Horn Childe

Horn Childe
(ca. 1300)
   The Northern MIDDLE ENGLISH verse ROMANCE Horn Childe is a poem of 1,136 lines written in TAIL-RHYME stanzas sometime between about 1290 and 1340. The story of Horn Childe is essentially the same as that of the better-known romance King Horn, though most readers consider King Horn the more successful work.Horn Childe, however, is notable because it is a poem that was probably known, and parodied, by Geoffrey CHAUCER. The protagonist of the poem is a prince named Horn, son of King Hatheolf, who rules northern England. Hatheolf is killed by invading Irish marauders led by Malkan, but Horn is able to escape through the help of his faithful mentor Arlaund. Arlaund manages to bring Horn to southern England and places him in the care of the king, Houlac. But when Houlac’s daughter, Rimnild, falls in love with him, Horn is denounced before the king by his envious companions,Wikard and Wikel. The king, angered at the seduction of his daughter, beats the princess, but Rimnild convinces Horn to flee for his life to Wales, giving him a magic ring as a token of her love and vowing to wait seven years for his return. In Wales, Horn adopts the name “Godebounde,” and enters the service of the Welsh king, Snowdon. From Wales he crosses the sea to Ireland and serves Finlak of Youghal, the Irish king. In the service of Finlak,Horn does battle with his father’s murderer, Malkan, who is also Finlak’s enemy. Horn is able to kill Malkan and thereby avenge his father’s death. But he leaves Ireland after Finlak’s daughter falls in love with him. Horn returns to Houlac’s kingdom, where Rimnild is about to be given in marriage to Moging.Horn,wearing a beggar’s disguise, attends the wedding banquet. He makes himself known to Rimnild by placing her ring in a cup she serves him. The poem ends as Horn defeats the groom Moging in a wedding tournament. He then kills the traitor Wikard and blinds Wikel. He finally marries Rimnild and returns to the north to claim his own kingdom. In his TALE OF SIR THOPAS, Chaucer composes a rollicking parody of tail-rhyme romances, and specifically compares Sir Thopas to great heroes like King Horn. It seems likely that Chaucer was thinking of Horn Childe, a romance that uses the tail-rhyme stanza itself, when he made the allusion. The famous Auchinleck manuscript, which contains Horn Childe, was produced in London in the 1330s and has been thought by some scholars to have been known by Chaucer himself.
   ■ Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild. Edited from the Auchinleck MS,National Library of Scotland,Advocates’ MS 19.2.1 by Maldwyn Mills. Heidelberg, Germany: C.Winter Universitätsverlag, 1988.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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