Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur Book XIV, Chapters 6 and 7
In Percivale’s dream, he lounges on the grass with two ladies. One lady sits on his lion friend, and the other sits on a giant serpent which may or may not be the same giant serpent as Percivale helped his lion friend slay in the previous chapter. One of the ladies is young and the other is old, but Percivale can’t keep track of which is which, because it’s a dream and dreams are like that.
Then Malory lets us know that the younger lady is the one on the lion. She clears her throat and makes an announcement. “Sir Percivale, my lord saluteth thee, and sendeth thee word that thou array thee and make thee ready for tomorn thou must fight with the strongest champion of the world. And if thou be overcome that shall not be quit for losing any of thy members, but thou shalt be shamed for ever to the world’s end.”
“Your boss says hi, and that I have to fight a guy tomorrow, and that if I lose I won’t get any of limbs sliced off, I’ll just be ashamed of myself,” Percivale says back to her.
The younger lady nods. “Yeah, that’s the message. If you lose, you definitely won’t get anything sliced off.”
“Cool. That’s very reassuring. Who’s your boss?”
“The greatest lord of all the world, duh.”
Wait, you may well ask, is that the Devil, known as “King of this world,” or Christ, “King of the next world?” This is an important question! But she teleports away without clarifying!
“Whoa, that was pretty crazy.” Percivale turns to the other lady that rode upon the serpent, who has started clearing her throat, too.
“Sir Percivale, I complain me of you that ye have done unto me, and have not offended you,” she says.
“What? I didn’t do anything, ma’am!”
“Did too! I shall tell you why. I have nourished in this place a great while a serpent, which served me a great while, and yesterday ye slew him as he gat his prey. Say me for what cause ye slew him, for the lion was not yours.”
“Well, okay, ma’am, I admit that I was coming into the lion-serpent fight as a neutral party, but c’mon. When you see a lion and a serpent, you’re just naturally going to take the side of the lion! That’s common sense! Also I didn’t know the serpent belonged to anybody. I thought the scene was just me and the lion and the serpent, with no ladies present or affected, ma’am. I mean, what do you want from me, now that the serpent is dead? All due respect, ma’am, we can’t unring that bell.”
She has an alternative in mind, in fact. “Since you killed my serpent, you should kneel down and swear to become my slave!”
“Oh. No.” Percivale is not into that. “No, thank you though. I won’t be doing that.”
The woman shrugs. “You’ve been nothing but my slave ever since before you were baptized. Therefore when in the future I find you sleeping I will steal you away, as though you were my husband.”
But she, too, has teleported away. Percivale is left alone, in his dream.
Then, when he wakes up, he discovers the tide has come in and washed him out to sea!
NEXT: MORE CRAZINESS
Huh — interesting point. There I was, thinking “Kill the serpent” and I can’t really justify it. Maybe because lions are cool? Maybe because they symbolized England?
After the Grail Quest is over I want to go back over the differences between Percivale, Galahad, and Bors. Maybe Launcelot and Gawaine, I dunno. My point is that while Galahad seems to simply drift forward towards the Grail without his feet actually touching the ground, Percivale at least takes deliberate actions during his quest — killing the serpent is just one example.
So Galahad is acting like one fated to find the Grail and knows it, while Percivale is trying?