The Once and Future King Part 3, Chapters 1-2 Summary

T. H. White

Part 3, Chapters 1-2 Summary

Fifteen-year-old Lancelot pauses in his exercise of lifting hand weights and looks at his reflection in a metal helmet. He has returned to France from England, where his father, King Ban of Benwick, has been helping King Arthur in putting down the rebellion. While he was there, Lancelot exceeded in the games at the wedding feast of King Pellinore, drawing the attention of Arthur. Likewise impressed by Arthur’s prowess and nobility, Lancelot has fallen in love with the king. As Lancelot was leaving England, Arthur asks him if he will consider being one of his knights of the Round Table in a new Order of Chivalry, fighting against Might and aggression. Lancelot tells him that this is what he is training to do in France in a group called the Fort Mayne (Strong Arm), so he will be glad to aid Arthur in his quest. Looking at himself in the shining metal, Lancelot decides that he is ugly, one of many facets of himself in which he feels inadequate. He thinks that, when he is a knight, he will not call himself “Sir Lancelot,” but the “Chevalier Mal Fet”—the Ill-made Knight.

Lancelot ends up being the greatest knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. Like a great cricket player, a tournament has a scorekeeper, a ground to walk around in their best dress, and the sportsmen who have their innings, even though Lancelot’s innings sometimes lasted a full day, if he were fighting against a good knight. The action is slower, however, because of the great weight of the knight’s armor.

Lancelot spends three years in the Armoury of the castle of Benwick, where the weapons and armor are kept. Uncle Dap is the royal Armourer, looking after the weapons, though he occasionally finds food stored there instead. For three years, Lancelot lives in the Armoury and in his dreams of being a great knight for the king he adores. With Uncle Dap’s assistance, Lancelot practices the moves he needs as a soldier of the king, exercising with arms and weights. The other boys of the castle do not pay him much attention, since they have other things to think about. They view Lancelot as one who lives an obscure and mystic life. He thinks of the best ways to fight, including a few tricks. He wants to do more than just gain the skills of weaponry to prove his worth. He would like to perform some kind of miracle.