Le Morte d'Arthur

Le Morte d'Arthur Summary and Analysis of Book 2-4


Book 2 Chapters 1-4

A deceitful damosel arrives in Camelot with a powerful sword. Sir Balin le Savage, the most powerful knight in the world, takes the sword and kills the Lady of the Lake. He is subsequently banished from King Arthur’s court.

As King Rience’s forces entered England and began to ravage its land and people, King Arthur gathered his council and knights together at the castle of Camelot. Meanwhile, a young woman, a messenger from the Lady of the Lake, came there. She carried a mighty sword and asked for the help of any knight who could pull it from its scabbard. King Arthur then tried to remove the sword, but it would not budge. The other knights of the Round Table also tried, but failed.

Sir Balin le Savage was a good man and a skilled knight, and although he had recently been released from prison for the murder of Arthur's cousin, the king allowed him to attempt the challenge. Surprisingly, Balin succeeded.

The young woman praised Balin, claiming only the most worthy knight could have handled the challenge. She asked him to return the sword, insisting it would lead to destruction otherwise, but Balin refused. She departed. Meanwhile, the barons remained suspicious that Balin had used witchcraft to take the sword.

The Lady of the Lake arrived at Camelot, and reminded Arthur that he owed her a favor for giving him his sword. She told him its name - Excalibur - which means “cut-steel.” When he offered her any gift, she asked for Balin's head, since he had wronged her in the past. Overhearing this, Balin suddenly beheaded her with one stroke of his sword, an offense for which he was banished from court. Balin rode off with the Lady of the Lake's head, which he gave to his squire, asking that the young man spread his reputation. Balin then set off after King Rience, hoping that by killing Arthur's enemy, he would be welcomed back to Camelot.

Lanceor, a knight and son of the King of Ireland, asked Arthur for permission to capture Balin for his treachery. Arthur granted it. Lanceor, like many of the other knights of the Round Table, believed Balin to be unworthy of the sword. Merlin then told them the truth about the young woman who brought the sword - she was seeking not a noble knight, but one strong enough to kill the brother who had wronged her.

Book 2 Chapters 5-11

After leaving court, Balin is challenged by Sir Lanceor of Ireland. Lanceor is killed, as is his lover, Colombe. Merlin prophesies the site of their death will one day host the greatest battle between two knights, Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram.

Meanwhile, Lanceor found Balin near a mountain and challenged him to a joust. Balin agreed, and they fought on horseback with spears. After Balin’s spear was broken, he drew his sword and killed Lanceor.

Lanceor's lover Colombe suddenly arrived to see him dead. She took his sword and accused Balin of having killed them both. She then fainted; when she awoke, Balin tried to disarm her, but she was able to kill herself before he succeeded.

Balin was deeply upset, but was distracted by the sight of his brother, Balan. They embraced, and Balin told Balan of his adventures thus far. They both grieved the loss of Lanceor and the damosel. Balin knew the King of Ireland, Lanceor’s father, would never rest until his son’s death was avenged, but he admitted he feared King Arthur’s displeasure more.

King Mark of Cornwall arrived on horse, and was so taken with the sad tale that he buried the lovers together and placed a tomb above them which read: "Here lieth Lanceor the King’s son of Ireland, that his own request was slain by the hands of Balin and how Lady Colombe his paramour, slew herself with her love’s sword for dole and sorrow."

Merlin arrived next, and told King Mark that the greatest battle ever to be fought between two knights, Launcelot and Tristram, would one day take place on the gravesite. Merlin then chided Balin for not saving Colombe, and he predicted that Balin would suffer many years for the dishonor. Balin replied that he should kill himself just to prove Merlin a liar.

King Mark demanded to know Balin’s name, but Balan interjected, calling Balin the Knight with Two Swords since he now had both his own sword and Lanceo’s. The brothers departed to hunt King Rience, and King Mark set off for Camelot.

That night, the brothers and Merlin were told that King Rience had left his forces behind to visit with a lady. Balin and Balan overtook the king and killed forty of his knights. They threw the king from his horse and cut off both his hands, but did not kill him - such mutilation was greater disgrace.

