With Sir Launcelot’s personal Quest for the Holy Grail complete, Malory turns his attention back to Sir Galahad, the new hotness. After departing from Launcelot, Galahad quickly abandoned his new friend the mysterious knight in shining white armor. He rode around alone for a while; it doesn’t really matter how long. Eventually he reached the site of Percivale’s meeting with Evelake, whom Malory has renamed Mordrains. They are unambiguously the same guy. A quick googling explains that Evelake was what his mother named him but Mordrains was his Christian baptismal name. That’s is kind of odd because unless I was misinformed in CCD your baptismal name is supposed to match that of a saint, and I don’t recall hearing tales of St. Mordrains.
Regardless, I’m going to keep calling him Evelake, the first name we knew him by, for the sake of clarity. Sir Galahad, Evelake’s many-times-removed grandson, arrived at the same abbey Percivale visited back in Book XIV. He wasted no time, but went immediately to Evelake.
I’m kidding! First Galahad took a nap, because he was his father’s son. Then, Evelake.
Nope! Nap, then Mass, and then Evelake. You couldn’t rush Sir Galahad.
“Galahad!” cried Evelake, when (finally) they met. In a flash his many wounds that Percivale saw back when they met closed up, and Evelake ceased to be blind. Also Evelake’s three-hundred-year-old body became young and firm again, which I didn’t realize was part of the deal. “I’ve miraculously regained my sight! Hurrah! I’ve been waiting so patiently ever since Sir Percivale, that counterfeit inferior Galahad-knockoff, showed up.”
Galahad looks bashful. He doesn’t have anything against Sir Percivale.
“Let me get a look at you, with these newly-functional eyes. You’re so handsome and virginal! The flower of the lily in whom virginity is signified. You’re a big flower, is what you are. God bless you, flower man! And now I can die. Farewell, stupid decrepit three-hundred-year-old body!”
Then Evelake dropped dead, which makes his youthening a few seconds ago seem kind of pointless. But at least he died happy.
“Well, that’s done. Kind of anticlimactic.” Galahad left.
Galahad rode around some more, again, it doesn’t matter. He fought a demon-infested well at one point, and he visited King Bagdemagus’s tomb, which was also the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea’s son, and also the tomb of Simeon. Simeon, or his tomb, was in this one Sir Launcelot story that Malory isn’t including in his retelling of French romances (even though he does toss in this little shoutout). Also he visited a very poorly-described haunted tomb that was part of the same tomb complex I think. In this tomb was an unhappy spirit, who in life had been either the pagan king who’d persecuted Joseph of Arimathea in the first century, or else Joseph’s son who’d had a major falling out with his father. Either way, Galahad forgave him, so that the poor dead guy who’d been stuck as a wight for three hundred winter and four and fifty got to die, too.
Galahad: tying up loose ends from the first century AD!
After another week of aimless travel Galahad met up with Sir Bors and Sir Percivale again, just outside Castle Corbin. Sir Percivale told them all about his marvelous adventures of the interim, which Malory neglects to describe for us. Sir Bors had no stories to tell: since we last saw him, just after Magdalena’s death, Bors wandered in the wilderness, where he saw zero other human beings. The trio took a moment to slap one another on the back and enjoy their successful questing, then entered into Castle Corbin as a group.
Within, the whole of King Pellam’s court greeted them. Excitement filled the air; the roller-coaster thrill ride which was the Quest for the Holy Grail would, at long last, come to some kind of conclusion. I mean, yes, Sir Bors had been in this very castle and seen the Grail, and yes, Sir Galahad grew up in this castle and presumably also had plenty of opportunities to learn about the Grail being there, and therefore they could have just gone direct from Book XIII straight to here, but apparently that wouldn’t have been sporting.
Sir Eliazar (King Pellam’s son, Sir Launcelot’s brother-in-law, and Sir Galahad’s uncle, last seen in Book XV at a jousting tournament) presented the three knights with yet another magical sword. Though it’s broken, it’s not Narsil. Rather it’s Sir Balin’s sword from Book II, the one he used to strike Pellam with the dolorous stroke. Mister Two-Swords, as you might recall, had two swords. The special magical one ended up embedded in marble until Sir Galahad claimed it; this is the other one. Malory is not particularly eager for you to go back and review the story of the dolorous stroke, however, since at the time he asserted Balin made the stroke with a spear (specifically the Spear of Destiny) and not his nonmagical sword. Pellam smashed his nonmagical sword, but it wasn’t involved in any great deeds beyond the slaying of Galahad’s uncle, Sir Garlon the Invisible Asshole. Nevertheless, at this point Malory wants it to be the sword from the dolorous stroke. We may as well let him have his fun.
“Let me see if this broken sword will miraculously knit itself together when I try to pick it up!” Sir Bors was extremely optimistic! Alas, nothing doing. Sir Percivale also tried picking up the sword in hopes it would restore itself, to no better result.
“You try it, Galahad,” said Percivale. “You always get all the best stuff anyway.”
And sure enough, when Sir Galahad touched the sword, there was a flash of light and the sword was all of a piece and whole again. Galahad felt kind of bad though, since he already had a magic sword from the stone (Sir Balin’s other sword, see above), and a magic shield that used to belong to Joseph of Arimathea and/or Evelake, and he also bore the Sword of Strange Girdles with its enchanted scabbard and special hair-belt that Magdalena gave him back before she died. He was rolling in loot and nobody else got any! So he passed this third magic sword to Sir Bors, for it might not be better set; for he was a good knight and worthy man, Malory says.
