Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Squire's Tales

Go To

A series of young adult novels by Gerald Morris, taking place during the rule of King Arthur. Some characters, such as Sir Gawain and his squire Terence (a creation of Morris', whose name is a nod to T. H. White, author of The Once and Future King) and of course Arthur, appear in all the books. Mostly, Morris deals with the legends' bloated cast by having a rotating cast of characters, and each book deals with a different story out of Arthurian Legend (sometimes combining several stories into one narrative, such as The Ballad of Sir Dinadan, where the title character deals with the events of both "Culwch and Olwen" and "Tristan and Iseult"). Each book has a different main character, except for the first two and the ninth (all the ones with "Squire" in the title), where it's Terence.

The series is notable for its humor, as well as the fact that Morris' extensive knowledge of Arthurian legend means that some of the stories he retells are ones that not everyone would know (with plenty of Genius Bonuses for those who are familiar with the source texts). Also, the point of view characters tend to be not the knights themselves, but squires, pages, or women, resulting in a unique perspective on the knights' activities and the opportunity for many a Lampshade Hanging.

There are ten books in the series:

  • The Squire's Tale (1998)
  • The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady (1999) – retells the story of Gawain and the Green Knight
  • The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (2000)
  • Parsifal's Page (2001)
  • The Ballad of Sir Dinadan (2003)
  • The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung Cart Knight (2004)
  • The Lioness and Her Knight (2005)
  • The Quest of the Fair Unknown (2006) – the search for the Holy Grail
  • The Squire's Quest (2009)
  • The Legend of the King (2010)

