Perilous Bed
Home » Content » Article Types » Items » The Perilous/Adventurous Bed in Arthurian Legends

The Perilous/Adventurous Bed in Arthurian Legends

Published on:

The Adventurous/Perilous Bed is a recurring enchanted bed in Arthurian literature that poses great danger to any knight who dares to lie upon it.

Origins and Variations

The Adventurous/Perilous Bed appears in several notable works, including:

  • Chrétien’s Lancelot and Perceval
  • Wolfram’s Parzival
  • Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Crône
  • The Vulgate Lancelot

While the specific location of the bed varies across these stories, the core adventure remains consistent: a knight who lies on the bed is swiftly assaulted by arrows, flaming lances, or other projectiles. Only by adequately covering himself with armor can the knight hope to survive.

advertisement for The Arthur Tales

Additional Perils

In addition to the missile assault, some stories introduce further challenges:

  • In Chrétien’s, Wolfram’s, and Heinrich’s versions, the knight must also face and slay a fierce lion.
  • Wolfram attributes the bed’s enchantment to the sorcerer Clinschor (Klingsor).

Successfully overcoming these perils often lifts the enchantments from the castle housing the bed.

Gawain and Lancelot’s Encounters

Two of King Arthur’s most renowned knights, Gawain and Lancelot, are said to have braved the Adventurous/Perilous Bed:

  • Gawain, while rescuing captives at a castle in the Terre Foraine (Strange Land) of Gore, witnessed the bed scudding around on its own before jumping onto it and enduring a barrage of pebbles and crossbow bolts.
  • Lancelot, during his pursuit of Guinevere and her captor Meliagrant, slept in the bed and was attacked by a fiery lance at midnight. He cut the lance in half with his sword before returning to sleep.

Possible Origins

Scholar R.S. Loomis has suggested that the Perilous Bed may have originally been associated with the Turning Castle motif and could have its roots in Irish legend. Some sources also identify this bed with one that Merlin is said to have made.

While the Adventurous/Perilous Bed remains a mysterious and perilous fixture in Arthurian literature, its enduring presence across multiple works speaks to its significance within the larger mythos.

Arthurian Bibliography

See also my ever-expanding list of primary and secondary sources.

Photo of author


Jason is a Mythic Fantasy Author and creator of MythBank. He loves mythology, history, and geek culture. When he's not writing, his favorite hobbies include hiking, chilling with his wife, spouting nonsense words at his baby daughter, and developing this (and other) websites.

Leave a Comment