King Arthur’s knights of the Table Round have been feeling unloved. It’s been ages since they’ve run their last quest, and the world doesn’t even seem to care. King Arthur has invited the semi-mythical welsh bard Taliesin Ben Beirdd, he of the shining brow, to the castle. To tell a tale again. To show the knights, and the ladies, and the servants, and the dogs, that although the old order changeth, their stories live on in new forms.
Taliesin spins an unlikely commonplace tale of Paul McGuffin, a long-distance knight of the road with a banjo on his knee, and Susan Constant, who relates fairy tales and Arthurian legends to third and fourth graders in the Fairfax County schools.
The story Taliesin tells is the quest for the grail. Or so he claims. Guinevere has a few things to say on the matter, as does of course the churlish Sir Kay. Everyone seems to have an opinion; Perceval, Galahad, and the Duke Orilus de Lalander, milady Jeschute and the proud Lady Orgeluse and least but not last, the precocious Princess Obilot of the Small Sleeves. Keeping the knights and ladies on track with his digressions and muddles, Sir boring old Bors. Who keeps the poet himself in line? A certain servant. A certain quick-eyed serving maid. Even the horses have their takes on the topic, as does one resounding mule and one uneasy dragon, and as do all the castle dogs.
Lest they lose their way completely, the Loathly Lady lurks in the wings. She it is who reminds them –she with her Paris couture and her wealth of bright shining gems and her head of a pig with two long sharp yellow tusks curling out on each side of her snout – what it is they’re supposed to be looking for.
Or was that ‘a quest’?