Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First Love

Prince Valiant's first love was the fair maid Ilene of Branwyn, whose parents Val rescues from a band of outlaws.

When Val asks for Ilene's hand in marriage, her father the Thane of Branwyn informs him that she has already been promised to Prince Arn of Ord.

Prince Valiant vows to find his rival and defeat him. Traveling to Ord he encounters and jousts with Arn on a narrow bridge above a swirling river. Arn is unhorsed and topples into the water. He is saved from drowning in his heavy armor by Val who declares: "If you are to die this day, it will be by my hand in fair fight."

The two lads are soon at it . . . with cries of "Ilene or death!"

Their duel is halted by the arrival of a Viking raiding party, which they battle and defeat. From a wounded survivor they learn that Ilene has been captured by Thagnar, the Viking sea rover.

Forgetting their quarrel in the face of Ilene's peril, Valiant and Arn rush to the coast. Armed with Arn's charmed Singing Sword, Prince Valiant buys time by holding the bridge at Dundorn Glen against fifty Vikings.

With rage in his heart and the terrible "Singing Sword" in his hand, Val writes his name large in the memories of his foes.

The Vikings draw back in amazement, but, weakened by a score of wounds, Prince Valiant collapses and is taken to Thagnar's encampment. Here he is reunited with Ilene. The two are soon at sea, prisoners of Thagnar.

With Arn in pursuit, Val strikes Thagnar, reclaims the Singing Sword, and cripples the longship's steering sweep. At Ilene's urging he jumps overboard and swims to Arn's ship. Together, Valiant and Arn defeat the crew of Thagnar's second ship, but the Viking rover himself has repaired his ship and escaped with Ilene.

Arn and Val's search for the woman they both love ends in tragedy with the discovery of Thagnar's shipwrecked vessel – and a jeweled clasp that had belonged to Ilene.

Later the two princes are consoled by Sir Launcelot.

Do not grive for Ilene – fate has spared her much unhappiness. Had she been found you were pledged to fight to the death for her hand; the winner would live on knowing he had brought a bride with his friend's life, and gentle Ilene would be the wife of a murderer, forever blaming herself for being the cause of it all.

Back in Britain, the two friends part company; but not before Arn gives Val the charmed Singing Sword, "to be used in good King Arthur's cause."

Years later, when considering a name for his first-born son, Val shares the tragic tale of Ilene with his wife Aleta. They then decide to name their son Arn. Pictured above is how Prince Valiant creator Hal Foster recaps the story of Val's first love in April 1948.

Image art and text: Hal Foster.
Image 1: From installment #75, July 17, 1938.
Image 2: #67, May 22, 1938.
Image 3: #68, May 29, 1938.
Image 4: #71, June 19, 1938.
Image 5: #75, July 17, 1938
Image 6: #78, August 7, 1938.
Image 7: #82, September 4, 1938.
Image 8: #85, September 25, 1938.
Image 9: April 1948.

Source of images 1, 3, 4 and 5: Prince Valiant #1, Pioneer Comics, June 1988.
Images 2, 6, 7 and 8: Prince Valiant (Vol. 1): 1937-1938 – Hal Foster (Fantagraphics Books, 2009).
Image 9: From one of the Prince Valiant comic books my father collected in 1954-55 and which were published and distributed by Associated Newspaper Ltd. of 60-70 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.