Torrent of Portyngale

General Information

(N)IMEV: 983
Form: 12-line tail-rhyme stanzas, rhyming aabccbddbeeb
Date of Composition: c. 1400
Place of Composition: North Midlands
Keywords: Crusade, Exile, Forest, Foundlings, Marriage, Monster, Multiple Births, Quest, Religious Figures, Secular Spaces, Sexual Encounters, Tokens of Recognition, Tournament, Travel

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

Torrent, the son of an earl, falls in love with Desonell, the daughter of King Colomond of Portugal. Colomond asks Torrent to prove his love by battling a giant who is destroying his lands. The young man seeks out the giant and kills him, freeing the prince of Provence from his castle. He returns to Portugal and Desonell gives him a white horse. The king does not approve of the match and plots to kill Torrent, instructing him to fetch Desonell a falcon from the forest of Magdalen. While he is in the forest, Torrent fights a dragon and is ambushed by another giant. With Christ’s help, he defeats his opponents and again returns to the court. Desonell falls in love with him, but the King would prefer her to marry the prince of Aragon, who has proposed. He sends Torrent to battle a third giant in Italy, promising him Desonell’s hand if he wins, but hoping that he will lose. Torrent defeats the giant and then visits Provence, where he hears that Desonell is betrothed. Enraged, he asks the King to knight him and travels to Portugal, where he defeats both the prince of Aragon and the King of Aragon’s champion, a fourth giant called Cate. The court agrees that Desonell is rightfully his and although Colomond asks him to wait six months and a day before they are married, he spends the night in her chamber.

The King of Norway requests Torrent’s help with yet another giant, and he sets off again, leaving Desonell with two gold rings. Deserted by his men, he defeats the giant alone and rescues the Norwegian princess, whom he declines to marry. Meanwhile, Desonell gives birth to twin sons and the three are cast out to sea by her furious father, each of the boys carrying a ring. When their boat finally reaches land, the children are snatched from their mother by a leopard and a griffin. The first is rescued and adopted by the King of Jerusalem, the second is found by a hermit called Anthony, who takes him to the King of Greece. Desonell settles in the court of Nazereth.

When Torrent returns to Portugal after a year, he overpowers the treacherous Colomond and puts him to sea in a leaky boat. Distraught about the loss of Desonell, Torrent joins the crusades and makes his way to Jerusalem where he inadvertently fights and is imprisoned by his own son. When he recounts his fantastic adventures, however, the son releases him and they arrange a tournament, which Torrent wins. The news reaches Desonell, who realises that the victor is her husband. The King of Nazareth holds another tournament in her honour, and Torrent and both her sons attend. After Desonelle tells her story, the family realise their identities and are reunited. They return to Portugal, where Torrent and Desonelle are finally married. His sons are made heirs of Jerusalem and Greece, and he is crowned Holy Roman Emperor.

From: E. Adam, Ed.,Torrent of Portyngale, re-edited from the unique MS in the Chetham Library, Manchester. London: Trubner &Co. 1887.
Manuscript: Manchester, Chetham's Library, MS 8009


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Manchester, Chetham's Library, MS 8009 (folio: 76r-119v)Late 15th century, East Midlands. Unique MS copy. 2668 lines.

Early Editions

1505? S.l. : Richard Pynson. STC (2nd ed.) 24133. Fragment. 2 leaves. Oxford, Bodleian Library.
1510? S.l. : Wynkyn de Worde. STC (2nd ed.) 24133.5. Fragment. 2 leaves. Oxford, Bodleian Library.

Modern Editions

E. Adam, ed., Torrent of Portyngale. Reedited from the Unique MS in the Chetham Library, Manchester, EETS e.s. 51 (London, 1887; rpt. 1973)Uses Chetham 8009 as base text.
James Orchard Halliwell, ed., Torrent of Portugal: An English Metrical Romance (London: Russell Smith, 1842)Edited from Chetham 8009, with printed fragment as appendix.


Middle English Eglamour of Artois ?