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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 41

Summary and Notes

Life goes on at Camelot without incident, except for a few small stories, which the author relates. The first is that one-day when Lancelot is asleep in the woods, he is shot at and wounded by a lady archer.

The second is that at a tournament at Camelot, Arthur challenges Lancelot, and tries to hurt him in the tournament. It is extremely uncharacteristic, of course, and a glitch in the otherwise calm and loving persona of the King; the author chalks it up to a flare of temper, an apathy about keeping the peace, a sudden conscious realization that was being betrayed and the lust for vengeance. At any rate, it passes, nothing serious happens, and he and Lancelot are friends again afterwards.

At this same tournament, Lancelot unhorses all of the Orkneys one after the other, and accidentally and permanently makes enemies of them all, except Gareth. The reader will need to remember that Gareth was the sensitive one who did not take part in the violence exhibited by his brothers in their youth, and that Lancelot helped Gareth when he first came to Camelot and worked as a kitchen slave. As a result there is a bond between Lancelot and Gareth that causes a rift between Lancelot and the other Orkney brothers.


The final event, and the most important, concerns an unhappy knight named Sir Meliagrance. One day Arthur and Lancelot are walking discussing the latest gossip which concerns King Mark, Tristam, and Isolde (this parallel and famous legend is alluded to frequently throughout the novel and is juxtaposed to Lancelot and Guenever’s betrayal; it has a tragic ending and thus serves as a constant warning to the Queen and her knight. For our purposes here, it is not necessary to understand the details of the tale, but would be worth researching for a short paper).

A messenger suddenly arrives who tells the King and knight that the Queen, while a-Maying in the forest, has been kidnapped by Sir Meliagrance. Her bodyguards tried to defend her, but the Queen surrendered in order to save their lives. Lancelot immediately dons his armor, and Arthur helps him dress, symbolizing their unity in protecting Guenever.

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