New story! New story! Gather round, and let me tell you all about Sir Galahalt, who should not be confused with Sir Galahad. Galahalt was prince of the country of Surluse, one of Arthur’s vassal states. He might have been the same person as Galahad of Servage, but the general consensus is that they aren’t. Personally I think it’s extremely likely that Malory got some names wrong, but I’m willing to go with the flow.
When he came of age Sir Galahalt traveled to Camelot. “Sire,” he said to Arthur. “I have come to joust, like the knights here do!”
“That’s cool,” said Arthur, “but I was just leaving. You’ll have to joust without me.”
“I’ll run the tournament, if you like,” offered Guenever. “I never have anything to do. I’ll get Launcelot to pitch in. It’ll be a change, me ordering Launcelot around. That never happens. Obviously it never happens in the bedroom.”
“Uh huh. That sounds great, honey.” Arthur had a suitcase in one hand and his car keys in the other. “You three joust, have a good time, and tell me about it when I get back.”
Guenever corralled Launcelot, somehow, into participating in this tournament, which Galahalt decided to hold in Surluse instead of at Camelot. It’s a big-deal, eight-day tournament, headlined by Sir Dinadan (in disguise), Sir Launcelot (in disguise), Sir Ector-the-Lesser, King Bagdemagus, Sir Bleoberis, the King of Northgalis, Sir Meliagrance (Bagdemagus’s son), Sir Sauseise (Bagdemagus’s aide, whom Bagdemagus urges to defeat Meliagrance, but gently, so Meliagrance will end up off the field without getting permanently maimed or slain), Sir Goneries, Sir Palomides, Sir Semound, Sir Archade, King Marsil of Pomitain, Sir Breuse, Sir Gaheris, Sir Blamore, Duke Chaleins of Clarance, Sir Elis the Black, Sir Lamorak, Mister 100, Earl Safere, Sir Mador de la Porte, Sir Uwaine, Sir Gawaine, Sir Mordred, and Sir Agravaine,.
Malory spends a fair amount of verbiage talking about this tournament but let’s skip that. Just assume it’s going on in the background. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 29!) Meanwhile a damosel name of Carmen had a problem, one that she asked Galahalt to solve. Sir Goneries had picked her out to harass (throwing gloves at her, seizing her land, that kind of thing) and none of the knights at the tourney were willing to act as her champion.
Guenever and Galahalt put their heads together and came up with an answer: Sir Palomides. He was a sucker for coming to the defense of ladies, they figured, so they sent Carmen off to him.
Long story short, Palomides chopped Goneries’s head off, after Goneries was a real dick about it. Carmen and Palomides became lovers afterwards, even though — and Malory is shocked! shocked by this — Carmen is actually Palomides’s cousin, so it was basically incest.
Then on the second day of the tournament… what? You thought that was the whole thing? Nah, we’ve got a full week yet to go! Jousting, jousting, skipping over the jousting. Sir Palomides needed a place he and Carmen could stay. Galahalt ordered Sir Archade to put them up, but this turned out to be a bad plan, as Archade was Goneries’s brother. You’d think Galahalt would have been aware of that. Archade accused Palomides of murdering his brother, and of course Palomides defended his decapitation as just. They jousted. Palomides got him with a spear through the chest and then, just to be sure, another decapitation.
More jousting, blah blah blah. And wow, a whole lot of maimings! This description makes it sound more like a battlefield than a tournament. Guys just breaking other guys’ necks, but I guess it’s all in good fun. Palomides beat most everybody except Launcelot and Lamorak. Launcelot quickly beat him on points, and Lamorak fought him to a draw. Arthur had banned Lamorak from Camelot, you may recall, as a result of Sir Gaheris murdering his own mother. He participated in this tournament only because he was still allowed to be in Surluse.
But Palomides did beat a bunch of King Arthur’s nephews — Uwaine, Gaheris, Agravaine, and Mordred. When Arthur heard about it he was severely bummed. “O Jesu, this is a great despite of a Saracen that he shall smite down my blood.“ Arthur was apparently kind of racist and while he was happy to have Sir Palomides around, he didn’t like Palomides being a better knight than his own Christian nephews.
In fact, Arthur showed up unexpectedly at the tournament, ready to joust Palomides and regain the family honor! But Lamorak had already seen this coming, and arranged for Palomides to be elsewhere, so that when Arthur was walking around trying to find him, Lamorak had a chance to approach Arthur.
“Sire,” he saids, “I was hoping to get a chance to meet you here.”
“Lamorak! Good man, I hear you’ve been doing well. Shame about the whole exile-from-Camelot thing,” said Arthur.
“Indeed, and really, I should probably leave the tournament now that Gawaine and his brothers have shown up, or else they’ll murder me.”
