I was supposed to make this report a week ago. And, unlike some readalongs where I didn’t report because I hadn’t done the reading, I’ve actually done the reading. Sometimes one just doesn’t feel like blogging because one is too busy
playing Simpson’s Tapped Out doing incredibly important things. So this readalong is hosted by the lovely Jean of Howling Frog Books and I think there are maybe three of us who are damn fool enough to attempt to tackle this monsterpiece of medieval literature. And now looking at the schedule again, I believe I misread it and have only just now gotten to where I was supposed to be a week ago: Lucius the Emperor of Rome. This is kind of too bad as I was enjoying believing I was a little ahead of things. Oh, well. Spoilers ahead.
Morte D’Arthur is a translation from the French by Thomas Malory while he pined away in a medieval jail. Though apparently a condensed version of the French books, it still weighs in at some 1100 pages or so. Utter madness when I have all these challenges to try to finish and I don’t believe it fills any of them. It’s a few years too late to be pre-printing press, although it was one of the first books printed in England. I could have read Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight. That would have qualified and is only maybe 250 pages. But no. I joined this challenge and made it at least to book V.
And I gotta say, this is a strange book. I’m having a similar reaction to it that I had to the Bible, which I had heard much about, but hadn’t actually read until college: this is not at all what I was lead to expect. Chivalry? Heroism? Not so much. Jousting there is. Combat in plenty. Lopping peoples’ heads off is the main thing and making people wear them like necklaces. Ew. There seems to be an awful lot of executions without trial and a great deal of idiocy. Oh, the idiocy. It’s rampant. That should have been their seal, most of them: an idiot rampant on a blood red field.
Arthur, of course, is the major disappointment: sleeping around, including with his sister, killing all the boys born on a certain day in an attempt to escape his fate and generally fighting people for no darned reason. I understand, you’re a knight, you want to prove how great you are, but is it really necessary to kill everyone to do so? I say nay. One of the first lessons Arthur should learn: never promise a gift to be named later. Obviously hadn’t read his Greek mythology or he wouldn’t have done that. Also surprised that though he’s the only one who can pull the sword from the stone and this is a complete and total miracle, still hardly any knights accept him as king until after a giant battle or twelve.
Arthur’s not the only one though. Balin, who’s so pure he’s the only one who can pull a sword from a certain lady’s scabbard, instantly belies his purity and like a jerk then refuses to give it back. She says you’ll be sorry, you’re going to kill the person you love best with it. Oh, that’s all right, he says, shrugging this off. Treacherous idiot. Balin makes every situation he encounters worse. He sees a knight about to kill himself. He stops him and makes him come visit his beloved who happens to be in the arms of another man at the time. The knight then kills his love, her love and himself, instead of just himself. Thanks, Balin. Good work.
Arthur is later given Excalibur by the Lady in the Lake. All very confusing. It being different from the sword in the stone though at one point that one is called Excalibur. So now he really has Excalibur and a scabbard that will stop him bleeding when hit. What does he do with these treasures? He gives them to his sister. Even if your sister doesn’t hate you with a passion, which she does, why the hell would you ever let this sword and scabbard out of your sight? You chop off heads every other day! Keep your damn sword!
Also, apparently you could just walk into other peoples’ castles any time you felt like it, kill their hounds, or their girlfriend, and then get mad because they take offense. Might makes right and if it moves you should probably kill it. But sometimes you should just ride around alone with your friends and get captured by evil people. It’s a good thing to know whether your sister can turn herself into stone, but it’s also best, if you’re an evil queen, to go fetch the sword to murder your husband yourself.
Finally we get to the part with Sir Gawaine and Sir Marhaus. Sir Marhaus is actually chivalrous and mighty. He kills when necessary, but doesn’t go around lopping off heads he shouldn’t. He takes care of his damosel and helps his fellow knights, unlike Gawaine who betrays Sir Pelleas and sleeps with his girlfriend. Sir Pelleas is also a decent knight. He’s in love with Ettard, but sadly, she doesn’t like him at all. When she sleeps with Sir Gawaine, Sir Pelleas wants to kill them both, but he restrains himself. Gawaine apparently has absolutely no reason for betraying Pelleas whom he promised to help nor any compunction for doing so. His damosel leaves him in disgust. This is rather funny, but also strange and I wonder if some significant part of the story got left out.
I’ll carry onward with this weird book, but I wish I were a little ahead as I thought and not a week behind as it turns out I am.