Study Guide

Galahad in The Once and Future King

By T.H. White

Galahad

And then there's this guy. Galahad. In some of White's source material, he's referred to as Galahad the Hawté Prince. Yeah, he's probably hawt, but here "hawté" means "high" or "haughty." And there's quite a bit of evidence in these novels that Galahad is both high and haughty. He certainly is up on his high horse most of the time—literally and figuratively. He's so super-good that he's really insufferable and comes off as being quite inhuman.

We first meet this boy as "a mysterious child" (K.21.12) and a "priggish, mute little boy" (K.23.5), so he doesn't really endear himself to us from the get-go. He plays with dolls long after most little boys would have moved on to playing with the medieval equivalent of knight action figures, and Lance even makes some of these for him (they can really joust even!). But Galahad will have none of this, and only wants to play with his favorite toy, "a rag doll which he called the Holy Holy" (K.23.5).

He's a ton of fun, that Galahad.

And it just goes downhill from there. As a young knight, he becomes "a fine young fellow, seemly and demure as a dove" (K.27.56). He receives his education at a convent, so he is a total goody-goody and doesn't drink or eat meat. What a buzzkill.

Gawain pokes fun at him for this and says he's been raised "in a nunnery amidst a paircel of auld hens" (K.28.22), and speculates that he may be "a catamite" (K.28.19) (which was a medieval term for homosexual).

Grail Quest Rock Star

Galahad becomes the rock star of the Holy Grail quest. He carries a shield of white (signifying his chastity) with a red cross on it. As Lancelot's son, he's the only knight who can best him physically and spiritually. While Lancelot is the best of earthly men, Galahad, it seems, is the best of all men. He, along with Percivale and Bors, fully achieves the Grail. And this basically means he dies, because if "you achieve perfection, you die" (K.36.3).

There's nothing more for Galahad on earth because he's sooo perfect, so the only thing left that God could give him is death.

He's pretty full of himself, though, and refuses to travel with other knights during the Holy Grail quest, because they're not good enough. He has an "insufferable self confidence" (K.30.48) that most of the other knights find grating.

But, there's also an otherworldly aspect to him. Lancelot compares him to an angel (K.32.28), and he's described as one of "three supernatural virgins" (K.33.28). This otherworldliness makes him inhuman, though. One sign of this is in how Galahad makes Sir Lionel's "hair go the wrong way" (K.30.37). There's just something not quite right about this dude.

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