The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King Book 3, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lancelot has two more quests on his year-long adventure, before returning to court: he is riding along, when he sees an escaped falcon circling overhead. Suddenly, a plump maiden runs towards him, asking him to capture her falcon. Lancelot strips off his armor, climbs the tree and manages to ensnare the falcon. However, below, the woman's husband appears, dressed in full armor, saying that he will kill Lancelot. Lancelot, although naked without armor or weaponry, uses a branch to knock the knight off his horse and then slits his throat with the knight's own sword.
This trial is one that prepares Lancelot for an event later in his life—when he will be attacked by many armed knights and he is only armed with a wooden foot stool. It is purely a physical trial—there are no symbolic components to it.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
A while later, Lancelot sees a maiden being pursued madly by a knight on horseback. The woman cries and asks for Lancelot's assistance: the man is her husband and is trying to kill her because she is an adulteress. Despite her unfaithfulness, Lancelot tells the man that he cannot kill her; but, as soon as Lancelot turns away, the man quickly beheads his wife.
This encounter foreshadows the greatest sin Lancelot will commit—adultery and betrayal. The trial symbolizes what Lancelot will do for many years of his life: defend an adulterous wife from the angry hands of other men. Yet the end result of this trial also suggests that Lancelot's other effort will be in vain and lead to violence.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
It is tradition at Pentecost in Arthur's court for returning nights to tell the tales of their questing and for all conquered knights to present themselves to Arthur for pardon. However, Lancelot had told all those he conquered to present themselves to Guenever instead. Lancelot then asks Arthur how the Round Table is; Arthur looks despairing: he confesses, he fears it is not working. Instead of the knights using violence only for good, the knights have turned the idea into some sort of game—to see who will be the best knight, or save the most virgins etc. He confesses that sometimes he wished he had never invented the whole thing.
Lancelot essentially declares his love for Guenever in front of the entire court when he asks those he conquered to ask Guenever rather than Arthur for pardon.
Themes
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon