In the olden days when it was needful that all men should learn the arts of battle and defense, because law and order had not yet come to prevail throughout the world, knighthood began, and this is how it came to be.
There had been armed men before, and castles where they dwelt, and kings to whom they rendered some sort of allegiance. And there had been brave men who did valiant deeds, but there had been other warriors as well who used their skill at arms and their power over their households and estates to do violent and cruel acts, and this was an evil thing for all the land. So it came about, as you shall read in the tales in this book, that the good men of arms banded themselves together and made an order of chivalry which stretched in time over the length and breadth of all the civilized world. King Arthur was the first to gather the knights together, and many others followed in his way.
The fame and honor of this order of chivalry grew as the knights who made it did noble deeds and set themselves high ideals, until at last every boy of noble family was trained to be a knight; and what that means you will know better when you have read about some of the greatest knights that ever lived, and what brave deeds they did, and to what pledges they bound themselves. Gradually there came to be customs of knighthood which were the same in all lands, so that in the later days of chivalry every knight, whether he lived in a castle in the north of England or was a member of the household of the king of France, was trained in his youth in the same way. He was taken first when he was seven years old and made a page, so that while he was yet a child he should learn courtesy and obedience and the customs of knightly living. So it was that Roland lived in the court of Charlemagne and Bayard in the household of the Duke of Savoy. When he was fourteen the lad exchanged his page's dagger for the sword, and became an esquire, who should be taught skill at arms and good horsemanship and should gain strength of body and nobility of heart. In warlike days the esquire might often see much service, for he always attended his lord and master in arms, whether in travel or tourney or on the field of battle. That shall you see when you read of Roland and Ogier the Dane.
When the esquire was twenty-one, if he lived in days of peace and was deemed worthy, or at any time in his manhood if in days of strife he had performed some valiant feat in battle, he was made a knight; and this was the most solemn act of all, for by this deed he pledged himself to devote all his life to chivalry.
The tales which you will read in this book are but a small part of the stories of noble knights and the deeds they did, since for more than ten hundred years every noble king and every valiant hero was a knight.
Of King Arthur and his Round Table there are many, many stories, for this was
"The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record."
These you will read in the books wherein they are written. In the pages of history and romance you will learn of Guy of Warwick and of Richard the Lion-Hearted, of Louis of France and other famous knights. But here in this little book as well you shall read of knightly quests and strange adventures, and of many men who won fame and honor in those olden days
"When every morning brought a noble chance
And every chance brought out a noble knight."
And I beseech you all, so many as shall see and read in this book, to keep these gracious and courteous and honorable acts of these knights in remembrance, and to follow after the same, for by oft reading of them you shall accustom yourselves to do knightly deeds, and so shall you win a good name and fame.