Lugodoc’s summary of Book 17 – The Quest Fulfilled
After rescuing Percivale from the twenty knights at the beginning of Book 14, Galahad rode into the waste forest, where he had more adventures than are worth trying to summarise (presumably including finding the scabbard of the Sword of Avelion, that Merlin had left on the island of the six inch wide iron bridge at the end of Book 2).
Eventually he found himself helping a castle to lift a siege, and that it happened that the seige was was being laid by his uncle Ector, and Gawaine. With the magic Sword of Avelion, he dealt Gawaine a head wound that would leave him bed-ridden for a month, and then Galahad disappeared without even announcing himself.
Near Castle Corbin, in the hermitage of Sir Ulfin, he was summoned by a mysterious gentlewoman (who later turned out to be Percivale’s sister) and led to the seaside, where they both joined Percivale and Bors aboard the priest’s boat, and set sail away from Logris. After introductions, they eventually found themselves between two huge rocks in a swell, alongside Solomon’s fifteen-hundred year-old magic boat. Once aboard, Percivale’s curiously knowlegeble sister told them its entire, twisted history (recounted in the Prologues).
Only Galahad succeeded in drawing the Sword of David from its hemp scabbard, and Percivale’s sister gave him new girdles, woven from her own hair and gold, and renamed it the “Sword with the Strange Girdles”, and named the scabbard “Mover of Blood”. Destiny fulfilled, they returned to the priest’s boat and sailed away, leaving Solomon’s magic ship to look after itself.
The trio came to land by Castle Carteloise in Scotland, and quickly slaughtered every inhabitant. A priest then told them this was appropriate because the rightful ruler, Lord Earl Hernox, had been imprisoned by his three sons when he learned they had been raping their own sister. They followed a white hart and four lions that turned into two men, another lion, an eagle, and an ox that passed through a glass window without breaking it in some peculiar allegory of the anunciation.
Then they stumbled across the same castle that Balin and the nameless damosel had visited in Book 2, and hacked to death dozens of knights for demanding virgin blood off Percivale’s sister to heal the lady within, who was still sick after over four decades. Percivale’s sister nobly decided to bleed for them voluntarily, but the lady stayed sick and Percivale’s sister tragically died.
They set her corpse adrift in a barge, clutching a letter of explanation, and during the following thunderstorm, Bors rode off to save a passing knight from another knight and his dwarf. When Galahad and Percivale returned to the Castle of Blood, they found that those they hadn’t killed earlier were now dead by the storm, and exploring, found the tombs of all the previously drained maidens. Then Galahad and Percival went their separate ways, sobbing.
After much fruitless wandering, Launcelot was eventually led by a voice to the barge, where he found Percivale’s dead sister, read the note, and lived for a month on Holy Ghost grace. Then Galahad appeared, and father and son (and corpse) sailed off for six months, having many adventures amongst wild beasts on distant islands, until one Monday, a mysterious white knight summoned Galahad away into the forest to his destiny, and Launcelot sailed on alone, never to see his son again.
After another month at sea with the rotting remains of Percivale’s dead sister, Launcelot landed by a castle (which later turned out to be Corbin), and after being disarmed by a dwarf, walked in past two lions and all its sleeping inhabitants, until he was paralysed by the Sangreal for trying to help a feeble old priest.
After twenty-four days in a coma (one for every year he had been adulterous with Guenevere) he woke up, and there was King Pelles, who told him that he had seen as much of the Sangreal as he was ever going to, and that his daughter Elaine (who had ravished Launcelot and given birth to Galahad) was now dead.
Four days later, Launcelot’s brother Ector rode up and knocked on the door, but the castle would not let him in, and so he rode off in despair. The next morning, Launcelot left himself, for Camelot.
On his way he stopped off at the White Abbey, and discovered that Bagdemagus had eventually recovered from his wounds at the hands of the white knight (in Book 13), only to be – reportedly – slain by Gawaine.
When he finally returned to Camelot, a year after having left it on the quest, he found Arthur and Guenevere well, but fully half of the 150 round table knights dead or still missing, including Galahad, Percivale, and Bors. Amongst those already returned safely were his brother Ector, Gawaine, and Lionel.
[Editor’s note: after this, the narrative implodes somewhat. It becomes highly uncertain as to exactly who is the Maimed King, what sword goes where, exactly what the Sangreal is, and how anyone can tell when it is eventually achieved. Several cursory and puzzling references are made to events that that may or may not have been introduced earlier in the narrative. It is as if Malory was getting bored trying to make sense of his huge pile of assorted myth fragments and just threw everything in that was still left.]
After leaving his father and riding into the forest, Galahad was lost for a long time, until he came across the abbey where the four-hundred year old blind King Mordrains had retired after fixing the Sword of David in the prologues. After one greeting, he died, and Galahad buried him, moving on to extinguish a burning well. Then he rode on to the White Abbey to witness Bagdemagus’ tomb and to extinguish the flames in the tomb of Simeon – where his father had failed at some point – and possibly another tomb too, before riding on.
