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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 7

Summary and Notes

Lancelot begins on his famous quests in order to escape from Guenever. The author chooses to describe one in detail because it is important for Arthur’s restructuring of the justice system later in this book.

There are two violent, tyrannical brothers named Sirs Carados and Turquine. One day Lancelot encounters Carados with a bloodied knight as prisoner. The bloodied knight is Gawaine. Lancelot challenges Carados to a duel to free Gawaine, wins, and forgets about the whole thing.

Lancelot meets up with his cousin Lionel and the two go off on other adventures without giving the Carados incident another thought. One day they are napping under a tree and Turquine (Carados’s bother) comes along with several other knights in captivity. Lionel decided that he will free the knights singlehandedly, and is taken prisoner himself. Lancelot is asleep and misses the whole thing.

Later that afternoon, he is kidnapped by four queens on white mules; one of these queens is Morgan la Fay. He wakes up in their castle and doesn’t know where he is. The queens attempt to seduce him in order to ruin his purity. They have heard rumors of his love for Guenever, and are interested in thwarting it. The queens are unsuccessful, and lock him in his room.

One of the maidens, the fairest, visits him with his meals and bursts into tears. She tells him that her father, King Bagdemagus, has been challenged to a tournament which he will most certainly lose.

The young woman helps Lancelot escape so that he can fight for her father in the tournament. Lancelot cannot, of course, turn down such an offer; to do so would be contrary to the new code of chivalry.

Lancelot arrives at a pavilion in the forest near where he is to meet up with the damsel and gets an odd feeling that something is amiss. He ignores his foreboding and finding a bed in the pavilion, goes to sleep for the night.

He is woken up suddenly by a naked man who is trimming his fingernails. Lancelot wounds him, and a woman appears screaming; Lancelot has been sleeping in their bed. The strange man and woman discover that their assailant is Lancelot and immediately forgive him; his name is already legendary.

The next day the man and his wife put him on the correct road, and he meets up with the damsel and prepares to meet with her father King Bagdemagus.

Lancelot easily wins the tournament, and goes off to search for his cousin Lionel. He meets up with a woman in the forest who tells him that she will take him to Turquine, who has been terrorizing all of those parts lately. On the way Lancelot finds Lionel’s shield.

They shortly meet up with Turquine, who is huge and intimidating; the madman has Gaheris in tow. Lancelot watches Turquine’s riding and fighting style carefully and notices that he has a few weaknesses in riding.

Lancelot challenges the villain. He has misjudged Turquine’s weaknesses, and the knight is a terrific fighter. Once both are knocked off of their horses, they move to hand to hand combat. Turquine tells him that since he is Lancelot, he cannot surrender because he must avenge his brother’s death. After a long fight, Lancelot kills Turquine.

Gaheris is grateful to Lancelot for saving his life, and notes that he has also saved his brothers Gawaine and Agravaine; the latter is being held prisoner at Turquine’s castle at that very moment.

Chapter 8

Summary and Notes

Lancelot has a few other adventures that the author relates in this chapter. White introduces a group called the Force Majeur, which the old school nobility. These are the people that Arthur is trying to reform, and it is clear at this point that a big part of Lancelot’s role is to suppress and reprimand these men.

One day he is riding along and a lost falcon perches on a tree above him. A woman comes, frantic for her bird, and asks Lancelot to retrieve it for him. She tells Lancelot that her husband will kill her if she loses the falcon. Lancelot reluctantly agrees to retrieve the bird from the tree.

Once he is up in the tree, he realizes that he will not be able to climb down with only one hand available, and he asks the woman for help. Suddenly, a fat knight appears and exclaims that he will now kill Lancelot. Lancelot infers that the man and his wife have tricked him. He tells the knight that it is unchivalrous to fight an unarmed man, and he asks that the man let him arm himself. The fat man refuses, and Lancelot slits his throat with a tree bough.

On Lancelot’s last adventure he encounters a man who is chasing a helpless damsel on a horse. Lancelot stops them and the man tells him that his wife has been cheating on him and that’s why he needs to kill her. Lancelot informs the man that since King Arthur, men are not allowed to kill women. The man decapitates his wife while Lancelot is not looking, jumps off his horse, throws his armor away and pleads for mercy. Lancelot is forced to have mercy on the murderer because he is unarmed, and arranges to bring him back to Camelot as a prisoner.

These two adventures are noteworthy because they show deftly the rigors of the new chivalry. A knight must help a woman, whether he feels like it or not, and he may not kill an unarmed man, no matter how justified the killing may seem.

Lancelot returns to Camelot for Pentecost. Arthur has deemed the annual Pentecost feast as the time when the knights return to share their tales of chivalry. This year is the first year when Lancelot has returned from his own adventures, and he clearly outshines the other knights. In fact, the reader should remember that he has rescued several of the knights - most importantly from the Orkney faction. All of his captives, and all of his prisoners, and all of the knights who had yielded to him or been rescued by him are sent to Camelot, and they all kneel at Guenever’s feet for her sentence.

Lancelot’s prowess is of course striking and impressive to Guenever, and the effect this has on her feelings for him is detailed in the following chapter.

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