Arthur coughed. “About that. I’ve been thinking. This whole exile thing hasn’t sat well with me. You didn’t actually do anything, after all. Come back to Camelot, all forgiven?”
“I’d love to, sire,” said Lamorak. “But again, your nephews would murder me. I witnessed them murdering their own mother.”
“Hmm, yeah.” Arthur didn’t like to dwell on that. “It would had been much fairer and better that ye had wedded her, regardless of the age thing.”
Lamorak’s face darkened. “O Jesu, her death shall I never forget. I’m absolutely going to take some revenge, you can believe that. I would have done it already except that I wanted to talk to you about it first.”
Arthur considered. “I don’t like this situation, but enough is enough. Do what you have to, and there’ll be a royal pardon with your name on it, at the ready.”
Dun dun duuuun! Can it be, actual plot is moving forward, here in the midst of all this stultifying jousting description? I think so!
Speaking of stultifying jousting description… Sir Palomides fought fellow-Muslim Sir Corsabrin, as well as Sir Dinadan and Sir Gerin. It’s funny how many Muslim characters Malory includes, much less sympathetic and heroic Muslim characters. As sympathetic and heroic as anyone is in Le Morte D’Arthur anyway. I do note a total absence of Jewish knights. On the one hand, a Jewish knight seems pretty implausible in medieval England, but on the other hand, surely it’s at least as plausible as a Muslim knight and we’ve seen at least three of those so far.
In other jousting news, Launcelot beat everybody, then Palomides and Corsabrin jousted a second time in the same day and Corsabrin ended up dead. No one knew how to give him a proper Muslim funeral, or more likely they didn’t want to try, inasmuch as he wasn’t Christian, so was the corpse hauled away and buried in the woods. Galahalt took the opportunity to try to convert Palomides to Christianity, claiming that Christian corpses smell better than Muslim ones. I’m not making that up.
Palomides politely declined. “Maybe after I’ve won seven true battles for Jesus’s sake,” he said, since Galahalt wouldn’t take a straight-up no for an answer.
Then, let’s see, you’ve got Sir Gaheris and Sir Ossaise and Sir Dornard and Sir Aglovale and Duke Chaleins of Clarance again, and Earl Ulbawes, and Sir Ector the Lesser, and Mister 100, and it’s a grand ol’ time, jousting. Malory can’t believe that I’m just skipping over all this, I’m sure; this is the good part, he thinks.
Afterwards everybody got together for dinner, where Dinadan played the hilarious prank of serving Galahalt a fish. Everybody had a big laugh over that! Also Dinadan and Launcelot talked a little trash.
Finally we come to the last day of the tournament. Duke Cambines fought Sir Aristance and Earl Lambile. Sir Ossaise defeated the King of Northgalis. Launcelot had been scheduled to joust with Sir Dinadan, but didn’t show up! Ten minutes passed before Dinadan decides Launcelot had surely forfeited. He started to crow around about how he was truly the best knight around, when Launcelot showed up in drag.
Launcelot, dressed up in a maid costume, with a borrowed spear, challenged Dinadan. Dinadan accepted, for a laugh. But then he realized that this wasn’t an actual maid, but rather Sir Launcelot! Dinadan tried to get out of it, but couldn’t. Launcelot jousted the jolly right out of him. Guenever loved this. This was the best Launcelot trick ever, is how Guenever saw it.
Final score: gold to Sir Launcelot, silver to Sir Lamorak, bronze to Sir Palomides. King Bagdemagus got first runner-up, and Sir Dinadan received zero prizes.
After the major success of his first tournament, Galahalt decided to organize a second one right away. Queen Guenever was less enthused about going through all the rigamarole of setting one up again immediately, so Galahalt’s tournament-organization buddy for this second go-round was King Bagdemagus. Bagdemagus was hugely jealous of Launcelot (even though he’d been Bagdemagus’s friend in the past); as far as he’s concerned this second tournament was just a ploy to lure Sir Launcelot out of hiding so that Bagdemagus could get him with all his knights in a big ol’ dog-pile.
Mark heard about this plot, on the villain grapevine, and decided he’d use it to get Tristram killed. “Tristram, my boy,” he said to his nephew. “There’s a tournament planned in Surluse. Not the one that just finished, another one. You should go!”
“Should I?” Tristram considered. “I figured I’d just spend this weekend sleeping with your wife.”
Mark flinched. “Of course.”
“Like King Arthur pretty much said I could?”
“Of course. I swore on a book. But nephew, I know how fond you are of defeating knights.”
Tristram considered. “Hmm, that’s true.”
“I also know that my wife will still be here when you return,” Mark said brightly. “Assuming you do return,” he murmured quietly, in that villainesque way.
“So it’s agreed then, you’ll go!” Mark clapped Tristram on the back. “Speaking of hilarious japes, you know what you should do? It’s the thing all the cool knights are doing nowadays! You should go in disguise!”
