Le Morte d’Arthur Read-Along: Update #3

Well, perhaps I should have written more about Tristram in my last post as his adventures seem never ending.  He is the son of King Mark of Cornwall’s sister, but the king eventually decides to hate his nephew, from what I can gather, simply for being such a successful knight.  Before I’d read this book, I’d read of Tristram’s treachery with regard to his relationship with King Mark’s wife, La Belle Isoud, but Malory gives us some revealing information.  Tristram actually saw and fell in love with Isoud first, but when King Mark heard of her beauty from Tristram, he was determined to have her.  And what should an honourable knight do but bring back his lady love to be his king’s wife?  Then, of course, the two of them (Tristram and Isould) drink a love potion and carry on behind the king’s back.  And on and on …..

Tristram and Isolde (1916)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart

King Mark finally gets a glimmer of suspicion: “Then king Mark had great despite of the renown of Sir Tristram, and then he chased him out of Cornwall: yet was he nephew unto king Mark, but he had great suspicion unto Sir Tristram, because of his queen, La Beale Isoud: for him seemed that there was too much love between the both.”  Well, no kidding.  I guess he just missed the time they were caught together and Tristram had to jump naked out of the window.  And the time that Tristram stole Isoud and took her to stay with him in a castle, must have just slipped king Mark’s mind.  In any case, king Mark is a despicable scoundrel, always trying to slay Tristram and even sneaks into King Arthur’s court in disguise to pounce on his hated nephew.

King Mark and La Belle Iseult
Edward Burne-Jones
source Wikiart

Malory seems to undergo wild changes of topic in these sections.  “And so they let run their horses, and there Sir Palamides bare Archade on his spear over his horse tail.  And then Palamides alight, and drew his sword; but Sir Archade might not arise, and there Sir Palamides rased off his helm, and smote off his head.  Then the haut Prince and Guinever went to supper.”  It’s like riding in a car and having the brakes suddenly slammed on.  You have to be prepared.

Sir Tramtrist (Tristram) & Sir Palomides

A lesson to learn: do not feed knights food they dislike.  “Then they blew to lodgings, and the knights unarmed them, and drew them to their dinner; and at the midst of their dinner in came Dinadan, and began to rail. Then he beheld the haut prince, that seemed wroth with some fault that he saw.  For he had a custom he loved not fish; and because he was served with fish, the which he hated, therefore he was not merry.”  And if you don’t like your dinner, throw a tantrum.

Sir Galahad
George Frederick Watts
source Wikiart

Otherwise, we have more shenanigans between Palamides, the Saracen knight, and Sir Tristram.  A sword appears in a floating stone and Arthur commands Gawaine to pull it out, in spite of a curse placed on the ones who cannot complete the task.  He is unable and Percival follows to share in his curse. However, Galahad, the son of Lancelot, acquires the sword and with it the title of the greatest knight in the world.  Galahad seems a somewhat different knight from the rest and his adventures are more measured and more focused on good.  In any case, there are lots of knights running after each other, trying to seek each other, hermits and visions and such. Lancelot begins to realize that his life has been spent in unworthy occupations, which is the start of his repentance.

And, of course, so begins the quest for the Holy Sangreal!  It has been appearing and disappearing at will, and Gawaine invents the marvellous idea of a quest.  Arthur is wroth and woeful, as he sees all his knights leaving him and knows in his heart a great number will not return.  Definitely a sadder, more pathetic aura has fallen over the tone of the book at this point.

I’m into the last stretch of the journey and am both excited and hesitant to see what it will bring!

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