Merlin vanished and reappeared in Camelot, where he told Arthur how the Knight with the Two Swords had defeated King Rience. Soon afterwards, Balin and Balan arrived at Camelot with the disgraced king, but they left before Arthur could thank them. Merlin told Arthur to make preparations because Nero, King Rience’s brother, would arrive the next day with a large hostile host of knights.

Nero’s army attacked Arthur’s forces at Castle Terrabil, and a great battle took place. Merlin visited King Lot, distracting him with tales of prophecy so that Lot could not join Nero. Merlin knew that Arthur would perish if Lot’s knights were to enter the battle. In the end, Nero was killed and King Arthur won the battle.

King Lot grieved the loss of his comrades, and soon set out to fight Arthur himself. Another long battle ensued wherein Lot initially held Arthur’s forces back. However, when Balin and Balan arrived, the tide soon turned. Pellinore, known as the Knight with the Strange Beast, killed Lot. Twelve kings, including Lot and Nero, died that day, and all were buried with honor at the Church of St. Stephen’s in Camelot.


A great funeral was planned for the twelve kings. Margawse arrived with her four sons (Gawaine, Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth). Morgan le Fay also arrived with her husband, King Uriens, the father of Sir Ewaine. Of the tombs of the twelve kings, Lot’s was the grandest. A large statue of King Arthur was placed above the tombs as a reminder of the High King’s authority.

Merlin again warned Arthur to keep the scabbard of Excalibur safe, since it could protect his body from harm. Arthur therefore gave it to his sister Morgan le Fay for safekeeping, but she, using magic, betrayed him by creating a similar scabbard. She gave the real scabbard to her lover, a knight called Accolon, and told him to kill Arthur, which he would later attempt.

After this incident, Merlin told Arthur that there would be a great battle near Salisbury, and that his son, Mordred, would fight against him.

Book 2 Chapters 12-15

Balin seeks to revenge the death of a sorrowful knight at the hands of an invisible foe. He wounds King Pellam in the thigh with a holy spear.

One day, Arthur fell ill while traveling, and decided to set up camp in a meadow. As he was dozing, an unknown knight arrived who seemed upset, but would not tell Arthur what was wrong. The knight soon left and Arthur sent Balin after him.

Balin found the knight and asked him and the lady he traveled with to return to king. The knight, called Herlews le Berbeus, acquiesced, but on their way back, an invisible force struck him with a spear. Before he died, he asked Balin to take his horse and follow the lady to complete his quest: the destruction of Sir Garlon, the invisible knight. Arthur later buried the knight, and from that point on, the damosel carried the shaft of the broken spear that had killed Herlews le Berbeus.

So Balin and the lady rode into the forest, where they soon met another knight who was eventually killed by Sir Garlon. After burying that knight, Balin and the lady traveled onwards, finally stopping at a castle. When they approached the castle gate, the portcullis fell on Balin’s back, trapping him while the lady was assaulted by many men. Balin finally freed himself and confronted the men, who told him that it was their custom that every damosel who entered their home must give some of her blood to the lady of the castle, who was very ill. The lady gave her blood willingly, and they were then welcomed inside.

They rode on from the castle for three or four days until they met a gentle, rich man who invited them to stay with him. Their host had recently jousted with the brother of King Pellam, who, after losing the joust, wounded the host’s son. Nothing could cure the boy except the blood of King Pellam’s brother, Sir Garlon.

They rode out the next day for Pellam’s castle. They were admitted, though Balin refused to remove his sword. At dinner, where many people were gathered for a feast, Balin asked another knight to identify Sir Garlon. Balin persisted to stare at Garlon until the latter smacked him across the face. Balin then killed Garlon, stabbing him with the truncheon of the spear that had killed Herlews le Berbeus. He called their rich host and told him to take Garlon’s blood so that his son could be healed.

Because of the murder, the castle knights prepared to kill Balin, but King Pellam insisted he would avenge his brother's death himself. Pellam charged Balin, breaking the latter's sword in the attack. Pellam then chased Balin through the castle, and Balin came to a richly-adorned chamber where someone was lying down. In the room, on a table made of gold and silver, a marvelous spear sat unguarded. Balin used the spear to stab Pellam, who fell down in a swoon. Then, the castle walls and roof began to break and fall to the earth. Balin fell down and did not rise for three days.