After five days, Galahad, Percivale, and Bors found themselves all together again at Castle Corbin, with King Pelles and his son Eliazar, where Galahad repaired the sword that had maimed Joseph, and they were joined at dinner by three similar trios from Gaul (including King Claudas’ son, Claudine), Ireland, and Denmark.
Then the Maimed King was carried in. Pelles and Eliazar left (which would make the Maimed King the old King Pellam wounded by Balin with his own spear in Book 2, and not a mis-print of King Pelles at all), and Joseph of Aramathie appeared, dressed as a bishop.
There followed a major scene, heavily based on the Christian mass, involving glowing babies turning into bread. Then Joseph left and Jesus came out of the “holy vessel” in person, and Galahad “received his saviour”.
After a mission briefing for his twelve new disciples, Jesus declared that the Sangreal would now leave Logris, never to return. He blessed them all and vanished, leaving behind some of his blood on the Spear of Longinus. Galahad did as he was told, and used the spear to heal the Maimed King, who then became a white monk.
The other nine Sangreal-questers went their ways, and following voices in their heads, Galahad, Percivale, and Bors left Castle Corbin for the seaside, where three days later they once again boarded Solomon’s magic boat and found the silver table they thought they had left with the Maimed King, with the Sangreal on it, covered in red samite. They sailed far away, to the city of Sarras (where, long ago, Joseph of Aramathie had converted King Evelake to Christianity), where they found the boat with Percivale’s dead sister aboard, healed a passing cripple, and buried her. But then, the evil pagan king, Estorause, threw them all in jail.
A year later he felt ill, released them, asked for forgiveness, and died. The people made Galahad king (instead of killing him). He put the Sangreal in a silver chest, and after a year in charge of Sarras, he was visited by another holy virgin, old Joseph of Aramathie again, who accompanied his soul to heaven. Thus died Sir Galahad. Then Percivale and Bors saw an enormous hand come down and grab the Sangreal and the spear, and carry them away, never to be seen again.
After burying Galahad by his sister, Percivale became a white monk and entered a monastery for fourteen months. Then he died himself, and Bors buried him by them both. Then, realising how far he was from home, he found a ship and sailed back to Logris.
On Bors’ return to Camelot (after nearly five years away without news) there was much rejoicing, and after the festivities, King Arthur ordered clerks to write down everything that Bors had to say about his own adventures, the Sangreal, Launcelot, Percivale, Galahad et al, and then had it all sent to Salisbury. Everyone was united in grief over the deaths of Galahad and Percivale, and Bors and Launcelot swore eternal friendship. And that was the end of the quest for the Sangreal.
At A Glance
Book 17 Chapter Summary
1. How Sir Galahad fought at a tournament, and how he was known of Sir Gawaine and Sir Ector de Maris.
2. How Sir Galahad rode with a damosel, and came to the ship whereas Sir Bors and Sir Percivale were in.
3. How Sir Galahad entered into the ship, and of a fair bed therein, with other marvellous things, and of a sword.
4. Of the marvels of the sword and of the scabbard.
5. How King Pelles was smitten through both thighs because he drew the sword, and other marvellous histories.
6. How Solomon took David’s sword by the counsel of his wife, and of other matters marvellous.
7. A wonderful tale of King Solomon and his wife.
8. How Galahad and his fellows came to a castle, and how they were fought withal, and how they slew their adversaries, and other matters.
9. How the three knights, with Percivale’s sister, came unto the same forest, and of an hart and four lions, and other things.
10. How they were desired of a strange custom, the which they would not obey; wherefore they fought and slew many knights.
11. How Sir Percivale’s sister bled a dish full of blood for to heal a lady, wherefore she died; and how that the body was put in a ship.
12. How Galahad and Percivale found in a castle many tombs of maidens that had bled to death.
13. How Sir Launcelot entered into the ship where Sir Percivale’s sister lay dead, and how he met with Sir Galahad, his son.
14. How a knight brought unto Sir Galahad a horse, and bade him come from his father, Sir Launcelot.
15. How Sir Launcelot was tofore the door of the chamber wherein the Holy Sangreal was.
16. How Sir launcelot had lain four-and-twenty days and as many nights as a dead man, and other divers matters.
17. How Sir Launcelot returned towards Logris, and of other adventures which he saw in the way.
18. How Galahad came to King Mordrains, and of other matters and adventures.
19. How Sir Percivale and Sir Bors met with Sir Galahad, and how they came to the castle of Carbonek, and other matters.
20. How Galahad and his fellows were fed of the Holy Sangreal, and how Our Lord appeared to them, and other things.
21. How Galahad anointed with the blood of the spear the Maimed King, and of other adventures.
22. How they were fed with the Sangreal while they were in prison, and how Galahad was made king.
23. Of the sorrow that Percivale and Bors made when Galahad was dead: and of Percivale how he died, and other matters.