Hatheolf, king of Northern England, has one son, Horn, whom he raises with eight companions: Hatherof, Tebaude, Athelston, Winwold, Gariis, Wiard, Wikard and Wikel. When the Danes land near Teesside, Hatheolf’s army defeats them, but the fathers of Horn’s companions are slain. Hatheolf returns to York, grants the children land and has them swear allegiance to Horn.
Nine months later, three Irish kings attack Westmorland. Hatheolf retaliates and slays two of them, but is killed by the third, Malkan. Hearing of his death, the Earl of Northumberland seizes his lands and Arlaund, Horn’s guardian, flees south with the children. King Houlac accepts them into his court, where Horn grows into a noble youth and Houlac’s daughter Rimnild falls in love with him. Although he has some reservations, Arlaund brings Horn to Rimnild’s chamber where she gives him rich gifts and pledges herself to him.
A fortnight later, Houlac knights Horn and holds a tournament. Horn wins but, remembering Rimnild’s promise, refuses to choose a maiden as his prize. Houlac’s affection for Horn, Hatheolf and Wiard arouses Wikard and Wikel’s jealousy. They tell the king that Horn has slept with Rimnild, causing him to beat his daughter and banish Horn. The distraught Rimnild promises to wait seven years, and gives Horn a magic ring. Horn adopts the name Godebounde and travels alone to Wales where, after proving his military skill, he joins the court of King Elidan in Snowdon.
Elidan’s son, the Irish King Finlak, requests his father’s help against Malkan. However, the Welsh troops are delayed by storms and only Horn, who travelled with Finlak’s messengers, arrives in Ireland. He helps Finlak raise an army and in the battle that ensues [slays Malkan and avenges his father]. Finlak gives Horn Malkan’s lands and his daughter offers him her love. He gives an ambiguous answer and, reminded by Rimnild’s ring that seven years have passed, departs for England. On landing he meets Wiard, who has been constantly searching for him and now looks like a beggar. When Horn learns that Rimnild is about to marry King Mogin, he reveals his identity and the two men exchange clothes. While Wiard gathers his supporters, Horn proceeds to the court. Thinking he is a beggar, Wikard strikes him but King Mogin gives him permission to attend the feast.
As Rimnild serves Horn, he casts her ring into the cup. She swoons and is taken to her chamber where she instructs the loyal Hatherof to help her organise their elopement. Horn rejoices at this proof of her love, but insists on attending the wedding tournament. He avenges himself on Wikard and Wikel and defeats Mogin, winning the prize. He then presents himself to Houlac and makes Wikel confess his treachery. Mogin departs and Horn and Rimnild are married the same day with Houlac’s blessing. After five days of feasting, Horn gathers his followers and travels to Northumberland to regain his father’s lands. [The poem is incomplete].
From: M. Mills, ed. Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, Middle English Texts 20. Heidelberg: Winter, 1988.
Manuscript. Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates 19.2.1 (Auchinleck)
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