Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVI Chapter 13
CUT TO the next morning. We join the scene in medias res, with Bors explaining to the abbot how he can only have bread and water for breakfast, due to the strictures of the Grail Quest.
“Hmm. Bread and water it is, then. Also, I’ve put some thought into that vision you described to me,” says the abbot. “I’m no Nacien, but I think I’ve got it figured out.”
“Great, except I didn’t describe you any of my visions,” says Bors, or he would if Malory were at all on the ball.
“The dying chicken represented Our Lord Jesu Christ,” claims the abbot.
“I don’t remember a chicken at all.”
“Just as Christ bled His heart-blood for mankind on the cross, the blood that the great fowl bled revived the chickens from death to life. See? It makes sense.”
“Sure, but this isn’t my vision. I never told you about a vision with a chicken. I had a vision with flowers and a chair.” Bors is (or by all rights ought to be) thoroughly confused.
“Now, the bare tree meanwhile, the one all leafless and fruitless and barren? That’s the world, without Christianity. Empty. And when Catherine appeared —“
“Okay, listen, I admit I have had a dream or two featuring Catherine, but I definitely didn’t tell you about them and they definitely didn’t feature dead trees or chickens!”
“Catherine was really Jesus.” The abbot is on a roll, now. “And her father, King Aniause, that was God the Father. You fought for Catherine, just as you fight for Christ against the non-Christ powers. And the black bird, meantime…”
“Wait wait wait. I get it now.” Bors speaks for the audience. “You’re talking about the vision that I already had explained by Nacien (who in retrospect I realize was not really Nacien, even though he kept insisting he was Nacien). Except that you’re adding all of these elements, chickens and trees and Catherine, that weren’t in it at the time. So the white bird was the chicken, who was Jesus, and the black bird was what now? The Devil? Paganism?”
“The black bird was the Catholic Church, obviously,” says the abbot.
“And you’ve lost me again,” sighs Bors.
“Now, the swan…”
“How many birds are we listing? Chicken-Jesus, non-Jesus chickens who were miraculously healed by the blood of Chicken-Jesus, a blackbird, and now a swan? There were only two birds in this vision, if we’re even talking about the same vision. I don’t know any more.”
“The swan is white on the outside but black on the inside, which is to say, the swan symbolizes hypocrisy! Hypocrisy in the form of not-Nacien, who was really a demon disguised as Nacien!”
“I figured that one out, yeah. The not-Nacien thing, not the hypocrisy thing.”
“So the third fowl betokeneth the strong battle against the fair ladies which were all demons. Also there was a dead tree which represented your brother Sir Lionel —“
“You just said the dead tree, which again I don’t recollect any dead tree, but you just said the dead tree was the world in the absence of Christianity.”
“Sir Lionel is a jerk, see. Men ought to call him the rotten tree, and the worm-eaten tree, for he is a murderer and doth contrary to the order of knighthood.”
“For serious? We have had zero reports of Sir Lionel being anything but an officer and a gentleman.”
“And the two flowers…”
“We’re back on the flowers? When you say tree, do you mean the chair that Nacien was (for some reason, in the dream) holding the two big flowers back from?”
The abbot is on way too much of a roll to pause for clarification. “The two flowers were Catherine and some other guy who died or something, and if you hadn’t saved her then the rotten tree would have punished the flower!”
“You’re really making very little sense here, even by the standards of Le Morte D’Arthur.”
“For that ye rescued them both, men might call you a very knight and servant of Jesu Christ,” concludes the abbot with a smile. “You see? It all hangs together.”
Sir Bors’s response is to thank the abbot politely and then leave the abbey as quickly as possible.
Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVI Chapter 13 — No Comments
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