“I should go in disguise?”
“You should absolutely go in disguise.” Mark rooted around in Tristram’s closet and found a distinctive and face-concealing helmet that the lovely Isoud once gave him for a present. It had, I don’t know, pictures of Elvis on either side.
And so Sir Tristram attended the Galahalt-Bagdemagus tournament, incognito. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 30!) King Mark also the attended the tournament, though he and Tristram traveled separately.
When Mark saw a knight wearing a helmet with pictures of Elvis on it, he pointed and shouts. “Look! It’s Sir Launcelot! He’s in disguise!”
“Launcelot?” bellowed Bagdemagus. “Get him, boys!”
And so Tristram was jumped by several dozen of Bagdemagus’s men! He survived the incident; they stopped when they figured out he wasn’t really Launcelot. But he was badly injured and required several months of convalescence. Mark pretended to be abashed that Tristram was hurt, and took him to a hospital-castle. But then, as soon as everyone’s back was turned, Mark transferred Tristram to a jail-castle!
Mark held Tristram secretly for a great while. No one knew what happened to him; Mark told everyone that Tristram had recuperated at the hospital, then took off to have some strange adventures. Eventually the lovely Isoud started to fret. She asked Sir Sadok, the Cornish Vulcan, to find her man.
Sir Sadok traced Tristram’s movements and determines Mark had locked him up. On the lovely Isoud’s behalf, he set up an ambush with two of his cousins, outside the prison. Before long, Mark wandered past with four nephews. Sadok and his men jumped out! Sadok kills all the nephews, but lost a cousin in the process, and Mark escaped. Unable to free Tristram, Sadok called in reinforcements: Sir Dinas, Mark’s long-suffering seneschal.
When Sadok filled him in on the situation, Dinas was aghast that Mark continued to make trouble. He’d promised on a book he wouldn’t! The two knights raised an army in revolt against Mark, because this had all just gone too far.
Mark found out about the revolt, and panicked, of course. He came up with a plan, though! He forged a letter to himself, from the Pope.
“Darling Mark,” he wrote. “Come participate in the Crusades. XOXO All my love, the Pope. PS Bring Tristram. PPS You are not awful and everyone should love you.”
He sent a copy of this forged letter to Tristram. His hope was that Tristram would read it, decide he was needed in the Holy Land, and leave Cornwall. Once Tristram was gone, if Mark was lucky, everything would go back to normal.
Tristram, in prison, read the note. He was free to go, Mark’s messenger told him. Mark would be along later.
“Screw that,” said Tristram. “Mark’s a dick and I’m tired of his bull hockey. This is an obvious forgery, because the First Crusade isn’t until the eleventh century and while Malory wrote in the fifteenth century, this story is supposed to be set during the fifth century!” So the messenger returned to Tintagil with bad news for Mark: Tristram saw through his ruse.
Everyone in the crowd scenes at Tintagil was bandaged up and wounded, what with the revolt going on in the background: one knight had his neck nigh broken in twain, another had his arms stricken away, third knight borne through with a spear, and one guy had his teeth stricken in twain. That last one sounds especially painful.
“Why don’t we just surrender?” was the question on everybody’s lips, at Tintagil. None of them ware particularly gung-ho about defending Mark’s right to rule. Even his supporters recognizes that King Mark was a dick. And he broke an oath he’d sworn on a book!
Malory forgot to mention it before, but Sir Percivale happened to be in Tintagil on an unrelated errand. “You’re a bad, bad man,” he told Mark. “You’re very mean to Tristram, just because he’s in love with your wife! Are you so bad a man as to assume that Tristram would be bad, too, and have an affair with your wife? Are you so bad you think the lovely Isoud would cheat on you? For shame, Mark, for shame!” And then Percivale wandered off.
Mark thought about what Percivale had said. “If I was good like Percivale,” he reasoned, “then people would like me and not revolt against me!” So he sent a message to Dinas, saying he was going to go fight in the Crusades for realsies.
When Dinas heard that, he called off the revolt! Alas, though, it was a ruse. As soon as he could, Mark had Tristram thrown in prison again.
And at this point the lovely Isoud had finally had enough! She packed up her things (including Tristram) and announced she and Tristram were leaving Cornwall.
“This country is dreadful,” she said. “You people are all the time arresting Tristram, exiling him, I mean, it’s getting so a girl can hardly have an affair around here. Dinas, Sadok, you fellows have Mark killed, or arrested, I don’t care. Do whatever. My boyfriend and I are leaving. Isoud OUT!”
The lovely Isoud and Tristram indeed left the country. As they went, Dinas clapped Mark in irons. Apparently that was all it took. I don’t know why the lovely Isoud hadn’t tried it, like, fifty thousand or so words ago!