arthurian literature

Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur Book 11 – Galahad, or WTAF?

To celebrate getting the book out, let’s check in with Malory again, shall we?

Now we leave Sir Tristram de Liones final-fucking-ly. After several hundred pages of digression, we are back with the Round Table. After loads and loads of tournaments, we are back in a world of mysterious magics. The court gets a visit from a holy hermit who wants to know what’s the deal with the Siege Perilous? Whoever sits there will be destroyed, Arthur explains, except for one man. The hermit prophesies that said man will be conceived this year, and will win the Grail.

Camera shifts to Lancelot, off looking for adventure. He finds one in the form of a woman who, having annoyed Morgan and one of her enchantress friends, has been perpetually boiled alive for years.


He is able by virtue of his inherent awesomeness (no really) to draw her from her boiling bath. While you’re here, the jubilant townsfolk mention, there is also this dragon…? So he kills the dragon, and that’s how he meets King Pelles.

At dinner that night are many strange signs and also a vision of the Grail. Unbeknownst to his dinner guest, Pelles is determined that his daughter will have a child who will achieve the real grail. With the help of a local witch, they trick Lancelot into thinking that Pelles’ daughter Elaine is Guenevir, and hence Galahad is conceived that night.

Come morning, of course, the illusion breaks. Lancelot is distressed but blames the witch for the deception, not Elaine herself, and goes back to his usual life. Elaine eventually has a baby who is christened Galahad–which, we are told rather confusingly, was Lancelot’s given name before the Lady of the Lake changed it to Lancelot.

At some nebulous future point, Lancelot’s nephew Bors finds himself in the neighborhood. Wow, he remarks, that baby looks just like my uncle. Funny you should say that, Elaine replies. Bors is delighted to have a new cousin. The signs and portents are repeated. The author is at pains to point out that Bors is only one woman removed from being a virgin, and that night he fights mysterious assailants and monsters. Symbolism is thick in the air. He goes home and tells Lancelot all about his weird adventures and also by the way congrats on the kid. Gwen is peeved; Lancelot points out that Excuse me, magically raped here? (I am fascinated by the fact that this is also how Arthur was conceived.) He is provisionally forgiven.

Arthur has just won a military victory on the continent and is having a feast. Elaine wants to go, and is permitted by her father to attend with a large knightly escort and the witch Brisen. Elaine is perplexed when Lancelot avoids her; she has fallen in love with him. No worries, Brisen is on the job. Next time he and Gwen have a planned assignation, Brisen intercepts him and redirects him to Elaine. A furious Gwen discovers this and declares that she never wants to see him again. Lancelot jumps out a window and spends the next two years mad.

Elaine has the cheek to reprove Gwen for this harsh treatment of her lover, is banished from court for it, and on her way home tells Bors about his uncle going crazy. She continues to blame Gwen for everything. You’re both awful, Bors judges, and asks her to keep an eye out for the man. Bors goes home and chastises the queen, who faints, and upon reviving provides him and the family with funds to go looking for Lancelot. Months pass without news. The western and northern families join in the search.

What Arthur thinks about all of this is not mentioned. We do get a few side adventures of Sir Percival. These include a random fight with a stranger who turns out to be Lancelot’s brother Ector, in which Ector is very badly wounded. Percival is very sorry about it, but Ector looks likely to die until the Grail Maiden happens by to save them.

Here it would actually have made more sense to continue as one book, but there’s a break here, so we will also pause.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s