Summary and Analysis Book 6: The Tale of the Holy Grail: Sir Launcelot


Launcelot and air old holy man see a devil sitting over a corpse in a splendid shirt. The devil tells them the dead man was a good man who was killed in a fire which did not singe a hair on his body. He is now in heaven. Then the devil leaves and they bury the corpse. The holy man tells Launcelot to take some of the dead man's hair and put it next to his skin, and to eat no meat and drink no wine if he hopes to have any success. Launcelot obeys and rides on.

He meets a lady on a white palfrey who tells him he has in the past been closer than he is now to the adventure he seeks, then tells him he will find good lodging tomorrow, but not tonight. That night, sleeping in the forest, Launcelot dreams that God comes down arid blesses nine knights but rebukes one of them as having wasted himself on worldliness. From a hermit Launcelot learns that the first seven knights are his ancestors, the sinful eighth knight is himself, and the ninth, Galahad.

Riding on, Lauricelot comes to a castle and a tournament of black knights against white. He joins the black because they are weaker, so that helping them to victory will mean greater honor for Launcelot; but he is driven out by the knights in white. He rests under an apple tree, where an old man comes to him in his sleep and reproaches him as evil, faithless, and full of sin.

An old woman explains the symbolism of the tournament: among those knights of Arthur's court who took on themselves the Grail Quest, some were pure, some sinful, and the sinful will fail. In joining the black knights from vainglory, Launcelot chose the side suitable to him.

That night Launcelot encounters the man on the black horse, who attacks and slays Launcelot's horse just as he earlier slew Percival's.