Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XI, Chapter 7
Elaine, out in Castle Corbin, hears about this party, and figures it would be a terrific opportunity to bring baby Galahad to Camelot, and introduce him to his father, and so on. A dutiful daughter, she asks her father for permission to make the trip.
“Well, okay,” says Pellam. “But I don’t want anyone in Camelot thinking we’re poor. So you get dressed up really fancy, all right?”
“You’re the best!”
Brisen, who has taken on the position of Elaine’s lady-in-waiting and/or Galahad’s governess, oversees Elaine’s makeover. By the end of a montage, Elaine is apparelled unto the purpose that there was never no lady more richlier beseen! We’re talking gold cloth, and sequins, and body glitter, and jewels just everywhere.
She and Brisen and nine of her besties and an escort of twenty knights on one hundred horses all ride together from Corbin to Camelot, where Arthur and Guenever are bowled over by her style and expensive clothes.
In fact, Arthur and Guenever get everyone to drop what they’re doing, and line up in the throne room, so that Arthur can introduce Elaine personally to all of his knights. There’s Tristram, and Bleoberis, and Gawaine, and already my eyes are glazing over so let’s all be thankful that Malory trails off with “and many more that I will not rehearse.”
Launcelot, when he sees her, gets all pale and trembly and conspicuous, because he recollects about how he slept with her and then threatened to kill her and then ran away when she claimed she was pregnant. And now she shows up with an infant son and she’s looking incredible in her Brisen-approved new wardrobe!
Elaine responds much the same way, because she’s mad with puppy-love for Launcelot, and there he is, just staring at her and not saying anything and it’s enough to make a girl want to go hide in a closet. She smiles a fixed smile, and turns to Brisen, who is standing next to her.
“Brisen,” she says through bared teeth, “Launcelot is really freaking me out.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay, your enchantress is on the case,” Brisen whispers. “How about tonight you and he sleep together? Would you like that?”
“Oh my yes!” squeaks Elaine.
“I’ll figure something out.”
Guenever observes the Launcelot-Elaine interaction, and one thing we can agree about Malory’s depiction of Guenever is that she’s not an idiot. She figures out pretty much instantly that despite Launcelot’s earlier assertions about witchcraft, Elaine has the hots for Launcelot and Launcelot feels conflicted about it. So when the time comes Guenever takes Elaine by the hand and pays her tremendous put-down-compliments, like how Elaine’s dress disguises her worst physical features, and how her haircut hides those awful ears, and how serene she looks when she hides her ugly teeth, that kind of thing, but way more subtle than I’m portraying it.
Elaine, too, recognizes Guenever as her primary romantic rival, and entreats with her in a superficially pleasant but secretly hateful manner. Malory is vague on the specifics for how Elaine and Guenever interact, I confess.
That evening, Guenever invites Elaine to the room directly across the hall from Guenever’s, and of course Elaine can’t refuse her. Then Guenever sidles over to Launcelot and demands that he come sleep with her that night, as he does sometimes, what with their decades-long affair.
“If you don’t, I’ll assume you’re sleeping with Elaine instead, ha ha,” says Guenever. “Seriously, show up or else.”
“It was witchery, I told you,” insists Launcelot.
“Just come when I call, or there’ll be trouble, that’s all I’m saying.”
Brisen hears all this, thanks to clairaudience, and wastes no time filling in Elaine.
“Oh no! But I can’t sleep with Launcelot now! And you said that I could! You said!”
“Calm down, child,” says Brisen. “Your Aunty Brisen will fix everything, don’t you worry. I’ll simply disguise myself as one of Guenever’s handmaidens and fetch him nominally for Guenever, but really I’ll lead him to your bed.”
“Oh, okay,” says Elaine. “For all the world I love not so much as I do Sir Launcelot.“
Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XI, Chapter 7 — No Comments
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