Perlesvaus Part 7
Welcome back to Perlesvaus! What can possibly go wrong in this episode? Who will Knights of the Round Table behead this time? And what sort of terrifying creatures will we encounter? Something smaller than a breadfox, that's for sure!
In case you missed our earlier episodes of Perlesvaus, you can catch up on our previous episodes or our summaries here on the blog!
Picking back up from where we left off in Branch Sixteen, we return to Lancelot and Gawain in King Arthur’s court. While they are feasting, several servants bring bodies into the court and say that there is a Knight of the Burning Dragon killing Arthur’s knights in vengeance for the death of Logrin the giant. Remember, King Arthur’s son Loholt killed the giant, and then was killed in turn by Sir Kay after sleeping on top of his kill.
In any case, the reports state that the knight is a head taller than any normal man, and has a shield with a dragon upon its boss that can breathe fire. Lancelot and Gawain suggest going after the man, but King Arthur says they’ll only kill themselves and demands they stay.
The narrative then cuts to Percival wandering through the Lonely Forest, where he encounters a red cross in a glade, with a knight and maiden dressed in white, worshipping the cross. After a moment, a small beast, about the size of a fox, rushes into the clearing. The beast is heavily pregnant, and the sounds of yelping come from her belly. She gives birth to twelve vicious dogs, who then tear her to pieces. Following this odd event, two monks arrive; one prays before the cross and the other beats upon it. Both refuse to give Percival any explanation of the event. We later learn this is a metaphor for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Percival continues along and comes across the Coward Knight once more. They ride together for a time, until they see a robber-knight beating two young women and driving them before him. Percival goads the Coward Knight into fighting the robber-knight. After his pleas go unheard and he is beat by the robber-knight, the Coward Knight finally snaps and kills the robber-knight. Percival re-christens him as the Bold Knight.
Shortly after Percival arrives in King Arthur’s court, the lady who hauled the dead knight in a cart appears in the court to remind Percival that since he won the tournament, he owes her a quest. She leads Percival, Gawain, and Lancelot to the Forbidden Castle. This castle is spinning like a top with golems shooting at any who approach, and bears chained at its base. The maiden tells the threesome that only Percival can enter this castle, which was built by Virgil - yes, that Virgil - who was also apparently a mechanical necromancer. Percival attacks the castle, after which it immediately stops spinning, and enters.
Having vanquished this castle, they move onto the next - a large copper tower owned by the Queen of the Golden Circlet that roars and in which a demon lives, providing answers to all in the town, but apparently does no other harm. Such an atrocity cannot stand, of course, because it is not Christian, so Percival does some liberating — that is, he forces the inhabitants of the city through a gateway where two golems sit with iron hammers. Out of 1,500, only 13 “true believers” live.
Finally, Percival finally goes on the quest he’d been putting off this entire time — the quest to defeat the King of Castle Mortal. In doing so, he joins forces with a white lion who has telepathic powers, and together, they storm through several gates and bridges before the King of Castle Mortal simply stabs himself and falls into the moat. Castle liberated, I guess?
Well, Percival’s kill count now well over 1,500. Will he continue in his psychopathic ways, terrorizing the kingdom, or will he finally settle down to be the “good knight” that the rest of the court already thinks he ought to be? Join us on our next Perlesvaus episode to find out!
Nota: Percival has been described throughout this text as having a “navel of a virgin girl.” After some research, we discovered that this refers to the medieval conception that the navel is the core of a woman’s sexuality. To have the navel of a virgin was to be extremely chaste. And probably have an innie, 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!
Searching for our sources? Read Perlesvaus here, and check out our Library for more! Additional references for interested scholars:
Burger, Glenn, and Steven F. Kruger, editors. Queering the Middle Ages. NED-New edition, vol. 27, University of Minnesota Press, 2001. Link.
Castration and Culture in the Middle Ages. Ed. Larissa Tracey. Brewer, D.S, Cambridge, 2013. Link.
Geary, Patrick. "Humiliation of Saints," Saints and Their Cults, Cambridge University Press. Link.
Harward, Vernon J. The Dwarfs of Arthurian Romance and Celtic Tradition. E.J. Brill, 1958.
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