Sunday, November 27, 2005

This is only tangentially related, but...

Firstly and somewhat more related, a couple links from other blogs:

Debra Hamel points us to a Socratic screensaver for Macs. I'm jealous! Now I need a Mac. :-P

Also, David Meadows links to an audio interview with Josephine Balmer on Catullus.

The first link is kid-oriented; the second link is decidedly not.

Anyway, on to the point of the post! I figure many people interested in Classics are also interested in Arthuriana. I was googling my favourite Arthurian knight, Sir Bors, on a whim (ok ok, I was procrastinating a paper :-P), and I saw an article on him in one of my favourite mythological reference sites, Encyclopedia Mythica. It's usually reliable for a quick-ref if you're coming in completely clean and want a place to start or if something has jsut slipped your brain. However, this particular article is SO MISLEADING THAT MY HEAD WANTS TO EXPLODE, GRRR!

I was going to refute the article point-by-point, but I think I'll just copy and paste my earlier summary of his true deeds when that dreadful King Arthur movie came out. The MOMENT their version of Sir Bors appeared on screen, I yelped and buried my face. It was a truly horrific example of people who don't do any research at all and steal literary names. AUGH.

Contrary to the movie you are about to see—or the movie you have just seen (or maybe even the movie you’re not going to see at all if you’ve found this in a random place)—Sir Bors is not a lustful knight with eleven kids. And unlike his namesake in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which is an hilarious movie, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you don’t know what you’re missing), he is not murdered by a killer-bunny (in fact, he is one of a handful of knights who actually survives Sir Thomas Malory’s contribution to Arthuriana). He is not a boar or a boor or even a bore. He is Sir Bors, Knyghte of the Table Rounde.

Sir Bors, in fact, is best known—when he is known at all—as a chaste knight who only had sex once in his life (some would say this qualifies him as a “bore,” but his adventures speak otherwise) and who—along with Sir Galahad and Sir Perceval—was one of the successful grail knights (considering the number of knights King Arthur had, this is a pretty big deal). Furthermore, he was the only grail knight who managed to survive in order to return to King Arthur’s court (thus spreading the story).

The cousin (unfortunately) of Sir Lancelot, Sir Bors was born to King Bors of Gannes and Queen Evaine, both of whom died when he was still a child. He and his brother Lionel were eventually raised by the Lady of the Lake.

Once he grows to manhood, he joins King Arthur and his Knights of the Rounde Table. His one sexual act is linked to a tournament he wins at the court of King Brandegorre of Estrangorre. Refusing the prize, marriage to King Brandegorre’s daughter, Sir Bors is given by the governess a magic ring that causes him to fall for the girl and sleep with her. From this union Helain the White (spellings differ), another knight of the Rounde Table, is born. After this, he continues his chastity and never again has sex (which makes us wonder just how bad Brandegorre’s daughter was in bed).

Our brave knight, in a test of his spiritual resolve during the Grail Quest, also defeats Priadan the Black but does not kill him. He also chooses to rescue a maiden rather than his brother, Sir Lionel. This, naturally, later comes back to bite him in the ass. In his final test, a beautiful maiden (for they are all of them fair) threatens to kill herself and her twelve servants if he refuses to sleep with her. Smart knight that he is, he refuses, thus revealing the maiden as a fiend.

Sir Bors is a fair, loyal and intelligent man. While he does not approve of Guinevere’s and Lancelot’s wanton ways, he does help his cousin Lancelot rescue the Queen from the burning stake. Ultimately, however, he is forced to choose loyalty to blood over loyalty to his King once Lancelot defects from the court. Even still, he tries to sue for peace between Arthur and Lancelot. He is also a skillful knight, managing to defeat King Arthur in combat, but he does not kill him.

Most importantly, he is the cool, rational head amongst King Arthur’s knights. When Sir Lancelot leaps out a window in madness from the tug-of-war between Elaine and Guinevere, Sir Bors tells Guinevere, “Now, fye on youre wepynge! For ye wepe never but whan there is no boote” (Translation: Now, fie on your weeping! For you weep never but when there is no use,” Malory, pg 489) and sets out to find his cousin. In fact, he also later warns cousin Lancelot not to visit the Queen in Arthur’s absence, suspecting a trap laid by Mordred (which it is), but “Pansy Lancey” ignores his advice.

This is just a taste of the true literary character of Sir Bors. As you can plainly see, his character is vastly different from what we see in the movies (in the few incidents when we do see him). Sir Bors is not famous like Lancelot, Gawain and Galahad, but his true story deserves to be told.


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