Welcome back, friends! Today, I’ve decided to talk about Neil Gaiman’s story “Chivalry.” Now, since that one isn’t public domain, it’s a bit harder to find a link to the story. However, if you do want to read it (which I recommend), you can find it in the 1998 anthology Smoke and Mirrors. Or, if you’d prefer, you can have LeVar Burton read it to you.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
“Chivalry” tells the tale of Mrs. Whitaker, an elderly widow who, one day, finds the Holy Grail at her local charity shop, under a fur coat and near a book about chivalry. Since she figures that it’ll look great on her mantlepiece, she decides to purchase it, along with a couple of romance novels. She takes it home, cleans it up, and goes about her day.
The next day, Friday, she hears her doorbell ring and goes to answer it. Standing on the stoop is a young man in armor, saying that he’s come to find the Holy Grail. She asks him for ID, and he runs to his horse and returns with a scroll identifying him as Galaad (which is another name for Galahad, one of the knights of the Round Table). She lets him in, gives him some tea, and he begs her to let him take the Grail back with him, and he’ll give her gold for it.
Mrs. Whitaker refuses this offer, since she doesn’t really need gold, and sends a dejected Galaad off.
She has a fairly normal weekend, but Galaad comes back on Monday while Mrs. Whitaker is working in her garden. This time, she puts him to work, removing slugs from said garden. This done, he gets back to bargaining for the Grail. This time, he offers her the sword Balmung, which renders its weilder invincible.
Considering that we’re talking about a woman who is, at least, in her 70s, she doesn’t really have any use for this either and again, rejects the offer. However, she does give him some sandwiches for the road and an apple for his horse before sending him on his way.
The next day, she goes to pick up some packages and, since she’s in the area, makes another stop at the charity shop, where she chat with the shop girl, Marie, who was the clerk on duty when she bought the Grail. It turns out that 1) Marie is the one who told Galaad about Mrs Whitaker, and 2) she has the hots for him. Anyway, Mrs. Whitaker almost buys the book about chivalry that’s still there, but decides against it.
When she gets home she’s greeted by, you guessed it, Galaad. Mrs. Whitaker decides to put him to work again, this time moving boxes, and then he makes his last pitch. This time, he offers her the Philospher’s Stone, a phoenix egg, and one of the Apples of the Hesperides for the Grail. She thinks for a moment, and looks at her mantle. She then tells him to put the apple away, but she’ll let him have the Grail in exchange for the stone and the egg. After all, they would also look nice on the mantlepiece next to the picture of her departed husband.
Galaad gladly takes this offer, and Mrs. Whitaker sends him off with the Grail and some more food for the road.
That Thursday, she takes her customary trip to the charity shop. Here, the clerk on duty tells her that Marie ran off with Galaad, which good for her. Then she notices a rather interesting, one might say Arabian, lamp for 60p. However, she decides against buying it, and just takes her customary book.
I like this story. I think it’s rather cute, particularly the way that Mrs. Whitaker keeps roping Galaad into doing chores for her. And, of course, he does them happily, since it is the chivalrous thing to do.
I also like how Mrs.Whitaker doesn’t want these items for power, but for their aestethic value. She knows that what she’s found at the shop is the Grail, for instance, but doesn’t want it for power or fame, but because she thinks it’ll make a nice decoration for her home.
That’s something that I can kind of get behind.
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