I’m back with another chapter of Le Morte D’Arthur! This chapter has a lot of murder this time, so that’s very fun!
Previously on Le Morte D’Arthur: Balin, some guy who just got out of prison for murdering a guy, pulled out the special sword that only the best knight could take from the sheath! Yay! He then proceeds to ignore the lady when she tells him that the knight who wields the sword will kill the man he loves best in the world. I’m sure that little incident won’t end up being important later!
As Balin made ready to depart, a lady who was called The Lady of the Lake came to the court. [Because medieval authors like to be confusing, this is not The Lady of the Lake who is Lancelot’s cool mom, but instead is a completely separate Lady of the Lake, the same one who gave Arthur Excalibur.] She came on horseback, dressed in fine clothing, and greeted King Arthur, and asked him for the gift he had promised her when she gave him his sword.
“It is true that I promised you a gift,” said Arthur, “but first, I have forgotten the name of the sword that you gave me.”
“The name of the sword is Excalibur, which means ‘cut-steel,” said the lady.
“Ask what you will and you shall have it, if it lies in my power to give it,” said the king. [Promising to do things for people without asking what they want first is something that has never gone wrong for anyone in mythology ever!! /s]
“Well,” said the lady, “I ask for the head of the knight that won the sword, or else the damsel’s head that brought it. I feel no guilt for asking for their heads, for the knight slew my brother, a good, true knight, and that gentlewoman was the cause of my father’s death.” [Love that Balin has now been accused of murder twice now]
“Truly,” said King Arthur, “I may not grant either of their heads and keep my honor, so ask for something else, and I shall fulfill your desire.”
“I will ask for no other thing,” said the lady.
When Balin was ready to depart, he saw the Lady of the Lake, whom he had sought for three years because she had slain Balin’s mother. […Is everyone in this story a murderer?? I know the answer to that question is yes] When he was told that she had asked King Arthur for his head, he went straight to her, and said, “Evil is our encounter! You would have my head, and therefore you shall lose yours.” And with that, he cut off her head in front of King Arthur. [None of these characters have ANY chill]
“Alas, for shame!” said Arthur. “Why have you done so? You have shamed me and all my court, for this was a lady I was beholden to, and she came here under my safe-conduct. I shall never forgive you for this trespass.”
“Sir,” said Balin, “I regret causing you displeasure. This same lady was the falsest lady living. By enchantment and sorcery she has been the destroyer of many good knights, and she caused my mother to be burned alive through her falsehood and treachery.”
“Whatever your cause was,” said Arthur, “you should have forborne from killing her in my presence. Therefore don’t think you won’t repent it, for such another outrage I have never had in my court. Withdraw out of my court in all haste.” [Okay I’m sorry but it’s so funny to me that he’s yelling at Balin for not killing her later when it wouldn’t have caused trouble for Arthur personally. I honestly can’t help but love Arthur, what a silly little trashbag king]
Then Balin took up the head of the lady and bore it with him to the inn, [HELP] and there he met with his squire, who was sorry that Balin had displeased King Arthur, and so they rode forth out of the town. [The innkeeper: *currently regretting all the life choices that led to him setting up an inn near Camelot*] “Now,” said Balin, “we must depart. Take this head and bear it to my friends, and tell them how I have fared, and tell my friends in Northumberland that my greatest foe is dead. Also tell them how I am out of prison, and what adventure befell me when I got my sword.” [YOU’RE JUST GOING TO GIVE THE SEVERED HEAD TO YOUR SQUIRE AND ASK HIM TO TRAVEL WITH IT ACROSS THE COUNTRY????]
“Alas,” said the squire. “You are greatly to blame for displeasing King Arthur.”
“As for that,” said Balin, “I shall hurry in all haste to meet with King Rience and destroy him, or die trying, and if I happen to win against him, King Arthur shall forgive me and accept me into his service.”
“Where shall I meet with you?” asked the squire.
“In King Arthur’s court,” said Balin. So he and his squire departed at that time.
King Arthur and all the court felt great sorrow and shame for the death of the Lady of the Lake, and the king buried her richly.
I kind of feel like there’s a parallel between Gawain and Balin? They’re both down for murder and revenge until finally they’re in over their heads and (**spoilers**) their brothers end up dead. Idk, my thoughts on this are half-formed, but I find it interesting. Also casually carrying a severed head around town is SUCH a Gawain move, ngl