Book 2 Chapters 16-19

A case of mistaken identity pits brother against brother as Balin and Balan fight to the death. Merlin places Balin’s sword in a marble stone, where it will stay until Sir Galahad removes it. The brothers are buried in one tomb as if in one womb.

Merlin arrived and saved Balin by giving him a horse to ride. He also told him that the lady he had traveled with had died.

Meanwhile, King Pellam lay sorely wounded. He was a good man and a descendant of Joseph of Arimathea, who had collected Christ's blood at the crucifixion and then brought it to England. Joseph also brought the spear that pierced Jesus’ side, and it was in fact this same spear that Balin used to wound Pellam. Years later, Sir Galahad, on his quest for the Sangreal, would arrive to relieve Pellam of this wound.

Balin soon came upon a sign which read “it is not safe for a knight alone to ride toward this castle.” A man appeared, telling him to leave, but when he heard a horn blast, Balin feared it was the sound of his own death calling. Therefore, when a hundred ladies and knights appeared to welcome him to the castle, he gladly accepted. There was dancing and much cheer, after which the lady of the castle told him it was customary for new knights to joust with the Knight of the Island.

Balin was offered a bigger shield to replace his own, which identified him through his standard of the Knight with the Two Swords. He traveled by boat to the Island, where he was met by a lady who feared that nobody would recognize him because he had traded shields.

A knight dressed in red rode from the Island castle, and saw Balin. This knight was Sir Balan, who through some treachery was forced to fight any knight who challenged the island. He did not recognize his brother because of the strange shield, and so they began to joust. It was an evenly matched fight, for both were powerful men, and soon the ground was covered with their blood. The brothers continued to fight until Balin fell. He asked the name of his vanquisher, and when Balan reveled himself, Balin fainted. They wept over one another, lamenting the cruelty of the castle inhabitants who engineered this tragedy. As they died together from wounds, the lady of the castle arrived and promised to bury them together in one grave, as if in a womb. After a priest's blessing, Balan died; Balin died the next day, and they were buried together. The lady wrote Balan’s name upon the tomb, but did not know the brother's name.

Merlin arrived to write Balin’s name upon the tomb, and to deal with his sword. He asked a nearby knight to take the sword, but the man was unable to life it. Amused and realizing only the strongest of knights could lift it, he predicted that no knight would claim it unless he be Sir Launcelot or Sir Galahad, his son after him. Merlin constructed a bridge that no knight could pass unless he was free of treachery or villainy, and left Balin's scabbard on the island for Galahad to find. He put Balin’s sword in a bloke of marble and set it to hover above the water until the day it made its way to the Camelot and to Galahad.

Soon after this was done, Merlin told King Arthur of Balin and Balan’s deaths, and Arthur lamented the loss of two of his best knights.

Book 3 Chapter 1-4

King Arthur marries Guenever of Wales and is given the Round Table as a wedding gift. Merlin seeks out worthy knights to sit at the Table and to serve Arthur. Sir Tor is found to be King Pellinore’s son and Sir Gawaine is made a knight.

One day, King Arthur approached Merlin for advice. He wanted to marry Guenever, the woman he loved, and asked Merlin if he approved of the match. Merlin knew Guenever would have a long affair with Sir Launcelot, but Merlin also saw that Arthur loved her, so he approved it. At Arthur's behest, Merlin asked King Leodegrance for his daughter's hand. King Leodegrance was so happy that he gave King Arthur the Round Table, which Uther Pendragon had given to him many years before. The table could sit one hundred and fifty knights. He also gifted one hundred loyal knights to Arthur’s service. Merlin, Guenever, and company set out for London.

In celebration of the marriage, Arthur asked Merlin to search for fifty knights worthy enough to sit at the Round Table. Merlin found only twenty eight. The Bishop of Canterbury blessed these knights and they gladly vowed to serve Arthur. On each chair of the Round Table was written the name of the knight who sat there, though two were left empty. One seat was taken when young Gawaine, son of the late King Lot, asked that Arthur knight him on the day of the wedding. Arthur agreed and welcomed his nephew to his court.

