Friday, October 31, 2014

Le Morte D'Arthur, Part II

How are you all doing with the readalong?  I'm finding the schedule to be a little more rigorous than I had meant it to be.  But I've finished Books VI through IX, and I thought I'd  better get going on X since it's soooo long.

I had not realized that Malory was so much rougher than many of the earlier stories that I'd read.  He is way more into the fighting and the smashing and the spearing and thunder, isn't he?  And nobody seems to be as pure and well-behaved as usual.  Gawaine is awful.  Arthur, the ideal king (except for that one problem), is fairly awful too.  I've heard that Malory was in prison for behaving like a ruffian, and it seems to have worked its way into his stories more than I had expected!

Interesting how, now that Arthur is settled into kingship and has conquered Europe, there is no more war--but everybody has to keep fighting, obviously, because if not there will be no point to their lives.  So they start hanging out at bridges or randomly challenging each other to joust.  You can't swing a cat in the forest without meeting a knight or three, or a damsel, or a castle.  Maybe a hermit.  No woodcutters or peasants, usually (although I suppose castles imply the existence of peasants, we just don't talk about them).

Interesting notes:

Book VI is the story of Launcelot, but this is Launcelot before he gets too involved with Guinevere, which I assume we shall hear more of anon.  In chapter 10, he even makes a speech, about how he is Guinevere's knight, and will never marry because then he would have to stop adventuring and battling, and he will never have a paramour, because then God would punish him and he would either be beaten in battle by a lesser knight, or kill a better knight accidentally and that would be terrible.  I guess he'll change his mind, but then he really does kill a bunch of his friends accidentally, so...be warned.

For the moment, at least, Launcelot is a better man than, say, Gawaine.  Gareth actually stops talking to his big brother, because Gawaine "was vengeable, and where he hated he would be avenged with murder, and that hated Sir Gareth."

Tristram's birth in Book VIII is quite interesting--there's all this about how happy and loving his parents were, and then a lady who wants King Meliodas for herself kidnaps him!  And Tristram's mother, Elizabeth, runs around in the forest alone looking for him and has her baby out there, poor lady, and dies.  Meliodas doesn't die in this version, though; instead he re-marries after seven years and the new stepmother tries to murder little Tristram and gets her own child instead.

Apparently people will never learn not to promise boons without making some rules ahead of time.  King Mark promises a boon, and the knight who asks it decides he would like another knight's wife.  Well, there's nothing to be done, because Mark promised a boon!  I mean, other knights can go after him and fight to get her back, but nobody says "No, you can't just abduct a woman out of this room!"  And then she decides to stay with him anyway, because...I'm not sure.  She's mad at her husband and at Tristram, but why she therefore prefers her kidnapper is beyond me.

Sir Lamorak is supposed to be a really wonderful knight, but he sure does some strange things.  For example--Lamorak witnesses Gawaine abducting a lady whose knight is asleep.  Lamorak quite properly chases Gawaine down and proposes to fight with him.  Gawaine instead attacks the sleeping knight, who smites him down and gets his lady back.  Lamorak then decides that it's his duty to take revenge on Gawaine's behalf, and so the formerly-sleepy knight and he joust, and Lamorak kills him.  What?

Boy, this is a lot of jousting and fighting.  And I'm getting a little tired of ol' Sir Tristram.  Let's get some Grail questing going on here!

Our next installment will consist of Books X - XV, which mostly involves the vast Book X.  It's 87 chapters long.  If you want, you can shove Books XIV and XV to next time, but taken together they only come to 20 pages or so.

1 comment:

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

The Tristram section goes on forever. And then has no ending. Not the most deft part of Malory.