Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVII Chapter 4

The scabbard is snakeskin, embroidered with silver and golden thread spelling out writing, and it’s on a remarkably cheap belt.

The writing reads as follows: “I am a scabbard for the very best, and the knight who earns me will never be underdressed so long as he wears me.  But only a virginal princess may remove me from about my bearer’s waist, and if she ever ceases to be virginal after so handling me, she will die.”

“Ominous,” says Percivale.  “What’s it say on the back?”

There are indeed more words on the back of the scabbard, in red and black thread.  “My bearer will regret taking me.”

“There’s a story for this one, too,” says Mags.  All the knights settle in.


Once upon a time (and around the same era as the story in Book XIII, Chapter 10), Nacien, the brother-in-law of King Mordrains, was visiting the Isle of Turnance.  He found this same ship, and the sword, and declined to draw it.  Instead he spent over a week aboard the ship.  Nine days after his arrival, the ship came to another isle by a rock, where a giant lived.  Nacien was a prayer, not a fighter, but when the giant stormed in, ready to kill him for the crime of not being a giant, he remembered the scary magic sword.

Nacien ran to the sword, and drew it, and waved it around, and then it fell apart on him as if it were some kind of trick sword.  “Ah, the thing that I praised most ought I now most to blame.  I regret taking it.”  Then he left the ship and killed the giant somehow.

The ship then transported Nacien across the sea to a different ship, one that his brother-in-law Mordrains was aboard.  They compared notes, and Mordrains expressed interest in the magic sword.  “It probably just broke because you’re sinful,” he theorized.  Mordrains found that the pieces of the sword stuck together when it was reassembled, as though the whole thing were a big rare earth magnet.  He put the sword back in its sheathe, and then he and Nacien left together on his ship, leaving the magic sword and magic ship behind.  Also Nacien stepped on a nail and hurt his foot and everyone agreed it was divine punishment for daring to draw the magic sword.


“Where are you getting these stories?” asks Bors.

In the name of God, she is right wise of these works,” says Galahad.  “Pray continue, Mags.”


Mags considers.  “What else, what else…. Oh!  King Pellas!  Labor’s son and Elaine’s father and your grandfather, Galahad.  Once he was out hunting and he got lost and turned around and he misplaced his knights and his hounds and then he and one other knight found this ship.  They saw the carving over the entryway but came aboard anyway.  And then Pellas found this sword, and drew it, and he shouldn’t have, so the other knight stabbed him, right in the jimmies, which was the second dolorous stroke.”

“…I don’t think that’s right.”  Malory does not include Bors objecting to this, but it seems plausible that he, at least, of the group would be familiar with the story of Sir Balin, Lady-Killer from back in Book II.

“Moving on!” cries Mags, and leads Percivale, Galahad, and Bors over to a bed with some spindles of thread hanging over it, like a mobile.  “This story is about King Solomon!”

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVII Chapter 3

The magical ship sails on overnight, ultimately ending up out on the rocks near the land of Logris.  Oddly, there’s another ship of the same rich enough design, moored on the rocks.

“That’s ours,” says Mags.  “Definitely.  Let’s go.  For so is Our Lord’s will.”

“If you say so.”

“I do say so.” She leads Galahad, Percivale, and Bors across the rocks and onto the second ship.  The four of them look around.  It’s a nice enough ship, but just like the ship Nacien gave Percivale, it’s unoccupied, with neither man nor woman therein.  Bors finds a message carved above the entryway:

“If you’re aboard this ship, you’d better be virtuous; for I am the ship of Faith.”


Mags has noticed that Percivale doesn’t recognize her.  She explains she’s his sister, King Pellinore’s daughter, and that the two of them will find the Grail together.  Percivale forgot he had a sister, so this is a nice surprise!

Meantime Galahad has found the master bedroom and a bed with silk sheets and a crown of silk and also a magical sword that only he can draw.

It’s got a stone pommel studded with gemstones of every color, and its blade is two bones, sharpened together.  One is a bone from a serpent which was conservant in Calidone, and is called the serpent of the fiend.  Its magic is such that anyone who wields it will never be weary nor hurt, which is pretty good!  The other bone is from a fish found only in the Euphrates river, called Ertanax.  Its magic is such that anyone who wields will, in addition to the no-tired thing, possess tremendous capacity to focus on the project at hand and not be lost to daydreams or browsing the internet.  Also pretty good!

