Saturday, November 15, 2014

Le Morte D'Arthur Readalong, Part III

I'm a little late with this post, mostly for good reasons.  I planned to write it up yesterday, but instead I spent the whole day with the jitters because I was due to spend the evening competing in a trivia contest.  The event was the annual fundraiser for our county's literacy program, and this was my second year on the team.  Last year we came really close to winning, but the final round killed us, and I was really hoping to do better this year.  There were 21 teams and the questions are pretty hard!  I'm pleased to report that our team took first place!!  yay!!  and so it was a great success.  But for all of yesterday, about all I could accomplish was to potter nervously or read As You Wish, Cary Elwes' new book chronicling the making of The Princess Bride. 

So, on with King Arthur....

I read Books X through XV, and X was really something of a slog, honestly.  It is huge, and mostly consists of endless jousting, spear-brasting, blood brasting out of noses and ears, and swords and more blood and horses getting killed too, poor things.  It was a relief to get done with Sir Tristram and on to more interesting things!

On the whole, though, this is really turning into quite a soap opera, as the knights collect grievances against one another and intrigue to take revenge.  Lamorak sleeps with Queen Morgause, whose head is promptly swopped off by her own son, because he's horrified that his mother would sleep with the son of the man who killed her husband.  Lamorak protests that his father didn't kill King Lot, Balin did!  And on and on it goes, with murderous factions developing all over the court.  (I bet Malory had plenty of first-hand experience of court intrigue!)

 Some incidents I thought worth noting:

Book X, chapter 32: Saracens show up in Cornwall (!), largely to illustrate the utter perfidy and terribleness of King Mark.  Because goodness knows we can't have Tristram looking bad for having an affair with Mark's wife.  In other chapters, Mark is proven to be incredibly cowardly and also devious--in chapter 51 he forges letters from the Pope and puts Tristram in prison.

Chapter 38: Sir Alisander is taken prisoner by Morgan le Fay, and when he hears that she wants him to be her leman, announces "I had lever cut away my hangers than I would do her such pleasure."  Yep, that means just what you think.

Chapter 63: Whoa, we get the news that Lamorak has been murdered by Gawaine and his three brothers (not Gareth).  I don't know why this episode is told as an off-stage incident, but I don't recall its existence in other Arthurian tales either.  Anyone else?

Tristram and Palomides finally have their final, really final confrontation.  They can't quite decide whether they are friends or enemies, and it's pretty funny.  In the end, they decide to be friends, and Tristram stands Palomides' godfather at his christening.

FINALLY we get to the more interesting story about Lancelot siring Galahad in the most bizarre way possible (the world's purest knight is begotten by deception and enchantments, OK....).  Poor Lancelot goes mad for a couple of years and other things happen.  Then Galahad shows up to sit in the Siege Perilous (I just love that name) and Malory informs us that this is all occurring in the year 454 AD, over a thousand years ago for him, nearly twice as far away from his time than he is from us!  I suppose that makes it historical fiction, of a sort....?

Book XIII, chapter 11: We learn the story of Galahad's shield, which is of course pure white with a red cross.  (It would be quite interesting to study the complete history of that emblem, what with the Crusades and St. George and Galahad and the English flag...)  The white shield belonged to King Evelake, and--get this--Joseph of Arimathea had a massive nosebleed and made the red cross with his own blood.

Malory really seems much more interested in head-swopping and spear-brasting than all this mystical questy stuff that I think is much more fun.  I think he's zipping through it as fast as he can manage without just leaving it out altogether, which is kind of a bummer.

As always, Arthur's court exists in fairy-tale time.  Lancelot is by now well over 40, but he's still Lancelot; he'll never get old.

OK, so now I'm on the last stretch!  Books XVI - XXI, due December 1st.  How are you all doing?  Is anybody sticking with me on this insane quest? 




Our trivia bee team: Phil, me, and Nancy (aka my mom, the trivia wizard)





2 comments:

cleopatra said...

Good grief, you've been a posting machine lately. I can't keep up!

Congratulations on your win BTW. We can now call you "smarty pants". Or if that's not deferential enough, Lady Jean, in keeping with this post. ;-)

I've just started book XI, but I thought I'd never finish book X. That book almost did me in, only because of its length! I can sense there is a darker, more serious tone to the book now. I'm bracing myself for sad times ahead.

Pat yourself on the back for being able to keep up. Honestly I'm glad I'm being pushed or I don't think I would have finished this at all. And I actually think that I'd like to read it again someday. Can you believe it?

Jean said...

Lately I have this problem where I ignore blogging for a week because I'm not in the mood, books pile up (literally, because they sit here on my desk until I write about them so I won't forget), I decide to post and suddenly become productive, and then I lose steam again. So it's this week-on, week-off pattern right now.

Thanks! :)