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Protagonist: The main premise of the novels is retelling the Arthurian Legend from the perspective of characters other than the knights. For example, the story of Sir Gareth focuses on Lynet, with the dwarf, named Roger (or actually Gaheris) as Deuteragonist. Likewise, the story of Ywain is told from the perspective of Luneta.
  • The Atoner: Lancelot, after the second book. In Parsifal's Page, Piers is a milder version after his advice prevents Parsifal from healing the Grail King.
  • Action Girl: Several, most notably Eileen, Lynette, and Sara
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Any character involved in "Courtly Love" tends to get this especially Tristan and Gareth. Lancelot starts off as this before he gets better.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: In a Genius Bonus for anyone who’s read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight’s dialogue echos the alliterative verse of the original poem.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Lampshaded in Parsifal's Page, where the titular character gets crowned mid-beginning of the story, which leads to the main character, Piers, commenting on how that sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen until AFTER the story ends.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Many.
    • Subverted with Dinadan and Brangienne, who have the belligerence and the emotional connection, but apparently not the sexual attraction part of the trope. They end up concluding that while they could never marry anyone else, they'd just as soon not marry each other either.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Squire's Quest ends with Morgause's plot being thwarted, but this book has a much higher body count than the previous volumes (of characters we wouldn't have expected to die), and Tieresias has foretold the fall of the kingdom at Mordred and Morgause's hands. To anyone who knows the legend, this if of course a Foregone Conclusion, but it's incredibly heartbreaking.
  • Character Development: For lots of the less well-known characters such as Gaheris, Dinadan, and Luneta. Also what rescues Lancelot and Guinevere from the Scrappy Heap, starting after The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady.
  • Chaste Hero: Beaufils come by it naturally; Galahad tortures himself in his effort to remain so.
  • Chivalric Romance: Deconstructed hilariously through the character of Piers in Parsifal's Page.
  • Composite Character: Beaufils/Gingalain takes over Percival's usual role in the Grail Quest, as the book's Parsifal had already done a variation in Parsifal's Page.
  • Courtly Love: Deconstruced in The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady.
  • Covers Always Lie: The first book of The Squire's Tales (hardback original editions) featured a knight, fully-armored, riding a horse backwards and carrying a lance with a banana impaled on it. Needless to say, this was not in the book. When the author complained about the artwork, the second book cover was based on a particular scene in the book, but it was terrible.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many. Gaheris and Rhience in particular, but Gawain and even Arthur have their moments. Overlaps with Gentleman Snarker in several cases.
    • In The Squire's Quest, Dinadan plays this to the hilt. Pretty much the only moments he isn't in Sarcasm Mode are the Tear Jerker ones.
  • Death by Adaptation: Bedivere who usually survives the final battle. Here he's killed off long before by Mordred.
  • Decompostite Character: Sir Ywain is split into two characters, the original who was one of Arthur's first knights and his son with the same name who's takes the role of the Knight of the Lion.
  • Demoted to Extra: Merlin, who briefly appears in the first book, but leaves Camelot off page prior to the climax and is barely mentioned.
    • Spared by the Adaptation: Towards the end of The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady it's revealed in passing that he returned to the Fairy Realm and is living in peace, rather than spending an eternity imprisoned by magic as in many versions of Arthurian Legend.
  • Distressed Damsel: Usually by dint of being Too Dumb to Live; all of the main female characters avert this, except Guinevere. Occasionally a Decoy Damsel, such as the case of Lyonesse.
  • Epic Fail: The cover synopsis (not by Morris) for Legend of the King pulled one of these in the grammar department. The villains were suddenly made out to be the heroes thanks to the epic grammar failure of Houghton Mifflin:
    "Only by maintaining their faith, selflessness, and honor, can Morgause and Mordred banish and defeat dark magic from England forever."
  • Everybody Knew Already: Tristram and Isolde's affair.
  • The Fair Folk: Active in all the books, in both helpful (Ganscotter, Robin), antagonistic (Morgause), and neutral (Morgan) flavors. Terence, Gawain, Arthur, and various others all have Faery blood.
  • Historical In-Joke: The appearance of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Terence is also a nod to T. H. White - that's what the T stands for.
  • Honor Before Reason: Deconstructed frequently. Gareth is a prime example of this, and it's made clear exactly how much of an idiot this makes him.
  • Hope Spot: About halfway through Legend of the King, Arthur and Lancelot forgive each other, Morgause is killed, her plots exposed and her spells broken. There's also one when Lancelot arrives at the last battle with reinforcements. Neither changes the ending.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: After Sir Gawain accidentally kills a man's wife, the man falls to his knees and begs Gawain to kill him. Gawain doesn't, instead forcing him to go to Arthur's court.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Happens twice to poor Guinevere, once at the hands of Meliagant and again later with Mordred.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness / Purity Personified: Beaufils. Amazingly, this is not annoying. Galahad wants to be this, but tries too hard and verges into Knight Templar territory in his effort to remove all sources of temptation.
  • Joy Of X - An X's Tale: There is even a "squire's tale" in the Chaucer originally too.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Morris writes Lancelot as a deconstruction of this trope.
