Sir Breunor le Noir (/ˈbruːnor lə nojr/ or /ˈbʁœ̃nɔʁ lə nwaʁ/) (also spelled Brunor), nicknamed La Cote Male Tayle (Modern French: La Cote Mal Taillée = "the badly-cut coat") by Sir Kay after his arrival in his murdered father's mangled armor and surcoat at King Arthur's court, is a character mentioned in Arthurian legend. He receives his knighthood after saving Guinevere from an escaped lion. His story is told, partially in the Tristram sections of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and in the Prose Tristan, though it is in effect an independent romance.
After Sir Breunor is granted knighthood, a damosel arrives at court bearing a black shield emblazoned with a white hand with a sword, along with a mission. She tells her audience the previous knight who carried the shield died while on the quest, and that she is searching for a knight of similar courage to continue the mission. La Cote Male Tayle decides he would be fit enough to take up the quest and volunteers to go with the damosel. She, disliking that this is to be her chosen knight, continuously taunts him regarding his clothing and appearance, earning her the nickname Maledisant ("Ill Speaker").
After the pair leaves the castle, Breunor le Noir encounters Dagonet, the court jester, who has been sent by Arthur to joust with the new knight. Sir Breunor quickly defeats Dagonet, but Maledisant's taunts increase because the court had sent a fool to challenge Breunor rather than a true knight. Breunor later encounters two other knights, Sir Bleoberis and Sir Palomides. He is challenged by both, and unhorsed by both. They each refuse to fight him on foot and walk away, drawing more criticism from Maledisant. Breunor later travels with Mordred to Castle Orgulous. The knights must fight their way into the castle; after Mordred is injured by one of two knights guarding the castle gates, Breunor le Noir kills them and continues into the castle on his opponent's horse. There, he meets a hundred knights in a lady's chamber. When he gets off his horse to challenge them, the chamber's owner ties his horse to a postern so he cannot escape. Breunor somehow wins his way through the knights with the aid of the black shield, mounts his horse, and escapes from the castle.
After retelling his tale of escape to Mordred and the Maledisant, she challenges his story and sends a witness to ask what happened in the castle. This proves Maledisant wrong, though Breunor continues to hold his peace and not rebuke her about her disbelief of him. They continue to travel for seven more days until Mordred leaves and Lancelot du Lake joins the pair. Lancelot, however, ends up leaving them for his own quest after Maledisant redirects her words at him. They travel for a few more days and come upon the Castle of Pendragon, where one of six knights challenges La Cote Male Tayle to a joust. Breunor successfully wins the joust, but the other five knights attack him in an un-knightly manner, and take him and the damsel into the castle as prisoners. Lancelot ends up rescuing Breunor from the castellan and guards of Castle Pendragon. After their release, Lancelot agrees to ride with them on one condition only: that the damsel stop directing ill words at Breunor and himself. Maledisant then confesses that the only reason for her taunting was that she was testing the knights' strength (if they could take a little teasing from her, then they were apt to continue on the mission).
Travelling for a few more days, they come upon a fortress with a village, near the border of the country of Sursule, which is guarded by knights. La Cote Male Tayle enters the castle alone and defeats two brothers who challenge him. Then he continues on to another fortress, where he comes face to face with Sir Plenorius. Breunor cannot carry on a fight due to the wounds he received in the first joust, so out of pity Sir Plenorius decides not to finish him and instead carries him into the tower as prisoner. When Lancelot hears of this, he challenges Plenorius to a battle that lasts many hours, until Sir Plenorius yields.
Breunor remains at the castle in order to recover from his wounds. He recovers quickly and returns with Lancelot and the damosel to King Arthur's court, the quest accomplished. Lancelot gives Sir Breunor the deed to Castle Pendragon. Breunor is made a Knight of the Round Table the following Pentecost. In Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur, Breunor avenges his father's death and marries Maledisant, who is later renamed Bienpensant ("Well-Thinker") due to her changed attitude.
The tale of La Cote Male Tayle is related thematically to the "Fair Unknown" story popular in the Middle Ages, other versions of which appear in the stories of Gingalain, Gareth, and Percival. The tale of La Cote Male Tayle most closely resembles that of Gareth, who was also given an insulting name by Kay upon arriving at Camelot and also had to prove his worth to a damsel who constantly insulted and belittled him. Sir Breunor's adventures first appear embedded in the Prose Tristan, and were popular enough that they were picked up and expanded by later authors including Malory and the creators of the Italian Tavola Ritonda.
- Wilson, Robert H. The "Fair Unknown" in Malory. Publications of the Modern-Language Association of America. 1943