Arthurian Legend as told by Craig Case

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A textual oral retelling, as heard on #squareville! the early hours of March 4, 2007.

Craig Case as the storyteller

Matthew Broodie-Stewart as the audience


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~I am reading all manner of stuff from Arthurian legend for various things (got an actual class on that which is win incarnate and a senior thesis project dealing with it), various books for my Later Medieval History class, and a pretty interesting smatter of selections from 17th century England for another class

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~....

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~the Mabinogion, History of the Kings of Britain, the works of Chretien de Troyes, Lady Cavendish's plays, Lady Clifford's journals, a comprehensive German account of the Crusades translated by my professor, the letters of Heloise and Abelard (parts of which are kinda fucking insane).. other stuff

Interesting... anything in particular you find extraordinarily fascinating?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Haha

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Chretien de Troyes is my favorite author, many consider him to the creator of Arthurian romance (as opposed to the more epic earlier tales like History of the Kings of Britain)

How would you compare his work to Malory's work? I couldn't struggle far through the latter's.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Anyhow, Chretien is pretty much the French Chaucer in that everyone knew he was a significant author who put out masterpieces and preserved his works. He started most of the non-Arthur things that most people commonly know about Arthurian legend (Lancelot and the Grail. and the whole romantic aspect)

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Hmm

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Malory was adapting lots of prior material into a prose collection that spans the whole plot arc

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Chretien writes particular stories in verse that center around a particular character and theme(s)

So if I want more relevant and perhaps interesting if not entertaining arthurian stories, I should probably read earlier authors?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~I think Chretien is easier to digest than Malory, yeah. His stuff is certainly finely tuned literature in every sense of the word and he challenges you to read between the lines and undercover everything he has running underneath the story; there are many nuances

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Malory's the definitive because he collected lots of stuff together in a single volume that was in his English and it got printed all over the place

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~You don't get clearer the earlier you go, though. usually the opposite

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Gildas is one of the earliest Arthurian writers, who wasn't even writing about King Arthur but was probably within a generation of the actual dude

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~And his shit is confusing as hell and crazy

Ah. Thanks. I keep this in mind should I check him out....

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He was trying to write history and wasn't terribly good at it ">P

What do you mean 'crazy'?

As in?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He doesn't really cite where he gets his information, and contradicts his own dates a couple of times. His narrative is also kinda unclear. And he's got an enormous bone to pick with his contemporaries, everyone from the commoners to the clergy to the nobility. The entire British race altogether really. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~All the history is kinda overwhelmed by his sheer spite. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~It's a hell of an interesting thing to read though, if you like peeking inside history.


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~History of the Kings of Britain tries to be history but is flagrantly literature in the guise of history and as such carries itself forward a good deal better than say, Gildas

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~It is also apparently the most popular book of the Middle Ages

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~It also really helps to read the history behind this stuff

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Arthur is the national hero of Britain. Not England. He belongs to those folks in Wales ultimately

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~History of the Kings of Britain was written by a Welshman, Geoffrey of Monmouth, who pretty much was spreading pro-Welsh, pro-Norman, and pro-Brittany propaganda through it

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Negative attitudes about the Britons/Welsh in earlier works like Gildas get transferred to the English

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Arthur's only a part of it but he's the biggest part and it's pretty interesting to see how his legend really got popularized. It's missing a lot of the elements we attribute to it that were added by later writers

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He also just loves to beat the shit out of people and call them effeminate creatures. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Anyhow, Chretien is purely literature for literature's sake


>P Effeminate creatures, you say?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~"You effeminate creatures."

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Said to Romans before he, well, beats the shit out of them. ">P

Now that's an insult.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He's got a good bit of battle speeches

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Just that particular line jumps out in my mind. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~There is also the part where he looks at the image of the Virgin Mary on his shield and then proceeds to fly into an utter rage and kill about 1000 people singlehandedly. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Chretien's trying to say a lot of important things about society and the love between men and women and how they interact

Divine Power is not only a feat, it's a historical fact!

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Chretien's somewhat unique, at least in my readings, in that his worldview has a place for worthwhile contributions to society, faith in God, and having constant sex with beautiful women. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~It's the question of how these things interact and balance each other into a sublime whole that is his main subject

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~If you like Celtic mythology he also weaves A LOT of that in subtly

Does anyone undergo a warp-spasm?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Not sure what that is. ">P

Cuchulainn's... :P Limit Break.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~I do not use espers in FFXII. ">P

No, no, Cuchulainn, the mythological hero, not Cuchulainn the ... cousin of King Hippo.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~An interesting sidenote is that all but one of Chretien's stories involve married couples. People nowadays typically conceive of courtly love being by definition adulterous but a lot of the stories (especially these "founding" ones, if you will) actually do involve married couples who are faithful to one another and experience true love. Ppl just tend to pay attention to Lancelot and Tristan. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Hmm

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~You mean when Cuchulainn goes absolutely insane and murderfies everybody?


