Lugodoc’s summary of Book 15 – Launcelot’s Failure on the Quest
After three days, the hermit lent Sir Launcelot a new horse, helm, and sword, and he set off again. At a chapel, he saw the well-attired body of a dead old man, and met a mourner who wanted to know why the corpse was not in the hair shirt of his holy order. To find out, he conjured up a horrible fiend who told this tale:
The old man’s nephew, Aguarus, was warred against by the Earl de Vale, so he took a sabatical from being a hermit and helped capture the earl and force a peace. Unfortunately, the evil earl broke the peace and sent two of his own nephews to kill the old man after mass, but their swords could not penetrate his holiness, so they stripped him naked and were about to burn him, when he claimed that their fire could not harm him nor any thread on his body, so they gave him a new, non-hair shirt as a test. Sure enough, when the fiend found him in the ashes next day, although he was dead, neither he nor his new shirt were even singed, so he laid him out in the chapel where Launcelot and the mourner now beheld him.
And with his story done, the fiend “departed with a great tempest”.
Launcelot spent the night with the fiend-conjuring but God-fearing mourner, and was told yet again that he was far too unviginlike to ever see the Sangreal, but he got the dead old man’s hair shirt and became a vegetarian teetotaler as consolation, and confessed his sins. This must have helped, because back on his travels he had a vision at the very next cross he fell asleep at, and saw seven kings and two knights worshipping it, and then God came down and castigated one of the knights for vain-glory.
The following day, he caught up with the thief who had stolen his horse and gear at the previous cross. He knocked him out and retrieved his possessions. The next hermit he queried explained his vision, saying that the seven kings and two knights were Launcelot’s remarkable ancestors – holy men who still managed to beget descendants, being:
1. Nappus (the son of King Evelake, or Joseph of Aramathie, or possibly even Christ’s “father” Joseph), who begat
2. Nacien, the hermit in whom dwelled Christ, who begat
3. Helias le Grose, who begat
4. Lisais, who begat
5. Jonas, who went to Wales, married Manuel’s daughter, and thus somehow inherited Gaul, who begat
6. King Launcelot, who married the King of Ireland’s daughter, who begat
7. King Ban of Benwick (the last king), who begat
8. Sir Launcelot, who was raped by King Pelles’ daughter Elaine, and thus unwillingly begat
9. Sir Galahad, whom Solomon foresaw as the last of his line and a confirmed virgin, and thus unable to begat at all.
The hermit advised Launcelot to give his son a wide berth, then sent him off to bed in his itchy hair shirt.
The next morning, Launcelot wandered off into the forest and foolishly failed to help 250 black nights (led by Argustus, son of King Harlon, and representing sinful earthly knights) to defend their castle against 250 white knights (led by Eliazar, son of King Pelles, and representing virgins). The white knights overcame him and dragged him off deeper into the forest.
The day after, he met a female recluse, who explained the previous day’s metaphor: that though he was peerless amongst earthly, sinful knights, the pure, wholesome Sangreal-virgins were out of his league. The day after that, he crossed a raging torrent and was beaten up by a black knight, and thus ended his unsuccessful quest.
At A Glance
Book 15 Chapter Summary
1. How Sir Launcelot came to a chapel, where he found dead, in a white shirt, a man of religion, of an hundred winter old.
2. Of a dead man, how men would have hewn him, and it would not be, and how Sir Launcelot took the hair of the dead man.
3. Of an advision that Sir Launcelot had, and how he told it to an hermit, and desired counsel of him.
4. How the hermit expounded to Sir Launcelot his advision, and told him that Sir Galahad was his son.
5. How Sir Launcelot jousted with many knights, and how he was taken.
6. How Sir Launcelot told his advision to a woman, and how she expounded it to him.