This tale is presented as if it were a portion of a Medieval manuscript, suddenly found after all these years. The non-scriptural footnotes are presented as the work of a fictional scholar who has the honor of publishing an edited version of this tale for the first time. He participates in an all-too-common vice among scholars: the inability to keep to the point and avoid editorializing.


It happened upon a certain day that as Galahad was riding through the forest and the light was failing towards evening, he began to be hungry and to long for holy company. He lifted his eyes up in prayer, and suddenly, as he crested a rise, he saw before him a humble cottage, and next to it a small chapel. Smoke rose from the chimney of the cottage, along with the delicious smell of bread. An old man, clad in a humble garment, came out of the front door, a simple wooden cross hanging round his neck. His hands were rough and his skin browned from much work in the sun, but he had a kindly face. Galahad at once spurred his horse forward and saluted him.

“Sir,” said Galahad, “I guess by your dress and demeanor that you are a holy man of God, come hither to this forest to retreat from the world of men and pursue your prayers free from distraction.”

“Sir knight, it is even so,” the man replied. “And though I know not your name nor your reason for coming here, you are welcome to my home. I have no soft bed nor comfortable garment, and my food is simple, but if you like your bed free of vice and your food seasoned with spiritual conversation, then you will find ease here tonight.”

“Sir, it was even these things for which I was just now longing. I lifted my heart in prayer, and have been brought to your doorstep. Know that I am Sir Galahad, lately of King Arthur’s table, and that I am engaged in the Quest of the Holy Grail. I have sworn a vow, and nothing shall turn me aside until I have found it. These are the things that brought me your way this eve.”

“Then enter, Sir Galahad, for we have much to speak of. It was revealed to me some time ago in prayer that he who was to find the Grail would come under my humble roof, and that I was to be sure not to let him depart until he had come to understand the nature of his quest. It is therefore of these things that we must speak tonight.”

“Sir, with a good will,” Galahad replied.

Galahad followed the goodly man to the chapel, where the hermit sang mass. After this service had been done, they returned to the cottage, which consisted of a single room, furnished only with a pallet of straw and a small hearth. There they sat upon the floor and ate bread and spoke of many matters of the holy Scriptures. But the whole time Galahad was longing for the hermit to speak of the Grail. At last the holy man leaned forward with a bright look in his eye, and addressed the topic for which Galahad had been waiting.

“Sir knight,” he began, “I can see well that you are he who has been chosen to achieve the Grail and bring its adventures to completion, for you are wondrously armed: not just with sword and shield, but with the virtues and that whole armor of God that makes a man fit for spiritual service.[1] Indeed, well may it be said of you in coming years that you are a second Christ, for only such as he was, (to wit: humble in spirit and brave in deeds) can lay hold of the most Holy Grail. And yet, all of this notwithstanding, you are not yet fit for the holy vessel, and there is something you lack without which you will never grasp the cup of the Lord.”

“Holy father, I have striven all my life in this calling of knighthood, which I hold as twin-born with discipleship to our Lord, that nothing that befits a Christian knight should be lacking from my soul.[2] In this way I have prepared my body with both skill at arms and abstinence from sin, and have nourished it as oft with fasting as with the simple fare required to maintain its strength. My mind I have fortified with knowledge of the ways of chivalry, or at least such knowledge as does not run contrary to the doctrines and practices of our holy religion, and also with all manner of heraldry, history, and husbandry, that I might be of service to those in need whom the Lord might bring across my path, and with constant reflection on the holy Scriptures. Besides all these, I have prepared my soul with humility and charity, always considering my neighbor above myself, and my duty to God above my neighbor; for which reason, though I have often been sought to turn aside on this quest for the sake of others, while I have done such service to them as I could, I have always been careful that pity should not piety undo, and that I should not be found to prefer the love of my neighbor to the love of God.[3] All things I have ever heard of that a knight and a Christian must do I have been diligent to do. I pray you, then, in the name of God, to tell me what else I lack.”