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Hmm..

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Erec is badass in general

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He has a pretty awesome moment where he suddenly revives from a coma because some fuck hit his wife, decapitates that guy instantly, and everyone in the castle runs away thinking he is a demon.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Yvain cruises around with a fucking lion

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~And tagteams worthless assholes with it

A lion?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Yeah

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Yvain's story is crazy in general

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He spends a part of it as an insane d00d who lives in the woods

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~At one point he happens upon a dragon attacking a lion and he helps out the lion

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Henceforth the lion is his constant companion

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Not a big fan of Lancelot but he whups the villain of his story pretty handily. Beats him down, grabs his head, throws his helmet off, and decapitates him in short order. Literally to the cheers of dozens of onlookers

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval does all kinds of crazy stuff.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval's the original Grail story and you'd think it'd start off like "And Perceval was a good pious boy who did everything right"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~That is the later Galahad story

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~This, the original, has Perceval as a badass lunatic pretty much


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval is a kid who's been sheltered by his mom to the point he doesn't know anything exists besides the woods he and his mom (and their servants) live in

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He goes around with a kinda crazy yeoman outfit and a bunch of javelins

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~One day he sees some mail-clad knights going through and he thinks "Holy shit. It's God and his angels"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~And he's all "Sup God"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~And the knights are like "What? We're just looking for some asshole"


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval's like "That guy? Yeah he went that way. What are you?"  "Knights"  "Who makes knights?"  "King Arthur"  "I must go and see King Arthur"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~so Perceval goes to his mom and is like "There is a man outside the woods named King Arthur who makes Knights who are like God."

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~and his mom, who had retreated to the woods in the first place so Perceval would never become a knight (her husband was a knight and died in battle), sighs and tries to tell Perceval everything she can about existing in the outside world... in about 15 minutes.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Gives him a crash course in how to treat a woman

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Basically be nice to them, be courteous, rules on conduct, when its proper to kiss

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval gets it all pretty much backwards

...How so?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~On his journey to Camelot, he finds a woman chillin out in the woods in a big ol pavillion. Just pretty much hanging out in the woods with her lover, except her lover's gone off to do some stuff.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval goes in and is like "wassup. I will eat all of your food, molest you, and then steal your jewelry."

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~So the woman just kinda watches this crazy fuck with javelins eat her food, then he grabs her and kisses on her against her will, then takes her ring. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~And goes off like "hohum"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Then her lover comes back. ">P


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~And he's like "OMG you've been whoring around on me. Where is the ring I gave you?!"  "OMG THIS GUY TOOK IT"  "LIAR"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Then that guy basically binds her to his horse and drags her around in sackcloth. But we don't come back to that for a while. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval goes to Camelot and meets King Arthur and just kind of walks up to Arthur with no idea what the proper way to do these things is and is like "Make me a knight, dude."

And what does King Arthur do?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Arthur is cool and doesn't really care that this guy just walks up to him out of nowhere

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~And says "There is a knight in red armor who is defeating all of my dudes. Ruin his shit and you are a knight"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~so Perceval goes up to this guy, who is out and around challenging and defeating knights all the time and is armed to the teeth, and just throws a javelin in his eye from 30 feet away and steals everything he owns.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~so then Perceval is made a knight and just goes on a bunch of crazy wandering adventures. the Grail eventually comes up. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~(as a whole the story is about his journey into manhood and virtue)

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~One subplot is his involvement with .. Blauncheflour I think was her name, a lady ruling a castle besieged by a nefarious guy. She basically manipulates him emotionally into being her champion and he of course swings the tide of battle to her side

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Then, being Perceval, he takes off again but constantly thinks about her. And one instance of this is one of my favorite passages in any book ever

Do tell.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~It's winter and Perceval's been crusing around on one quest or another, I forget which. But he comes across a slain bird. I forget how it died but its bled out onto the snow.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~and Perceval looks at this red on white and considers how much it reminds him of Blauncheflour's beautiful face.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He dismounts and regards the blood, contemplating this beautious mystery for some time.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Arthur and his men are moving through this territory at the time and they see the armored knight standing perfectly still off in the distance

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Arthur is wondering who this dude is.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Now, little backstory to another subplot


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Kay, Arthur's foster brother, is a douche. Earlier in the story he struck a woman for being too loud (I think she was crying).  She ran off, swearing someone would avenge her someday.  Arthur just sorta looked at Kay and said "You'll get yours. I don't even have to do anything."

