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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 26

Summary and Notes

Arthur and Lancelot discuss Gareth and the rest of the Orkney faction. The tenor of their conversation is intimate and affectionate. Gareth came anonymously to Camelot and slaved in the kitchen until he had an adventure and became a great knight with Lancelot’s help. Arthur thanks Lancelot for guiding Gareth, and Lancelot criticizes Morgause for being a “bad old woman.” Arthur quickly defends her, and the reader gain will notice Arthur’s sympathy and generosity towards those who may deserve it least.

Lancelot instinctively dislikes Mordred, but keeps this information from the King, because Arthur expresses affection towards Mordred. Lancelot, of course does not know that Mordred is Arthur’s son, and it is not clear at this point whether the King himself knows.

Further gossip reveals that Morgause has seduced Lamorak, which is one of King Pellinore’s sons. The reader will need to recall at this point that Pellinore accidentally killed Lot, the Orkney brothers’ father, and they, in turn, killed Pellinore. Considering Morgause’s semi-incestuous relationship with her sons (particularly Agravaine) and the sexually violent reactions they have regarding her, this is a precarious situation.


The King reacts dramatically, and asks to talk to the brothers. Arthur emotionally tells Lancelot that he is afraid for the future of his Table because of the rivalry and history of violence between the Orkneys and Pellinore’s family.

Gareth enters at this point with a letter from a message. He is distraught, and the King asks him what happened. Gareth tells him that Agravaine has killed Morgause; he cut off her head “like the unicorn.” Moreover, Mordred, Agravaine and Gawaine hunted Lamorak down and Mordred stabbed him in the back, killing him instantly.

This chapter is important for understanding the downfall of the Round Table. The conflict between the Orkneys and Pellinores is more sharply described, and Mordred’s potential for violence is sharply realized. It is interesting that the reader has not yet met this most intriguing character, Mordred, and the first encounter with him is such a brutal act, which casts a tragic pallor over the idealism of Camelot. It is indicative of his effect overall on the narrative, and any character analysis of Mordred would include this ominous introduction.

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