“All that you have done, you have done well, and in good measure,” the holy man replied, “but what you lack could not be attained in preparation for your quest, but could only come to you on the quest itself. Just as you had no sword or shield until you set out upon the quest, and then found yourself well supplied, so what you lack now had to wait its proper time. And now that you are here, I can put you on the path to it.”

“But say what it is, good father, if it be permitted to do so.”

The old man leaned forward and smiled confidingly. “Wisdom,” he said. “Knowledge and wisdom. You have learned much of the world, of yourself, and of the society you have joined (I mean the knights of Camelot); likewise, you have learned all the history of the Grail, and everything pertaining thereto that men may know. But you are so far from having understood the nature and reason for this quest you have entered upon that you have not yet even recognized the contradiction that lies at its very heart. Without an understanding of this riddle, and the vision to see its solution, you may not attain the Holy Grail.”

“Father, I am astounded, and yet your words ring true. For I see neither contradiction nor riddle in this quest, and if indeed there be such, this is a great failing, for which I reproach myself. If you would point me the way to this understanding, I would be much in your debt.”

The hermit nodded. “Let me then catechize you, and we shall see if the riddle does not appear in time. Let us begin with the lord of this quest: I mean, of course, its earthly lord, for though you entered into the service of a man and swore under your fealty to him to achieve this quest, this quest belongs to no man, but to God alone. And yet you were guided to the court of the high king, who is destined to have his name forever associated with this greatest of all quests; and so let us begin with the king, Arthur. It is said that he has a custom never to sit down for his meal upon some holy festival day until some marvel should reveal itself, whether by strange occurrence, or by the arrival of some challenger to his court, or such like. Is this true?”

“Certes, sir, it is so.”

“And why do you think he observes this custom?”

“Sir, it is well known that my lord Arthur has a great love of adventures. Indeed, fame of his own exploits, both before winning the crown and since he has established his kingdom, has so filled the land that he is held by all to be one of the greatest knights of the world. It is for this reason, I believe, that so many knights willingly follow him, and that he counts among his knights not only those of high birth but even other kings. Though he is now burdened with the duties of managing this land, his love of adventure has never left him, and his soul still longs for its native food. Unable to indulge in the seeking of adventures himself, he must content himself with the tales that reach him of the adventures of others, or with the ones that come to his doorstep, such as the Seat of Danger or this sword I here carry.”[4]

“But think you,” the old hermit countered, “is it not strange, nay, passing strange, that a king should refuse his dinner until some marvel should have presented itself? For indeed, if you should count up all the miracles recounted in the Old Testament, and then compare them to the length of years chronicled therein, you would find that all the miracles amount to very little, that they are the rarest of occurrences, and that entire generations go by between miracles. Is it not folly to stay dinner upon something so unwonted?”

“Nay, father, for in the Scriptures the miracles tended to cluster around individuals and times. And so, while many widows mourned the loss of many sons, one widow received her son back from Elijah, and by this same man was the Jordan parted, and fire was thrice called down from heaven.[5] [6] [7] And Logres in these days is such a place and time, in which so many wondrous things happen, and so often angels and demons visit men, that as we knights set out on our wanderings, it is rather rare that we do not encounter adventures, than that we do.”

“That,” said the hermit, “is a point that must be examined. Why is this realm of Logres so full of wonders, think you?”

“Sir, it is well known that it is the presence of the Grail in these lands that is the cause of so many wonders. For this reason, the king has taken of late to referring to these wonders as the ‘adventures of the Grail.’”

“You are very right to say so,” replied the hermit. “And now, one question more: why is all of Camelot out looking for the Grail?”

“For most, I believe no other reason was necessary than that the king so greatly desired that the Grail be found and the adventures of the Grail brought to their conclusion.”

“Why in the world should he want that?”

