A little farther on 
they encountered the hounds
of Tristan's uncle, Marke of Curnewal,
which, by coincidence, 
as the true story tells us, 
were coursing a fully-antlered stag
hard by the road.
Having been overtaken,
The stag stood at bay.
The speedy chase and harrying 
had taken all its strength away.
The hunters now were closing in,
making quite a racket,
their horns sounding the kill.
When Tristan saw the cornered stag,
he invented yet another story 
and told the pilgrims, his companions,
"Sirs, there are the hounds, 
there's the stag, and the men--
I was with them earlier,
and now I've found them again.
These are the people I know.
By your leave, I'll rejoin them now."
"God's blessing on you, child," they said,
"May good fortune be your lot!"
"Thank you, and may God preserve you,"
Tristan returned their good wishes,
and bowing to them, he turned away 
and went to join the hunting party.
Now the stag had been pulled down, and the man who was master of the hunt was stretching it out on the grass by all four legs, like a pig. "How now, master, what is this?" said the courtly Tristan. "Stop that! By God, what are you doing? That's no way to dress a stag." The huntsman stood up from his work, looked at him and slowly said, "Well, what would you have me do? This is the way we do it here-- the first thing is to skin the stag, 2800 and then you split it down the middle all the way from top to bottom and then across in four, so that none of the four quarters if you do it right is bigger than another. That's how you do it around here. Do you know so much about it, boy?" "Oh, yes, indeed I do," he said. "Over there where I grew up, that's not at all the way they do it." "How do they do it?" asked the master. "You dress the stag properly." "My friend, unless you show me how, I'll never know what 'dressing' means-- That's a trick nobody knows anywhere in all this kingdom. I've never even heard of it, from locals or strangers either-- my boy, what is this 'dressing'? Please show me, if you'll be so kind-- come on, let's see you dress this stag!" "My dear master," Tristan said, "if I may, by your permission, and if you'd really like to see it, of course I'll gladly let you know as much as I have learned of it, how they do it in my homeland-- the right way to break up a stag." The huntsman looked at the young stranger kindly, with a gentle smile, for he was himself a courtly man, familiar with the many customs a man of quality should know. "Yes, my friend," he said, "please do. Begin. If you're not strong enough, my boy, my excellent young friend, I myself, and these men with me will gladly lend a hand to help, to lay it out or turn it however you direct. You have but to point."
Tristan, the boy in exile, undid his cape and took it off, folding it over a nearby branch. Then he pulled his cloak higher and began to roll up his sleeves. He brushed back his elegant hair, smoothing it behind his ears. Then all those at the kill 2850 began to take more notice of his confidence and bearing. He was making quite an impression. Now they took into consideration his many excellent qualities, a sheer pleasure to behold, such that in their hearts they knew that here was true nobility: his vestments all, uncommonly rich, his fine physique and splendid stature. The crowd of huntsmen around him grew, each watching him intently. This foreign refugee, the young master Tristan, took hold with both hands of the kill and tried to turn it on its back. This he wasn't able to do, it being too heavy for him. Politely he requested that they do it for him, to prepare it to be dressed. Willingly they did so. Taking his stand above the head, he started to remove the skin, first by slitting it open all the way down from the muzzle. Returning to the forequarters, he laid them free in order, first the right, and then the left. Next he worked the rear legs clear of the hide, still in order. Then he started to peel the hide carefully from both sides, cutting it free where it clung tight, from the head all down the carcass, finally spreading the hide out flat. The next step was to remove the forelegs. He sliced them away from the ribcage, leaving the breast and ribs entire, and laid the chuck portions aside. He then began to cut the ribcage, freeing it from the chine and from the two flanks, to which he left three ribs attached. This is how it's done correctly-- if you don't leave them on, you don't know how to dress a stag. Then wasting neither time nor motion he expertly removed the loin, both hind legs together, not separately, but as one piece. 2900 What should be left attached he left, the sirloin, where the back extends beyond the loin into the rump for a handbreadth and a half, the cut that's called the haunch by those who know this art of dressing. On both sides he cut away the flanks and ribs from the back, and then the paunch, down to the gut. The latter being too unpleasant for his fine hands, he gave the order: "Lively now, let's have two men-- pull this out and get rid of it, so we can get at that part!"
