Book XI! Which is about Launcelot again! You know what, Book XI is going to be awesome. You know how I know? Because it isn’t about Tristram or Palomides! Who doesn’t like Launcelot? He’s the hero, right? To celebrate, I declare this week Le Morte D’Arthur Book XI Chapter 1 Week!
Malory starts off kind of evasively, saying that this is the story of how Sir Launcelot had his son Sir Galahad, and don’t be mad, Malory is just telling us what the book of French rehearseth.
Once upon some Pentecost (have you ever noticed that whenever Malory needs to name a date, if he isn’t thinking about it he’ll always default to Pentecost?) everybody’s hanging out in Camelot, and along comes a hermit.
Arthur invites this hermit in and gives him a tour, maybe because Arthur assumes the hermit is Merlin in disguise?
The hermit sees the Round Table, and he’s all “very nice!”
“I know right?” says Arthur. “This is the best table ever. I love this table more than my wife, isn’t that true dear?”
“Oh my yes,” says Guenever.
“I can’t help but notice, though, that one of these seats is labeled DANGER DO NOT SIT, what’s up with that?”
“Oh, that,” says Arthur. “That’s the Siege Perilous. Only one guy is allowed to sit there; anyone else would get smote down through magic of some kind. It’s all part of the wonder which is this table!”
Back in Chapter 23 of Book X, Sir Percivale sat down at the Siege Perilous, but no one mentions that, because we aren’t talking about anything happened in Book X ever again, apparently. Book X can go take a leap, we’re saying. It was the worst book.
But it’s over now! And to celebrate that, the hermit announces a prophecy!
“He that shall sit there is unborn and ungotten, and this same year he shall be gotten that shall sit there in that Siege Perilous, and he shall win the Sangreal. I’ll just show myself out.” And he leaves.
“Well, that was definitely something,” says Arthur. “You think that was Merlin? Man, I almost miss Merlin. Then I remember what a jerk he was.”
Sir Launcelot doesn’t know whether that was Merlin or not. Launcelot decides this is a great time to get out of Camelot for a while, and heads off on a strange adventure.
Out over Corbin Bridge, Launcelot crosses into some foreign land, not part of Arthur’s realm. There he comes to a nice little town, built up all around the fairest tower that he ever saw. And the people there wave him down!
“Hello! Sir Launcelot! Hello? Please stop! Welcome? Hello!”
“I’m stopping, I’m stopping,” says Launcelot. “What’s up, townies?”
The townsfolk appoint a representative to step forward and engage Launcelot in conversation. “Well, boss, it’s like this,” he says. “See, in that tower there, there’s this really sad lady? And she’s trapped in a bathtub full of boiling water? And we need a hero to save her.”
“Sir Gawaine was here the other day,” pipes up another townie. “He just drank our wine and left, without saving her.”
“That sounds likely,” says Launcelot. “But really, boiling bathtubs are out of my line. Is there an ogre or an evil knight you guys need fought? I’m up for that, absolutely. Wicked magic, I dunno.”
But the townies insist, and Launcelot agrees to at least look at the bathtub and the boiling water and the damosel.