“Sir,” said Galahad, growing agitated, “surely you must know! The Grail is the greatest relic of our Lord: even its presence causes our land to flow with strange things and persons and wonders. The recovering of it must be the greatest quest that ever knight set hand to!”

“And you think King Arthur wants it recovered?”

“Faith, sir, I do.”

“And what is to happen to the Grail once it is recovered?”

“Sir, everyone knows that the Grail must be taken out of England and returned to that kingdom whence it lately came to our lands. Only then will the adventures of the Grail be concluded.”

“And you really believe the king wishes this?”

“How could he not, sir?”

“Nay, how can he, when it will mean an end to all the adventures on which his soul thrives? Should the Grail be achieved, henceforth he shall have to sit him down to meat as other men, for he can no longer attend upon some wonder to come his way. The removal of the Grail runs directly contrary to his greatest desire, which is to see the marvelous deeds surrounding his court grow without number and without ceasing. In desiring that the adventures of the Grail be concluded, he is desiring that adventures become as rare in Logres as they are in other lands. As an ardent lover of adventure, he is cutting off the branch he sits on.”

“Sir,” Galahad began, “I find this most disturbing. For if you are right, it seems my lord the king should not have sent us on this quest. And yet, this quest must be undertaken, for it is willed in heaven. Is this the contradiction you spoke of?”

“It is,” replied the holy man.

“Then, while it is of great import, it is no difficulty to the quest. For while Arthur may find himself heartbroken, yet the will of heaven is not to be opposed.”

“This is the contradiction, sir knight, but not the riddle,” the hermit replied. “The riddle is this: should the adventures of the Grail be achieved? You have said that should it be found, it must go out of this kingdom. The riddle is whether it should be found.”

“Sir, either I do not well understand you or you do not well understand what ‘riddle’ means.”[8]

“The one is as likely as the other. What I do understand is this: on the morning, you must take the road from here deeper into the forest. As you go, you will encounter three adventures. When you have resolved them to your satisfaction, you must return here to me and deliver your solution to the riddle. Then we shall know if you are ready to find the Grail, and if you are willing.”

“I confess that I do not fully understand, but the path laid out for me by heaven is clear, and I shall walk it as well as I may.”

And so they each retired for the evening, and enjoyed the deep sleep reserved for those who live simply and well.

When the morning came they did not break their fast, for the hermit said that Galahad must not eat before he came into his trials. Galahad pressed the holy man for this reason to this, to which the hermit replied:

“Noble Galahad, it is not permitted to me to prepare you for what lies ahead any further than to give you these instructions: Take this road to the east, and you will presently come upon a priest by the road. When you see him, greet him in the name of the Lord and ask him for bread. After that, take the adventure that befalls you.”

“Sir, I render you gramercy for your aid, and for your direction. When I have completed these adventures, I will return here that we may speak further of them.”

And so Galahad rode off as the hermit had instructed. Presently, after many twists in the road, but before the sun had grown very hot, he saw a priest by the side of the road, sitting as if in prayer. And he was marvelous to behold, for his face was exceedingly beautiful, approaching that even of Sir Lancelot. From his holy posture and the stillness of his frame, he might have been merely a statue of a man praying. Galahad slowed his horse in order not to startle the holy man.

“Holy father, I pray you excuse me for interrupting your prayers. I greet you in the name of the Lord, and pray you to offer me a little bread that my journey may not be too much for me.”[9]

The priest, looking up and seeing the knight before him, roused himself and went to a small sack that lay close to hand. “I welcome you in the name of my lord,” he replied, and, reaching into the sack, pulled out a large stone, which he then offered to Galahad. “Take and eat, and be filled with my lord’s bounty.”[10] [11]

But Galahad made no move to take the stone, rather pulling his horse back somewhat from the man. “I think you misunderstood me, father; for I what I have need of is bread, not a stone.”