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~now Arthur sez "Hey Kay, go ask that dude what he's doing." ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~so Kay goes up, and being an asshat, declares that the mysterious knight immediately identify himself and his purpose.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval"> *contemplates*

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Kay"> "Listen jackass, I'm the king's seneschal and if you don't answer me I'll put the hurt on ya"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval"> *contemplates*

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Kay"> "Turn and answer me! This is your last warning."

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval"> *contemplates*

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~so Kay charges him, whereat Perceval just kinda turns around, breaks numerous parts of his body, then silently goes back to regarding the blood on the snow. ">P

And what does Arthur have to say about that?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Has Kay scooped up and taken care of but doesn't get mad or anything. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Sends Gawain next

>P Apparently Arthur is merciless.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~On what grounds? ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~His mercy varies depending on the story; he's generally merciful by medieval standards

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Anyhow, Arthur was basically seeing Kay's defeat as comeuppance for his cruelty towards women as said earlier

So what happens to Gawain?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Gawain's got more sense and just chills out until Perceval is done checking out the blood on the snow


">P I guess not then.

~hs<span style='color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Perceval'> *eventually says something like "Indeed" and looks up* "Oh wassup Gawain"

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Gawain"> "It's good to see you again Perceval!" and all is coo. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~I love it cuz it is so insane. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Yet awesome. ">P

Apparently so.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Speaking of insanity

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~If you like absolutely surreal stuff


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~give Culhwck and Olwen a read

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~We found it in a 12th century manuscript I believe, but most scholars think the story is one of the oldest Arthurian ones

In what way is it surreal?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~You're down with Cuchulainn so you should get with this pretty handily

Really now, cool.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Culhwck, or Cullvch, or any other crazy variant spelling, has been cursed (a geas, as I'm sure you're familiar with)


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~His stepmother geas'd him with only ever being able to love Olwen..

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~the daughter of YSBADDEN. (or Ysbaddaden, etc)

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~YSBADDEN is a giant. (his daughter is somehow normal and fair). It is basically a curse to ensure Cullvch never has any children, because YSBADDEN will not let anyone marry his daughter (doing so means he will die)

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Cullvch wonders what to do, since he knows he must love Olwen but doesn't even really know where she is or who Ysbadden is.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~His father says "Your uncle is King Arthur. Only he in all the word can help you."

Hmm, this story sounds very familiar....

Does this giant throw poisoned spears of some sort?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Hahah yeah

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~So he goes to King Arthur, and Arthur agrees to help him, and he and his knights all have all kinds of trippy folklore-like adventures

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Talking giant fish

A boar with a comb between its ears?

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~They eventually find Ysbadden, and Ysbadden ends every conversation he has with them by throwing a spear at them. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~They catch it and throw it back

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Yup

Which they drive into the sea

>P Man.

I totally read this five years ago.


~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~ysbadden puts forth a huge list of things Cullvch must do to marry Olwen. One of them was getting the comb from Twrch Tyrysing or something (It means WILD BOAR in Welsh), who was a man who got turned into a boar for being a beast in everything but name

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~At the end they shave Ysbadden's beard and trim his hair.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Which kills him.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~then Cullvch marries Olwen

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~You can kinda get a peek into early Welsh custom with this

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~First thing Cullvch does upon visiting his uncle Arthur is get his hair cut. Its a sort of "passage into manhood" thing

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Ysbadden is basically a force of nature, representing the savage, beast-like, and usually rapacious aspects of man commonly associated with giants, and the "passage into manhood" -- or proper manhood/civilization -- literally undoes his being entirely

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~I think it was cool how it tied up like that at the end. ">P

Hmm. It is indeed more interesting now that you've mentioned all of this.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~There's a lot going on underneath these things

">P I liked it just because it was a wild adventure!

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Bahah yeah

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~I felt sorry for the sword guy.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Olaf I think

And King Arthur did all of this stuff while Cullvch just laid about.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He's mentioned in that ENORMOUS list of people who serve Arthur

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Pretty much

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Cullvch DID go talk to Ysbadden and say "That will be easy." to every impossible thing Ysbadden put forth, which was badass

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~and caught a javelin and threw it through Ysbadden's neck or eye, which was also badass

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~thats about it though.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~Anyhow, Olaf was a guy with this knife he could draw out, set before a river, and the blade would extend to make a bridge over the river.

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~He dies later on, I think chasing Wild Boar, when his knife slips out, water fills the scabbard, and there's so much of it he's pulled down and drowned. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~In my Arthurian Lit class my prof calls me after this guy. ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~cuz he was fooling around with the thermostat and needed some kind of narrow point, and he asked the class for a knife or a really stout pen, and no one had one so I pulled out my ol Case knife and he was like "OMG thats a big knife". ">P

~hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs<span style="color:hs</span>hs~so after that I became Olaf "Big Knife". ">P