Now, after Sir Galahad had smitten down Sir Launcelot, as aforetold of, he rode for a long while in a wild forest and had many adventures of divers sorts, of which no account hath been given, though mention is made of them in the ancient histories of those things which I have read. —Howard Pyle, The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur
So begins the seventh chapter of The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur, as recorded by Howard Pyle. Hitherto, Galahad’s “adventures of divers sorts” have been a perplexing puzzle to historians of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Which wild forest, of all the wilds that once existed in the realms of Britain—or indeed of Faerie? How long did he roam there? What did he do—and eat—for all that time? Whom or what did he meet, slay, rescue? How did he manage to emerge unscathed from such unknown trials to achieve the Holy Grail at last? Alas, these questions seemed as unanswerable as the other great Unfathomable Mysteries of Human History—such as “How did they carry those huge rocks to Stonehenge?” and “Who carved P+J 4evah on the tallest one?”
Until now, that is.
Deep in the labyrinthine archives of the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, a research team from the Society for Galahadic Study and Emulation recently made a momentous discovery: a discarded ceramic bust of St. Plagiarus of Tintagel, which, when broken open, yielded a hidden trove of medieval manuscripts in various states of age- and vermin-induced disintegration. (As to the actual circumstances of the finding—and breaking—of the saintly bust, we have, at the request of the Society, buried the details in a footnote on p. 27 to spare certain parties any additional embarrassment.) The surviving pages and fragments turned out to be a collection of tales purportedly chronicling the adventures of Sir Galahad in that very Wild Forest of which we have yearned to know more!
Needless to say, such an historical gold mine has caused a tremendous stir amongst both professional Society members and lay Society groupies, collectively known as “The Galahood.” Indeed, Professor N. I. T. Witte’s team has, since their triumphant emergence from the dark recesses of the library, been so hounded by adoring fans wearing “GALAHAD LIVES” hoodies, brandishing homemade swords, and toasting them with tankards of ale, that they’ve barely had a moment’s peace to prepare these remarkable documents for publication.
Illustration by Ned Bustard
If you’ve picked up this book (the fruit of their painstaking perseverance and research) you are, it must be assumed, a Galahoodlum yourself, possibly even a proud wearer of the aformentioned Galahoodie. I hardly need to remind you, therefore, of the circumstances whereupon Sir Galahad embarked on his journey through the Wild Forest in the first place. But let us imagine him together, for a moment: 18 years old, brave, bold, innocent, with the weight of enormous expectations and glowing prophecies upon his young shoulders. Raised by nuns after the death of his mother Elaine, he has only recently met—and been knighted by—and, in a case of mistaken identity at a much-too-narrow bridge, soundly unhorsed and embarrassed his father, Sir Lancelot of the Lake (yes, that Lancelot). Far behind him now is Camelot and Arthur’s Round Table, where the Siege Perilous awaits his return. This coveted seat (devised by Merlin) had indeed proven perilous to all who attempted to sit there except for the knight destined to find the long-lost Holy Grail, the legendary cup of Christ. Now it bears the name “Galahad” in gold letters across the back.
To some scribes he did indeed embody the Galahad of legend—the most pure and most perfect knight of all, a paragon of piety and virtue, nearly as faultless as the Lord himself. But others paint a more blemished image of a knight beset by pride, fear, indecision, doubt, rashness, grumpiness, naïveté, and abysmal taste in helmets. Gwenifere of Traff Town
The boyish knight wields a shining sword (traditionally called “Linda,” according to Herbert of Tintooth) which he pulled from a block of red marble (probably Merlin’s doing again). Greatest Knight in the World, the inscription reads, and who is Galahad to argue with swords—or stones—or seats, for that matter? A damsel clad in white gave him a coal-black charger. The White Friars gave him a silver shield with a blood-red cross painted on it—the famed Shield of Balyn, or Balin, or Balan, or Boolean, or Billion, or Balloon (depending on whether you believe Pyle’s or Pleeve’s versions, or make up your own). The Hermit in the Forest gave him breakfast. In short, this youthful paragon of chivalry has been thoroughly foretold, forsoothed, seated, fed, clothed, armed, blessed, horsed, and sent on his merry way by a legion of wizards, fairies, friars, knights, kings, maidens, and well-wishers. A lonely, dangerous path now lies before him—a path that will, we know (though he does not), lead him at last to the Grail.
