For whatever reason Malory decides to follow Sir Lamorak for a while. This middle third of Le Morte D’Arthur may be the Tale of Sir Tristram, but Malory doesn’t feel the need to talk all Tristram, all the time, you know?
Sir Lamorak came to a chapel where he met Sir Meliagrance. You probably don’t remember Meliagrance: he was the son of Bagdemagus, the king who recruited Launcelot to act as a ringer for a tournament back in Book VI. In Book XIX he would pull a heel turn, and kidnap Queen Guenever, but that was far in the future. As Lamorak encounters him, he merely sat around this remote forest chapel, moaning to himself about how much he loved Queen Guenever. Perhaps he assumed Launcelot’s love of Guenever was part of what made him the best knight ever, and so emulated that.
However before we resolve this Meliagrance situation, Malory wanted to insert a comic interlude. Get ready to laugh!
As Lamorak rode through the woods, he bumped into another couple of knights.
“Yo,” said the two knights.
“Is this a jousting situation?” Lamorak asked.
“Let’s skip it, if you don’t mind,” said the two knights. “We’re waiting here to attack a particular knight, who killed our brother.”
“Ah, good for you,” said Lamorak. “Which knight is this, that you’re hoping to meet?”
“Sir Launcelot!” said one of the two knights, and the other spit on the ground.
“Mmm,” said Sir Lamorak. “Good luck with that.” He laughed a little to himself.
Lamorak was about to leave, when along came Sir Launcelot in his shining white armor! What a remarkable coincidence! Lamorak waved Launcelot down, as a favor to these two knights, but when Launcelot stopped, the two knights fled into the woods.
“Hullo, Lamorak,” said Launcelot.
“Hullo, Launcelot,” replied Lamorak. “What’s up? Did you need something?”
“…Didn’t you wave me down? Anyway, no, thanks.”
“Well stay cool, pal!” Lamorak shot Launcelot a thumbs-up, as Launcelot rode away. Then Lamorak chased after the two knights, and told them how much they sucked.
Okay, now that Malory has disgorged all that hilarity, we can turn back to the Sir Meliagrance thing. “Yo, Meliagrance,” Lamorak said.
“Have we met?” asked Meliagrance.
“Probably. I’m Sir Lamorak? Pellinore’s son?” Meliagrance didn’t recognize him. Lamorak shrugged. “Not important. I overheard you moping about Guenever, what’s up with that?”
“Well, what about it? Queen Guenever is awesome. She’s the best and fairest lady.”
“Yeah, she is.” Lamorak nodded. “Is she, though?”
“Of course, of course.” Lamorak nodded again. “But really, is she? Me, I’m an Orkney man. I’ve always been partial to Queen Morgawse.”
“Sir Gawaine’s mother?”
“The same! It’s funny, if you think about it. Sir Gawaine murdered my father, and I lust after his mother. Why, if he wanted to murder me as he did Pellinore before me, all he would need to do is contrive to use his own mother as bait.” Lamorak chuckled, because what were the odds of that?
Meliagrance shook his head in wonder. “How old must Margawse be by now? Doesn’t her son Sir Gawaine have a grown son of his own, a knight?”
“There’s more to quality than youth, Meliagrance! And Guenever is no spring chicken!”
Somehow this discussion escalated to a joust. They jousted for some time, until Launcelot passed by in the company of Sir Bleoberis (for some reason).
“What in tarnation?” cried Launcelot. “And ye are both knights of King Arthur! Stop immediately! What’s all this about?”
Meliagrance complained to Launcelot about Lamorak refusing to accept that Guenever was the fairest lady in the land, expecting and receiving a sympathetic ear.
“Explain yourself,” demanded Launcelot of Lamorak.
Lamorak sighed theatrically and pointed out that beauty was subjective, that those we loved were always the fairest in our eyes, that he fully accepted that Lady Guenever was the fairest in the eyes of Meliagrance, Launcelot, anybody. Arthur too, presumably. Lamorak really didn’t want to fight anybody over this, least of all Launcelot. Launcelot was the best knight, after all.
“You’re just talking nonsense now,” said Sir Bleoberis. “Crazy moon-talk! Beauty is an objectively determined quality derived from a woman’s Comeliness attribute! Everyone knows that!”
So Meliagrance and Lamorak and Launcelot and Bleoberis were all talking at once, and they were just going around in circles, and finally Launcelot was like, let’s just agree to disagree, and they all agreed to that, and went their separate ways.
Then as soon as Lamorak was alone, a mysterious knight attacked him! This mystery knight jousted him, dehorsing Lamorak easily. The mystery knight declined to finish the joust on foot, and simply rode away.
“Jerk,” muttered Sir Lamorak, as he climbed back onto his steed.
What Lamorak didn’t know but Malory clues us in on: the mysterious knight was King Arthur himself! Because apparently he’d heard about Lamorak talking smack about his wife.