Percivale and Bors would both happily accept this magic sword, but it’s only for Galahad; neither of them can draw it.  Galahad doesn’t really want it, and is a little worried about a sword that Percivale and Bors can’t draw.  Is it evil?  But Mags assures him it’s okay.

She tells a story that goes like this.  Once upon a time in Logris, which is where they found the ship, there was a war going on.  This war raged between King Labor (Galahad’s mother’s father’s father), and King Hurlame.  And the war climaxed in a huge orgiastic battle on the beach, which Hurlame lost.  Hurlame fled aboard this very ship, that happened to be there.  He found this magical stone-pommeled sword and drew it, and used it to maim Labor.  When Labor went down, the very land shuddered: great pestilence and great harm befell both their kingdoms.  All the corn and grass and fish died, and the land which had once been fecund and fertile became the waste land, all thanks to that dolorous stroke.

Like Balin’s dolorous stroke, but a generation earlier.  Crazy, I know.  But that’s the story of the sword.  Afterwards Hurlame returned to the magic ship and hid there until he died.

“If you think that was a nutso story,” says Mags, “just wait until you hear about the scabbard!”

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVII Chapter 2

Galahad rides on, stopping briefly at his grandfather’s castle Carbonek, and on. One night at a cottage, he meets a woman.  Let’s give her a solid religiousy name, like Magdalena.  While Galahad sleeps, Mags comes up to the door of the cottage and knocks and tells the hermit within (Sir Ulfin, retired knight; all hermits are either Nacien or a retired knight) she’s come for Galahad.  Ulfin wakes Galahad, and Galahad seems not in the slightest surprised to see her.

“Magdalena,” he says.

“Galahad,” says Mags.  “I will that ye arm you, and mount upon your horse and follow me, for I shall show you within these three days the highest adventure that ever any knight saw.”

The strange adventure scale tops out at highest, which is up above even marvelous.  “Check,” says Galahad.  He’s already got his things together, and within minutes Galahad and Mags are riding together towards the sea.

Mags takes Galahad down to Collibe, at the seaside, and in a castle there they both get a meal and a shower and a little sleep.  But before the sun rises, Mags and Galahad are down on the beach, where Mags points out the white samite ship.

Percivale and Bors are waving frantically on the deck, trying to get Galahad’s attention.  He waves back.  “What’s the plan?”

“We swim the rest of the way.”  Mags dismounts, then removes her horse’s saddle and tack and makes a bundle out of it.  Galahad follows suit, and then they swim out with their bundles to the ship.

It had been deadly calm, but once Mags and Galahad are aboard the ship, the wind picks up from nowhere.  It hits the sails with a whump and the ship starts accelerating.  Percivale, who’s been through this a couple of times already, leads everybody down belowdecks where they won’t get blown off.

Galahad tells Percivale and Bors about his trials, mainly the Castle of the Maidens, and listens as Percivale and Bors recount their own temptations.  “Truly ye are much bounden to God, for ye have escaped great adventures. The three of us did it; we’re on our way to the Grail.  Also Mags is here.”

Bors is troubled.  “What about Launcelot?”

“What about him?”

Bors shrugs.  “I have a hard time believing that I succeeded at something he failed.  I mean, sure, you’re some kind of prophesied messiah, and Percivale here likewise sat in the Siege Perilous and also he castrated himself, which shows real dedication.  But me?  I’m just a man.  I even have an illegitimate child, named Pale Elian or Sir Helin or Elaine if it’s a girl.”

“Launcelot’s doing his own thing,” replies Galahad, and doesn’t want to talk about this any more.

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVII Chapter 1

This book is all about Galahad and the Grail, and Malory helpfully reminds us where he left Galahad: Book XIV, Chapter 4.


Though Percivale is a holy knight and a fabulous fighter he can’t handle 20+ to one odds.  He takes out a third or so of his opponents, but then they kill his horse! Oh no! Is this the untimely end of Percivale?

No!  Because Galahad springs up out of nowhere, all in red, and lays into the funeral-goers, until they break and flee into the woods.  That Galahad!  He’s so dreamy!

As he watches Galahad chase the opposition into the woods, Percivale marvels at how the target of his quest just appeared out of nowhere like that.  “Hey, Galahad!  Thanks for saving me!” he shouts.  “Come back here so I can thank you properly!”

But alas, Galahad disappears into the woods, and Percivale is left alone.