Before long, a poor man arrived at court accompanied by his 18 year old son. The man had heard how Arthur would grant boons to anyone brave enough to request them on the king's wedding day. The man, named Aries the cowherd, asked that his son Tor be made a knight. Arthur quickly discerned that Tor looked nothing like his father or brothers - he was attractive and well built, while the rest of his family was homely and round. Arthur agreed to knight Sir Tor, and he then asked Merlin whether Tor would make a good knight; Merlin replied that Tor would make a wonderful knight, for he had king’s blood in him. The mystery was soon unraveled when Aries's wife arrived and admitted that she was once half-raped by a knight who made her pregnant with Tor.

King Pellinore arrived at King Arthur’s court, and it was discovered that Tor was his son. Tor was the first to be knighted that day, and was followed by Gawaine. One of the seats was empty at the table, with no name upon it. Merlin dubbed this seat the Siege Perilous, and explained that only the most worshipful knight could sit in it. Merlin then led Pellinore by the hand to the seat next to the Siege Perilous; this was a great honor for Pellinore. Envious, Sir Gawaine whispered to his brother Gaheris that he would kill Pellinore, since Pellinore had killed their father, King Lot. They agreed to wait until Pellinore was far away from court and Gaheris was older and knighted, so that he too could avenge the death of their father.

Book 3 Chapter 5-25

A white hart, a white brachet, and a lady enter the hall during the King and Queen’s wedding feast. Gawaine sets out after the hart, Tor after the brachet, and Pellinore after the lady. They meet with much adventure.

Arthur and Guenever were married at St. Stephen’s in Camelot with great ceremony. A feast was held at the Round Table, and all of Arthur’s knights were in attendance. Merlin informed the knights that a strange and marvelous adventure would soon occur. Then, a white hart bounded through the hall, followed by a white brachet (hunting hound) and thirty black hounds that chased the hart around the table. When the brachet bit the hart on its buttocks, the hart fell onto a knight, who in turn fell onto the floor. The knight then caught the brachet and ran from the hall.

A lady suddenly arrived on a white horse, and demanded that Arthur rescue her brachet. Before Arthur could reply, a different knight rode in and absconded with the lady. Merlin warned Arthur that he must not neglect this adventure on his wedding day, and so the king sent: Sir Gawaine after the hart; Sir Tor after the brachet; and King Pellinore after the lady.

Sir Gawaine rode out in search of the white hart with his brother Gaheris, who served as his squire as they chased it into a castle. Their hounds killed the hart. Then, a knight entered the room and killed two of the hounds while mourning over the loss of the hart, which belonged to his lady. Sir Gawaine was furious that his hounds were dead, and insisted the knight fight him for honor. In their battle, Gawaine bested the knight, who then asked for mercy. Gawaine refused, and was prepared to behead the knight when a woman leaped onto his body and was accidentally beheaded in his stead. He was shocked by his actions, and the knight was devastated because Gawaine had killed the woman he loved. Gawaine instructed the knight to bring the dead hounds and the news of his disgrace to King Arthur.

Gawaine was resting with Gaheris when four knights burst in and attacked Gawaine, saying he had shamed his knighthood by killing a woman. Gawaine and Gaheris fought the knights, but became overwhelmed after Gawaine was shot in the arm with an arrow. The next morning, Gawaine and Gaheris were sent back to King Arthur. Gawaine wore the head of the dead woman around his neck as penance. They returned to Camelot, and Arthur was most displeased to learn that Gawaine had killed a woman, even by accident.

The narrative shifts to Sir Tor's pursuit of the brachet. He soon met a dwarf, who hit his horse in the head and told Tor he could not pass unless he jousted with two nearby knights. Tor easily defeated both of them, and then insisted they deliver themselves to King Arthur as prisoners. The dwarf then asked to join Tor in his adventure, and Tor agreed. The two rode throughout the forest until they came to two pavilions, one adorned with a red shield, the other a white one.

Sir Tor entered the red pavilion, where he found some women sleeping with the white brachet, which he took. The women woke up and insisted he would not make it far with the dog. Undaunted, Tor and the dwarf headed toward Camelot, but they were forced to rest at a hermitage when night came. The next day, Tor killed a knight at the request of a lady, and then returned to Camelot.

The narrative shifts to King Pellinore's pursuit of the lady and the knight who stole her. He rode through the forest and into a valley, and saw a young damosel sitting by a well with a wounded knight in her arms. She called out to Pellinore for help, but he was so set on his quest that he ignored her cries. After he left, the knight died and the lady killed herself for love of him.