“Yes, but if you had but faith the size of a mustard seed, you could ask and this stone would become bread for you.[12] So, be ruled by me, and follow my advice. Take this stone with you as you go forth from here. Pray as you go that it be converted into bread for you. If your prayer is diligent, and your faith pure, and you guard the stone in such wise that you never put it from your person nor set it down, whatever may come, you will soon find it transformed into the most wondrous bread of life. In such marvelous ways does my lord reward those who serve him.”

“Far be it from me to pray that prayer, or to do as you have asked. For I remember that when our Lord was in this life, he was in like wise requested to pray that prayer by the great tempter. But our Lord refused, reminding the evil one that man does not live by bread alone.[13] If then our Lord refused to pray for this miracle, then I myself would rather continue in hunger than depart from his most holy example. Further, I can now plainly see that you are no priest, for a priest is a true spiritual father, and yet our Lord has said that no father would give his son a stone when asked for bread.[14] Therefore in the name of Christ, I order you to begone from this place and never return.”

Galahad’s words had a marvelous effect on the priest. For as he spoke, the man’s face began to twist in a cruel sneer, so that his beauty was transformed from something lovely to something tyrannical. But at the name of Christ, that face quite contorted in terror and hatred, such that all its beauty was gone and there was left only the most hideous visage. The priest let out a single, long wail of despair, and then vanished from sight with a plume of flames, leaving behind smoke and the smell of sulphur.

While Galahad was yet trembling with the memory of that horrid sight, there came towards him out of the woods a beautiful maiden, dressed in white and stepping with sure step among the roots of the trees. She progressed as far as the head of Galahad’s horse, then stopped and saluted him.

“Hail to thee, Sir Galahad, and congratulations and thanks. You have done great good today. This wicked demon has been plying this trick here for a long time, and many knights have come to grief through his efforts. Some, trusting his deceitful words, have fallen upon the stone as they carried it on the way, receiving grievous injuries. One was drowned trying to carry it across the river. Another, remembering that it is written: ‘cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it again after many days’, cast it into a pool, where it disturbed a large serpent, which rose up and ate him straight away.[15] All these good men came to grief because they trusted the demon, who called out to them not in the name of the Lord, but in the name of his lord, who is the evil one. So you have done much good in removing this menace.”

“Lady, I thank you, for I am much edified by this knowledge. But how comes it that you know my name?”

The lady smiled but made no straight reply. “Continue on this road, son of Lancelot, and you will find your next adventure.” With that she turned and returned to the forest.

Galahad spurred his horse on, and followed the road through an increasingly hot day. Shortly after midday, he came upon the most curious sight: a knight of such small stature that he seemed rather a child than a man. Yet he had around his waist a most remarkable belt, and the breastplate on his chest shone like the sun, and his feet were well fitted with trim and proper boots. On his head he wore a helm with the beauty of the dawn. On his arm he carried a thick wooden shield, and in his hand was what looked to be the sharpest sword Galahad had ever seen. Most strangely of all, he had the true cross tattooed upon his forehead, and on his hands were the stigmata. He stood in the midst of the road, such that one might not easily pass by him, and the look on his face was stern, which would have looked comical on one of such small size, were it not for the fearsomeness of his armament.

“In the name of God, stand where you are, for it is decreed that no one may pass this way except they receive from me a blow. This blow I will deliver, upon my duty as a knight, whether it be willingly or unwillingly. But be warned: if my blow be resisted, it is sore grievous, touching upon your very life.”

“Are we then to trade blows, sir?” asked Galahad.

“That is as you see fit: you may attempt to strike me, but I must on all accounts strike you. But by your striking you risk my unwilling blow, which, as I say, may touch upon your very life.”

Galahad once again took in the details of the diminutive knight, and dismounted from his horse. Leaving his sword sheathed, he went down on one knee, resting his arms one upon the other, and bowed his head. “Sir,” he said, “I submit willingly to your blow. Do your duty.”

