There was a Knight in King Arthur’s time who raped a fair young maiden. King Arthur sent a decree out that the Knight must be brought to justice. When the Knight is captured, he is condemned to death, but the Queen intercedes on behalf of the Knight and asks the King to allow her to pass judgment on the Knight.
The Queen asks the Knight, “What is the thing that most women desire?” The Knight does not have an answer. The Queen releases the Knight, but commands him to return within one year with an answer.
The Knight spent this time roaming from place to place questioning women. Some say they want wealth, others happiness, others to be gratified and flattered. Everywhere he heard different answers. It is time for him to return to the Court and he is depressed for he does not have a good answer.
Outside the castle in the woods, he sees twenty four maidens dancing and singing, but when he approaches they disappear as if by magic, and all that is left is an old hag. The Knight explains the problem to the hag and she is wise and may know the answer, but she would require payment for saving his life. The Knight agrees.
The Queen asks the question again, and the Knight responds that women most desire sovereignty over their husbands. All the women of the Court agree that this is a valid answer.
The Knight is acquitted.
The old crone enters saying that she supplied the answer for the Knight and she now requests that he marries her. The Knight, in agony, agrees.
On their wedding night the hag is upset that the Knight doesn’t attend to his new bride, but her ugliness and low breeding repulse him. She reminds him that her looks can be an asset because she will be a virtuous wife to him because no other men would desire her. She asks him what he would prefer – an old ugly hag who is loyal, true and humble or a beautiful woman whom he would always have doubts about concerning her faithfulness? The Knight responds by saying that the choice was hers. The hag is pleased. She has won mastery over her husband, and she asks the Knight to kiss her. She says, “You will find me a fair and faithful wife”. The Knight turns to look at the hag again, but now finds a young and lovely woman.