Pellinore encountered two knights, who were fighting over the lady he sought. He approached the pavilions where the lady was being kept, watched over by two squires. He asked her to return to King Arthur’s court, but the squires insisted she settle her future with one of the the two battling knights. Pellinore returned to the knights and asked them why they fought. One of the knights, called Hontzlake, claimed he had won this lady by prowess of arms, but Pellinore accused him of falsehood. The other knight, called Sir Meliot of Logurs, claimed Nimue (the lady) was his cousin and that he wished to return her to his kinsman. Pellinore said he was charged by King Arthur to return Nimue to court, and that he would fight for her if needed.

The knights made ready to fight with one another, and Hontzlake killed Pellinore’s horse so that he would not have any advantage. Pellinore killed Hontzlake with one stroke. Sir Meliot of Logurs quickly yielded, refusing to fight such a powerful knight. Pellinore promised not to dishonor Nimue, and they left together.

They came upon the remains of the young woman and her knight at the well. Animals had picked their bones clean, and only their heads remained whole. Pellinore was devastated. He knew he should have stopped to help the young woman. Nimue advised him to take the knight's corpse to the nearby hermitage for burial, and to wear the woman's head around his neck so that Arthur might know his shame. King Pellinore did just that and rode on to Camelot.

The lady's head grieved Pellinore greatly when he looked upon it. At noon, they arrived at Camelot and Pellinore swore on a holy book to tell the truth of his adventure to Arthur, Guenever, and the court. He blamed himself for the lady’s death, saying he had been so intent on his quest that he did not stop to help her. Merlin added to his grief when he told Pellinore that this woman was his own daughter, Eleine.

King Arthur then gathered his knights together, and in exchange for gifts of land, charged all of them to: never to outright murder; always flee treason; avoid cruelty; give mercy willingly; pay homage to Arthur; never fight in a wrongful quarrel; and always do well by all women, upon pain of death. The knights swore these oaths over the Round Table, and would renew them each year at Pentecost.

Book 4 Chapters 1-5

Merlin falls in love with Nimue, a young lady, who later imprisons him under a rock for all eternity. Arthur is attacked by five kings and quickly defeats them.

After the quests of Sir Gawaine, Sir Tor, and King Pellinore, it so happened that Merlin fell in love with Nimue, the damosel that Pellinore had rescued. Merlin told Arthur that he would soon take leave of both the King and of this world, by being buried alive. One day, Nimue left court and Merlin followed. She made him promise he would never use his magic against her. They traveled to Benwick, France and met with King Ban, his wife Elaine, and their son, Launcelot. Merlin told Elaine that her son would grow to be the most powerful knight in the kingdom.

Soon after, Merlin and Nimue departed and made their way to Cornwall. Merlin was forever asking Nimue to sleep with him, but she refused all of his advances and quickly grew tired of the old man. One day, they came upon a large rock full of enchantment, and Nimue tricked Merlin into getting under the rock. She rolled it onto him, trapping him there forever.

Meanwhile, King Arthur had been home at Camelot for only a month when five Northern kings decided to make war against him. The barons were upset with Arthur; they did not want him to go to war again. Arthur ignored them and set out with both his own forces and those of King Pellinore. He also brought Guenever, having no desire to be separated from her. Soon, they made camp near the forest of Humber and settled in for the night.

The five kings and their men soon set upon Arthur’s forces. King Arthur was unarmed and sleeping beside his queen when the attack occurred. Although Arthur’s men were armed, they were overwhelmed. Arthur, Guenever, and three knights retreated to the woods, where they stopped at a rushing river.

Sir Kay saw the five kings approach on horseback with spears drawn. Sir Kay, Sir Gawaine, Sir Griflet, and King Arthur engaged the kings in battle and killed them. The army of the five kings were soon defeated by Arthur’s forces, and thirty thousand men died that day. King Arthur thanked God meekly for his victory, while Guenever celebrated with great joy.

Book 4 Chapter 6-12

King Arthur, King Uriens, and Sir Accolon set out on adventure and are deceived by Morgan le Fay. Arthur finds himself imprisoned by a treacherous knight. To free himself, he fights Accolon, the lover of Morgan le Fay. Although Morgan steals Excalibur, Arthur overcomes Accolon and frees himself and others from prison.

