The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King


T. H. White

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The Once and Future King: Book 3, Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

The next knight to return is Sir Lionel who has been questing with his brother Sir Bors. Arthur and Guenever sit in the Great Hall and listen to his tales. Lionel talks about Sir Bors' new found piety. He tells of Sir Bors' trials with a lady he rescued from an errant knight and he restrained from killing; of a man coming dressed as a priest and saying a woman was doomed to die unless Sir Bors made love to her (Sir Bors refused and the woman threw herself off the castle, but then the castle vanished and it turned out the woman had been a fiend); and of Sir Lionel's own trial when he had been tempted to kill his brother for leaving him to be beaten to death. However, at the last moment, a hermit had stopped him (although Lionel then killed the hermit) and the brothers began to dance and kiss.
The triumphs of Sir Bors that purify him spiritually seem, as White describes them, strangely selfish and cruel—he had not known the women were fiends and he left them to die. In this manner, the novel comments upon the spiritual piety of the questing genre—where many of the trials include the necessary sacrifice of another, such as Lionel's murder of the hermit.
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