From wielding to yielding and many trials in between.
“As they rode the King looked lovingly on his sword, which Merlin saw, and, smiling, said, Which do you like best, the sword or the scabbard? ‘I like the sword,’ answered Arthur. ‘You are not wise to say that,’ replied Merlin, ‘for the scabbard is worth ten of the sword, and as long as it is buckled on you you will lose no blood, however sorely you may be wounded.’ So they rode into the town of Carlion, and Arthur’s Knights gave them a glad welcome, and said it was a joy to serve under a King who risked his life as much as any common man.”
You are not wise to prefer the blade to the handle. What mystifies me is the line about leaving it on your belt and losing not blood, even if wounded by enemy aim. Then we wrap up with the intro to hero, the king who would protect the commoner, who is humane, not kingly in the rites and attributed qualities of strength and power and rightful possession of such control over too many others, who hunger for each meal.
‘Damsel, why do you wear this sword? for swords are not the ornaments of women.’ ‘Oh, my lord,’ answered she, ‘I would I could find some Knight to rid me of this sword, which weighs me down and causes me much sorrow. But the man who will deliver me of it must be one who is mighty of his hands, and pure in his deeds, without villainy, or treason. If I find a Knight such as this, he will draw this sword out of its sheath, and he only…’
A woman came with sword attached to sheath, and let the mink stoal fall from her bare shoulders.
“‘Let me see if I can draw it,’ said Arthur, ‘not because I think myself the best Knight, for well I know how far I am outdone by others, but to set them an example that they may follow me.’ With that the King took the sword by the sheath and by the girdle, and pulled at it with all his force, but the sword stuck fast. ‘Sir,’ said the damsel, ‘you need not pull half so hard, for he that shall pull it out shall do it with little strength.’
“‘It is not for me,’ answered Arthur, ‘and now, my Barons, let each man try his fortune.’ So most of the Knights of the Round Table there present pulled, one after another, at the sword, but none could stir it from its sheath. ‘Alas! alas!’ cried the damsel in great grief, ‘I thought to find in this Court Knights that were blameless and true of heart, and now I know not where to look for them.’ ‘By my faith,’ said Arthur, ‘there are no better Knights in the world than these of mine, but I am sore displeased that they cannot help me in this matter.'”
So then there was the matter of a certain down-and-out former somebody in the king’s extensive court.
“Now at that time there was a poor Knight at Arthur’s Court who had been kept prisoner for a year and a half because he had slain the King’s cousin. He was of high birth and his name was Balin, and after he had suffered eighteen months the punishment of his misdeed the Barons prayed the King to set him free, which Arthur did willingly…
“…after the damsel had bid farewell to Arthur and his Court, and was setting out on her journey homewards, he called to her and said, ‘Damsel, I pray you to stiffer me to try your sword, as well as these lords, for though I am so poorly clothed, my heart is as high as theirs.’ The damsel stopped and looked at him, and answered, ‘Sir, it is not needful to put you to such trouble, for where so many have failed it is hardly likely that you will succeed.’ ‘Ah! fair damsel,’ said Balin, ‘it is not fine clothes that make good deeds.’ ‘You speak truly,’ replied the damsel, ‘therefore do what you can.’
“Then Balin took the sword by the girdle and sheath, and pulled it out easily, and when he looked at the sword he was greatly pleased with it. The King and the Knights were dumb with surprise…and felt anger towards him. ‘In truth,’ said the damsel, ‘this is the best Knight that I ever found, but, Sir, I pray you give me the sword again.’
‘No,’ answered Balin, ‘I will keep it till it is taken from me by force.’ ‘It is for your sake, not mine, that I ask for it,’ said the damsel, ‘for with that sword you shall slay the man you love best, and it shall bring about your own ruin.’ ‘I will take what befalls me,’ replied Balin, ‘but the sword I will not give up, by the faith of my body.’ So the damsel departed in great sorrow…”
Not heeding the warning signs.
Upon visiting elsewhere with his sword, Balin was welcomed. “”Sir,’ said a Knight to him, ‘your shield does not look whole to me; I will lend you another’; so Balin listened to him and took the shield that was offered, and left his own with his own coat of arms behind him. ‘He rode down to the shore, and led his horse into a boat, which took them across. When he reached the other side, a damsel came to him crying, ‘O Knight Balin, why have you left your own shield behind you? Alas! you have put yourself in great danger, for by your shield you should have been known. I grieve over your doom, for there is no man living that can rival you for courage and bold deeds.’
“‘I repent,’ answered Balin, ‘ever having come into this country, but for very shame I must go on. Whatever befalls me, either for life or death, I am ready to take it.’ Then he examined his armour, and saw that it was whole, and mounted his horse.
As he went along the path he beheld a Knight come out of a castle in front, clothed in red, riding a horse with red trappings. [knight fight ensues] ‘What Knight are you?’ asked Balin le Savage, pausing for breath, ‘for never before have I found any Knight to match me.’ ‘My name,’ said he, ‘is Balan, brother to the good Knight Balin.’
The two fight. Concealed, incognito, a warring disguise, for what? Treachery with intent to triumph never seems to end well.
“‘Alas!’ cried Balin, ‘that I should ever live to see this day,’ and he fell back fainting to the ground. At this sight Balan crept on his feet and hands, and pulled off Balin’s helmet, so that he might see his face. The fresh air revived Balin, and he awoke and said: ‘O Balan, my brother, you have slain me, and I you, and the whole world shall speak ill of us both.’
“‘Alas,’ sighed Balan, ‘if I had only known you! I saw your two swords, but from your shield I thought you had been another Knight.’
‘Woe is me!’ said Balin, ‘all this was wrought by an unhappy Knight in the castle, who caused me to change my shield for his. If I lived, I would destroy that castle that he should not deceive other men.'”
Exchanging identities, deception, being forced to do something you didn’t really come up with yourself causes either a fast or slow demise.
Both brothers die, by mistake, and the damsel, as she’s called, buries them and mourns.
“…said Merlin, ‘no man shall handle this sword but the best Knight in the world, and that is either Sir Lancelot or his son Sir Galahad. With this sword Sir Lancelot shall slay the man he loves best, and Sir Gawaine is his name.’
“…Next he made a bridge of steel to the island, six inches broad, and no man could pass over it that was guilty of any evil deeds. The scabbard of the sword he left on this side of the island, so that Galahad should find it. The sword itself he put in a magic stone, which floated down the stream to Camelot…And the same day Galahad came to the river, having in his hand the scabbard, and he saw the sword and pulled it out of the stone, as is told in another place.”
And so, the ones with evil deeds must take a detour.
This all from: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/trt/index.htm
And more to come from: http://kingarthursknights.com/arthur/legendary.asp