One day, King Arthur, King Uriens, and Sir Accolon of Gaul were chasing a hart. They rode so hard and so fast into the forest that their horses died beneath them. Then, Arthur saw a ship appear in the water before them. It landed on the sand, and they discovered its interior was richly dressed in silk. Night fell, and twelve women arrived. They led the king and his companions into a chamber where they ate and made merry. After supper, the companions were led into separate chambers, where they fell asleep. The next morning, King Uriens awoke to find himself in Camelot with his wife, Morgan le Fay. When King Arthur woke, however, he found himself in a dark prison surrounded by woeful knights.

Arthur soon learned that some of the knights had been in the prison for over seven years because Sir Damas, the lord of the castle, was a false knight full of treason and cowardice. His younger brother, Sir Ontzlake, was much loved by their people, and so the brothers feuded with one another. Because Sir Damas was no match for Sir Ontzlake, the former captured unsuspecting knights and held them captive until they were willing to fight in his stead. The prisoners explained to Arthur that many good knights had died in this prison from hunger, since they would not fight for so false a man as Sir Damas. Arthur asked God for mercy and deliverance for these men.

Soon, a woman came to Arthur and asked him to fight for Sir Damas. Arthur replied that he would fight, under the condition that should he win, all of the prisoners be set free. The woman promised Arthur good armor, and lied to him when he asked who she was, saying she was the daughter of the castle. In truth, she had been sent by Morgan le Fay. All of the knights were then brought from the prison so that they might witness the battle between Arthur and Ontzlake.

Meanwhile, Sir Accolon of Gaul was having his own adventure. When he woke up from the enchantment, he found himself hanging from the wall of a well, near death. He swore vengeance on the women who tricked him, and prayed to God to save Arthur and Uriens. Then, a dwarf appeared and said he had been sent by Morgan le Fay. He promised to help Accolon if he were to fight a joust the next day. Morgan le Fay, Accolon’s lover, sent him Excalibur and its scabbard for the battle. The dwarf bid Accolon to agree, saying that if he loved Morgan le Fay, he would fight and make her his queen if he won. Accolon remembered his promise to his lover, and knew she would have crafts and enchantments set up at the battle as well. He agreed to fight and then rested at a nearby manor, not realizing he was set to fight in Sir Ontzlake’s place.

The next day, Arthur prepared to fight for Sir Damas. The knights and Morgan le Fay's damosel gave him a copy of Excalibur so that he did not realize he lacked his sword.

Arthur and Accolon, unaware of one other’s identity, fought with spears until they were both thrown to the earth. They were evenly matched, but Accolon had Excalibur, and no matter how hard Arthur fought, he could not defeat Accolon. Then, Nimue arrived to protect Arthur because she knew that Morgan le Fay wanted him dead.

When Arthur fell to the ground, sore and wounded, he realized his sword was false, but he continued to fight through the pain. Though Arthur’s sword broke against Accolon’s helm and he faced his opponent with only his shield, his courage never wavered.

Accolon asked Arthur to yield, but the king refused, saying he would rather die with honor than live with shame. Arthur attacked with his shield and sword handle, driving Accolon back three paces.

Nimue was most impressed with the king’s prowess, and when Accolon next struck at the king, Excalibur fell from his hand. Arthur reclaimed his sword and quickly drove Accolon to the ground. Suddenly, Arthur remembered the magical ship and realized he was engaging in his half-sister's treachery. Arthur reveled his identity, and Accolon asked for mercy. Arthur called him a traitor, but admitted that he believed Accolon to be was under Morgan le Fay’s enchantments. He swore vengeance on her instead of on Accolon.

King Arthur then commanded Sir Damas to free the knights and give his manor to Sir Ontzlake. The King then left for a nearby Abbey to rest. He also brought Sir Accolon, who died shortly thereafter of the wounds he had sustained in his fight with Arthur. The king sent the knight’s body to Morgan le Fay as a gift, with the message that Excalibur and its scabbard had been returned to him.

Book 4 Chapter 13-16

Morgan le Fay tries to kill her husband, King Uriens, but is stopped by her son. Out of revenge for the death of Accolon, Morgan le Fay steals her half brother, Arthur’s scabbard and throws it in a lake. She also tries to kill Arthur by sending him a poisoned mantle.

