Here’s a change-up after the supernaturalism of the previous strange adventure. This one is way more straightforward. Nothing supernatural, just a lot of misogyny.
Okay, you’ve got Sir Launcelot, he’s riding around, and one day he’s passing by a castle and as he does, bells ring inside the castle. A falcon flies out from an upper window; Launcelot sees it. This falcon has lines tied to its feet, which is an important part of falconry, but in this case it’s a bad setup because the falcon gets up in a tree and the lines hang down and get tangled. So the hawk is stuck!
“Poor falcon,” mutters Launcelot.
Just then a damosel comes rushing out of the castle. “Sir Launcelot! Sir Launcelot! Please, please, help me! Save my husband’s falcon! You’re the flower of knighthood; take pity on my situation! I only lost control of her for a second, and now she’s up in the tree, and if my husband finds out he’s going to be so mad he might swing a sword and slay me! Please help me, good knight!”
“Okay, okay, listen, what’s your name, wait… sorry, this is Malory. What’s your husband’s name?”
“Sir Phelot, a knight of the King of Northgalis,” says the lady. Which is all Launcelot needs to know. Malory just lives inside his own personal Handmaid’s Tale. I’ll call her Phelotte.
“Well, Phelotte, since you know my name and you asked me nicely, I guess I’m duty-bound to try to get your hawk down. It’s a long way outside the areas of my expertise, I got to say. I’m not a very good climber, and that’s a high tree, and its branches don’t look very good for climbing.”
Launcelot dehorses himself, and ties up his horse, and gets Phelotte to help him get his armor off, so he’ll be able to climb better. Once he’s unarmed and unarmored, he gets a boost from her and shimmies up the tree to the falcon, who’s just cold chilling on a high branch.
“Hey there little birdie…” He breaks off a branch from the tree and ties the falcon’s lines to it, then drops the branch. The falcon is pulled down to earth, but unhurt, and Phelotte is easily able to recover her.
“So I guess I’m done here,” says Launcelot.
Just then Phelot appears! Phelot was actually hiding behind a bush this whole time! He springs out, fully armed and armored, with his sword drawn.
“Ha! I gotcha! I managed something that no one has ever done! And now I’m going to be the knight who kills Sir Launcelot!”
“What’s happening? Hello?”
“This was a trap!”
“What? No! Surely Phelotte wouldn’t do that to me!”
“She does what I tell her to do!” cries Sir Phelot. “And now you die!”
“Wait, are you serious? You want to joust? I’m at kind of a disadvantage here. You want to help me down and I can armor back up?”
“No! That was the whole point of this trap!”
“Oh, I see.” Launcelot raises his eyebrows, and clucks his tongue in disapproval. “Cheating. You’re a cheater. For shame, Phelot. You should be ashamed.”
“If talent is the gift God gives Man, cheating is the gift Man gives himself!” cries Phelot. Okay, actually Mr. Burns said that on the Simpsons. Phelot articulates that selfsame sentiment, though! “Thou gettest none other grace, and therefore help thyself as thou canst.”
“I just feel sorry for you, man,” says Lancelot. “But all right. Will you at least pass me up my sword?”
“For the last time, no! This is a trap! I am cheating! I give you nothing!” And Phelot brandishes his sword and waves it around. “You’ve got to come out from that tree sometime, and when you do…”
“No weapon, man, that sucks,” mutters Launcelot. But this the Man from Benwick we’re talking about!
He looks around, spots a likely branch, big and heavy and dead, and rips it off the tree. Then he crawls out until he’s more or less over his horse, and drops down. Phelot assumes he’s going to try to drop down directly onto his horse, but Launcelot instead comes down on the other side of it, which permits him a split-second of advantage over the distracted Phelot. Launcelot uses that split-second to smack Phelot upside the head with the branch, knocking him down and loosening the knight’s grip on his sword. Then Launcelot grabs Phelot’s sword from out his hand, and slices Phelot’s head off with it.
Then he stretches and cracks his knuckles, because he’s just that much of a stone cold badass.
“MY HUSBAND OH NO!” Phelotte realizes what’s happened, and she starts screaming and sobbing. “YOU MONSTER YOU KILLED MY HUSBAND YOU MURDERER!”
“What? What? Did you not see what just happened with the trap, and you were part of it, and the falcon —“
“MY HUSBAND’S DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU!”
“WAAAAAH!” Phelotte stops screaming her head off, but only because she faints.
“Okay, I’m out,” says Launcelot, and he grabs his armor and rides off before he comes to, or anyone else shows up. “Worst strange adventure so far, thank God it’s over,” he mutters.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: Is it getting harder to remain detached about Malory’s systematic antiwoman stance, or is it just me?