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In Arthurian legend, Gringolet is Sir Gawain's horse. A sturdy charger, with distinctive ears, Gringolet was known far and wide for his ability in combat, and appears in very many romances in several different languages.

Derivation of name[edit]

Israel Gollancz in the early 20th century suggested that Gringolet was derived from the giant Wade's magic boat, Wingalet - one form of magical transport (horse )being substituted for an earlier one (boat).[1] More generally accepted is the suggestion by the prominent Arthurian scholar Roger Sherman Loomis that the French name Gringolet derived from either the Welsh guin-calet ("white and hardy"), or keincaled ("handsome and hardy")[2] - linked to a wider Celtic tradition of heroic white horses with red ears.[3]


His earliest appearance is in Chrétien de Troyes' Erec and Enide; in that poem he is borrowed by Sir Kay to joust against Erec. Even Gringolet cannot prevent Kay from losing to the protagonist. In the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, Gawain wins Gringolet from a Saxon warrior[citation needed]; a different story of the acquisition is given in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, where the horse bears the mark of, and comes from the stable of, the Grail castle - part of the gradual displacement of Gawain by Percival and the story of the grail.[4]

In the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain sets out atop Gringolet in search of the Green Chapel.[5] Lines 600-604 of the poem describe Gringolet's ornate appearance in being readied for the journey:

The bridle was embossed and bound with bright gold;
So were the furnishings of the fore-harness and the fine skirts.
The crupper and the caparison accorded with the saddle-bows,
And all was arrayed on red with nails of richest gold,
Which glittered and glanced like gleams of the sun.

Gawain's attachment[edit]

Gawain is always shown as attached to Gringolet, caring for his horse, and talking to it as to a beloved pet or companion.[6] When (in one tale) Gringolet is killed beneath him in combat, Gawain is seized with battle fury, and runs mad, his strength amplified, until nightfall.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ I. Gollancz, 'Gringolet, Gawain's Horse', in Saga Book of the Viking Society for Northern Research (1980) p. 106-7
  2. ^ Roger Sherman Loomis, Arthurian tradition & Chrétien de Troyes (1949), p.158, 159 ( Loomis defers to the suggestion by Tolkien *Gwyngalet 'white-hard'", and cites Heinrich Zimmer for the other etymology.
  3. ^ H. M. Mustard trans, Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival (New York 1961)p. 183n
  4. ^ H. M. Mustard trans, Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival (New York 1961)p. 287 and p. xli
  5. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien trans, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (London 1995) p. 34-6
  6. ^ E. Kooper ed., Arthurian Literature (1999) p. 125
  7. ^ J. Matthews, Sir Gawain (2003) p. 117