(Oh look! Another book by Eowyn. When will she stop?) (Never. Just come to terms with it now.)

A while back, the fabulous LT Elliot (Whom I really need to meet in person someday since she doesn't live all that far away from me) posted about wisdom hidden in juvenile/young adult literature.

Well, technically, the post was about a little gem she found hidden in a particular kids book, but that's not exactly what I'm trying to focus on here.
Stay with me kids!

Can you tell I teach 13 year old kids at church? They quibble over all details. It gets annoying after a bit. A bit being about 5 minutes or so.

Back to the point.

The point is that I was reading more YA literature and stumbled across another gem.

Let us examine The Squire's Tales by Gerald Morris.

Okay, so the link takes you to the first book whilst I am going to examine the third in the series. But I find them all worth the read, so you can start with number 1 if you want. In fact, I'd seriously recommend it since you won't quite 100 percent understand what's going on if you don't.

If fact, I should just stop here and give a spoiler alert. Lots of stuff has happened in between books one and three, so I'd suggest that if you don't want anything ruined for you, you'd better go get the first three and read them before you finish this post. Problem is, in order to understand the wisdom that I've found, you have to understand what has happened in the first two so I'm going to give a quick run down of the major plot-line involved.

I'll wait.

Okay now, Arthurian Romance. Lancelot and Guinevere


I guess you already know how it's going to end.

On to the lecture.

Gerald Morris is re-telling the Arthurian legends. He does so in a witty, rather lighthearted way. He does skewer love based on looks and might and rewards the people that really do try to live with honor and dignity. He also allows his hero's to have human folly and learn to rise above it. Nowhere does he do this more forcefully than in book 2, possibly the best that I've read, and I've read about 5 of them.

The Squire, His Knight and His Lady has as it's secondary plot, the Lancelot/Guinevere story. Lancelot is a rather dimwitted, brilliantly successful knight. Guinevere is the queen who loves the man who wins all the fights and looks the best, so she obviously loves Lancelot. At the end of book two, Guinevere is restored to King Arthur (can't remember if that's accurate or not as I never got in to Mallory and all that) and Lancelot runs away to hide.

At the end of book three, our heroine (she's awesome) finds a mysterious wood cutter and begs a boon. He says he can't, and she asks why and it comes out that this wood cutter is really Lancelot, hiding from the court.

And here begins multiple gems of wisdom. (Italics added for emphasis.)

Gem 1

The hero of the story asks Lancelot why he would run away after being defeated once (since our hero is a terrible knight and would have been to Africa if he ran away every time he was unhorsed.) Lancelot replies "But it was different for me. I was the one all the young knights admired. I was the one that minstrels sang about."

Our hero state that he thought Lancelot never paid any attention to the minstrels, and Lancelot replies, "But of course I listened to them! It was how I knew what to do! They sang that knights wore bright clothing, and I wore bright clothing! They sang that knights were devout, and I took my own priest! Whatever they sang, I attempted. It was the minstrels who created me!"

Here, our heroine makes the connection that if the minstrels sang that Lancelot was the greatest knight, then he would be the greatest knight.

Lancelot replies, "Yes, that's it. And when I was defeated. . .I was no one anymore."

I was hit hard when I read this part. Magazines flashed through my head. Magazines that say, "This is who you are supposed to be." Famous people living riotous lives. Rich people carousing. Models showing us "the ideal". All these things hit me as being the modern minstrels. The singers that tell us who we are supposed to be.

It also hit me that everyone will hit a time when they realize they don't live up to the minstrels tales and that if they based their lives on only that, they are nothing. How many sports stars end up in a mess because they know nothing else? How many famous people have to do bigger and better stunts to stay in the public eye because they are nothing with out it.

Am I something more? I hope so. How can I pass this message on to my children and the kids I currently have stewardship over at church.

You must be something more than a minstrels song or when the song stops, you will be nothing.

Gem 2

Our heroine then asks Lancelot how he ended up a wood cutter.