Malory continues this narrative, filling us in on Galahad’s actions since then, though he ignores the gap between that appearance and Book XIII, Chapter 17.  That was Galahad’s unlikely adventure at the Castle of the Maidens, as you may recall.  So from the Maidens’ Castle to Goothe, where he saves Percivale, and then on from Goothe.  We all up to speed?  Great.

Galahad rides away from Percivale and has all kinds of awesome adventures that Malory isn’t going to go into right now, because they don’t involve a jousting tournament.  Instead he skips to the part where Galahad stumbles across a jousting tournament in progress.  It’s outside a castle, and the teams are the knights not inside the castle, and the knights inside the castle.  The knights not inside the castle are winning; Galahad can see them just cutting down their opponents as their opponents try to sally forth from the castle gates.

Malory is not describing a siege.  He is describing a jousting tournament.  Totally different.

Anyway, Galahad decides he should help the knights inside the castle.  He pulls out his magical white shield, and throws a spear and waves his sword around, and generally does such wonderful deeds of arms that all they marvelled.

But what’s this?  Sir Gawaine and Sir Ector the Lesser!  They’re participating in this tournament as well, on the (previously) winning side!

“Man, we’re getting our butts kicked by that knight with the white shield,” complains Ector.

Gawaine recognizes the shield.  “That’s no knight, that’s Sir Galahad!  Mister Holy Blessed Dude himself!  I’d hate to be the guy next up against him!”

And then the melee shifts such that by adventure Sir Gawaine finds himself in a one-on-one with Galahad, because Malory knows one trick of dramatic irony and he uses it over and over.  Galahad doesn’t even hesitate, he bashes Gawaine’s skull in and down Gawaine goes, skull caved in, pieces of his helmet embedded in his brain, horse sliced open from Galahad’s follow-through.

“Crap, Uncle Gawaine!” I did not realize that Gawaine was the uncle of Ector the Lesser.  In fact I was pretty sure Ector was in the Bors/Launcelot/Lamorak family of knights, which is unrelated to the Gawaine/Uwaine/Gaheris/Mordred group, but that’s what Malory says now, that Ector is Gawaine’s nephew.  Never mind that Ector called Launcelot uncle back in Book VI, when he first appeared, and never mind that his appellation, Ector de Maris, fits in more with Launcelot du Lake and Lamorak de Galis.  Uncle Gawaine.  Fine.

Ector stands over Gawaine’s body and chases off the knights moving in to finish him off, as Galahad wanders off.  Then Ector and Gawaine share a touching moment wherein Gawaine thinks he’s dying and Ector assures him he’ll be up and Grail-Questing again in no time, and Gawaine is all no, I’m done, go on without me.  Malory reminds us about the bit in Book XIII, Chapter 3, where Arthur gets Gawaine to try to draw out the sword in the stone, but he can’t, and then Launcelot (who at the time was uttering prophecy because why not) asserted that Galahad would one day use the sword to bash Gawaine’s skull in.  Malory is all, PROPHECY COMPLETED 1/1.

Ector nurses Gawaine back to health, the end.  A big hand for Ector and Gawaine, everybody!  They’ll be back after the Grail Quest is over, although I can’t promise that Gawaine won’t randomly murder anyone between then and now!

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVI Conclusions

Sir Bors is an all right guy!  Like Sir Percivale, he’s a little more down to earth than Galahad.  Galahad is just weird, like he’s too good for this world.  But Bors is okay.  I mean, granted, Malory’s utter lack of characterization means that Bors and Percivale are mostly indistinguishable.  Everybody from Griftlet to Uwaine is just kind of there, excepting a few people like Pellinore (that ass!), Merlin (that ass!), Tristram (that ass!), and Gawaine (that ass!) who are all awful in different ways.

Speaking of Gawaine, Malory opens Book XVI with a little digression on how Gawaine does his best to succeed at the Quest for the Holy Grail, despite a) being told several times, by Nacien and by angels, that he’s not eligible and b) having no idea how to proceed and c) accidentally killing Uwaine over nothing in particular.  And also “does his best” does not include following Nacien’s prescriptions of careful atonement and penance and chastity.  After all, he and Nacien had basically the same conversation back in Book XIII.

But once Gawaine is out of the way, Bors’s story gets going.  He meets Catherine, who really happens to need a knightly champion, and is more than willing to ply Bors with riches and sex and accolades.  He defends Catherine against Minnie-May, or as Malory would put it “the woman against the other woman” because yet again Malory doesn’t bother to name women.  But regardless, Bors is a class act.