Thus the stag was broken up, the hide removed correctly, the breast, the shanks and hocks, the flanks, all these he had stacked carefully and neatly, one atop the other. The breaking-up had been accomplished. Tristan, the homeless stranger, said "Master, the kill has now been dressed, and that is how it's done correctly. If you will kindly call your men, you and they together can do the fourchie now." "'Fourchie,' my boy? What is that? I don't know what you're talking about. You have shown us huntsman's tricks as elegant and strange as any, and performed them all expertly. Very well, let's see the rest-- You're the master, finish it, and we shall all be at your service." Tristan ran into the woods to find and cut a forked tree limb which those who know the fourchie refer to as the "fourche," although there's no real difference-- a fourche is what we call a fork. Then having made this special branch, he cut the liver out entire, and then separately the umbles. Last he cut the testicles from their place on the pizzle. Sitting down on the grass, he gathered these three sets of parts, binding them up inside the caul. Then he firmly tied the bundle to his fourche, the forked limb, 2950 winding fresh green bast around it. "Gentlemen," he said, "behold-- this they call fourchie in our hunting language. Since it's tied to a fork, that is where it gets its name, "fourchie," and that is only proper, since you're supposed to use a fork. Have a bearer carry it. And don't forget to end the day by performing the quarry."
"Quarry? God be blessed, what can that be?" they all said. "That's as clear as Arabic. What, dear fellow, is this quarry? No, no, please don't try to tell us. Whatever it is, just go ahead and let us watch while you do it. Practice your arts of courtliness." Tristan readily obliged. He set to work now on the pluck-- I mean the heart with its attachments-- and cut the heart from all the rest. First he sliced it neatly in half, from its top down through the point, and taking it in hand again began the final cuts, crosswise into quarters, tossing them down onto the hide. Then taking up the remaining pluck, he cut the milt and lungs away, cleaning them from the other parts. He laid them also on the hide, and then cut off the gorge and pluckstring at the upper ribcage curve. Next to come off was the head, with the antlers, from the neck. He had them put it with the breast. "Lay hold here, one of you," he said, "get this backbone, and take it away. If any poor people come-- some of them might like to have it-- give it to them, by all means, or do whatever you like with it, while I do the quarry." The entire hunting party was gathering to watch. Tristan had them bring to him everything he had just prepared. All of it was now laid out 3000 in its proper place and ready, as he had instructed them. He laid the four quarters the heart had been cut into at the four courners of the hide, as is the proper hunting custom, to arrange them there in this pattern. The milt and lungs he chopped in pieces, together with the paunch and gut, and whatever else was for the hounds, making the pieces of a size suitable for such a purpose, and spread them all out on the hide. Then he shouted: "Za, za, za!" This was how he called the hounds. They were all there in an instant, standing over their food. "You see," he explained the word, "This they call curie back home in Parmenie, and now I'm going to tell you why. By the word curie they mean that you lay it on the cuire-- you feed the hounds on the hide-- and so in hunting language this name "curie" is taken from the word cuire, for hide. So quarry is from the word for hide. And there's a reason for it-- we do it for the hounds. It's a good way to train them, because they get the taste of blood from what you feed them on the hide-- the idea is to keep them keen. Now you've seen it done, that's all there is to quartering. I hope it's to your liking."
"Good Lord," they said as one, "you needn't talk like that. These customs, we can plainly see, must do a pack of hounds a great deal of good." Tristan continued in reply, "You can take the hide away-- there's no more I can do with it. Let me assure you, once again, that if I could have served you better, I gladly would have done so. Now have your bearers cut some vines and let each man tie up a load. 3050 You should hold the head yourself, and return with your displays to court in proper courtly fashion. This makes you all the courtlier. Surely, you yourself must know the right way to present a stag-- present it there correctly!" Again the master huntsman and all his men were struck with wonder at this boy who performed so deftly the customs of the hunt and had such a store of knowledge about hunting lore. "See here," they said, "blessed boy, this marvelous variety of feats you've demonstrated-- there seems to be no end of them. Unless you see it through for us, we won't understand the things you've done for us so far." They quickly saddled a horse and asked him to ride in his own style with them back to court, and there demonstrate his native customs, as he had for them, thoroughly for all to see. "Of course," said Tristan, "so I will. Take up the stag, and let's be off." Mounting the horse, he set out with them.
