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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 39

Summary and Notes

The author defers to Malory again on the details about the tournament at Corbin. Apparently Sir Thomas Malory’s description of the tournament are far too detailed and esoteric for the modern reader, and White chooses to leave them out, for what he is really concerned with is character development and not medieval verisimilitude.

Lancelot is wounded, but wins despite his pain. He cannot bring himself to tell Elaine the truth about his love for the Queen and his love for God. The author muses about why this is: perhaps he is a weak man. Also, Elaine has sensitive nature; she has been waiting all of these years for Lancelot, and he is aware of that sacrifice. He doesn’t want to “kill her joy,” so he procrastinates.


Elaine, deluded, had asked Lancelot to wear her token at the tournament. Lancelot is shocked at how pitiful she is, and accepts the token, which is a red lace sleeve. He is in a bind - clearly she has been dreaming of this moment for the last twenty years, and he cannot hurt someone so weak.

Back at Camelot, Guenever complains to Bors, the misogynist, about Lancelot, for she has heard about him wearing the sleeve. Bors, of course, does not respond appropriately. The Queen is miserable because of rumors circulating about how deeply in love Lancelot and Elaine are.

After Lancelot is wounded at the tournament, Elaine nurses him back to help, and Lancelot takes the opportunity to tell her he is going back to Camelot.

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