The knight lifted his sword forthwith, and dealt such a ringing blow upon the crest of Galahad that the holy knight was cast to the ground, stunned. Galahad thought he had never felt anything so painful in his life; but, when he had regained his senses, he saw that no injury had been done, and not a drop of blood had been shed. He slowly rose to his feet, shaking his head to clear it, and it seemed to him that the day shone brighter and clearer. The tiny knight was now smiling at him.

“You have done well, Galahad, son of Elaine the Fair. Now sit with me and break your fast.”

Galahad followed the knight, who led him out of the road and to a small clearing nearby. There Galahad turned his horse loose to feed and sat down at a small table with the small knight.

“Tell me, Sir Galahad, why you allowed me to strike my blow.”

“Sir,” said Galahad, “I could see plainly that you were armored in the full armor of God, with the belt of truth around your waist, and the breastplate of righteousness about your chest, your feet shod for readiness in the Gospel of peace, your head covered with the helm of salvation. Besides these, you carry the shield of faith, whose thick wooden construction is well suited to extinguish the arrows of the evil one, and you carry the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.[16] Moreover, I saw you marked with the chrism of the true cross, and so conformed to Christ as to bear his marks in his flesh. Having seen all of this, I reasoned that a blow from such a one as you was not to be resisted, for you can only, I think, strike in righteousness. And while I knew of nothing that should make me deserve a blow from you, a man’s faults are often hidden from him.”

The knight then drew forth bread and wine, and when he had given thanks, he gave some to Galahad to eat. While Galahad ate, the littlest knight urged him on in his quest with many exhortations and holy words from the Scriptures. At last, he said:

“What, good Sir Galahad, do you think is the meaning of my blow?”

“Sir,” said Galahad, “I can see plainly now that the blow you strike is the sting of compunction, which hurts worse than all the injuries in the world, but which the true knight longs for because by this pain he saves his immortal soul. And this is confirmed in that you have now served me the Lord’s Supper, the meal of reconciliation that follows true repentance, and have filled me with many good exhortations besides.”

“You are quite right, and you are the first to see it. I have faced many knights who, thinking little of my stature, would not yield to my blow, and instead raised arms against me, though I warned them as I warned you. I have in this manner slain several knights and greatly wounded many others; for you must know that just as the sting of compunction, humbly received, brings life, so when it is resisted, it brings mortal injury. Indeed, but a few days ago I struck a knight of your company, one Sir Lionel, who received a wound so grievous that he is still recovering from it nearby.”

“Sir, I entreat you at once to discover unto me whither this place lies where he is laid, for Sir Lionel is known to me, having been one of two knights who were present when my father knighted me. If he is in distress and so near at hand, I must go and see him, and see if by my presence I can bring him any succor. That is, so long as it does not interfere with the path I am embarked upon.”

“Nay, brave Sir Galahad; in fact, it is in that very direction that your final appointment lies. In fact, discourse with your relative is all your third task. Go you therefore back to the path, and follow it until it forks. Take the right hand path, and you will soon come to a small monastery, tended by only a few monks, and there you will find Lionel recovering from his injuries.”

“Gramercy,” Galahad replied. “Before I go, will you answer me this: how did you know my name?”

“It was told me when I was given this office that one day the best knight in the land, the world’s chosen, would come, and that he would relieve me of my duty; his name, I was told, would be called Galahad.[17] And so, though I did not know you when you rode up, when you submitted to my blow, I knew that you were he.”

“Are you then relieved of your duty?”

“I am: my office is now complete, and I will no more be seen in these regions. Fare you well, Sir Galahad! Grace and peace go with you.” And in that moment, the mini-knight and all the accoutrements of their meal vanished with a soft white light and a sound as of many instruments playing harmoniously together. Galahad fell upon his face and offered a prayer of thanksgiving for this grace, then mounted his charger and continued on his way.

