Chapter 1 Meanwhile Launcelot departs from the hermitage and sees a chapel, with an old man lying inside in a fine white shirt. Then a “good man” tells Launcelot that this old man should not be in such fine clothing, since he broke the oath of his order. They enter the chapel, and the good man makes an enchantment on the Bible, and they see a horrible fiend who says that the man who lies dead is saved: his nephew Aguarus fought against the Earl of Vale, and this man helped him take the earl and his lords.
We had left Launcelot sorrowful and seemingly unable to accomplish much, remaining immobilized outside the alluring chapel. Chapels, though, are scattered throughout the lands that Launcelot is traveling through on this quest. This particular mystery is resonant with Launcelot’s own life, since it has to do with payment for sin.
Chapter 2 Then, the fiend continues, the earl and Aguarus made peace, but the earl sent his nephews to kill the man lying here. They put on the white shirt and cast him into the fire, but after a day he was not dead, and even now he does not look burnt. The fiend says that he is frightened by this man’s goodness.
In this case, it is the Earl of Vale who failed to fully succeed in his sinful betrayal of the peace treaty. Goodness, here and elsewhere in the book, often has physical, material manifestations.
The good man and Launcelot marvel at the story. When Launcelot tells the good man of his quest, he says that Launcelot will have no more power to see the Sangreal than a blind man can see a bright sword. The next day, after they bury the dead man, the good man tells Launcelot to take the man’s hair and put it next to his skin. He tells Launcelot also not to drink wine or eat meat. Launcelot departs and meets a maiden, who tells him he will soon find rest.
The story seems to have been shared with Launcelot only as a contrasting tale to his own impossibility of redemption through achieving the Holy Grail. But Launcelot still seems committed to changing his life and becoming a holy man, perhaps even making the achievement of the Grail possible.
Chapter 3 Launcelot goes to sleep and has a vision of a man coming to him with a crown of gold, leading seven kings and two knights with him, all worshipping God. In the vision an old man then comes down from the clouds and gives everyone his blessing. Then he tells one of the two knights that he has betrayed him, preferring the pleasures of the world. When Launcelot wakes up he rides and meets the knight who had taken his horse. They joust, and Launcelot strikes him down and takes back his horse. He continues on and meets a hermit, whom he asks to counsel him about the vision he’s had.
The crown of gold bears a notable resemblance to the crown that Melias de Lile thoughtlessly seized: at least on a symbolic register, it represents both earthly and divine power, which humans may be tempted to try to seize. God’s presence in this dream suggests the ultimate decisions of Judgment Day, when the good acts and sinful acts of each person on earth are to be judged.
Chapter 4 The hermit says that it has to do with Joseph of Arimathea’s battles. The kings are the rulers of various countries. One of the knights was Galahad, whom none will equal. The hermit counsels Launcelot to let it be known that Galahad is his son, and to never fight with him.
At least according to the hermit (often a trustworthy character), Launcelot’s dream was not just exemplifying a religious credo but also a specific prophecy about the sins of particular knights.
Chapter 5 Launcelot leaves the next day and rides into a plain next to a castle, where 500 knights are riding on horseback, half of them belonging to the castle and riding on black horses, and the other half on white horses. Launcelot decides to help those with black horses, since they seem weaker. He does many great deeds, but finally grows weary: his side is overcome. Ashamed, he continues on. He rests by an apple tree and sleeps. Then he dreams that an old man comes to him and asks why he slips so easily into sin. Launcelot awakens, and continues to a chapel where he sees a recluse who calls to Launcelot to enter.
As usual, Launcelot espouses his typically courageous, honorable knightly behavior. But unlike in earlier parts of the book, his prowess alone is no longer enough to achieve miraculous victories—in fact, this may be the first time that Launcelot actually is said to grow too tired to continue on. Meanwhile, he continues to be berated for his sins, even as he is trying to atone for them and to change the way he has lived.
Chapter 6 Launcelot tells the recluse of his vision and of the tournament. She tells him that he was the most marvelous man in the world for a long time. But at this tournament, the earthly knights were clothed in black, since they had secret sins, and the chaste, virgin knights were in white. Launcelot had inclined towards the sinful knights out of pride. God was angry with him for fighting against the good, white knights, so he sent this vision to signify that Launcelot was of evil faith and pride. They eat dinner, and then Launcelot rides over a mountain, and comes to an armed knight. Both the horse and the man are black, and this man strikes Launcelot’s horse to the earth.
Though knights often are clothed in various colors, the recluse suggests that these knights were revealed to Launcelot for their symbolic significance. Even though Launcelot thought he was helping the weaker side, in fact he could not even help but choose the more evil side, since a kind of worldly pride and desire for glory is part of his nature. We are meant to understand this scene as tragic: Launcelot seems almost helpless in his attempt to be good.