The elderly Earl of Southampton and his young wife have a son, Bevis. When he is seven, Bevis’ mother has the Earl murdered by her lover, the Emperor of Almayn. Bevis’ uncle Saber protects him, but after he beats his stepfather his mother sells him to Saracen merchants. The child is taken to King Ermin of Armenia, who encourages him to renounce Christianity. He refuses, but trains as a knight until, at the age of fifteen, his companions insult his faith and he kills them all. Ermin’s daughter Josian calms her father’s rage and heals Bevis’ wounds. Her love for him grows as he slays a monstrous boar and fights off an ambush by Ermin’s jealous steward.
King Brademond demands to marry Josian, threatening war if he is refused. Ermin knights Bevis and Josian gives him a war-horse called Arundel. He defeats Brademond, but releases him after he agrees to pay tribute. During the celebrations, Josian declares her love for Bevis, but is rejected until she promises to become Christian. A treacherous chamberlain tells Ermin, and the King sends Bevis to Brademond with a letter demanding his own death. He is thrown into a dungeon and Ermin marries his daughter to King Yvor of Mombraunt. Josian, however, uses a magic ring to protect her chastity.
After seven years, Bevis escapes from prison. He travels to Mombraunt and, disguised as a pilgrim, rescues Arundel and Josian, who assures him that she is still a virgin. As they escape, he makes Ascopart, King Yvor’s giant, his page. They sail to Cologne, where Josian is baptised and Ascopart rejects Christianity. Bevis then saves the city from a poisonous dragon before travelling to England, where he insults his stepfather and is reunited with Saber.
While he is away, Josian is forced to marry another Earl, but murders him on their wedding night. Bevis arrives just in time to save her from being burnt, and they return to England, where Saber and the Emperor of Almayn are preparing for battle. Bevis leads his troops to victory, and Ascopart captures the Emperor, who is killed in a cauldron of pitch. Bevis’ mother dies and he is recognised as Lord of Hampshire. He marries Josian and travels to London, where King Edgar makes him his marshal. When the king’s son is killed trying to steal Arundel, however, Bevis and his pregnant wife leave England, taking Saber's son Terri as their page.
The rejected Ascopart betrays Bevis by offering to return Josian to Yvor. He kidnaps her just after she has given birth to twin sons, Miles and Guy, but she keeps herself pure by pretending to be leprous. Bevis and Terri leave the children with foster parents and ride on to Aumbeforce, where Bevis wins a tournament and the heart of the princess, though she agrees to marry Terri if Josian returns. Meanwhile Saber dreams of Bevis’ troubles and sets out to find him. He slays Ascopart and rescues Josian, who supports their search by working as a minstrel. After seven years, they reach Aumbeforce, where the couple and their children are reunited, and Terri marries the princess. They all travel to Armenia and find Yvor besieging King Ermin. Bevis captures Yvor, but releases him when he agrees to pay ransom. Ermin dies, leaving Guy his heir, and he and Bevis convert their subjects to Christianity. Yvor returns and steals Arundel, vowing revenge against Bevis, but Saber retrieves the horse and rides to Armenia, followed by Yvor’s troops. Yvor challenges Bevis to single combat and fights bravely, but Bevis is victorious. The rest of the Saracens are defeated, and Bevis is crowned king of Mombraunt.
Saber hears that King Edgar has seized his lands, and they all sail to England. Bevis appeals to the king, but his steward accuses the knight of treachery and raises the citizens of London against him. Battle rages in the city’s streets until the steward is dead and the Thames runs red. Edgar offers his daughter and kingdom to Miles, then Bevis gives Hampshire to Saber and returns to Mombrant with Josian and Arundel, leaving Gui in Armenia and Terri in Aumberforce. After twenty years Josian dies, swiftly followed by Arundel and Bevis. They are buried in a lavish tomb, and their sons found an abbey to pray for their souls.
From: Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake, and Eve Salisbury eds., Four Romances of England. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1999
Manuscript: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates 19.2.1 (Auchinleck)
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