Episode 41: Perlesvaus, Part Five
We’re coming back to Perlesvaus to see what all of our knights are up to! This branch of the text is the wild goose chase episode — Percival advises Gawain on how to find “the Good Knight,” King Arthur neglects to tell Percival’s sister when he’s in the castle, and Lancelot is sent to go find Percival, right after he’s just seen him.
While you don’t need to go back and read our previous parts of this 13th century French chivalric romance, we highly suggest listening to the episodes. The shenanigans that these knights get up to are…well, beyond any Game of Thrones episode you’ve seen.
Picking up where we last left our heroes, Lancelot arrives at a new castle looking for night’s lodging. The ladies of the castle will provide him a place to stay if he jousts and runs off another knight who’s been harassing them. Lancelot is annoyed they won’t let him stay for free, but agrees. He jousts and unhorses this other knight who turns out to be Marin the Jealous, still on his quest to kill Gawain for looking at his wife the wrong way. Lancelot lets him go, stays the night, and goes back on the road the next day.
The knight then comes upon a castle with a massive parade of people, and asks them what the fuss is about. They’re thrilled that Lancelot has arrived, and demand they be his king over a sacred fire that burns part of their kingdom. They’re blunt with him, saying that whoever is king must throw himself into the fire after a year as a sacrifice. Lancelot declines the kingship, but they continue to press him until a dwarf arrives and takes the kingship himself. This episode is never brought up again.
Lancelot finds his way through several minor adventures until he comes to the Fisher King’s palace, where the Holy Grail is located. He goes to confession before entering such a holy place, but declares that he cannot repent of his lust, for he is in true love with Queen Guinevere, Arthur’s wife. He does enter the Fisher King’s palace, but is evidently not holy enough to see the grail, due to his lust. The fisher king bids him find Percival, for it is due to him that he has fallen into a langur. He also requests Percival help his mother, Ygles, who had her land stolen. Lancelot says he shall do these things, and returns to King Arthur’s court. When he arrives, a messenger tells him that Clamadoz, a knight he was sworn to fight, has died from previous wounds. R.I.P.
The tale then cuts to Perciva momentarily, who is off questing and murdering people- he faces the King of Castle mortal, his uncle.
Meanwhile, Dindrane, Percival’s sister, arrives at King Arthur’s court looking for her brother. She says that since she can’t find him, she might ask the Good Knight for help instead, since he can’t be as worthless as Percival, right? (Spoiler alert: the Good Knight is Percival.)
As she’s staying there, Percival visits King Arthur’s court to swap his shield for the one that hangs in the court— the shield signifying the Good Knight. Once he swaps the shields, Percival heads out again. King Arthur neglects to tell Dindrane, who is rightfully upset.
The text cuts then to Gawain, who has split up from Lancelot to look for Percival. On his quest, he speaks to another knight— Percival in disguise— who tells him that Percival is due to fight in the tournament at the Crimson Heath. Gawain is overjoyed and hastens to the event.
The prize of the tournament is provided by a lady, who has brought the body of a dead knight with her. Whosoever wins the tournament will have the honor of taking vengeance for this knights death. The tournament begins. The disguised Percival and Gawain flight each other so savagely they are pulled apart by other tournament-goers, and the tournament is declared a tie between them. Since they can’t have that, Percival is declared the winner since he arrived first and is therefore the more honorable.
After winning the tournament, Percival ditches and sneaks away, leaving the avenging honor to Gawain, who… declines to take up the quest. He argues that he isn’t honorable enough to pursue such a quest, and besides, he has to find where Percival snuck off to! The branch ends with Gawain shirking his consolation win to go find this so-called Good Knight.
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!
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!
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