Study Guide

Le Morte D'Arthur Book 13

By Sir Thomas Malory

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Book 13

The Noble Tale of the Sankgreal


  • At Camelot, during the feast of Pentecost, a woman sent by King Pelles summons Launcelot to an abbey in a nearby forest, where he meets his son, Galahad. Launcelot promptly makes Galahad a knight, so add another one to the list, folks.
  • When Launcelot returns to Camelot, he and the other knights discover that the Sege Perylous has a new inscription written on it, which says that the seat will get an occupant 450 years after the death of Christ.
  • A squire comes into court and announces the presence of a sword in a stone floating in the river, which bears an inscription saying that only the best knight in the world will be able to pull it out. Sounds familiar, right?
  • Launcelot refuses to try to pull it; Gawain and Percival try together and fail.
  • An old man enters the court accompanied by a swordless young knight. The old man tells the court that the young man is a descendant of Joseph of Arimathea, and then seats the young man in the Sege Perylous, whose inscription changes to bear the name of Galahad, its new occupant.
  • Sir Galahad pulls the sword from the stone, and identifies it as the sword with which Balyn killed Balan, and which he will use to heal King Pelles. It appears there's a new sheriff in town, folks.
  • A lady on a white palfrey arrives in court and laments how far Launcelot has fallen in status since Galahad's arrival. After all, Launcelot is no longer the best knight in the world and is a pretty sinful guy when you compare him to his son.
  • She brings a message from Nacien the hermit announcing the beginning of the quest for the Sankgreall, or Holy Grail.
  • Arthur calls one last joust before the quest, during which Galahad defeats everyone except Sirs Launcelot and Percivale.
  • The Queen remarks upon how much Galahad resembles Launcelot. She's absolutely positive that Launcelot is his father.
  • During the feast after the joust, a great blast shakes the palace. This is followed by a bright light, the presence of the Holy Spirit, wonderful odors and foods, and the Holy Grail, covered in white samite.
  • After the Holy Grail departs, Gawain gives thanks for the Grail's presence but complains that no one was able to see it (because it was covered). He announces his intention to embark on a quest in search of it, not to return until he has seen it.
  • After Gawain's announcement, most of the Round Table makes the same vow. Arthur blames Gawain for the loss of his knights to this quest, which will probably prove pretty inconvenient.
  • When some ladies announce that they intend to go with their knights, a messenger from Nacien announces that the quests must be undertaken by the knights alone, in chastity.
  • Prompted by Gwenyvere's inquiries about who his father is, Galahad tells her that the identity of his true father will be revealed in good time.
  • Gwenyvere rebukes Launcelot for leaving her, but he promises to return to her as soon as he can.
  • Then, 150 of Arthur's knights depart together on their quest, but split up after they spend one night in the Castle Vagon.
  • Now, the story splits into several different episodes, each with one night as the star. First up? Galahad.

