Picking up directly from yesterday:
Anyway, that whole incident ends with a Love, American Style group shot of Launcelot, Bellus, and Bellus’s mistress laughing about their big misunderstanding, so I do think I can safely conclude it was meant to be a comic interlude. Afterwards we’re back in business, as Launcelot meets up with Bagdemagus and agrees to act as a ringer in his tournament, against the other knights from Camelot. It’s unclear why Launcelot wants to hide his identity; is he afraid that Mador, Gahalantine, and Mordred will report back to a refereeing body that Launcelot’s been participating in off-season unsanctioned jousts? Is he worried that Mordred et al will drag him back to Camelot?
Speaking of Mordred: what the hell is up with Mordred just appearing like this? There was this whole story back in Book I about how he was conceived in ill fate, and at Merlin’s behest Arthur tried to murder him but managed only to reenact Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents (which makes no sense on so many levels, it’s my complaint number one about Le Morte D’Arthur so far; the sexism at least has an internal consistency). I assumed his reappearance would be a big deal, a major event signaling the close of Arthur’s salad days and the beginning of Camelot’s descent into ash and darkness. But no, he’s just this knight who happens to be at this tournament. Given the whole ong story about Sir Tor getting knighted back in Book III, I don’t see how a foundling raised by kindly fishers (as we’re told in Book I is how Mordred grew up) would end up a knight, without it being a thing. It’s a little funny that pretty much the first thing that happens to Mordred is that he suffers a skull fracture, and at Launcelot’s hands, but that seems like an accidental, rather than poetic, irony.
Afterwards Launcelot finally gets around to rescuing Sir Lionel. To be fair, he spends a big chunk of his side-quest talking about how he wants to rescue Lionel. Then when he meets Turquine, and they fight, and Turquine suggests they team up instead, that’s pretty good. There’s no motivation for Turquine’s actions up to that point, and it’s clear that knights do a lot of crazy things. Arthur murdered a bunch of children, Pellinore stole Arthur’s horse, Balin slew the Lady of the Lake and was suspiciously present at a number of suicides, et cetera. So it’s far from impossible that Launcelot and Turquine might team up, free the knights Turquine imprisoned, and go off on adventures together. Turquine’s motivation for abducting the knights — to attract Launcelot’s attention — succeeded only sidelong, as Launcelot didn’t go out looking for Ector, Kay, Gaheris, or the other knights Turquine locked up. He was just in search of Lionel, and him only because he happened to be around when Lionel disappeared. If Turquine hadn’t happened across Lionel, Launcelot might never had found him.
I liked the bit where even though Gaheris is semiconscious and concussed, Launcelot entrusts him with freeing the knights in the basement and rides off. It just begs the question, again: why is Launcelot so eager to stay away from his fellow knights? He doesn’t even stick around to confirm that Lionel, his supposed quest object, is all right. I mean, yes, he promised Yuffie he’d help her do a thing, but she could have waited five minutes.
On the unanswered questions front, what on earth did Sir Kay do to piss off so many people? When Launcelot sees him again, he’s getting chased by three knights, and then later, a different set of three knights run Launcelot down because he’s dressed in Kay’s gear. Launcelot’s prank of swapping gear with Kay is maybe just that, a prank, but yet again it’s Launcelot riding off before Kay wakes up. A little while later he bumps into Gawaine, Uwaine, Ector the Lesser, and Sagramour, and does he stop to chat? No. Does he exchange even brief pleasantries? No! He beats them up a bit, sportingly, and when Gawaine notes that it’s Launcelot, he and the other knights immediately give the dude a wide berth.
I’m skipping over the adventure of the Chapel Perilous and Nimue’s Cousin vs. Hellawes the Creepy Stalker Sorcereress, and the adventure of Sir Phelot and Phelotte the Codependent, and the adventure of Sir Pedivere who dared to surrender so Launcelot couldn’t kill him, because at this point the question of why Launcelot decided to spend a year roaming around England having strange adventures and avoiding all contact with Camelot must take primacy. The obvious guess is the one that folks are constantly ribbing him about throughout the book — that he’s having an affair with Guenever. Maybe it got a little too hot too quick, and he’s avoiding her for sake of a cooldown period. But then why is he so vehemently opposed to romantic liaisons? I’d think he’d be interested in hooking up with someone, just to put some distance between himself and Guenever. Gawaine’s apparently jumping every woman willing, from Ettard to Hellawes, but Launcelot refuses Yuffie and Becca and even Morgan le Fay and her three friends. Should we take at face value his monologue about how romance is a distraction from knightly athleticism and combat training? It’s pretty much his longest speech in the book. But he’s also constantly denying an affair with Guenever, while other characters treat it as common knowledge and Malory as the omniscient narrator is silent on the topic. So I dunno.