The Hedge Knight-Summary
|The Hedge Knight|
Dunk and Egg
|Next||The Sworn Sword|
Dunk, once a poor boy from Flea Bottom, has been squire to the old hedge knight Ser Arlan of Pennytree for years. The old man has passed on, and apparently, on his deathbed, knighted Dunk. Dunk is considering what to do after he has buried Ser Arlan, and decides to try out for the tourney being held in Ashford. He reaches a small village near Ashford, and gives his horses to a boy he assumes is the stableboy. Inside, Dunk buys himself dinner, and is accosted by a drunken lordling, who yells, "I dreamed of you. You stay away from me!" Outside, the stableboy is riding Dunk’s warhorse, and the hedge knight tells him to get down. The boy asks Dunk to take him on as squire, but Dunk thinks he’s the innkeeper’s son, even though the boy is bald and has indigo eyes.
Later, Dunk reaches Ashford Meadow, noting all the bright pavilions of the knights and lords, and makes camp by a stream in the woods. Dunk recalls the old man’s story of how he saw the last of the Targaryen dragons when he was a young boy, and Ser Arlan mentioned that the summers have been shorter since the last dragon died, and the winters longer and crueler.
Dunk goes off to the merchants’ stalls to try and acquire armor. He passes two puppeteers from Dorne, one a tall, young woman whom Dunk takes a liking to. He barters with Steely Pate for a full set of armor, trading some of the old man’s armor to reduce the cost. He pays Pate in part, and promises him the rest on the morrow, after he sells one of the old man’s horses. He feels that if he can win even one pass in the tourney, he can buy back the horse and live on the coin left over for a long time, perhaps a year until he takes service with a lord.
Dunk returns to his camp to find the boy, who names himself Egg. Dunk takes him on as squire, surprised at the boy’s persistence. The next morning, Dunk visits Lord Ashford’s steward to enlist in the tourney, but he is told someone will need to vouch for him. As he leaves, the Targaryen party is arriving with all their retainers. A ‘princeling’ mistakes Dunk for a stableboy, and insults him when he claims to be a hedge knight. On the way to pay Steely Pate, Ser Steffon Fossoway asks Dunk to spar, and the knight’s squire Raymun becomes Dunk’s friend.
The hedge knight then seeks out Ser Manfred Dondarrion, whose father Ser Arlan once took service with. But Ser Manfred does not remember Ser Arlan, and turns Dunk away. On the way to speak with the steward, Dunk enters the great hall of Ashford Castle, and overhears a discussion between the crown Prince Baelor and his brother Maekar. The younger prince, always in the shadow of his great brother, is hoping that his sons will outshine Baelor’s in the tourney. But two have run off, Daeron and Aegon, and Maekar has sent one of the Kingsguard to find them. Maekar notices Dunk, who tries to explain what he is doing there. Lord Ashford and Maekar dismiss him, but Baelor remembers Ser Arlan, who broke four lances against him in a tourney years ago at Storm’s End. Baelor vouches for Dunk, and advises him to change the sigil on his shield, as only a trueborn son may inherit a knight's arms.
Later, Dunk finds Egg at the puppeteers’ booth, and asks the girl Tanselle to paint a new sigil for him. He chooses a shooting star over an elm tree. The tourney has five pre-chosen champions to represent the young Lady Ashford, and any challenger who wins will join the five champions. Dunk watches the contests carefully, considering his odds of defeating any of the knights and lords present. He thinks he could take Prince Valarr, Baelor’s eldest son, but he isn’t sure how it would be taken if he chanced to injure the prince, especially since all who challenge him seem to fall without effort. During the jousting, Maekar’s second son Aerion Brightflame challenges Ser Humfrey Hardyng. Aerion’s lance rides up and impales Ser Humfrey’s warhorse. The dying horse falls on Hardyng’s leg, breaking it. Lord Ashford, at the behest of Baelor, awards Aerion’s charger to Ser Humfrey, and declares the injured knight the victor. Egg, who seems to know all the knights, insists that the mishap was done on purpose by Aerion.
That night, Dunk is invited to share wine with Raymun Fossoway, when Egg comes running for his aid. Aerion has knocked over the puppeteers’ booth, and has grabbed Tanselle. He is livid because the puppeteers showed a dragon dying in battle, and Aerion claims that they are traitors and that "the dragon ought never lose". When Aerion breaks one of Tanselle’s fingers, Dunk smashes the prince to the ground and kicks several teeth out. Aerion’s men grab Dunk, but before they can harm him, Egg tells the men to unhand him. Aerion asks the boy what happened to his hair, and Egg responds, "I cut it off, brother. I didn’t want to look like you."