Lancelot recounts some of his adventures and how he ended up at a hermitage, then states, "The ermite asked if I were a knight, and I told him I was nothing. He said, 'Then you must become something. Learn some work. For in an empty world, you can only find joy in labor.'"

Lancelot recounts wandering for three more days and finding an abandoned cottage, ax and oxcart and deciding to stay. Our heroine asks if he has found joy in his labor.

Sir Lancelot nods, smiles and says, "Look at the woodpile, . . .Every log chosen well, cut well, of an equal size. . .And at the end of the day, when my arms and shoulders ache and I eat the food of my own earning, I am content."

When I am most at peace, I am laboring and being productive, a lesson that I firmly believe God wants us to learn. And, if I'm being honest here, a lesson I kick and scream at learning. I am a lazy person by nature. But I have to fight that to have peace.

Which brings me to another thought I've been having, that some of the things that fill me most don't necessarily make me happy. I am not really the worlds happiest person when I'm piecing a quilt, as my children can probably attest to, but I am filled when I see the work of my hands. I don't feel "happy" as I sit here and type this post, and yet I know I am a better person because of it. I feel like the world wants us to be happy, while God wants us to have joy.

I have joy in writing things that make me a better person. I find joy in reading gems that stay with me. I find joy in planning a quilt top. I find joy in finishing that quilt top and giving it away. I find joy in doing things for other people. I find joy in laughing with my husband. I find joy in watching my children grow. I find joy in the sisterhood I have found not only in my neighborhood, but here in the blogging world.

I just have to work for it.
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6 Responses
  1. So many pearls of wisdom here. First of all, I have to read these--at one time I had read absolutely every Arthurian based fantasy novel but it's been a long time. Second, I have never read Mallory either which seems like a HUGE thing to leave out considering my obsession but I can say, with some authority, that there are several "true" variations. So who can say what really happened or not? This is what makes it such a fun structure to base a story on because you can pretty much get away with what you want. Then there's Tristan and Isolde--probably the same story about the same people. Don't even get me started on the Welsh variations of Arthurian legend. Minstrels, in those days, had the most status of anyone in the kingdom, even over the priests as I recall, so what they said was so imperative and, like this author points out, life shaping. I think it is a huge testament to the importance of stories to the human psyche. And heros. We need those. Which minstrels we listen to and which heros we emulate is the key to who we become. In the end, there is really only one minstrel/storyteller and one hero who is always trustworthy and worth emulating in every way (I know you know who I mean but just in case others don't, I'm referring to Christ). In fact, the legends of Arthur were used to bring Christianity to the Celtic people the same way the ancient saints of South America were blended with the Virgin Mary to bring Catholicism to those countries.

  2. charrette Says:

    I haven't read it so I skimmed the review once I read the "spoiler alert" (you're excellent!) But what I want to comment on is that I, too, want to meet LT Elliott...And if she doesn't live that far away...why didn't we invite her for lunch?!?

    Don't get me wrong...I was more than thrilled to have you all to myself! But I WOULD like to meet her someday.

    AND I totally agree with the gems of truth and wisdom to be found in YA fiction. And I ditto the quest for joy.

  3. L.T. Elliot Says:

    Oh, Eowyn. Thank you. Thank you. I am all kinds of crying all over this post. I've been a Lancelot all month--feeling like I have failed because I've set myself up again the bard's tales. Thank you for showing me that I'm not nothing.
    p.s. I'm ALL for lunch with you and Jana. Name it and I'll be there if I have to ride a pony.

  4. Kazzy Says:

    I am a complete sucker for these faraway legend kinds of stories. A complete easy sell for me.

    Thanks for the heads up. And I may have to start reading LT... :)

  5. Terresa Says:

    I visited Glastonbury a few weeks ago (home to the Arthurian legend, Avalon, etc). It was eerie/cool/strange to be there and feel the vibe. There definitely was one there.

    PS: Love what you wrote here, "I feel like the world wants us to be happy, while God wants us to have joy." So true.

  6. Kimberly Says:

    I want in on that lunch date...quite desperately!

    Love this post. Love love love!