And now we turn back to Sir Launcelot, last seen falling out of a window into a rosebush. Possessions when last seen: a sword, and a shirt, and nothing else. As I intimated at the time, several years passed, during which Launcelot lived like a hermit, before anything worth discussing happened to him. Sir Launcelot went into full-on forest hermit mode: he muttered to himself, he ate nuts and fruit and grubs, and at some point he lost the sword. On the plus side, he did find a pair of pants somewhere! But after a few years of this hard living, Sir Launcelot had become a mere shadow of his former self: malnourished, exposed, unhealthy, kind of crazy. One day he wandered across a tent set up in the middle of nowhere in particular, with a couple of swords and shields and spears just sitting out.
He grabbed one of the swords and starts hammering on one of the shields, making a tremendous racket. Launcelot’s motivation for doing so was unexplained, but see the comment in the previous paragraph about him having gone kind of crazy.
Peter, of all people, emerged of the tent, to see what all the racket was about. You may have forgotten Peter, as he hasn’t shown up in quite a while, but he was a recurring freelance henchman played by Peter Dinklage. When Peter saw this crazy hermit yowling and beating a sword against the shield, he didn’t cotton immediately to the dude being Launcelot. Assuming it was just your run-of-the-mill madman he was dealing with, Peter figured he could handle the situation. He tried to disarm Launcelot, like you do.
Bad move, it turned out!
A moment later we see Peter lying on the ground with his neck almost broken. Sir Launcelot loomed over him, muttering crazy-person phrases; naturally Peter shouted for help. His current boss, Sir Bliant, stuck his head out from the tent. Bliant, Malory tells us, was exceptionally well-dressed; he was well-apparelled in scarlet furred with minever. “Minever” was apparently a kind of light gray fur they used as trim back in the Middle Ages, the precise definition of which has been lost.
For a fashion-plate, Bliant was a level-headed fellow; he tried immediately to calm Launcelot. “Buddy, hey, how about you set the sword down, all right buddy?”
“You look like you haven’t slept or worn warm clothes in months, am I right, buddy? Hot bath and a nap, wouldn’t you prefer that to waving my sword around everywhere?”
Launcelot wouldn’t have any of it, though. “No closer!” he said. “If closer I’ll kill! Kill!”
Bliant backed off. I guess his talking-to sort of worked, though, as Launcelot let Peter up. The next thing you know Bliant and Peter were back inside the tent, where Peter dressed Bliant up in armor. Bliant emerged again from the tent, this time with a sword in his hand. Sir Launcelot took this for a challenge! He screeched and lunged forward and bashed Bliant in the head!
Bliant’s helmet went from convex to concave! Launcelot’s sword, being a fairly lousy sword he had just picked up, shattered! Bliant collapsed, apparently dead!
“MY TENT NOW!” screamed Launcelot. He rushed into the tent, chasing out Peter and Bliant’s wife. While Malory doesn’t provide a name for Sir Bliant’s wife, he does specify that she was in her underwear in this scene.
Launcelot slammed the door of the tent, or bars it, or zips it up, I don’t know. My point is he sealed himself inside. Then he climbed into the bed that Evelyn had vacated when Launcelot ran in screaming, threw the covers over his head, and wouldn’t come out.
Sir Launcelot du Lake didn’t do anything halfway, you guys. When he went nuts, he went for the gold.
Evelyn discovered her husband, lying dead with his head bashed in, and started to sob. Her sobbing woke Bliant up! Turned out he was not dead; having his skull bashed in was just a superficial wound.
“Dang, that hurt,” he said. “Who was that guy? I’ve never been hit like that before, and I’ve been hit by some of the best.”
“Well,” said Peter. “I know this is going to sound unlikely, but did you know Sir Launcelot went crazy a couple of years ago and fled into the woods? And that he looks just like that? Basically it’s Launcelot, is what I’m saying. I’ve met him a few times. And I saw him at Lonazep.”
