The Once and Future King Part 3, Chapters 37-40 Summary

T. H. White

Part 3, Chapters 37-40 Summary

Sir Bors, despite his hatred of women, presents himself as the queen’s champion against Sir Mador and his accusation of treason. A jousting ground is set up near Westminster, complete with a pavilion of King Arthur. The crowd gathers on the day of the battle. Sir Mador waits for the entrance of Sir Bors. At last, a knight bearing Sir Bors’s insignia enters the list. The two knights do battle, with Sir Mador being knocked off his horse. After a thrust of the sword into his thigh, Sir Mador admits defeat and takes back his accusation. The victorious knight approaches the king (and the queen, who has been released) and takes off his helmet to reveal himself to be Lancelot. Sir Bors had gone to the abbey where Lancelot was staying and convinced him to fight for Guenever’s honor. It is not out of a love for Guenever that Lancelot decides to fight, but rather for his love for God. Arthur and Guenever both bow before Lancelot.

In celebration of Guenever’s acquittal, Arthur plans a tournament near Corbin where Elaine, the mother of Galahad, lives. Guenever asks Lancelot if he is going and then commands that he not go. Lancelot says that he will claim that he is still recovering from a wound he received in the battle with Sir Mador. At the last moment, Guenever commands him to go, but he objects that he would be dishonored now to show up after claiming to be wounded. Guenever does not care but orders him to the tournament. Lancelot decides he must visit Elaine, since he had promised her he would return someday. He meets her on the battlements of her castle and she assumes that he will now stay for good.

Lancelot disguises himself at the Corbin tournament. Elaine asks him to wear her token, a sleeve embroidered with pearls. Since Lancelot never wears tokens, he agrees, thinking this will serve him in his disguise. He performs well until three knights overwhelm him, giving him a spear wound in his side. He rides off in solitude, and Elaine is called to help him. She speaks of his staying with her forever, and he tells her that they need to talk.

After Lancelot tells Elaine that he is not staying, he returns to Camelot where Guenever is furious with him. She accuses him of becoming Elaine’s lover once again. The situation changes when Elaine’s body comes floating down the river in a boat. In her weakness and grief, she took her own life. Guenever turns on Lancelot, saying that he should have been kinder to Elaine.