Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIII Chapter 15 Continued
Galahad chases the six surviving brothers out of the Castle of the Maidens compound. He’s about to follow them out and run them down in the countryside, but an old priest, one of the inhabitants of the Castle, stops him. Malory wants us to understand Maidens’ Castle is a whole town, not just the one castle, though there’s a straight-up castle there, too.
“You’ve saved us!” says the old priest. “Here, help me unlock all the doors!” He stuffs a set of keys into Galahad’s hands and takes another keyring for himself and together the two of them open up all the gates. The townsfolk of the Castle of the Maidens stream in and thank Galahad for driving off those seven guys, who were jerks.
Fearing that they might come back, Galahad takes the advice of a townswoman and sends messages to all the landholders that swore fealty to the lord of Maidens’ Castle, telling them to knock it off with the wicked customs already. She presents him with a ceremonial horn, the blowing of which will send out a signal that there’s a new administration in Maidens’ Castle.
After he blows the horn and has a little lie-down, it occurs to Galahad to ask a question. “What exactly were the wicked customs, anyway?” asks Galahad. “In all the excitement I never asked.”
So the priest explains. Seven years ago the seven knights visited Maidens’ Castle, ruled at the time by Duke Lianour. They met his daughter and lusted after her, which nobody liked. Now, she was a full fair woman, this isn’t child molestation we’re talking about, just regular molestation. But still, Lianour asked them to leave, and instead they murdered him and his son and locked everyone up in a dungeon. And for seven years they’ve been collecting our taxes.
“Whoa!” says Galahad.
Shortly after they imprisoned her, the duke’s daughter uttered a prophecy about how the seven of them would be brought low by a lone knight. The seven’s response was to adopt a policy of murdering any lone knight that came through Maidens’ Castle, in case he was the knight prophesied to kill them. Also they imprisoned maidens and did terrible things to them. And therefore it is called the Maidens’ Castle, for they have devoured many maidens.
I’m pretty sure Malory means “devoured” in a metaphorical sense, rather than claiming that the seven interlopers were killing and eating people. But still, pretty bad.
“Can I meet this prophetess, Lianour’s daughter?” asks Galahad.
Yes and no, it turns out. Yes, inasmuch as they’ll be happy to take him to her, and no, inasmuch as she’s been dead for six years and eleven months and three weeks.
“Dang,” says Galahad.
She does have a younger sister, Lianour’s third child! So despite her being pretty badly traumatized by all the devouring (Malory makes it plain she had to endureth great pains with mo other ladies), Galahad names her the ruler of Maidens’ Castle.
The next morning a messenger shows up to tell Galahad not to worry about the six surviving knights. Gawaine and Gareth and Uwaine slew them!
NEXT: The story of how Sir Gawaine slew some guys even more villainous than he was!
So can I say that Galahad is the first guy who actually wins my admiration?
Come to think of it, maybe not, because Galahad had no idea what these guys had done.
The bit where he pretends he’s Butch Cassidy was pretty good, I thought.
Also, Jesus (or someone) gave Galahad the official go-ahead. He didn’t know what they’d done wrong, but they definitely pinged his paladin detect evil power.
Well, there is that, but I have to say “I killed them because Jesus told me to” is understandable given the mindset, but not exactly okay by me.
We don’t really have a word for “Okay by their lights and I’m not judging, but man, what a bunch of a-holes,” which keeps getting me in trouble when discussing pre-Columbian Central and South Americans.