail of blood, soaking everything crimson.

Yvain follows the trail of blood into the city, where he sees no-one and hears nothing but the sound of a single bell tolling over and over. Ahead of him up the cobbled street is the entrance to a castle. As no-one appears to stop him, Yvain walks in, passing through room after room, all richly decorated.

In the last room of all he sees a man laid upon a bed of purple and gold silk. White lilies are wound about the bed and tall candles stand at the corners of the room. Although he is dead, several wounds upon the man's chest are bleeding so that a stream of blood runs beneath the bed and out of the room. By his side a lady sits, weeping and sewing linen cloths with silver and gold thread. She presses the cloths to the man's wounds, trying to stop the blood, but it is no use. The bleeding goes on day and night.

'Sweet lady,' Yvain cries, 'what has happened here?'

The lady lifts her tearful face to Yvain:

'I am married to an old and jealous man who kept me locked in a tower so no-one else could look at me. The man who lies here was my true love. He learnt of my misery and came to see me every day, flying up to the window of the tower in the shape of a hawk. I did not know he was the prince of this land.

We were so happy - but my husband found out and laid a trap, putting sharp iron spikes in the window of the tower. When my hawk-lover came, he was wounded so that he knew he could not live long and flew away. In my grief, I leapt from the window of the tower and followed the trail of blood to my dear love's home.'

'Where is this jealous husband?' Yvain asked. 'Let me find him and make him pay for his ill-treatment of you and for his crime.'

'No, no,' the lady replied. 'Before he died, my love told me to return to my husband, who will not harm me now. I will soon have a son, and this son will grow up to avenge his true father, the hawk-prince.'

Before long, the lady rose and went out of the castle, mounting a horse that was waiting there. Yvain rode with her to give her company and protection. Behind them they could hear the tolling of the bell, the sound of many feet on the streets of the city and loud cries of mourning for the prince of the land.

Yet they did not look back but went on, until the lady thanked Yvain and told him she must continue alone. Seeing there was little he could do to help, Yvain wished the lady joy of her son and went on his way.

How did a boy get to be a knight?
What was the training for becoming one?