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  • Writer's pictureZoe Franznick

Episode 38: Perlesvaus Pt. 4

Happy New Year! We hope you're jumping into 2022 with resolutions ablaze, but as for us, we're settling back into our goal to finish Perlesvaus. Our excellent narrator throws Percival and the other Arthurian knights into some pretty "hairy" situations in these branches!

In case you're not caught up on our Perlesvaus journey, here are parts one, two, and three, or you can listen to our pervious Perlesvus episodes on the podcast.

Without further ado, let's jump back into this 13th century French chivalric romance and see what our terrible, no-good knights are up to. As Lancelot was staying at the Poor Knight's home, his brother rides up and introduces himself, and asks where he may find his brother. Lancelot replies that he's very sorry, but he's just finished burying the Poor Knight that afternoon. The misfortune is regrettable, but Lancelot offers his services to the knight’s brother in recompense.

The man agrees, and together they sail to the Island of Mores (or the Moors, depending on the translation), and the knight’s brother says he must take back the castle from the Lord of the Rock, as it belonged to his brother and was wrongfully taken. Lancelot kills the opposing knight and goes on his way.

Soon after, he finds a melancholy knight who dourly warns him of a dire challenge ahead. Lancelot is not intimidated, and rides up to the Castle of the Beards. The castle is so named due to the assortment of heads and bears which hang from its walls and gate. The guards explain that the toll to pass through the kingdom is one’s beard, but if one is cleanshaven, the individual may pass. They demand Lancelot’s beard so they may make it into a shirt for the hermits in the forest, but Lancelot refuses.

After killing one of the guards, the lady of the castle arrives to stop the violence and, quite taken with Lancelot, invites him inside. Lancelot stays for a dinner serve by knights in chains whose various limbs have been amputated, and he realizes he ought to make a hasty exit. When the lady invites him to become lord of the castle and “of her,” Lancelot excuses himself by stating he has a vow that he must never stay more than one night in the same place until his vow (to find Percival, presumably) is fulfilled. This vow has never been brought up before or since, so we think Lancelot made it up as a way to escape.

He explains to the lady that he is going to the Castle of Souls (that is, the Fisher King’s palace,) to see the Holy Grail. At this moment, one of the lady’s maids pops in to remark that he might find that difficult, since he’s had an affair with Guinevere. (This references a greater Arthurian tale more commonly found in Lancelot’s stories.) Annoyed, Lancelot rides on.

As he goes, he comes upon a dwarf digging a grave. He pays the dwarf no mind, but the dwarf calls after him that Lancelot is his sworn enemy and he hates the knight most of all men. Lancelot finds a small chapel beyond where a lady is preparing two knights for burial. As Lancelot steps inside, the wounds on the men begin to bleed. According to medieval criminal law (and legend), if the wounds of a dead man begin to bleed, it means the killer is nearby. The lady at once demands vengeance by killing Lancelot, but Lancelot says she cannot because they are in a chapel and must observe Christian customs. The lady begrudgingly agrees. Our heroic knight spends the night and beats a hasty retreat first thing in the morning.

Lancelot then arrives at a deserted wasteland of a city. There is no one present, save for those in a remaining palace, and they are wailing because one of their own has been sentenced to death. Shortly after, a man clothed in fancy red dress with a large axe. Sound familiar?

The man greets Lancelot and presents him two options: either Lancelot cuts his head off, or he cuts Lancelot’s head off. Lancelot agrees to the former, if one must be done. The man says it must be, and asks Lancelot to swear on the relics in a nearby chapel that he will return in a year and a day to have his own head cut off. For some unknown reason, Lancelot agrees to this. In case this is feeling familiar, it is— this is an earlier version of the Gawain and the Green Knight tale. In any case, Lancelot hews the man’s head off, the body disappears, and the people inside the castle cry out for vengeance.

Meanwhile, Percival rises from his sickbed with King Pelles to test his meddle in the world. As he stands praying for an opponent, a knight approaches, and Percival attacks. The two battle so fiercely they unhorse each other and the red stamps of their chainmail are pressed into their skin. Pelles breaks up the fight and realizes that the other knight is none other than Lancelot! The two kiss and make blood-covered amends. Lancelot is instructed to rest until he is well again.

Our narrator switches perspectives again— this time to Clamadoz, Lord of the Shadows. This young man is the son of the Red Knight that Percival killed when he was a lad, and Clamadoz wants vengeance. Our young hero-to-be arrives in Arthurs court, explains his quest, and asks to be knighted. Gawain warns Arthur against knighting the boy, as it might be a conflict of interests— Percival is one of his own knights after all. However, Guinevere steps in and says that King Arthur has never refused to knight anyone. So, Clamadoz is knighted and goes on his way.

As he travels, Clamadoz runs into the Ladies of the Cart and they are both pleasantly surprised to hear they’re all looking for Percival (albeit, for different reasons). The Lady of the Cart requests that Clamadoz escort them through the next field, for there is a knight who has a lion stand guard there, and the knight is not present to call off the lion. Clamadoz agrees, and they trek through the field. Clamadoz violently kills, decapitates, and then hangs the lion’s head over the knight’s gate.

After passing through the field, they arrive at a grand tent city inhabited only by women. The ruler here, the Queen of the Pavilions, welcomes them to wait for Percival with them, and realizes that Clamadoz is her kin.

Meanwhile, Percival sets out to find the Holy Grail. Along the way, he kills Chaos the Red, the brother of Clamadoz’s father, and gifts his castle, the Key of Wales, back to his mother Ygres. When Percival arrives at the pavilions, all are mourning the loss of Chaos the Red. Clamadoz immediately demands vengeance, and Percival agrees to trail by combat.

However, at that moment, another knight arrives. This knight is Meliot of Logres, the knight whose lion was killed, and he demands justice for his lion. The queen demands that they settle the lion fight issue, so Clamadoz and Meliot fight. Both men are wounded, and Clamadoz demands that Percival wait to fight him until he’s healed, but Percival says he must return to Lancelot. The Lady of the Cart offers herself as collateral, which the queen accepts.

While Percival was away, however, Lancelot departed and has headed on his way…

These plots are getting complicated! Will Percival find Lancelot? Will the Grail question ever be asked? What’s with Clamadoz’s Mary Sue style name? We’ll have to wait and find out!

Given that this is the first ten branches of the text, however, we do have a rating for this section! Be sure to check out all the other ideas we got from this text in our Master List sections of the blog, too!

Given that this is the first ten branches of the text, however, we do have a rating for this section! Be sure to check out all the other ideas we got from this text in our Master List sections of the blog, too!

Thanks for joining us in this week's episode of The Maniculum Podcast. Looking for more? Check out our Master List series for the full collection of segments at the end of our show, and for more gaming and world building ideas, check out The Gaming Table section of our blog, Marginalia!

Final Rating: 9

Searching for our sources? Read Perlesvaus here, and check out our Library for more! Additional references for interested scholars:

  • Harward, Vernon J. The Dwarfs of Arthurian Romance and Celtic Tradition. E.J. Brill, 1958.

We do our best to accurately research, source, and cite the works we use, and make them available to you, too! Each episode has a corresponding blog post which includes further breakdowns of the big ideas in each text as well as cites our sources and references. We also have the ManiculumLibrary, which actively collects resources and recommendations for writers, scholars, and geeks alike! We update our collection of MasterLists after each new episode, so be sure subscribe and stay updated!

Are we missing something? Let us know! We'd love to add more knowledge to our ever-growing compendium. Chat with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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