Le Morte d’Arthur Read-Along: Update #2

Books VI through IX

Okay, this book just keeps getting stranger and stranger.  In this section, the reader first gets the honour of following Lancelot on his journeys.  We have more incidents of kidnapped knights, devious damsels, murderous giants, prison escapes and vengeance.  It always amazes me that these knights can be in the middle of a fight to the death but still manage to hold polite conversation with one another.   I’m still unclear as to the chivalric rules of when you kill a knight and when you let him live.  Do you only let him live if he’s honourable?  What if he’s honourable, yet he’s offended you?  I’m not sure.  And why, for heaven’s sake, do Knights of the Round Table fight each other?  Because there’s no one else handy?  Well, back to Lancelot …… our trusty knight further spent his time cutting cloth and stealing swords from corpses; refusing to kiss ladies who perished from their sorrow, and suffered foiled attempts at rescuing ladies from their murderous husbands who finally manage to lop off their heads.  Ay me, what fun!

Lancelot du Lac
N.C. Wyeth
source Wikiart

Beaumains arrives at court and has a fight with the greatest knight Sir Lancelot.  He nearly defeats Lancelot and only gives over when Lancelot promises to knight him.  He does this without Arthur’s knowledge, nor does he reveal that Sir Beaumains is actually Sir Gareth, the younger brother of Gawaine and Gaheris.  I have given up asking why in this book.

Sir Beaumains, with his hidden identity, proceeds to have his own adventures, attaching himself to a maiden who want nothing to do with him, and defeating everyone he meets.  Thankfully there is little killing, all due to the maiden who pleads for his rivals’ lives.  But, good gracious, does she have a tongue on her! She abuses and belittles him at every opportunity, yet Beaumains will only confess that Linet’s debasement of him makes him fight better.  O-kay ……  

Sir Gareth

Eventually Beaumains announces that he loves the lady’s sister, Liones, which doesn’t seem to bother Linet, but apparently the lack of knowledge of Beaumains’ identity does bother them, so, with their brother’s help, they decide to steal his dwarf.  That’s right. Beaumains’ dwarf.  Why they didn’t just ask Beaumains who he was, remains a mystery.  Well, our good Beaumains arrives at the castle to demand the return of his dwarf and the culprits comply since they have discovered that Beaumains is Gareth, son of a king and nephew to King Arthur.  The sparks fly between Liones and Gareth and they pledge their love to each other.  Are you with me?  Good, because it gets better …… or worse, as the case may be ……..  That night while sleeping in the hall on a couch (apparently knights need no better sleeping arrangements) a mysterious knight appears, he does battle with Gareth, and Gareth, even though severely wounded in the thigh, lops off his opponents head. Disgusting, yes, but there’s more.

The Green Knight preparing to battle
Sir Beaumains
N.C. Wyeth
source Wikiart

The lady Liones arrives, then her brother, but when Linet appears she immediately plucks up the head, smothers it with ointment, does the same to the neck, and then sticks the two together, whereupon the knight pops up and Linet takes him to her chamber.  Enough, right? Malory could not possibly continue the comedy.  But he does.  The next night, the knight with the re-attached head attacks again and this time Gareth takes no chances.  Once again, beheading him, he chops the head into hundreds of pieces and tosses his fleshy confetti out of the window.  Does this faze Linet?  Not one bit; she runs outside, gathers up the pieces and once again, by some sort of sorcery, re-assembles the hacked up knight.  One wonders what would happen if she missed a piece ……..   In any case, does this sound like a family you would want to marry into?  Well, Gareth does eventually marry the Lady Liones.  I guess it could come in handy having a healing sorceress as a sister-in-law.  As to the benefits of a rouge dwarf-stealing brother-in-law, I’m not sure …….

Tristram and Isolde
N.C. Wyeth
source Wikiart

Sir Tristram is also introduced to the reader in the last book and we learn of his love for La Belle Isould.  Again, it’s rather confusing and this post is getting long so we’ll perhaps save their shenanigans for next time!

So, all in all, an interesting read and I must say I’m enjoying it better than when I started.  My favourite story of this section is, as you can tell, the story of Sir Gareth.  My favourite name?  Definitely King Anguish of Ireland.  His name brings a sort of brotherly emotion to the spirit of the read!

6 thoughts on “Le Morte d’Arthur Read-Along: Update #2

  1. I do love King Anguish. Hee. Your reviews are so dang funny, they keep me going! I would like to steal your line about "I have given up asking why in this book."

  2. You are so welcome to borrow it! 🙂 I had expected a semi-serious book about the nobility of knighthood and got a silly romp through Arthurian England, complete with somewhat infantile disagreements and naive love …… I was going to say "love triangles" but sometimes it's "love hexagons"! I am having fun with it now, once I adjusted my expectations.

  3. Good news: I read your updates because I know how much effort you put into your reading and reviewing.
    Bad news: I cannot follow the story in details. I gather there are the
    3 G's: Gawain, Gareth, and Galahad
    1 K: King Arthur and
    1 L : Launcelot who loves Guinevere
    There are many heroic figures who lop off heads and other shenanigans as you say. Killing is rife, ladies kisses are refused and dwarfs are stolen and promptly returned because the dwarf's owner is King Arthur's nephew! Are you still with me? All kidding aside….good luck with this challenge and I am a devoted reader of these updates…..sometimes just for pure amusement!

  4. Nancy, I am reading the book and I can't tell what's going on! 😀 You've basically got it except it's much more confusing. Believe me, you'd be much more confused if you read the book. Funny, I don't think I've read about Galahad yet. Or Lancelot and Guinevere's love, just occasional cloaked references to it. But there is lots more to go!

    Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!

  5. It's pretty cool to think how these stories have been around forever and have become legend. My knowledge of the Arthurian legend is limited but its not difficult to see its influence and tends to constantly re-emerge in different forms throughout many generations from Spenser's Faerie Queen to Monty Python.

    From what I can discern from your review, this seems like a surreal and very violent fantasy tale that is highly entertaining. Not for the faint of heart I guess? ha!

  6. You know, in spite of all the killing, it really is very funny and it probably is because it's surreal, but also because Malory relates it in such a lighthearted, pragmatic, silly manner. I was just reading about a big battle with lopped off heads, and at the very end you suddenly see the sentence: "And then the haut Prince and Guinever went to supper." Just bizarre. Initially I was shocked at the tone, expecting something entirely different, but now it's great fun. It's just long …….. very long …….. I'll be both sad and relieved when it comes to an end.

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!