Then things get weird, because Bors has a vision which I honestly don’t know if it’s meant to be part of the Devil’s trickery or if it’s an honest-to-Betsy mystic vision.  Around this point Bors falls into the Devil’s trap (unless that already happened, and the Devil stage-managed his meeting with Catherine) when he meets a Nacien impersonator.

I should admit that textually it could be that the impersonator is just impersonating J. Random Hermit-Advisor, since Nacien isn’t mentioned by name here.  But if we run with the premise that all of the white-robed holy men who pop up and give knights instructions are the same guy, then the not-Nacien is definitely pretending to be Nacien.  Fake Nacien does a terrible job explaining Bors’s vision, then leads Bors into temptation. It’s very like the temptation that Percivale had to castrate himself to escape, but Bors has been around the block a few times and he knows how to resist the Devil’s wiles.

After Bors does what no one else in the narrative has managed yet, i.e. overcome temptation, he gets a rest break at a monastery run by a guy who clearly isn’t Nacien because he has no idea how to interpret a vision.  The dude ends up dragging in all kinds of extra stuff, and misremembers other parts, and it’s a mess.

Then Lionel shows up and he’s mad at Bors for not saving him earlier, which is defensible.  He’s mad to the point of almost killing Bors and actually killing a hermit and poor Sir Colgrevance, but then Bors miraculously recovers and forgives him and rides off to meet Percivale.

The bit at the end where Bors rides his horse out along the pier and then leaps onto the deck of Percivale’s ship: pretty cool.  And now almost all the pieces are in place; we’re missing only Sir Galahad.



And now


Knights of the Round Table who have died: a list I surely won’t have to update as we go on from here!


Sir Balin, slain by Sir Balan in Book II.*

Sir Balan, slain by Sir Balin in Book II.*

Sir Accolon, slain by King Arthur as a result of Morgan’s plan failing in Book IV.*

King Pellinore, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine sometime after the start of Book IV.

Sir Chestaline, Sir Gawaine’s youthful ward, slain by Roman soldiers during Book V.*

Sir Marhaus, slain by Sir Tristram early in Book VIII.

Sir Lamorak, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine and his brothers around the time of Book X.

Sir Uwaine, slain by Sir Gawaine in Book XVI.

Sir Colgrevance, slain by Sir Lionel in Book XVI.


Starred entries are knights who were not, technically, members of the Round Table, but who were more or less solid Camelot-allies.  The number one cause of death is slaying by another Knight of the Round Table, even though the first rule of the Round Table is that you don’t murder other members of the Round Table.  The only exception is Sir Chestaline, who isn’t really a Knight of the Round Table and only appears in one sentence in all of Malory, when Malory announces he died.  I’m leaving out Sir Kehdyius, because he was a dip who never made it to Camelot, but he dies offscreen sometime after the start of Book IX.

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVI Chapter 17

So there’s Bors, badly wounded but on his feet.  He’s full of that inexplicable knightly hardiness that you sometimes see in a Malory hero.  Arthur had it, when he fought Sir Accolon.  Sir Palomides had it at Lonazep, I think.  And now Bors is just too knightly to stay down!

“You’ve gone crazy for no clear reason, brother,” he tells Lionel.

“No, you’re the crazy one!” spits Lionel right back at him.  “Raaaahr!  My actions are wholly unmotivated!  Raaaahr!”


All right, all right.  Malory doesn’t have him saying that explicitly.  But come on!


Bors gives a little speech about, basically, how great he is. Then he makes to fight Lionel, who has very obligingly just stood there and let Bors speechify.  But then a miracle happens!  A great gout of flame comes down from heaven, directly between the two knights, and a voice instructs Bors to leave quietly.  However Bors is too busy screaming his fool head off, on account of the talking magic flame has lit his shield on fire!

Bors and Lionel (whose shield also gets scorched) both faint from surprise and exhaustion.  When Bors comes to, the angel (if that’s what it was) has vanished, and also Bors has been miraculously healed of his wounds.  He kneels over Lionel, and gives a prayer of thanksgiving for the awesome and crazy magic.

Then the disembodied voice tells him to go meet Sir Percivale, who’ll be waiting for him at the seaside, and not to try to deal with his brother any more.

