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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 24

Summary and Notes

Lancelot tells his brother Ector that he cannot leave Elaine because he has some unsaid obligation towards her. Ector counters by explaining that not only is the Queen desperate for him, but so is Arthur.

Apparently there have been problems with the Orkney brothers at Camelot. Lancelot is keen for gossip and pesters Ector for more details, but Ector is not so easy. Ector tells him that to stay at the Joyous Isle means no knighthood, no chivalry, complete anonymity, and no glory. Furthermore, he reiterates that the Queen is “wretched” and desperate to find him. In addition, Lancelot does not love Elaine and never will, whereas he loves the Queen and she in return.

In considering Lancelot’s character, it is clear that those values that make his essence would be suspended or even eliminated were he to stay on the Joyous Isle. Although it may be the “right” thing to do in that he would be fulfilling an obligation to Elaine and his child Galahad, he would not be true to any part of himself were he to stay on. White has done a thorough job of depicting Lancelot’s conflict between his knightly honor and his love, and in staying with Elaine, he is effectively dismissing both. He will be neither a Knight of the Round Table nor the Queen’s lover. Therefore, it is imperative for the survival of his character that he return to Camelot.


One day Elaine asks Lancelot what she should do with Galahad when he leaves her. Lancelot denies that he will leave her, but Elaine presses on. Lancelot promises that if he would leave, he will come back to her eventually, which the reader may be surprised to hear. Whether he can keep his Word on this issue remains to be seen.

There is a knight waiting patiently for Lancelot on the other side of the moat across from the Joyous Isle. This man is Uncle Dap, Lancelot’s old squire, and he carries Lancelot’s armor from Camelot. Lancelot has an intensely visceral, almost sensual response to his own armor, which brings back thoughts of Guenever (Jenny). He immediately dons the armor and rides away.

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