Galahad Episode 1

  • Galahad rides off without a shield. First, he makes his way to a Cistercian Abbey where he meets Sirs Badgemagus and Uwayne.
  • Apparently, they have come there in search of a shield that supposedly no one can wear without meeting with misfortune – unless he is the best knight in the world, that is. What do you want to bet Galahad can wear it?
  • Despite admitting he's not the best knight in the world, Badgemagus decides to ride out wearing the shield, and immediately takes a beating from a knight dressed all in white. Tough luck, buddy.
  • The White Knight sends a squire back to the abbey to tell Galahad that the shield is his to bear, and Galahad rides out wearing it.
  • Galahad meets the White Knight, who tells him the shield once belonged to a converted pagan named King Evelake and is painted with Joseph of Arimathea's blood, which gives it miraculous healing powers.
  • Galahad exorcizes a demon that haunts a dead body in a tomb. He learns that the demon represented the sins of mankind for which Christ died.
  • Then, Galahad knights a squire, named Melyas, and agrees to let him ride with him.
  • The two knights come to a cross in the road, which is inscribed with a message saying that the right-hand fork is for only good men and worthy knights; the left shall not be taken without some trial to follow.
  • Sir Melyas goes left; Galahad heads right.
  • Now we move on to the Tale of Sir Melyas de Lyle, and Galahad's next adventure.
  • Two days' ride into an old forest, Melyas finds a beautiful gold crown inside a little house. He takes it.
  • No sooner does he take it then a knight rides after him to get the crown, and bests Sir Melyas.
  • The gallant Sir Galahad rides up and fights with the knight who defeated Sir Melyas.
  • Galahad takes Melyas to a nearby abbey where a monk tells him he'll heal Sir Melyas within seven weeks.
  • A man tells Melyas and Galahad that the whole reason Melyas was wounded in the first place was because he didn't receive confession before being made a knight.
  • He also tells them that the two forks in the road represented deeds knightly and heavenly, and that Melyas' theft of the crown represented the sin of covetousness.
  • Galahad rides to a deserted chapel where he hears a voice telling him to go to the Castle of Maidens and end the wicked practices there. Will do, says Galahad.
  • When he arrives there, he sends seven knights packing. Inside the castle, Galahad meets a gentlewoman who tells him to chase after the seven knights he defeated and force them to end their wicked customs.
  • A priest tells Galahad that the seven knights killed the lord of the castle and took its lady prisoner. They then killed all knights and ladies that passed there as they waited for a knight to defeat them.
  • Galahad soon learns that the seven knights have been struck down by Sirs Gawain, Gareth, and Uwayne.

Sir Gawain, Episode 1

  • While we're on the subject, let's check in with Sir Gawain, shall we?
  • Gawain reaches the abbey where Melyas is quite sick, and learns that Galahad will not keep fellowship with Melyas because he's too sinful.
  • So Gawain meets with Uwayne and Gareth and they ride for the Castle of Maidens, where they handily defeat the seven knights of the Castle.
  • Afterwards, Gawain takes shelter at a nearby hermitage where he confesses.
  • The hermit rebukes him for his sinful life and tells him that the Castle of Maidens symbolized the souls that were in Hell before Christ's incarnation; the seven knights, the seven deadly sins; and Galahad, Christ.
  • The hermit gives Gawain a penance, but he refuses it, saying that his knightly adventures give him enough woe and pain.

Sir Launcelot, Episode 1

  • Now it's time for us to check in with everyone's favorite ladies' man: Sir Launcelot.
  • When Galahad rides away from the Castle of Maidens, he meets with Sirs Launcelot and Percivale, whom he jousts with and defeats.
  • After this little jousting match, Sir Launcelot comes to an old chapel inside of which is an altar decorated with six candlesticks.
  • Launcelot is unable to enter the chapel. He falls asleep and, while asleep, sees a sick man borne inside the chapel. The man is healed by the Holy Grail.
  • When Launcelot awakes, he hears a voice telling him he is "harder than stone, more bitter than wood, and more naked than the fig tree," whatever that means. Time to go, he thinks.
  • Launcelot leaves, feeling pretty bad about the fact that he has spent so much time seeking worldly honor that he's now unfit to achieve spiritual bliss.
  • So when he arrives at a hermitage, he says his confession to the occupant, hoping to do a little better on the spiritual front.
  • The hermit tells Launcelot that he has been blessed by God with his physical prowess and success, and ought to thank God for it.
  • Launcelot confesses that all his great deeds were undertaken for worldly honor and the love of the Queen, and not for God.
  • The hermit explains the words of the mysterious voice, saying that Launcelot is harder than the stone because the Holy Spirit cannot enter him, bitterer than the wood because he is sinful, and barer than the fig tree because he bears no fruit for Christ. Oh so that's what that means.
  • Launcelot repents and promises to live a clean life from now on. We'll see how long that lasts.

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