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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 30

Summary and Notes

Sir Aglovale, a new character, is the third knight to tell his story. Aglovale is one of Pellinore’s sons, and thus has revenge on his mind for the deaths of his father and his brother Lamorak.

Aglovale asks Arthur where he might find the Orkney brothers so that he can kill them, and Arthur tries to stop him.

Arthur explains to Aglovale that he is trying to make a new system of justice in England rather than the blood feuds that has persevered in the North and is playing itself out in this particular rivalry. He adds that the Orkneys had a sad family life, and should be pitied.

Aglovale counters that since Pellinore’s death, his mother Piggy has died of grief and his sister has died as well.

Arthur then reminds Aglovale that Pellinore was the first knight the King ever feel in love with, and yet he didn’t punish Gawaine for murdering him. Arthur adds that his hope is with him to stop feud law, because the Orkneys are too inherently violent to appeal to. If there is any chance that this rivalry will cease and true justice persevere, Aglovale must resist the urge for revenge. Aglovale says that he has to think it over, and Arthur allows him to by changing the subject.

Arthur asks after his sister’s death. Aglovale explains that she was found dead in a boat with a letter from their bother Percivale (Percy) in her hands. Aglovale begins to tell his brother Percy’s tale. Percy is a virgin and religious, like Galahad, but simple and kind. Initially he went on an adventure with Lancelot, but they encountered Galahad who unhorsed them both. Percy went to confession and decided to follow a hermit’s advice and follow Galahad. Galahad rescues him from a battle with some knights, but then leaves Percy high and dry. Lionel, who is listening, expresses disapproval at Galahad’s arrogant manner.

Percy’s horse was killed, and he continues on foot to find Galahad. He meets, among others, a lion and a good fairy. He drinks too much with a beautiful woman in the forest and nearly makes love to her when he sees a cross on the ground and remembers his knightly duty. He is so ashamed that he stabs himself with a sword, and immediately afterwards a magic boat shows up with Bors in it and the two sailed away. Guenever is doubtful about Percy’s ability to continue with the quest - his holiness is dubious when compared to Bors and especially Galahad. Aglovale defends his brother by reminding his audience that Percy is pure, as opposed to Bors.

At this point in Percy’s story, his sister appears; she has become a nun and has had a vision that tells her to look for Galahad. She finds him, and they together find Percy and Bors in the magic boat. The quartet then finds a second boat inscribed with a warning to not enter unless completely faithful. They all climb in the second boat and find King David’s sword (intended for Galahad), inferior swords for the other two knights and spindles made of the Eden tree.

Percy’s sister sews a girdle out of her own hair with the spindles, and affixes the girdle on Galahad: from one virgin to another. The four get back into the first boat, and fight some men whom they kill. Galahad tells Percy and Bors that it is all right to kill people who have not been christened.

The boat arrives in a place called Carlisle where a woman lives who has the measles. The only cure for her is to bathe in a virgin’s blood; Percy’s sister volunteers and is bled to death to save the lady of the castle. Her body is put back into the boat and pushed out to sea; in her hand is a letter that describes Percy’s adventures, and this is the letter that Aglovale reads. The young knight finishes his brother’s story and shyly asks the King whether it would be all right to dine with the Orkney brothers tomorrow. Arthur is moved, because this signals a possible end to the rivalry. He kisses Aglovale affectionately.

This chapter is replete with Biblical and theological imagery, and the spiritual aspects of the quest for the Holy Grail are emphasized and sharpened. All of the knights who are unpure, whether in thought or deed, have been eliminated; the three most pure - Galahad, Bors, Percy - are allowed to continue. Galahad is clearly the most pure of the three, and the reader expects that he will be the one who finds the Grail itself. This still does not answer the question of what Lancelot’s role in the quest will be, and the suspense to hear Lancelot’s story is great at the end of this chapter.

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