As soon as this sword business was squared away, or even a little bit before, an angelic voice announced it was dinnertime and everyone who wasn’t a major character needed to clear the set. In short order just Pellam, Eliazar, Galahad, Percivale, Bors remained. Also some girl, Galahad’s cousin, whom Malory can’t bother to name.
Nine additional knights marched in at this point! Team Grail is truly multinational: there were the three English knights we’ve been talking about all this time, but also three Irish knights, three French knights, and three Danish knights. Twelve total.
Evelake entered next, on a litter borne by four pretty ladies, and he told Pellam and Eliazar to get out, because it would be just Team Grail from this point on. (Malory has already forgotten about the girl he mentioned before.)
“Wait, wasn’t he dead?” someone, probably Sir Bors, asked. No one answered or addressed this question.
Exit Pellam and Eliazar!
Enter Joseph of Arimathea! I bet you weren’t expecting him!
Bors and the other knights recognized Joseph of Arimathea when they saw him, because he had I AM JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA (THE GRAIL GUY) tattooed on his forehead, no lie. Joseph entered on a litter, as Evelake did, but while Evelake was borne by four pretty ladies, Joseph’s bearers were straight-up angels.
Bors pointed out that Joseph died more than three hundred years prior, and Joseph shushed him. “O knights marvel not, for I was sometime an earthly man.“
“That doesn’t actually address my point, though.” Bors is nothing if not persistent. “You were a human being three hundred years ago, so how is you’re here and alive now?”
Rather than explain, Joseph summoned more angels! They marched in like a brass band, with candles. One of them had a magic spear that dripped blood (marvellously says Malory, in case we thought this was your conventional garden-variety blood-dripping spear). Another bore a towel, which you might think would be to catch the blood dripping from the magic blood-dripping spear, but no, the one with the spear had a little tray for catching the blood in, in its other hand. The purpose of the holy towel was unclear.
Joseph signaled he would say Mass, and all the knights crowded around. Instead of the usual Mass wherein the miracle of transubstantiation was not accompanied by a light show and the Holy Grail was not used as a Communion vessel, when Joseph performed the rite the bit of bread he held transformed into a fleshy man when a little baby Jesus came down from Heaven and visibly climbed into the host.
As a lapsed Catholic I find this faintly blasphemous.
Afterwards, rather than actually distribute the Eucharist, Joseph put it away and handed the Grail off to an angelic flunky.
“Galahad, you’re the best!” Joseph kissed him full on the lips. “Okay, I’ve warmed up the crowd enough. Be sure to try the lamb! It’s sweet meats that never knights tasted!” Then he vanished! Joseph of Arimathea out!
“Whoa,” said Bors.
But Bors’s socks were about to be knocked off again, because then Jesus climbed out of the Grail! Apparently when Joseph performed the blessing of the eucharist, Jesus actually literally came down from heaven and inhabited the bread (in keeping with Catholic doctrine) but then, since nobody ate the bread (in symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper; read Stranger in a Strange Land people), Jesus tired of sitting in the Grail waiting. So He popped out for a look-see.
“Hi, fellows,” said Jesus. “Relax, relax. Calm down. Don’t panic. My knights and My servants and My true children, which be come out of deadly life into spiritual life, I will now no longer hide Me from you, but ye shall see now a part of my secrets and of my hidden things: now hold and receive the high meat which ye have so much desired.“
First up, Galahad. Jesus gave Galahad the Eucharist, and then after him the other eleven knights. The communion wafers that Christ passed out were the tastiest communion wafers you could imagine, Malory says. The idea of Christ distributing communion wafers seems a little unseemly to me; He of all people wouldn’t need wafers. But according to Malory, receiving the Eucharist directly from the hands of Christ Himself is the ultimate honor.
After Communion, Jesus explained to Galahad how the Holy Grail was, in fact, the Holy Grail: the vessel He used at the Last Supper. Galahad reacted as though this was news to him, I guess because you really want to be polite to Jesus Christ if He’s right there, and so clearly going out of His way to be nice to you.
But Jesus also had instructions! “I need you to move it to the city of Sarras. It’s time for the Grail to end its stay in Castle Corbin.”
“Why?” asked someone. Bors, probably. “King Pellam seems like a decent enough chap.”
“He’s all right.” Jesus had no issues with Pellam. “The rest of the people of Corbin mostly suck, though. He is not served nor worshipped to his right by them of this land, for they be turned to evil living; therefore I shall disherit them of the honor which I have done them. So I want you… by which I mean you three, Galahad and his assistants Percivale and Bors…”
There was a collective groan/sigh of relief from the other nine knights.
“…You three take the Grail, and the Sword of Strange Girdles. Oh, and before you go you’ll want to anoint Evelake with the blood from this spear. Board your magic ship and it’ll take you to Sarras.”
“Why can’t these Irish, French, and Danish knights come with?” asked someone. Again, probably Bors.
“Because I’m Jesus and I say so!” Jesus didn’t want to have to play the Son of God card, but he would if he had to. “I’m drawing a parallel to Pentecost. And also two of the three of you are going to die, so it’s not like it’s a stain on these other knights that they can’t come.”
Then He gave them His blessing and vanished away. Jesus out!