“Jesu defend,” said Bliant. “Everybody’s heard of how awesome Launcelot is, even me. We’ve got to help him.”
“Didn’t he just try to kill you?” asked his wife, but no one cares, because as far as Malory is concerned she had two jobs: to be in her underwear and to cry. Sorry, Sir Bliant’s wife!
“Here’s what we do,” Bliant told Peter. “Ride back home to Castle Blank, and get my brother Sir Selivant over here. Tell him to bring a horse litter.” (Castle Blank is a pretty stupid name for a castle I know, but consider the alternative is Castle Blanc, which is to say, White Castle. Doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?)
Peter rode to Castle Blank and returned with Selivant and another half-dozen men. Working together, Bliant, Selivant, Peter and the other six guys arrayed themselves around the tent. Once everyone was in position, they hauled the whole tent up with Launcelot inside and stuffed it into the horse-litter! Sir Launcelot slept through the whole thing, because he is the champion of naps. (LAUNCELOT NAP 5!)
They brought Launcelot back to Castle Blank, where they bathed, fed, and clothed him. They also tied him up so he wouldn’t smash anyone else’s skull in. Sir Launcelot calmed down a little, but at no point would he admit he was Sir Launcelot, even though everyone totally knew. He wouldn’t even speak. Since he did try to kill a couple of people, they chained him to the wall in a high tower, but otherwise he was kept comfortable. Launcelot spent a full year and a half recuperating like this.
About eighteen months after meeting Launcelot, Sir Bliant embarked upon a strange adventure. However, he was barely out the door before he was ambushed! Pitiless Bruce, that scoundrel, and Bruce’s brother Sir Bertelot emerged from hiding to double-team Bliant, right there on his own lawn. Bliant jousted valiantly (in Malory even the ambushes get resolved as jousts, I wish I were joking) but was overcome.
Bleeding, sore wounded, and starting to pass out, Bliant tried to make it back inside Castle Blank. He didn’t quite make it, though. Pretty soon he just lay there on his front lawn. Pitiless Bruce and Bertelot go back on their horses and had a grand time whacking his body with their lances. They laughed and joke with each other about how great it was there were zero heroes or Knights of the Round Table around to intervene.
As Sir Launcelot watched this from a high window, something stirred within him. Something about Pitiless Bruce ambushing people, and bad knights, and how Launcelot used to treat bad knights back when he was Sir Launcelot du Lake, Knight of the Round Table, Completely Secret and Unsuspected Lover of Guenever Which Definitely No One Else Knew About.
Spurred into action, Launcelot ripped apart the chains holding him! He rushed down from the tower out into the yard! He slam-tackled Bertelot, sending the villain to the ground. Then Launcelot seized Bertelot’s sword and slam-tackled Pitiless Bruce the same way, such that Bruce tumbled backward over his horse’s croup.
But oh no! Sir Bertelot had a spear! He would drive it into Launcelot’s side!
Oh yay! Sir Bliant wasn’t as unconscious as we all assumed, and he sliced Bertelot’s spear-driving hand clean off!
At this point Pitiless Bruce and Bertelot decided they’d had enough fun for one day, and fled. Interesting side note: this was the last time Pitiless Bruce appeared in the narrative, so Launcelot could have just killed him and closed that particular hanging loop.
Once Pitiless Bruce and Sir Bertelot had departed, suddenly everyone else at Castle Blank emerged from hiding, including Sir Selivant, Bliant’s brother. They all congratulated Launcelot on saving the day (even if he was still all twitchy, wouldn’t answer to his name, and hardly ever moved or spoke). Bliant apologized for keeping him chained up, and agreed not to chain him up again if Launcelot agreed not to kill anyone.
Whether Launcelot agreed to that or not, Malory doesn’t say, but Malory does say Launcelot enjoyed another six months of hospitality at Castle Blank. Then early one morning a new strange adventure began!