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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 11

Summary and Notes

Lancelot stays on at Arthurís court, and each week he finds it harder to leave the Queen. He pines for the Queen until Uncle Dap tells him to go elsewhere because he is losing too much weight in his misery. Arthur begs him to stay, and interestingly, Guenever agrees that he should go. The reader should recognize how difficult it is for the Queen and the knight to be unfaithful to Arthur; this is a testament to the sort of love and respect he inspires.

White notes that this quest that Lancelot goes on was the turning point of his life. He covers this important event very quickly in the next five chapters.

Arthur sends Lancelot to investigate a haunted castle. The castle is called Corbin and its owner a slightly mad King Pelles. Corbin overlooks a prosperous, dreamlike village, and when Lancelot arrives he feels ďpeculiar.Ē The people welcome him to the village joyfully; they all know his name, and the scene has a surreal, almost hallucinogenic quality to it, as if played in slow motion.


The people ask him to save a fair maiden who has been kept in boiling water by magic. Sir Gawaine had been there the previous week, to no avail, and the people ask him for his help, for the best knight in the world should be able to save her. Lancelot is reluctant, for the title of best knight in the world makes him nervous, but the village people persuade him to help the poor boiling girl.

He enters the castle, finds the girl, who is naked, and he helps her from the bath. Lancelot overcomes his embarrassment to be immensely joyful to realize that he has just performed a miracle, just as he had hoped to when he was a boy.

King Pelles arrives, and introduces the boiled girl as his daughter Elaine. Lancelot is shy around her because she is very beautiful and he had seen her naked.

This is the second time the reader has heard of Lancelotís desire to perform miracles. Lancelotís quest for spiritual purity is his most important characteristic; he is a pilgrim of sorts when he is on his quests, because he is avoiding sin, performing penance through good acts, and focussing on the spiritual. This is the greater theme for him of Book three.

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