As it drew on towards evening, Galahad came upon the monastery described by the vanished knight. When he had discovered himself to them, the monks brought him in and led his charger away to be tended to. They offered him a meal and a bath, but Galahad refused both, saying that he must see Sir Lionel at once. The monks obliged him, leading him into a dim room provided only with a cot, a small table, and a stool. Upon the table stood Sir Lionel’s armor, which Galahad marveled to see muddy and greatly worn, as if its wearer had undergone some great ordeal. Lionel himself was very pale, and weak, though his wound was freshly dressed, and the color did seem to be coming back into his cheeks. It was clear that the danger of death had passed.

“Sir Lionel,” Galahad began, sitting himself upon the stool, “how goes it with you?”

“Is it really you, Galahad? How much I regret the day we found you and conferred upon you knighthood! For you have led us into a quest in which I have received the most grievous harms; and I fear with a prophetic soul that worse still awaits me.”

“Sir, speak not so against the quest, for it is a holy quest, and has God as its Lord, and we must not call unclean that which God has made clean.”[18]

“Then rather damned be the day that I was born, or that the Lady of the Lake ever took me under her care, for I have had nothing but injury on this holy quest.”[19]

Galahad was greatly disturbed at the knight’s words, but could see that Lionel was not yet right for instruction. So he asked instead: “Tell me of your recent adventures, and how your armor came to be in such a state.”

“Frankly I tell you, sir, that not a knight in all the land has had such a hard time of it as I have had. This wound from which, as you now see, I suffer was delivered to me by a child-knight so small that you would not have thought him capable of wounding a rabbit, much less a full-grown knight of the Round Table. Yet he struck me so sore that it left me insensible for the better part of an hour, and when I came to I did not know if I was dead or alive. The pain thereof still distresses me greatly, especially when my mind turns upon my misfortune and how unlucky I have been.”

“It is the pain of compunction, brother, and is given thee for the amending of your life.”

“It was rather given for the ending of my life, the which it would have done had I not been quick enough to turn aside at the last second. I have a mind to find my brother, Bors, and return to challenge that dwarf a second time.”

“Nay, you shall not find him there, for I have retired him from his post this very day. But say: how did your armor come into this condition? Not, I think, with being struck down by that knight.”

“I am grateful to you that you have avenged my honor and upheld that glory of the Round Table: truly it was a good day that saw you knighted. As for my armor, that comes of the adventure I had before I ever came to the imp knight. I had been traveling for many days without adventure, when at last I came to a high place where two roads meet, beside a gate leading into a city. There stood an exceedingly beautiful maiden, crying out: ‘Listen, because I am trustworthy, and my lips never speak but the truth. I love those who love me, and I endow them with riches and honor! Come to me now and make me yours!’[20] When she turned this entreaty upon me, I refused it, scorning her.”

Galahad was so shocked that he stood upright. “Surely you could see that it was Lady Wisdom herself speaking to you!” he exclaimed.

“I saw no such thing,” said Lionel. “But I remembered how many have been led astray by the temptations of women, and how we were solemnly enjoined to take no women with us on this quest, contrary to our usual custom, and so I dared not trust the sweet lips of beauty. Indeed, I rather thought she was an enemy, set there to tempt me from the way and turn me aside from the path of the Grail. So I mocked her and spurned her.”

“What happened next?” asked Galahad, struggling to control his distress.

“She turned upon me a look of extreme sorrow and pity, and in that moment I doubted whether I had done right. My doubt did not last long, for immediately a great storm broke over my head, drenching me with rain and battering me with howling winds. I cried out in distress, but the lady only laughed and mocked. A great cloud rose around me, and I looked for her but could not find her.[21] The wind gathered into a great whirlwind that drove me from the city and turned me every which way, till I was covered in mud and bruised. When it finally stopped, I rose to look for water to clean myself, and it was then that I came upon the tiny knight.”