  • Little Miss Badass: Sarah in The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung Cart Knight. Her family gets murdered and what does she do? Try and steal Kai's sword so she can go after the people who did it.
  • Love Makes You Stupid: Comes up a lot.
  • Love Potion: Never a good thing. Drinking one of these accidentally is what causes the love affair between Tristram and Isolde, and results in a lot of deaths. A similar potion (with similar tragic results) is used in The Squire's Quest.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Beaufils and Gawain, Mordred and Arthur.
  • Merlin Sickness: Not Merlin, but the hermit Trevisant, who raised Terence. Kind of heartbreaking when Terence comes back in a later book and Trevisant doesn't know who he is.
  • Mythology Gag: In the final book, Gaheris says "If it's to be done, then let it be done, and 'twere well it were done quickly." Lynet asks him what that means, and he replies "I don't know. It just sounded dour and cryptic. It's not my fault; I'm Scottish." He is paraphrasing a line from Macbeth.
  • Narnia Time: Faery is like this.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Used a lot. For instance, in The Squire's Quest, "Kai... uttered a series of short, very blunt words. Terence sympathized with him. He didn't use those particular words himself, but had to admit that sometimes they felt right."
    • And another rather amusing example in the same book, when Acoriondes is translating Alexander's conversation with his uncle. The running commentary goes something like "Alexander is saying many very vulgar words... even more... I don't think that one is even possible..." This is used very frequently in this book, given that various characters speak Greek, Latin, English, and French.
    • From The Lioness and Her Knight:
      "I'm shocked, utterly shocked," Rhience said. "Aghast, no less. I would never have imagined that a gently born young lady like you would have even known such words, let alone utter them! And all strung together like that, too!"
  • Neutral Female: Lampshaded and mocked, along with the Distressed Damsel.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Averted by Gawain and some of the other knights, but holds true for others, especially Gareth and Tristram (not because they're mean, but because they are absolute morons).
  • No Sense of Direction: Sir Gareth. One of his brothers comments that he "needs a trail of breadcrumbs to find his own chamber pot".
  • Open Secret: In The Ballad of Sir Dinadan. Tristram and Isolde have the world's least secret love affair—literally everyone but Isolde's husband knows, and he at least suspects. This is mostly because Tristram has been riding about the country telling everyone in great detail about the vow of silence he has taken and how he can never even say his true love Isolde's name.
    • The trope also applies to Lancelot and Guinevere's affair in the The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady, though in this case it's treated more seriously due to the effect it has on Arthur and the court.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Sir Dinadan is the younger brother of Sir Tristram here.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Lancelot and Guinevere in universe; Morris also does this for Kai.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Arthur, as well as various others throughout the series. Parsifal becomes one when he gets married.
  • The Trickster: Robin, the faery that helps out Terence (and others) sometimes.
    • Rhience, in The Lioness and Her Knight. He says himself he makes a much better fool than a knight.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: Lampshaded in The Ballad of Sir Dinadan:
    "Tramtris. That was the best he could come up with. Didn't you realize it was Tristram?"
    • Spoofed further when Dinadan talks to a holy hermit who wants to write an allegorical adventure story, the villain of which is "Stultus", being Latin for fool. Then the two dismiss that as too obvious and call him "Sutluts" instead. So much better. When "Tramtris" comes in and begs Dinadan not to reveal his name, Dinadan says "Don't worry. If anyone asks, I'll say you're Sir Sutluts."
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Literally between Kai and Connoire.
    Arthur: I am not completely certain whether I have just witnessed a proposal or a challenge, but I wish you both very happy.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Terence is an expert at this. It comes from having a lot of faery blood - Robin and occasionally Ariel do it too.
  • Supporting Protagonist
  • That Man Is Dead: Lancelot leaves court and lives as a forester after the events of The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady. He gives up his name and goes by Jean Le Forestier instead.
  • The Not-Love Interest: In The Ballad of Sir Dinadan and The Quest For The Fair Unknown.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Terence crossdresses to help rescue Sir Gawain from a dungeon.
  • World Half Empty: At the end of Legend of the King, but it's not entirely hopeless.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Upheld by most of the heroic characters, but also played with. In one book, Sir Gawain finds out that Gaheris informed a potential (male) opponent that he would "never raise a sword against the skirts of womanhood." The other guy showed up in a skirt, and poor Gaheris let him win. Gawain is very disgusted with him.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Other way around; time passes more slowly in Faery than in the regular world. In The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady Terence and Gawain come back to find that seven years have passed and everyone thinks they're dead.
  • You Can't Miss It: A couple giving directions along the lines of “the swamp where Betty's horse almost drowned,” and “The tree that was cut down after it was struck by lightning” before they start arguing about whether someone's son broke his arm before or after they painted their barn, and the protagonists leave in disgust.
  • You Killed My Father: In The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung Cart Knight, Sarah is seeking revenge for the murder of her mother and guardian. She is directly responsible for the deaths of two of the men responsible, but learns along the way that revenge is unfulfilling and spares the third man's life (though she does make sure to humiliate and discredit him).