Stories of Guy of Warwick Told to the Children - H. E. Marshall

How Guy Fought with the Giant Colbrand

For some time after Guy went away Phyllis was very sorrowful. 'Alas!' she cried, 'this is punishment for my pride. Had I never sent Guy away to seek adventures he would not leave me now.' Thus she wept and mourned, and was so sad that she longed to die. At times she even thought of killing herself. She would draw out Guy's great sword which he had left behind, and think how easy it would be to run it through her heart. But she remembered that the good fairies had promised to send her a little son, and so she made up her mind to live until he came. When the good fairies brought the baby she called him Reinbroun, and he was so pretty and so dear that Phyllis was comforted.

Then, because her lord was far away, and could not attend to his great lands nor to the ruling of his many servants, Phyllis did so for him. She ruled and ordered her household well; she made new roads and rebuilt bridges which had been broken down. She journeyed through all the land, seeing that wrong was made right and evildoers punished. She fed the poor, tended the sick, and comforted those in sorrow, and, besides all this, she built great churches and abbeys.

So year after year passed, but still Guy did not return. All day Phyllis was busy and had no time for grief, but when evening came she would go to pace up and down a path (which to this day is called 'Fair Phyllis's Walk') where she and Guy had often walked together. Now as she wandered there alone, the hot, slow tears would come, and she would feel miserable and forsaken.

At last, after many years full of adventures and travel, Guy reached England once more. He was now an old man. His beard was long, his hair had grown white, and in the weather-beaten pilgrim none could recognize the gallant knight and earl, Guy of Warwick.

When Guy landed in England he found the whole country in sore dread. For Anlaf, King of Denmark, had invaded England with a great army. With fire and sword he had wasted the land, sparing neither tower nor town, man, woman, nor child, but destroying all that came in his path. Fight how they might, the English could not drive out the Danes.

Now they were in deep despair, for the enemy lay before the King's city of Winchester. With them was a terrible giant called Colbrand, and Anlaf had sent a message to King Athelstane, as the King who now reigned over all England was called, demanding that he should either find a champion to fight with Colbrand or deliver over his kingdom.

So the King had sent messengers north, south, east, and west, but in all the land no knight could be found who was brave enough to face the awful giant. And now within the great church of Winchester the King with his priests and people knelt, praying God to send a champion.

'Where, then, is Heraud?' asked Guy of the man who told him this tale. 'Where is Heraud, who never yet forsook man in need?'

'Alas! He has gone far beyond the seas,' replied the man, 'and so has Guy of Warwick. We know not where they are.'

Then Guy took his staff and turned his steps toward Winchester. Coming there, he found the King sitting among his wise men. 'I bid you,' he was saying to them, 'give me some counsel how I may defend my country against the Danes. Is there any knight among you who will fight this giant? Half my kingdom he shall have, and that gladly, if he conquer.'

But all the wise men, knights and nobles, stood silent and looked upon the ground.

'Oh woe is me!' then cried the King, 'that I rule over such cowards. To what have my English come that I may not find one knight among them bold enough to do battle for his King and country? Oh that Guy of Warwick were here!

Then through the bright crowd of steel-clad nobles there came a tall old man, dressed in a worn, dark, pilgrims robe, with bare feet and head, and a staff in his hand.

'My Lord King,' he said, 'I will fight for thee.'

'Thou,' said the King in astonishment, 'thou seemest more fit to pray than to fight for us.'

'Believe me, my Lord King,' said Guy, for of course it was he, 'this hand has often held a sword, and never yet have I been worsted in fight.'

Then since there is none other,' said the King, 'fight, and God strengthen thee.'

Now Guy was very tall, and no armour could be found anywhere to fit him. 'Send to the Countess of Warwick,' said Guy at last. 'Ask her to lend the Earl's weapons and armour for the saving of England.'

That is well thought of,' said the King.

So a swift messenger was sent to Warwick Castle, and he presently returned with Guys armour. He at once put it on, and the people marveled that it should fit him so well, for none knew, or guessed, that the pilgrim was Guy himself.

Guy then went out to meet the giant, and all the people crowded to the walls of Winchester to watch their champion fight.

Colbrand came forth. He was so huge that no horse could carry him, and he wore a whole wagon-load of weapons. His armour was pitch-black except his shield, which was blood-red and had a white owl painted upon it. He was a fearsome sight to look upon, and as he strode along shaking his spear every one trembled for Guy.

Guy of Warwick and the king.


It was a terrible and unequal fight. Tall though Guy was, he could reach no higher than the giants shoulder with his spear, but yet he wounded him again and again.

'I have never fought with any like thee,' cried Colbrand. 'Yield, and I will ask King Anlaf to make thee a general in the Danish army. Castle and tower shalt thou have, and everything that thou canst desire, if thou but do as I counsel thee.'

'Better death than that,' replied Guy, and still fought on. At last, taking his battleaxe in both hands, he gave Colbrand such a blow that his sword dropped to the ground. As the giant reeled under the stroke, Guy raised his battle-axe once more.

'His good axe he reared on high With both hands full mightily; He smote him in the neck so well, That the head flew that very deal. The giant dead on the earth lay; The Danes made great sorrow that day.'

Seeing their great champion fall, the Danes fled to their ships. England was saved.

Then out of the city came all the people with the priests and King in great procession, and singing hymns of praise as they went, they led Guy back.

The King brought Guy to his palace and offered him splendid robes and great rewards, even to the half of the kingdom. But Guy would have none of them. 'Give me my pilgrim's dress again, he said. And, in spite of all the King could say, he put off his fine armour and dressed himself again in his dark pilgrim's robe.

'Tell me at least thy name,' said the King, 'so that the minstrels may sing of thy great deeds, and that in years to come the people may remember and bless thee.'

'Bless God, not me,' replied Guy. 'He it was gave me strength and power against the giant.'

'Then if thou wilt not that the people know,' said the King, 'tell thy name to me alon.'

'So be it,' said Guy. 'Walk with me half a mile out of the city, thou and I alone. Then will I tell thee my name.'

So the King in his royal robes, and the pilgrim in his dull, dark gown, passed together out of the city gate. When they had gone half a mile, Guy stood still. 'Sire,' he said, 'thou wouldst know my name. I am Guy of Warwick, thine own knight. Once thou didst love me well, now I am as thou dost see me.'

At first the King could hardly believe that this poor man was really the great Earl of Warwick, but when he became sure of it he threw his arms round Guy and kissed him. 'Dear friend, we have long mourned for thee as dead,' he cried. 'Now thou wilt come with me and help me to rule, and I will honour thee above all men.'

But Guy would not go back. He made the King promise to tell no man who he was. This he did for the sake of the oath which he had sworn, that he would never again fight for glory but only for a righteous cause. Then once more they kissed, and each turned his own way, the King going sadly back to Winchester.

As he entered the gates the people crowded round him, eager to know who the pilgrim was. But King Athelstane held up his hand. 'Peace,' he said, 'I indeed know, but I may not tell you. Go to your homes, thank God for your deliverance, and pray for him who overcame the giant.'