Dunk, locked in a cell in one of the castle’s towers, cannot see the jousting the next morning, but he can hear it. Facing death or worse for what he did to a prince of the blood, Dunk feels betrayed by Egg, never having suspected that the boy is Maekar’s youngest son, and nephew of Baelor Breakspear. Later, Egg visits Dunk and apologizes, telling the hedge knight that his uncle wants to see him. Baelor admits to Dunk that he might have done the same to Aerion, but he is a prince of the blood. For his actions, he will be tried before Baelor, Maekar, Lord Ashford, and Lord Leo Tyrell (Ashford’s liege lord). Baelor tells him that he will seek leniency, but even then Dunk may lose both a hand and a foot for striking Aerion. The Prince does explain to Dunk that it is his right as a knight to seek a trial by combat. The next day, Aerion demands a Trial of Seven, because Daeron, to make up for his absence, made up a story accusing Dunk of being a robber knight who stole Egg. Thus both brothers were "wronged" by the hedge knight. A trial of seven has not been invoked frequently in the last hundred years, it being a custom of the Andals that if there were seven combatants on both sides, the gods would be more likely to take a hand.
Dunk goes to the Fossoway tent afterwards, and Ser Steffon promises to find five more knights to take up Dunk’s cause. Raymun is less confident, feeling his cousin may know these knights, but they probably don’t know him. Later, Egg and Daeron arrive. They tell him that their father and all three kingsguard members present at Ashford will fight in the trial. Egg promises aid in finding more knights, and Daeron promises Dunk that he will fall on the first pass and withdraw his accusation. Then he will only need to have Aerion withdraw his, or kill him. Both brothers hate Aerion, and name him a monster. Daeron then tells Dunk of the dream he had (this is the reason why he recognized Dunk in the tavern), and how his dreams often come true (he seems to have the greensight, like Jojen Reed). He dreamt of Dunk, fallen down but alive, and a great dragon fallen over him, dead. Steely Pate gives Dunk the shield Tanselle painted for him, telling the hedge knight that the girl has fled for Dorne. Pate helps Dunk, and when the common folk cheer him on, Dunk asks why. Pate tells him that he is ‘a knight who remembered his vows’.
Dunk finds three knights waiting for him, ready to take his cause: Ser Robyn Rhysling, Ser Humfrey Beesbury and Ser Humfrey Hardyng, who seeks revenge for what Aerion did to him. Shortly after, Ser Lyonel Baratheon, nicknamed the Laughing Storm, joins them. Egg is responsible for bringing Ser Robyn and the Laughing Storm. However, Ser Steffon has changed sides, after hearing he may win a lordship from Prince Maekar. Raymun, angered by his cousin’s actions, changes his sigil to a green apple, and has Ser Lyonel knight him. The trial, near ready, is held up while Dunk desperately seeks a seventh knight. But no one in the stands will even look at him, and only the Brute of Bracken has the decency to answer him, saying that he knows him not. All seems lost, until Prince Baelor rides in, wearing his son’s armor. Maekar, stunned, questions his older brother, and Baelor responds, "This man protected the weak, as every true knight must. Let the gods determine if he was right or wrong."
Baelor informs them that he will handle the Kingsguard, since they are honor-bound not to harm a prince of the blood, and can only defend themselves against him. The jousting begins, and true to his word, Daeron falls and withdraws his accusation. The fighting is fierce, but Dunk, finally resorting to his base instincts, grapples Aerion and overpowers him, forcing the prince to yield. Dunk, badly hurt, sees that both of the Humfreys were killed, and two of the Kingsguard knocked unconscious. Dunk falls down from his injuries, and sees Baelor standing over him.
The Prince summons his maester to tend to Dunk, and the hedge knight tells Baelor that he is his man. Pate and Ser Raymun try to take Baelor’s helm off, but the great prince’s head is caved in, and he falls atop Dunk, dead. At Baelor’s funeral pyre, Dunk tries to make sense of why the gods deemed that such a great man should fall and a hedge knight live. A couple of days later, Maekar visits Dunk, remorseful in his knowledge that it was his mace that killed Baelor. But Dunk feels he was as much at fault for Baelor’s death, saying, "How could my foot be worth a prince’s life?"
Maekar tells Dunk that he has sent Aerion off to Lys, and that his son Aegon will squire for no one but Dunk. The prince offers him a knighthood, and a position at Summerhall if he takes Prince Aegon as his squire. But Dunk wishes Egg to learn the way he did, by traveling on the road and braving the hardships, and afterward he might take up Maekar’s offer. The next morning, Egg arrives at Dunk’s camp, and the two have an urge to visit Dorne, and perhaps catch a puppeteer’s show.
References and Notes
This summary was originally written by Vincent Briscuso aka vbkorik27. Retried by way of the Wayback Machine Internet Archive.