Sir Galahad is a knight of King Arthur's Round Table and one of the three achievers of the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend. He is the illegitimate son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine of Carbonek, and is renowned for his gallantry and purity. He is perhaps the knightly embodiment of Jesus in the Arthurian legends. He first appears in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, and his story is taken up in later works such as the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.
According to many interpreters, the philosophical inspiration of the celibate, otherworldly character of the monastic knight Galahad came from the Cistercian milieu, in particular St. Bernard of Clairvaux (Pauline Matarasso, The Redemption of Chivalry, Geneva, 1979). The Cistercian-Bernardine concept of Catholic warrior-asceticism undergirding the character of Galahad also informs St. Bernard's projection of ideal chivalry in his work on the Knights Templar, De laude novae militiae. Significantly, in the narratives Galahad is associated with a white shield with a vermilion cross, the very same emblem given to the Templars by Pope Eugene III.
Upon reaching adulthood, Galahad is reunited with his father Lancelot, who knights him. He is then brought to King Arthur's court at Camelot during Pentecost. Without realizing the danger he is putting himself in, Galahad walks over to the Round Table amidst the revelry and takes his seat at the Siege Perilous. This place had been kept vacant for the sole person who would accomplish the quest of the Holy Grail; for anyone else sitting there, it would prove to be immediately fatal. Sir Galahad survives the event, witnessed by King Arthur and his knights. The king then asks the young knight to perform a test which involves pulling a sword from a stone. This he accomplishes with ease, and King Arthur swiftly proclaims Sir Galahad to be the greatest knight in the world. He is promptly invited to join the Order of the Round Table, and after an ethereal vision of the Holy Grail, the quest to find the famous object is set.
In Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur", Galahad's incredible prowess and fortune in the quest for the Holy Grail are traced back to his piety. According to the legend, only pure knights may achieve the Grail. While in a general sense, this "purity" refers to chastity, Galahad appears to have lived a sinless life, and so as a result, lives and thinks on a level entirely apart from the other knights of the legend. This quality is reflected in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Sir Galahad and its first four lines which state, "My good blade carves the casques of men,/My tough lance thrusteth sure,/My strength is as the strength of ten,/Because my heart is pure."
Despite, and perhaps because of his sinless nature, Galahad as a character seems inhuman. He defeats rival knights apparently without effort, speaks little to his fellow knights, and leads his companions to the Grail with a relentless determination. So of the three who undertake the quest for the Grail (Bors, Perceval, and Galahad), Galahad is the one who actually achieves it. When he does, he is taken up into heaven like the biblical patriarch Enoch or the prophet Elijah, leaving his companions behind.
Michael Palin plays the role of Galahad in the satirical Arthurian film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In one scene he follows a vision of the Grail to a castle, where he encounters a number of beautiful maidens eager to seduce him (a common Arthurian theme).
In the 2005 Broadway musical Spamalot, his character is combined with another character whom Palin played in the film, Dennis the Politically Active Peasant. This character is called Sir Dennis Galahad the Dashingly Handsome after he is knighted by King Arthur in Act 1.
Galahad remains a medieval knight, albeit in a modern setting, as "Galahad, Knight of the Table Round" in Neil Gaiman's short story "Chivalry." He shows up at the door of one Mrs. Whitaker, who had recently bought the Holy Grail for thirty pence at a junk shop, and offers her various precious items for it, eventually succeeding in obtaining it.
In Grant Morrison's The Shining Knight, part of his Seven Soldiers series, Galahad appears as a villain called the Giant Killer and the Perfect Knight. He is brought under the control of the main antagonists, the Sheeda, and fights against Sir Justin.
Welsh GP Proud of Falklands Service; HORRIFIC: Health Authority Chairman Still Emotional 20 Years after Treating Sir Galahad Wounded
Apr 13, 2002; Byline: CARL YAPP THERE were aircraft screaming overhead, and in the bay the Sir Galahad was perishing in flames. The...