Sir Bors is an all right guy! Like Sir Percivale, he’s a little more down to earth than Galahad. Galahad is just weird, like he’s too good for this world. But Bors is okay. I mean, granted, Malory’s utter lack of characterization means that Bors and Percivale are mostly indistinguishable. Everybody from Griftlet to Uwaine is just kind of there, excepting a few people like Pellinore (that ass!), Merlin (that ass!), Tristram (that ass!), and Gawaine (that ass!) who are all awful in different ways.
Speaking of Gawaine, Malory opens Book XVI with a little digression on how Gawaine does his best to succeed at the Quest for the Holy Grail, despite a) being told several times, by Nacien and by angels, that he’s not eligible and b) having no idea how to proceed and c) accidentally killing Uwaine over nothing in particular. And also “does his best” does not include following Nacien’s prescriptions of careful atonement and penance and chastity. After all, he and Nacien had basically the same conversation back in Book XIII.
But once Gawaine is out of the way, Bors’s story gets going. He meets Catherine, who really happens to need a knightly champion, and is more than willing to ply Bors with riches and sex and accolades. He defends Catherine against Minnie-May, or as Malory would put it “the woman against the other woman” because yet again Malory doesn’t bother to name women. But regardless, Bors is a class act.
Then things get weird, because Bors has a vision which I honestly don’t know if it’s meant to be part of the Devil’s trickery or if it’s an honest-to-Betsy mystic vision. Around this point Bors falls into the Devil’s trap (unless that already happened, and the Devil stage-managed his meeting with Catherine) when he meets a Nacien impersonator.
I should admit that textually it could be that the impersonator is just impersonating J. Random Hermit-Advisor, since Nacien isn’t mentioned by name here. But if we run with the premise that all of the white-robed holy men who pop up and give knights instructions are the same guy, then the not-Nacien is definitely pretending to be Nacien. Fake Nacien does a terrible job explaining Bors’s vision, then leads Bors into temptation. It’s very like the temptation that Percivale had to castrate himself to escape, but Bors has been around the block a few times and he knows how to resist the Devil’s wiles.
After Bors does what no one else in the narrative has managed yet, i.e. overcome temptation, he gets a rest break at a monastery run by a guy who clearly isn’t Nacien because he has no idea how to interpret a vision. The dude ends up dragging in all kinds of extra stuff, and misremembers other parts, and it’s a mess.
Then Lionel shows up and he’s mad at Bors for not saving him earlier, which is defensible. He’s mad to the point of almost killing Bors and actually killing a hermit and poor Sir Colgrevance, but then Bors miraculously recovers and forgives him and rides off to meet Percivale.
The bit at the end where Bors rides his horse out along the pier and then leaps onto the deck of Percivale’s ship: pretty cool. And now almost all the pieces are in place; we’re missing only Sir Galahad.
Knights of the Round Table who have died: a list I surely won’t have to update as we go on from here!
Sir Balin, slain by Sir Balan in Book II.*
Sir Balan, slain by Sir Balin in Book II.*
Sir Accolon, slain by King Arthur as a result of Morgan’s plan failing in Book IV.*
King Pellinore, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine sometime after the start of Book IV.
Sir Chestaline, Sir Gawaine’s youthful ward, slain by Roman soldiers during Book V.*
Sir Marhaus, slain by Sir Tristram early in Book VIII.
Sir Lamorak, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine and his brothers around the time of Book X.
Sir Uwaine, slain by Sir Gawaine in Book XVI.
Sir Colgrevance, slain by Sir Lionel in Book XVI.
Starred entries are knights who were not, technically, members of the Round Table, but who were more or less solid Camelot-allies. The number one cause of death is slaying by another Knight of the Round Table, even though the first rule of the Round Table is that you don’t murder other members of the Round Table. The only exception is Sir Chestaline, who isn’t really a Knight of the Round Table and only appears in one sentence in all of Malory, when Malory announces he died. I’m leaving out Sir Kehdyius, because he was a dip who never made it to Camelot, but he dies offscreen sometime after the start of Book IX.