“I didn’t get this far along the Grail Quest by ignoring miraculous voices,” muses Bors.  “So, all right.  Sorry, Lionel.  Good luck with your life.”

Lionel who had been still lying unconscious at Bors’s feet, suddenly wakes and accepts his apology and offers an apology of his own.  So, a happy ending I guess?


Afterwards Bors rides off towards the seaside, which is a few days of hard travel away.  Once there he sets up a tent and goes to sleep, but his new buddy the disembodied voice wakes him up in the middle of the night and sends him down to the beach. There Bors finds Sir Percivale’s white samite ship that Nacien gave him at the end of Book XIV.  He rides his horse along a broken seawall and from the end of it he dismounts and swims the rest of the way.  Once Bors is aboard the ship, it starts moving under its own inexplicable holy power, which is kind of freaky so Bors goes belowdecks and finds Percivale sleeping down there.  Bors wakes Percivale up, and the two of them congratulate one another on getting this far, and compare notes. I’m guessing that Sir Percivale’s face is pretty red when he finds out that Sir Bors managed to resist the Devil’s temptation without resorting to self-castration!  But anyway, it’s an exciting time, and their spirits are high.

Malory closes Book XVI with a rhetorical flourish:

Then said Sir Percivale “We lack nothing but Galahad, the good knight.”

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVI Chapters 15 and 16

The priest whose hermitage the knights have camped at comes rushing over at this point.  “Jeez, man, why’d you have to do a thing?  He was truly a holy man!  If he dies then you’re definitely going to hell, for murdering such a good egg.”

Sir Lionel is not thinking clearly right now.  We can tell, because his response to the priest consists of threatening the priest, on the grounds that if Lionel just intimidates the priest enough, the priest will get Lionel out of the whole going-to-hell thing.

But the priest is not having any of it!  “Are you threatening my life?  I’m an old man; my life isn’t worth much.  Especially not compared to Sir Bors here.”

“Have it your own way,” says Sir Lionel, and chops the priest’s head off.  “Now to pull Bors out of his armor and slit his throat!  That will get me out of this predicament for sure!”  Like I said, the man isn’t thinking clearly.

Malory has definitely written himself into a corner at this point.  Probably whatever actual Grail romance he’s ripping off has a flow to it.  Events stem naturally out of one another, forming a cohesive narrative.  But Malory’s in too much of a hurry for that!  So instead a Knight of the Round Table that Malory has never mentioned before shows up!  Sir Colgrevance!  Yeah, that makes sense.

Sir Colgrevance is on the scene, presumably because of the jousting tournament.  He sees Lionel struggling with the dying Bors, rushes over, and takes the scene in in an instant.

“Sir Lionel!  Have you gone mad?  Clearly whatever the dispute between you and Bors was, you were in the wrong!”  He grabs Lionel by the lapels and hauls him off of Bors.

“Dang it!”  Lionel is in a hole at this point and the only way he can see clear of it is to just keep on murdering.  So Lionel decides to make Colgrevance Victim #3.  Technically Lionel and Colgrevance joust, but it’s a joust where while Colgrevance is getting his sword out, Lionel starts battering his helmet in.

While Lionel beats Colgrevance to death, Bors miraculously regains consciousness!  He’s still in a bad way, but he’s alert and aware of his surroundings.  He watches Lionel bashing Colgrevance, and slowly gets back on his feet.  Bors is woozy from the blood loss, and he’s still bleeding, but he’s up!

“Bors!  Save me, Bors!  I’m trying to rescue you!” cries Colgrevance.  This would be kind of a dick move on Colgrevance’s part, what with Bors bleeding and all, except that around this point Lionel clocks Colgrevance a good one and he too starts bleeding profusely.  So it’s one dying guy begging another dying guy for help, not a hale guy begging a dying guy.

Bors — woozy from the blood loss, remember — starts towards where Lionel and Colgrevance are fighting.  But then, he almost trips over the headless corpse of the priest, and he rears back.

That moment of hesitation, of rearing back, is Colgrevance’s death knell.  His last words are “Why will ye let me die here for your sake? If it please you that I die for you the death, it will please me the better to save a worthy man.  Fair sweet Jesu, that I have misdone have mercy upon my soul, for such sorrow that my heart suffereth for goodness, and for alms deed that I would have done here, be to me alignment of penance unto my soul’s health.” As last words go it isn’t bad, a little wordy.  But then Lionel chops his head off.

