Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIII Chapters 19 and 20
Launcelot comes to a hermitage, complete with Nacien, this book’s official wise hermit, and the two of them sit down and Launcelot pours out his heart. A whole nother monologue about how sad he is!
But Nacien won’t hear it. “You’re Sir Launcelot du Lake, Knight of the Round Table! You’re the most celebrated knight in Christendom and generally just the best! Ye ought to thank God more than any knight living, for blessing you with your tremendous and unmatched jousting prowess! Granted, you’re full of sin, but that was your presumption to take upon you deadly sin for to be in His presence. Jesus isn’t punishing you. This is just the natural consequence of your choices that you chose to choose. Ye are the more beholding unto God than any other man, to love Him and dread Him, for your strength and manhood will little avail you if God be against you.””You’re right, you’re right of course,” says Launcelot. “I should never have fallen in illicit courtly love with Guenever. Can you become my twelve-step sponsor?”
“I’d be honored,” says Nacien. “But you’ve got to promise to stop sleeping with Guenever.”
So Launcelot swears a solemn oath and Nacien blesses him.
Then they have a little chat about the mysterious holy voice that started off this entry. The hermit claims that the various appellations possess symbolic meaning: he’s harder than stone because he’s too heavy and thick for the Holy Spirit to enter him. He’s too guilty for Jesus, just as a rotting tree is too bitter for squirrels (or something). He’s like a fig tree, also, which Nacien strains a little to explain but comes up with a reference to Mark 11:12-14.
And on the morrow when they were come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree afar off, that had leaves, He went to see if He might find anything thereon: but when He came unto it, He found nothing but leaves: for the time of figs was not yet. Then Jesus answered, and said to it, Never man eat fruit of thee hereafter while the world standeth: and his disciples heard it.
Just as Jesus cursed that fig tree, so too has Launcelot’s sin cursed him, says the hermit.
“Wow, I would never have caught that one,” says Launcelot. “No wonder you’re a holy hermit!”
“Yes, I’m quite holy,” agrees Nacien. “Now, for your penance, I want you to spend a day praying with me, then go back to knighting and having strange adventures, but this time being holy while you do it. Like Galahad or Percivale or Pellas the Good.”
“Sure thing,” says Launcelot. “Except Jesus took all my knighting stuff.”
Nacien indicates this is an easily solved problem, perhaps because Jesus and Nacien are so tight.
And then Sir Launcelot repented him greatly.
Now Malory is done with Launcelot for a while, he says. Book XIV is all about Percivale, he claims, so strap in!
>Just as Jesus cursed that fig tree, so too has Launcelot’s sin cursed him, says the hermit.
I wonder if there are any Christian sects which ban figs altogether.