After Sir Lionel had finished his story, Galahad sat with him for a brief time, but found he had nothing much to say to him. His heart was heavy within his chest, and his spirit was greatly troubled. Presently, he excused himself, then took a late meal. The monks offered to lead him to a place to rest, but he asked instead to be conducted to the chapel, where he spent all night in prayer.

The next day he set out betimes, after exchanging a brief farewell with Sir Lionel, and returned to the hermit. Arriving at midday, he found the old man at the fire, preparing the meal.

“Hail Sir Galahad, son of God,” the hermit called out. “Sit you here and eat, and when we have eaten, you will tell me of what you have learned.”

Galahad did as he was bid, and when they had consumed the simple stew, the hermit turned an expectant eye upon his guest. Thus Galahad began:

“Holy father, as you indicated, upon leaving you yesterday morn I met with three adventures, the details of which I do not think I need to discover unto you. From these I have learned this: the Grail is the most dangerous thing in all the land. For it causes adventures which the knights of Camelot use but ill, and which therefore lead them to grievous injury and even death. Well might Arthur wish to be rid of its influence.”

“You speak rightly, but you must penetrate further. Come, let me again catechize you, and we will see if you have not the ability to turn your knowledge into wisdom. Think on this: why does the Grail cause these strange happenings?”

“Faith, sir, who can search out the mind of God?”

“Those to whom the Lord gives the means,” the hermit replied promptly. “Ask yourself but this: what is the nature of the adventures of the Grail?”

“Why, father, it seems to me, both from those I have encountered myself and from those that my fellow knights have encountered, that the Grail takes spiritual truths and lessons and presents them to us in bodily form. To consider but my adventures of late, there are many deceivers in the Church who pretend to holiness, and would draw many after them if they could. So the Grail summoned up a demon from Hell to wear the guise of a priest, in order to tempt the knights with a test of discernment. Or again, the knight I met upon the road, whom many took to be of no account because of his size, was in fact a figure of compunction. One sees in body what happens in spirit if one submits to or resists the sting of conscience.”

“Well spoken, sir knight. The Grail does indeed present spiritual things physically, and so, to borrow an ancient figure of speaking, it presents allegories bodily. Why do the other knights do so badly at them, and why do you do so well?”

“It is because they have become so carnal that they are blinded to spiritual things. In their love of tournaments and the favors of maidens, they have forgotten how to reason spiritually, how to look beyond the surface of things to the sense that lies underneath. And so they interpret literally where they should interpret spiritually.”

“So then,” the hermit continued, “why does the Grail show forth these things?”

“Why,” said Galahad, “I see now that it is testing us, trying us, to know our spiritual mettle. But more, it is teaching us. As we successfully pass the trials of the Grail, our spiritual understanding grows stronger, and we progress in holiness.”

“Very good. And now, Sir Galahad, you may tell me what is the matter with the king’s desires.”

“It is so clear now,” Galahad responded. “The king desires the means rather than the end. He wants the adventures, not for the holiness they bring, but for their strangeness. In this way he is like a man who drinks a medicine, not because it is healthful, but because he likes the taste. Such a man will soon drink the medicine even when he has no need of it, and, thus taken out of proper measure, what was once healthful to him might become noxious.”

“This is why he should wish it to stay. Why does he wish it to go?”

“Because he and his men do not seek holiness, but worldly honor and glory. The Grail stands against them and judges them. As long as it is in England, his court and its many deeds are parts of the story of the Grail. But if he can claim it and send it away, then the Grail becomes part of his story, and he is free to ascend in the estimation of future ages.”

“So, wise Sir Galahad, the time has come for you to make a choice. For you have been chosen by heaven to find the Grail. You will not find it alone: two of your company have been set aside to find it with you; but you are the chief of that company, and so it falls to you to say what is to be done with it. So, what must be done with the Grail?”