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVI Chapter 14

A couple of days of travel after visiting the abbot with the bizarre intrepretations of visions Bors didn’t actually have, our man Bors comes to a jousting tournament!  It’s been too long since Malory threw one in, I mean, like six chapters!

This particular marvellous tournament is between the Earl of Plains and his wife’s nephew, Hervin.  They each have a whole cadre of knights, and the jousting is expected to include multiple rounds, maybe a tag-team match, maybe something in a flag match or a Damosel on a Pole match.  Lots of knights, lots of jousting.  Bors doesn’t really care about the tournament itself; his one and only interest at the moment is the Grail.  But he figures there are excellent odds that he’ll find another Knight of the Round Table there, and maybe they can sit down and compare notes.

Bors heads towards the local hermitage, where visiting knights are camping.  Sure enough, there’s Bors’s brother Sir Lionel!

“Lionel!” cries Bors.  “Am I ever happy to see you!  Man, I had this crazy vision, and you were in it!  But it was all a vision courtesy the Devil.  Or, no.  Catherine was real, I’m pretty sure.  I don’t really know at which point the vision started.  Anyway, great to see you!”

“The feeling is not mutual!” Lionel is pissed.  “I was tied up in the back of a wagon, getting beaten up, which was bad enough!  But then I see you, not rescuing me!  Instead you went off to sleep with some chick!”

“Whoa whoa whoa,” says Bors, because Lionel is on his feet, pressing a finger hard into Bors’s chest.  Bors’s hands are up and he’s stepping backwards.  “Lionel, jeez, I’m sorry, I thought you were part of the dream.  Also I didn’t sleep with Yelena, but that’s not important right now.  I mean, I would have done the same thing even if it hadn’t been a complex test of my virtue assembled by the Devil, but…”

“This is what I’m talking about!  This is what I mean.  You’re always going off to be virtuous and succor a gentlewoman, and you just leave me in peril of death!  You jerk!  And for that misdeed now I ensure you but death!

“Lionel, brother, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” Lionel says, his beard all flecked with spittle, “when next we meet it will be on the jousting arena floor, and I’m going to bash your head in and stomp on it!”

When Sir Bors understood his brother’s wrath, Malory tells us, he kneeled down to the earth and cried him mercy, holding up both his hands.

“No mercy,” growls Lionel, and stomps off muttering something about how Bors has already lived too long a life.  He’s back a moment later, with his tack and lance and other jousting accoutrements.

“Lionel, brother…”

“I don’t want to hear it, Bors!  You defame the name of our father, Bors the King of France, of Ban-and-Bors fame, last encountered waaaay back in Book V!  Mount up and joust, or else I will run upon you thereas ye stand upon foot!”

“I’m not going to joust you, brother,” says Bors.  “If you’re going to kill me while I stand here, unarmed, hands up in the air, well, then you go ahead and do it.  I’m very sorry about the misunderstanding, and I hope you can forgive me, but —“

Bors doesn’t get to finish his dramatic speech, because Lionel smashes his skull in.  Down he goes, bleeding profusely.


Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVI Chapter 13


CUT TO the next morning.  We join the scene in medias res, with Bors explaining to the abbot how he can only have bread and water for breakfast, due to the strictures of the Grail Quest.

“Hmm.  Bread and water it is, then.  Also, I’ve put some thought into that vision you described to me,” says the abbot.  “I’m no Nacien, but I think I’ve got it figured out.”

“Great, except I didn’t describe you any of my visions,” says Bors, or he would if Malory were at all on the ball.

“The dying chicken represented Our Lord Jesu Christ,” claims the abbot.

“I don’t remember a chicken at all.”

“Just as Christ bled His heart-blood for mankind on the cross, the blood that the great fowl bled revived the chickens from death to life.  See?  It makes sense.”

“Sure, but this isn’t my vision.  I never told you about a vision with a chicken.  I had a vision with flowers and a chair.”  Bors is (or by all rights ought to be) thoroughly confused.

“Now, the bare tree meanwhile, the one all leafless and fruitless and barren?  That’s the world, without Christianity.  Empty.  And when Catherine appeared —“

“Okay, listen, I admit I have had a dream or two featuring Catherine, but I definitely didn’t tell you about them and they definitely didn’t feature dead trees or chickens!”

