Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book II Chapter XII
Next day Arthur has a bad hangover, and goes off into a meadow with a tent and a cot to have a quiet lie-down and recover. It doesn’t work, though, because as soon as he’s finished setting up, a knight comes riding by, wailing.
“Woe!” cries the knight. “Woe!”
“What?” calls Arthur.
“Okay I heard that part,” cries Arthur. “Why woe?”
“No!” cries the strange weepy wailing knight, and rides off.
“Darn it,” mutters Arthur, and lies back down.
Before five minutes have gone by, though, along comes Balin. “Hello sire!” shouts Balin as soon as he’s in shouting distance.
“Balin! Please don’t, I have a headache,” says Arthur.
“Yes sire!” shouts Balin, and dismounts from his horse and walks the rest of the way. “Hello sire!” says Balin, very loudly.
“Inside voice, Balin, please,” says Arthur. “Or, listen, you can do me a thing. There was a weird knight that just came by here a minute ago, go get him and bring him back here because I want to know what his deal is.”
“Yes sire!” shouts Balin. Arthur winces.
Balin mounts back up, rides off, and catches up to the weepy knight straightaway in the woods nearby, who is sobbing in the arms of a damsel. I’m naming this damsel Susie, because yet again Malory neglects to provide a name for a character who isn’t a knight.
“Are you the weepy knight?” asks Balin.
“Leave me alone,” says the knight in between sobs.
“It’s a simple question! Are you crying, yes or no?” asks Balin. “Because if you are crying, you must go and tell King Arthur about it.”
“Leave me alone,” says the knight, and weeps some more.
Balin’s eyes narrow as he carefully examines the tableau. “I think you are crying,” he finally says. “You must come with me, or else I’ll take you by force and knowing me I’ll probably accidentally slay your lady-friend there. I’m really bad that way.”
The knight sniffles. “Will you protect me, if I go with you?”
Balin nods. “Yeah, that sounds like something I’d do.”
“Well, okay,” says the knight. “Just for a minute.”
He and Susie confer privately, and then the weeping knight and Balin head back towards Arthur.
Just outside Arthur’s tent, where he’s just barely managed to fall asleep, Balin and the weeping knight get ambushed by someone with improved invisibility up, which is to say, all of sudden there’s a spear sticking out of the weeping knight.
“Oh! I’m slain!” cries the weeping knight.
“What happened?” asks Balin, who doesn’t understand even a little bit.
“I’ve been stabbed!”
“Someone was invisible and stabbed me!”
“Really?” Balin looks impressed. “That’s quite a trick.”
“Listen well, Idiot Knight,” says the dying stranger. “Garlon killed me, I’m sure of it, and I was under your protection. Take my horse and ride back to Susie my damsel in the woods, and obey her instructions, because there’s an elaborate quest I was in the middle of.”
“I shall do this thing!” cries Balin. “Sire!”
“I’m awake!” cries Arthur. “Oh, oh, my head. I heard your discourse, because you were shouting again. Go, get out of here. I’ll take care of this dead guy.”
The dead guy is wearing an ID bracelet identifying him as Sir Herlews. While Arthur sleeps it off and erects a nice tomb, Balin rides back to Susie and tells her about the ambush. He brings along the spear that killed Herlews as a visual aid, and Susie takes that from him and carries it around with her from that point forward.
Discussion Question: I did not realize setting up funerals was going to be one of King Arthur’s main schticks. Why doesn’t that get more play in the popular culture?
Re: Discussion Question
Because morticians are a sadly under-represented guild in all literature, yet everyone needs one at some point in their life. Errr, I mean at a singular point in their existance…hmm. [Delete all the above, I wish I knew html so I could use the cool line-through-the-clever-bit technique]
I meant to say: You don’t need one until after you’re dead, so who cares about funeral directors?