Now as they rode in company the huntsmen hardly could await a better time or place to hear the story out, so each was guessing wildly where this boy was from and how on earth he got there. What could this fellow be, and whatever was he up to? Tristan noted gleefully how he had them puzzled, and just to keep the fun alive he improvised freely as never a child has done before or is likely ever again to do. "Beyond the land of Britanje," he informed them, most wisely, "in the country of Parmenie, lives my father, a merchant, yet he understands the art 3100 of living well, and richly. I mean, as befits, of course, a merchant. And have no doubt of this-- it's not the wealth that makes the man. For all his rich possessions, there is no finer fellow. He made me what I am today. Many traders from foreign kingdoms often came to visit there. I soon had learned so much from them of their languages and customs both, that now my intentions were directed and came to dwell steadily on visiting kingdoms abroad. It was my wish to learn to know strange peoples and strange lands, and with this idea I became so preoccupied that I ran away from home and father and ventured with a band of merchants until arriving in this country. Now you’ve heard my whole story. What you think of it, I don’t know.” “Oh, dear child,” they exclaimed together, “in you it was a noble wish. Innocence does good hearts good and may impart all sorts of virtue. Precious boy, true companion, blessed be of God the land where never once did a trader breed a child so accomplished! Not all the kings that reign today have got a finer son than you. And now, dear boy, please let us know what name your courtly father gave you.” “Tristan,” he replied, “I’m Tristan.” “deus adjut,” muttered one, “by God, why did he name you so? Better fitting might have been juvente bele et la riant, a fine, handsome boy, laughing.” So they rode, inventing stories, the one thus, another so. All their jests and entertainments centered on this boy, and each one tried to find a telling question for him.
Shortly they had reached a point from which the castle could be seen. Tristan broke a linden branch 3150 from which to weave two wreaths. One he set upon his head, while the other, somewhat larger, he handed to the master huntsman. “Oho, dear master, look,” he said. “Tell me what that fort may be? Surely that’s a royal castle!” “That’s Tintajel,” the huntsman said. “Tintajel? And what a castle! de te saut, Tintajel, God save thee and thine!” “Oh, you splendid child,” his companions were moved to say. “Be thou ever blessed and happy, and may all go as well with you as we have known with you thus far.” Thus they reached the castle gate, where Tristan reined to a halt. “My lords,” he again addressed the company, “Stranger that I am to you, so that I don’t know your names-- if now we ride two by two, keeping close, side by side, we do it as the stag is shaped. Let the antlers lead the way, then the brisket, next in order. Behind the foreparts comes the rack, and then take care to see that the narrow loin follows right up on the rack. Then of course you’ll see to it that bringing up the rear come the quarry and fork. That’s good hunters’ style. And don’t get in too big a hurry-- just keep the ranks close together. My master here, and I his bondsman, will ride together, if you’ll allow it, and think it’s a good idea.” “Oh, yes, dear boy,” they all agreed. “Whatever you want, so do we.” “So be it!” he said. “Now lend me, please, a horn of a size I can handle, so you can take your cue from me. When I begin, listen well, then you sound off, just as I sound!” The master huntsman added his word: “Now, fine friend, sound and ride just the way you will. We’re all following you, 3200 I and all my men with me.” “a bon eure,” (in elegant Franzois), “fine,” he said, “so let it be.” They handed him a little horn, small, bright and clear in pitch. “Forward, march! Allez avant!” he gave the word, and in formation, two abreast, the advance began. As the party passed the gate, Tristan gave wind to the horn and sounded so splendidly and so delightfully that the following train did not delay to reinforce his lead, and all took up their horns to sound off in chorus, matching his melody. He set the tone to guide them, and they echoed his fanfares, following him in harmony, in competent ensemble. From end to end the fortress resounded.
Next Episode Index of Episodes