Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book IX Chapter 41 continued
“So tell you what, you tell me your name and I’ll let you go, Queen’s honor.” Morgan extends her hand, and she and Tristram shake on it.
“All right then, I may as well tell you I’m Sir Tristram of Liones, nephew of King Mark of Cornwall, et cetera, et cetera.”
Morgan does a spit-take. “Really?! I can’t believe it! There’s only one knight who’s higher than you on my get list, and I didn’t even recognize you? Man, I am not doing well at the whole magic thing. Well, you’re free to go. A promise is a promise.”
Once again: Morgan le Fay! The main antagonist of all Arthuriana, everybody!
“But,” Morgan continues, “can you do me a favor? King Arthur is putting together a tournament at Hard Rock Castle. Normally I don’t send knights to his tournaments, what with our ongoing feud, but would you be willing to go there as my champion? I have a shield for you.”
“Is it like, some kind of cursed shield that will explode when it gets too close to King Arthur or something?”
“What? No. No, it’s just a shield with my device on it. I made up a new device for myself, just in case I ever had a knight to send out. Shield!”
Someone hands Morgan the shield. It’s a fine shield: well-made, not too heavy, balanced, a fair shield and a mighty. The device upon it is three figures: a king and a queen and a knight. They’re positioned in a triangle, with the knight appearing to stand with one foot on the king’s head, and the other on the queen’s.
“Um, okay,” says Tristram. “I can use this shield. What’s up with this device, though? I was imagining, I don’t know, a woman with a sword, or something crazy like that.”
“Oh, no, see, the king and the queen are Arthur and Guenever, and the knight is, well, it’s my private little joke. Guenever knows what it’s about. And so does the knight in question, of course.”
Just in case you couldn’t figure it out on your own, Malory explains patiently that the knight on the shield is Launcelot, and it’s a commentary on how Launcelot has come between Arthur and Guenever. Morgan, whom Launcelot rejected back in Book VI (which Morgan never got over, according to Malory), put the shield together as a signal to Launcelot and Guenever that she knew of their affair, and as a signal to King Arthur. Morgan hoped that Arthur would look at Tristram’s shield, cry out in understanding, and then boom, it’s Arthur versus Launcelot and the Camelot endgame.
Tristram doesn’t get any of this, but he agrees to take the shield to the tournament at Hard Rock Castle.
Hard Rock Castle? Even Arthur has those dang t-shirts?