“In the name of God, it must be removed from Logres,” Galahad said passionately. “For the Grail belongs to the Lord’s table; and he who approaches even the representation of that table, what we call the Eucharist, unworthily eats and drinks to his peril; how much more so is it true with the true cup that twice held the earthly blood of the Lord.[22] [23] The knights of the Round Table are dying because they are seeking the Grail unprepared, and they do so out of pride rather than humility. This realm is not ready for the lessons the Grail would teach, or the blessing it would bring, and so it must be removed from this realm until such time as they become more spiritually mature.”

“What then of your claim that to do so, to grant Arthur’s wish, would subject the Grail to Arthur’s legend? Are you not afraid of making the most Holy Grail but one of several episodes in Arthur’s reign?”

“That may well be how the world comes to view it, but the things of God do not suffer loss from the loss of reputation among men. It matters not how future generations view the Grail; it only matters that spiritual harm is coming to Christian men who are approaching unprepared. Just as you would deny the body of Christ to an unrepentant sinner, so the Grail must go forth from Logres.”

The hermit smiled, and the warmth of that smile filled Galahad with contentment. “You have done well, Galahad, knight of destiny. Go forth and fulfill your quest, and your name will be spoken wherever the Grail is spoken of until the end of the age.”

A light began to shine from the hermit’s chest. It spread, growing in intensity, until it was all Galahad could see. In a moment it was gone, and when his vision returned to him, the hermit, the cottage, and the chapel all were gone. Galahad fell to his knees in wonder and worshiped God.



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Citation Information

Junius Johnson, “Galahad and the End of the Quest,” An Unexpected Journal: King Arthur Legendarium 6, no. 2. (Summer 2023), 168-189.


[1] Eph 6:10-17. The author will use the armor of God referenced in Ephesians later, in a more literal sense. Apparently it was one of his favorite Scripture passages.

[2] Shakespeare borrows from our manuscript here: “O hard condition, / twin-born with greatness . . .” (Henry V, IV.1.233-4).

[3] Here perhaps we find the source of that great line in Tasso: “But pity now would piety undo, / if first we did not give to God his due” (The Liberation of Jerusalem, canto IV, stanza 69).

[4] The Seat of Danger (Siege Perilleus in Old French) was a seat at the Round Table, made by Merlin, and upon which a prophecy was written. According to the prophecy, only the knight who would find the Holy Grail could sit in that seat; others who tried would die. Shortly after safely sitting in this seat, Galahad and the court were summoned to see a miraculous sword set in a stone, which only the best knight in the world could remove. Lancelot refused to try for it; Gawain tried with no luck. Galahad drew it forth and carried it on the quest. Some conflation with the tradition of Arthur drawing a sword from a stone, which is itself no basis for wielding supreme executive power, seems to have afflicted the Grail writers.

[5] 1 Kgs 17:22.

[6] 2 Kgs 2:8.

[7] 1 Kgs 18:38, 2 Kgs 1:10 and 1:12.

[8] Perhaps we see a rare glimmer of annoyance here in Sir Galahad.

[9] 1 Kgs 19:7.

[10] Mt 26:26.

[11] Jer 31:14.

[12] Mt 17:20.

[13] Mt 4:3-4.

[14] Mt 7:9.

[15] Eccl 11:1.

[16] Eph 6:10-17.

[17] This seems to be a reference to the Norse Volsung saga, where the epithet “the world’s chosen” is attached to Sigurd Dragonslayer. This Germanic intrusion on what is otherwise a fine French romance is truly regrettable.

[18] Acts 10:15.

[19] Job 3:1-10.

[20] Prv 8:2-21.

[21] Prv 1:24-28.

[22] 1 Cor 11:27-32.

[23] This is a reference to the notion that the Grail was the cup with which Joseph of Arimathea caught blood from the side of Christ at the cross. Thus, it first held blood when Christ celebrated the first Eucharist, and then later did so when it received blood from the wounded side of Christ.

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