Those of you whose inordinate consumption of pumpkin spice lattes has dulled your memories may refresh your grasp of all the dizzying details of Galahad’s story by re-reading Howard Pyle’s account, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, our own N. I. T. Witte’s acclaimed Perils, Puns, and Pastries of Camelot, or various and sundry Wikipedia articles. But even the more well-read among you may still be wondering how the missing pieces of Galahad’s illustrious journey came to be recorded and hidden within the ceramic likeness of St. Plagiarus—that repentant pirate whose insatiable thirst for good stories and beautiful handwriting famously led him, in his wilder days, to kidnap scribes from monasteries across Britain and hold them hostage in his fortress-library near Tintagel. Aha! I shall tell you.
Illustration by Ned Bustard
As far as our researchers have been able to deduce, Plagiarus’ scriptorium continued even after its founder mysteriously vanished while trying to compose an epic poem as penance for his sins. Loath to leave such a glorious library with superb coastal views, and having forgiven Plagiarus for his piratical ways, the community of scribes dedicated themselves almost entirely to collecting and copying local stories about King Arthur (who’d been born just down the road) and his knights.
For reasons unknown—perhaps an invasion of Vikings, perhaps an epidemic of tendonitis—the scribes eventually ceased their scribing, rolled their parchments up, stuffed them into a hollow, pitch-lined ceramic bust made to commemorate the one who had abducted them for literary purposes, and hid the bust deep inside Merlin’s Cave under the cliffs of Tintagel Castle. And there it remained, untouched for centuries, nestled just out of reach of the tide, until a tourist lost her balance, hurled her selfie stick into the magical abyss, and heard it clink upon something that was most definitely not a stone.
Thus was the bust discovered, and despite years spent circulating in the Black Market for Statues of Little-Known Saints of England, it finally made its way into the hands of a devout Bodleian librarian who was avowedly St. Plagiarus’ #1 Fan and who gave it to his assistant to store carefully for future veneration. The assistant placed the bust on top of a tall bookcase where it gathered dust until—well, you know the rest (or you will, after reading the footnote on p. 27).
Once Professor Witte’s team had delicately extricated the scrolls from the broken fragments of Plagiarus’ face, they found that most of the manuscripts were, tragically, so rotted, stained, cracked, and nibbled, so marred by splotches and sploodges and scorch marks, that apart from a few tantalizing references to armor polish and Cornish hedgehogs they were completely unreadable. However, the few scrolls that were salvageable—which included the tales of Sir Galahad’s adventures in the Wild Forest and one receipt for six oak barrels of mead (to be published separately)—have been painstakingly dusted, cleaned, ironed flat, reassembled, edited, and translated from unpronounceable medieval English (and, in one case, from Faerie) by the scholars represented in this volume.
Surprisingly, the tales recorded at the scriptorium of St. Plagiarus do not always agree on the facts, or the spelling of those facts, or the precise timing of those facts. Sometimes, indeed, they seem to kick our established Arthurian and Galahoodlian knowledge to the curb. Such rebels, those Tintangelites were!
But more shockingly, the tales do not even present a unified picture of Sir Galahad himself. To some scribes he did indeed embody the Galahad of legend—the most pure and most perfect knight of all, a paragon of piety and virtue, nearly as faultless as the Lord himself. But others paint a more blemished image of a knight beset by pride, fear, indecision, doubt, rashness, grumpiness, naïveté, and abysmal taste in helmets.
Could it be that the Search for the Historical Galahad has finally run aground on the rocks of textual contradictions and authorial prejudices? Or was Galahad a more complicated hero than Galahoodie slogans can e’er express? Was he, in short, human—brave, honest, and dedicated to be sure, yet subject to hunger, fits of temper, and sore hindquarters like the rest of us, just with better armor and a shinier sword?
And most importantly, is such a knight still worthy of our study and emulation?
The Society for Galahadic Study and Emulation has answered with an uproarious and unanimous “Aye!”
Thus this book was born. And thus it is dedicated to the Galahoodlums who, fearing neither beast nor bunion, have set their hearts upon a noble quest—and indeed to all who wander and wonder and weave tales in the wild forests of this world.
—Gwenifere of Traff Town Editorial Overseer The Society for Galahadic Study and Emulation
The scholars of The Society for Galahadic Study and Emulation have generously published their findings in a new volume entitled The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad, which is now available order through the Rabbit Room Store.
If you count yourself among the Galahad faithful (the “Galahoodlums,” as it were), then we have an even specialer something for you—it’s called the Galahoodie Bundle. Click here to check it out.