Observations on Malory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur”

A few days ago I started reading Sir Thomas Malory’s book Le Morte D’Arthur. After a few hours, I stopped. In that time I made the following observations, which should explain why I stopped:

  1. Maybe it was the age, maybe it was the author’s sick mind, but for some reason, this book’s pages are almost literally dripping in blood. Seriously, there’s death everywhere, all the time, in just about every page. In fact, within the first 1/10 of the book over 60,000 people are already dead. At that rate I can only infer that all those people being shipped in from France were doing so not to support any sort of invasion, as the history books would like you to believe, but for the sole purpose of dying gruesomely, which is the only logical explanation as to why, with numbers like these, the entire population of England didn’t die out during the time of Arthur. Frankly, I can’t help but wonder how in the hell Britain didn’t become a deserted island, or a land full of inbreeds. (I’ll come back to that last item in a minute.)
  2. Arthur isn’t exactly the sharpest crayon in the box. In fact, it seems as if every five minutes or so the guy is heading off into a fight with someone else, usually at the call and beckon of Merlin (I’ll talk more about him later). The king, it seems, sees it fit to challenge random strangers to fight over insipid little things like wells and where they’re standing. Arthur’s lack of intelligence is a fact apparently not lost on Merlin, who gets his giggles from making Arthur look like an idiot on a regular basis, usually by shape-shifting and telling Arthur all manner of strange tales in order to get him to fight or to make him paranoid. Seriously, Merlin must be incredibly bored. In fact, this little mock-conversation of something which actually happens in the book should tell you a little bit about the beloved wizard:

    Merlin: Hey Arthur, you know that sword and scabbard you just got from that lady in the lake?

    Arthur: Yeah, what about them?

    Merlin: Uhm, well, if you had to pick one, which would you pick: the sword or the scabbard?

    Arthur: Well, from my understanding, the sword is what you fight with, block with, and generally survive by during battle, while the scabbard just sort of sits there and holds the sword. I’m gonna have to go with the sword on this one.

    Merlin: YOU FOOL! YOU FOOLISH FOOLISH FOOL! That scabbard is a magical scabbard which makes it so that you never ever bleed no matter how bad your injuries.

    Arthur: What the… how what I supposed to know that?!

    Merlin: Never mind, stupid, let’s just go back home.

    Arthur: Hey, can I go fight that guy at the well? The one who beat me when we were heading over here?

    Merlin: Nope. Your magic sword won’t make up for what an utter loser you are, stupid. Let’s just go home and I’ll introduce you to a few of the fine ladies over yonder…

    Note that Merlin eventually gets buried alive: I’m betting he pisses someone off with the whole doppleganger bit, but continually insulting people plays its part in the event, I’m sure.

  3. Almost as much as he loves killing, Arthur loves finding beautiful women to knock boots with. To put it bluntly, Arthur is a hornball. Of course, given the level of deaths that take place it’s no surprise that the chicks he ends up banging are almost always directly related to him: his aunt, his sister, his cousin… you get the picture. To be fair, most of this is Merlin’s fault who, taking advantage of Arthur’s room temperature IQ, makes himself Arthur’s pimp and goes out representing him to these ladies. (“Hey, baby, how about one night with the king? Awwww yeah…”) This entire situation is made all the worse by Arthur’s apparent magic super-sperm, which has a habit of quickly impregnating any woman the dude walks close enough to. Enter Mordred.

    (Side note: The combination of the king’s low intelligence and Merlin’s “incest is best” attitude makes you wonder whether Uther Pendragon — who also went to Merlin for help with the ladies — was Arthur’s father and uncle.)

    Here’s a prediction: by the end of the book, England is covered in French people and the Pendragon family tree looks more like a pretzel than a tree.

After about the first hundred pages I had to put the book down. This whole episode leaves me wondering why on Earth the British are so keen on laying claim to this guy. Still, given the level of death and incest, it’s no wonder attempts have been made by historians to tie every British royal family for the past thousand years to Arthur: they’re all probably right.

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