“Catherine was really Jesus.”  The abbot is on a roll, now.  “And her father, King Aniause, that was God the Father.  You fought for Catherine, just as you fight for Christ against the non-Christ powers.  And the black bird, meantime…”

“Wait wait wait.  I get it now.”  Bors speaks for the audience.  “You’re talking about the vision that I already had explained by Nacien (who in retrospect I realize was not really Nacien, even though he kept insisting he was Nacien).  Except that you’re adding all of these elements, chickens and trees and Catherine, that weren’t in it at the time.  So the white bird was the chicken, who was Jesus, and the black bird was what now?  The Devil?  Paganism?”

“The black bird was the Catholic Church, obviously,” says the abbot.

“And you’ve lost me again,” sighs Bors.

“Now, the swan…”

“How many birds are we listing?  Chicken-Jesus, non-Jesus chickens who were miraculously healed by the blood of Chicken-Jesus, a blackbird, and now a swan?  There were only two birds in this vision, if we’re even talking about the same vision. I don’t know any more.”

“The swan is white on the outside but black on the inside, which is to say, the swan symbolizes hypocrisy!  Hypocrisy in the form of not-Nacien, who was really a demon disguised as Nacien!”

“I figured that one out, yeah.  The not-Nacien thing, not the hypocrisy thing.”

“So the third fowl betokeneth the strong battle against the fair ladies which were all demons.  Also there was a dead tree which represented your brother Sir Lionel —“

“You just said the dead tree, which again I don’t recollect any dead tree, but you just said the dead tree was the world in the absence of Christianity.”

“Sir Lionel is a jerk, see.  Men ought to call him the rotten tree, and the worm-eaten tree, for he is a murderer and doth contrary to the order of knighthood.

“For serious?  We have had zero reports of Sir Lionel being anything but an officer and a gentleman.”

“And the two flowers…”

“We’re back on the flowers?  When you say tree, do you mean the chair that Nacien was (for some reason, in the dream) holding the two big flowers back from?”

The abbot is on way too much of a roll to pause for clarification.  “The two flowers were Catherine and some other guy who died or something, and if you hadn’t saved her then the rotten tree would have punished the flower!”

“You’re really making very little sense here, even by the standards of Le Morte D’Arthur.”

“For that ye rescued them both, men might call you a very knight and servant of Jesu Christ,” concludes the abbot with a smile.  “You see?  It all hangs together.”

Sir Bors’s response is to thank the abbot politely and then leave the abbey as quickly as possible.

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged | Leave a comment

Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book VI Chapter 12

Last entry was a little long, this one is short.  These things happen!


Sir Bors, having just defeated the Devil (without resorting to self-mutilation) stands alone in the wilderness.  In the distance he hears a churchbell ringing, and he takes that for a sign.  Following the sound of the bell, he comes to an abbey, closed with high walls.

As he approaches the gate, it opens, and they looked him over.  Malory is vague as to who ‘they’ are.  Monks, I guess?  Let’s go with that.

“I suppose you’re on the Quest for the Holy Grail,” says one of the monks.  “Come on, let’s get you out of that armor and into a hot bath.”

So they lead him to a guest-room in the abbey, where he pulls off his armor and stretches and scrubs himself down and so on.  It’s been a while since Bors had any kind of decent respite.

“Is Nacien here?” asks Bors, once he’s done.  “Any holy man in this house would do, really.”

“Sure sure.”  A monk leads Bors through the abbey, to a chapel where he meets the abbey’s abbot.  To everyone’s surprise, it’s explicitly not Nacien.

Bors introduces himself and starts to recap his entire madcap adventure, but the abbot stops him with a weary shake of the head.  “Sir Knight, I wot not what ye be, for I weened never that a knight of your age might have been so strong in the grace of our Lord Jesu Christ.”

“Beg pardon?”

“You say you’re a Grail-questing knight, but you aren’t Sir Percivale or Sir Galahad.  You’re older, you’ve had plenty of opportunities to sleep with women and father illegitimate children (such as your son Helin aka your daughter Elaine, your child by Princess King-Brandegore’s-Daughter).  And yet not only have you defeated the Devil and made it this far, you did it without cutting any of your members off!  That’s crazy.”

“Oh ah.”  Bors isn’t really sure what to make of this.

“Right now I’m overwhelmed and unable to converse with you,” continues the abbot, “but I expect I’ll be better in the morning.  So you stay overnight and tomorrow over breakfast I’ll give you some holy-man advice.  That’s why I’m here.”

Posted in Le Morte D'Arthur, Primary Sources | Tagged | Leave a comment