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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 33

Summary and Notes

Arthur reacts to Laneclot’s humiliation with anger. Lancelot appeases him by telling the King that he is glad he gave up “love and glory;” that the acceptance of the divine feels right to him. Indeed, Lancelot is calm in a way that neither the King or the Queen has seen him before, and they allow him to continue his story.

When Lancelot woke up, there is a ship, the ship that is carrying Percivale’s dead sister and the letter that tells of his adventure. He climbs in the ship, which is fragrant and made of thick green glass and it takes him past a remote, mysterious island populated by geese and strange birds. Lancelot travels as if in a dream, through seasons and time and strange places, and he doesn’t know where he went or how he survived. He says that he was at peace, a sort of “communion” with the dead woman. At some point, Galahad appears to him and “allows” Lancelot to kiss his sword.

Six months pass altogether. Galahad and Lancelot become very close and Lancelot has a profound admiration and reverence for his son. After a time, they arrive at a forested land where a white knight appears and takes Galahad away from Lancelot to get the Holy Grail. Lancelot is not allowed to join him, and is sad, but peaceful.


Arthur and Guenever both express pity for Lancelot, but he is sanguine and philosophical about why he wasn’t “picked.” He continues with his story: soon afterwards the ship takes him to Carbonel Castle, where the Grail is. Although he knows that he will not be allowed to see it all, he understands that the keepers of the Grail, or God, is being kind to him in allowing him a part of the miracle.

Lancelot dons his armor, prepares to use his sword to gain entrance to the Castle, and then realizes he has no need for it if he trusts in God. There is the most beautiful chapel, so beautiful that he is overwhelmed and speechless. He is not allowed to enter; a sword stops him, even though he yearns with his whole being to be a part of the mystery inside.

He can see through the door Galahad, Bors, Percy, and nine other knights inside (the twelve, which is the same number as the disciples of Christ), Percy’s sister, a priest, and on a table the Holy Grail. Lancelot is overwhelmed with emotion and is suddenly struck down with a breath of air, like the Holy Spirit itself.

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