Meanwhile, Morgan le Fay believed King Arthur was dead. While her husband King Uriens lay in bed sleeping, she called for a maiden to fetch his sword. The maiden left, but instead of returning with the sword, she woke Sir Uwaine, the son of Uriens and Morgan le Fay, and begged him to intervene. The maiden brought Morgan le Fay the sword but before she could strike her husband, Uwaine disarmed and threatened her. Morgan le Fay begged for mercy and her son forgave her and sent her to a convent.

News of Accolon’s death reached Morgan le Fay, and although she kept her sorrow to herself, her heart was broken. She went to the Abbey where Arthur was still recovering from his battle with Accolon. She commanded the people of the Abbey to tell her where her brother was, and they showed her to his room. There, Arthur was sleeping, holding Excalibur in his hand. Morgan le Fay knew she could not lift the sword without waking him, so she took the scabbard that granted him invincibility and quickly left on her horse.

When Arthur woke, he was wondrously angry to find his scabbard gone. He called for Sir Ontzlake to help him find his sister. They departed and soon found Morgan le Fay near a lake. Knowing Arthur was close by, she threw the scabbard into the deepest part of the water, where it sank to the bottom. She then fled to a valley where many great stones lay. With her craft, she transformed herself and her horse into a stone, so that Arthur could not find her. The scabbard was lost, and Arthur returned to the Abbey. Morgan le Fay was then free to go where she willed.

Meanwhile, Arthur returned home to Camelot and was received gladly by his wife and barons. The next morning, a maiden, sent by Morgan, brought him a cloak set with precious stones. Arthur did not accept it, although he was impressed by it.

Then Nimue (or the Damosel of the Lake, as she had come to be known), arrived at court and asked to speak to the king in private. She told him not to touch the cloak that Morgan le Fay had sent. King Arthur then commanded the woman to put the cloak on her own body, which she did after some argument. The moment the cloth touched her, she fell down dead and her body was burnt. Arthur was furious with his sister, and banished Sir Uwaine from court under suspicion of helping his mother. Sir Gawaine, angry at his cousin's banishment, left court as well. When Arthur learned that Gawaine had left, he was displeased.

Book 4 Chapter 17-28

Sirs Gawaine, Uwaine, and Marhaus set out on adventures with three women of various ages. Gawaine betrays Sir Pelleas. Marhaus defeats a powerful Duke and Uwaine returns the honor of a lady.

Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine made their way into a forest and eventually met Sir Marhaus, the son of the King of Ireland. The three knights set out on adventures, and came upon three women sitting by a stream. Each of the knights picked one of the women and had a separate adventure with her.

Gawaine met with Sir Pelleas, a sorrowful knight, who had an unrequited love for Lady Ettard. Gawaine lied to Ettard, and told her he had killed Pelleas. They then slept together; when Pelleas found them, he fell into a deep depression. Nimue arrived, and she and Pelleas fell in love with each other and stayed happy together for the rest of their lives.

Sir Marhaus fought with the Duke of the South Marches and his six sons. He eventually defeated them and made them swear their loyalty to King Arthur.

Sir Uwaine rode west and had many strange adventures. He defended the Lady of the Rock against her two brothers Sir Hue and Sir Edward, whom she had unjustly disinherited.

A year later Gawaine, Marhaus, and Uwaine met back at the stream where they had first met the three women. They then returned to Camelot to recount their adventures to the court.

That same year at Pentecost, Nimue and Pelleas traveled to Camelot where there were feasts and jousts. Sir Marhaus and Sir Pelleas were named Knights of the Round Table, and Arthur was very pleased with both of them. Pelleas never forgave Gawaine, but abstained from quarrel so as not to displease Arthur. Sir Marhaus was eventually slain by Sir Tristram. Sir Pelleas became one of the best knights at Arthur’s court.


Although Le Morte d’Arthur is substantial in its entirety, the narrator does not waste words on emotions or feelings. Scenes and chapters are dominated by straightforward action and reactions. We are often left to understand a character's feelings by the action he takes in response to something.

