The Once and Future King Part 3, Chapters 11-13 Summary

T. H. White

Part 3, Chapters 11-13 Summary

Sir Lancelot stays at court for several weeks, but his struggles with keeping himself pure become overwhelming. He considers going on another quest, but he does not want to go, nor does the king wish him to leave. The queen, however, thinks it is best that he go. He rides off to find out about the slightly mad King Pelles of Corbin. As he arrives in the village below the castle, the people greet him as one long expected. They ask him to rescue the damsel in the nearby tower, who has been magically kept in boiling water for five years by Morgan le Fey. Lancelot initially resists, but he soon gives in. He is shown up to the tower and enters the room where a naked damsel is trapped in a boiling bath. He takes her hand and lifts her out. She is dressed by her ladies, and Lancelot realizes that he has at last performed the long hoped-for miracle. King Pelles approaches and thanks him for rescuing his daughter, whose name is Elaine. He invites Lancelot to stay in his castle and tells him about his other fortress at Carbonek, where the Holy Grail is housed.

Lancelot stays several days with King Pelles, who claims to be a cousin of Joseph of Arimathea and thus related to Jesus. Lancelot soon becomes morose over Guenever. The butler urges him to sample some wine and soon Lancelot is drunk. A messenger comes with a note for Lancelot: Guenever is waiting for him in a nearby castle. Lancelot goes out into the night to find her. The next morning, he finds himself in bed with Elaine. He is furious with her for tricking him and stealing his virginity, which is what has kept him strong and allowed him to perform his first and last miracle. Elaine says that if she has Lancelot’s baby, she will name him Galahad, after Lancelot’s real first name. Lancelot says that the baby will be hers, but he never wants to see her again.

Guenever sits doing needlework, which she hates, wishing that Lancelot would return. She does not have a knowledge of the world, which will come when she is middle-aged. She only desires Lancelot. Almost as if by magic, Lancelot returns. He had left Elaine immediately and started back to Camelot. In his mind, it was Guenever whom he slept with the other night, though he now knows the truth of the situation. His life is now a lie, he reasons, so he might as well make it a lie in earnest. He goes to Guenever, and they consummate their love.