The Round Table is a central symbol of the text. Arthur wins it through his choice of Guenever, ironic considering her actions will set in motion the events that later destroy it. We learn later that Merlin is the creator of the table, and that its purpose was to establish equality among the knights worthy enough to sit at it. King Arthur holds true to this idea. Arthur never turns a knight away despite his lack of lineage, mysterious familial connections (Beaumains), seeming poverty (Tor), or paganism (Palomides). All were welcome as long as they were worthy to be there. The oath that they all declare over the table is its guiding principle. In many ways, this is an idealized feudal idea - where the feudal system was in fact based on division of property, Arthur has created a world wherein loyalty is decided based on virtue and honor. The tragic sense of this epic - Arthur's death is presaged from the very beginning - is based around the idea that with Arthur's death came the death of such an ideal world.

There are other important symbols explored in these Books. The symbol of a magical sword, first introduced in Book I, continues to manifest in Book II as Balin wields a sword of power, the same sword that Galahad will one day win. The Round Table, a symbol of equality is juxtaposed against the startling imagery of King Reince’s coat of beards, and the tomb that Arthur built for the Kings of the North. These latter two stand for superiority and strength, whereas the table represents virtue.

Also in Books 2-4, we are introduced to the theme of the journey or quest, as seen in the many adventures of the Knights of the Round Table. Each journey has its own setting, characters, and plot. For example, the three separate tales of Gawaine, Tor, and Pellinore are charged with the quest of returning the white hart, brachet, and lady. The structure of the ’story within a story,’ or subplot, continues throughout all of the books, enhancing the overall story and illustrating key elements of characterization and plot. While to some extent this organization reflects Malory's attempt to collect disparate romances, it is to his credit that they do tend to further the character dynamics and not feel entirely episodic.

Worth (or value), a motif that recurs in many forms throughout the text, plays an important part in Book II, where Sir Balin must reaffirm his importance to his liege Arthur after killing the Lady of the Lake. The idea of being the “best knight” is first introduced here as well, another motif which is an important concept throughout Sir Launcelot and Sir Galahad’s storylines. It is an interesting counterpoint to the virtues of the oath - the knights are expected to value themselves by their physical worth.

Balin is the strongest, and therefore the best, knight, as proven by his ability to wield the heavy swordd. Balin sets out to prove himself by destroying Arthur’s enemy, King Reince. In the meantime, the balance between good and evil is at play. Although Balin’s intentions are noble, many terrible events take place because of his interference such as the famine of three kingdoms, the death of the Lady Colombe and eventually his own demise. Merlin warns Balin, in another example of foreshadowing, that by taking the sword he would one day kill the person he loves most in the world. Balin ignores this advice and later kills his own brother by mistake, thus proving Merlin correct.

Destiny also emerges as perhaps the most central theme here. Consider Merlin’s involvement in Books 2-4. He continues to advise young Arthur, but he does not intervene enough. If Merlin could see the downfall of all that Arthur had created, why did he not stop Arthur from sleeping with Margawse, his half sister, who then conceived Mordred, the child destined to destroy everything? There is a sense of predestination in the work, the sense that foreknowledge cannot change what characters will make happen. Merlin reveals his own limits when he foretells his own death but also does nothing to stop it. Merlin acts as a deus ex machina, a savior of sorts who appears in the story when he is most needed and leaves soon after. The fact that he not only cannot stop his own death but in fact engineers it, suggests that a person's character is the main quality of his fate. Merlin knows he will be killed by rock, but his lust for Nimue is so strong that he climbs under it nevertheless.

There are also instances of atrocity even by the heroes. Merlin advises Arthur to kill all of the children born on May-Day, a shocking character development, even though he had been warned of Mordred’s destiny. Mordred survives, however, and later does play a significant role in the downfall of all that Arthur had created. As soon as Arthur acted out of personal gain, the momentum to counteract that action was set in motion, resulting in the Battle of Salisbury Plain. Again, the decisions Arthur makes are what sets his destruction in motion - even foreknowledge cannot stop him from being who he is.

After Merlin’s supposed death in the beginning of Book 4, Arthur is left to his own devices. However, the curious hand of destiny has been set over him and his companions. All that Merlin foretold would come to pass, shifting the point of view of the text. Merlin is no longer around to act as the deus ex machina. Now Arthur must test himself against the virtues of his Round Table, and he will succeed or fail by that benchmark.