I haven’t been able to help but notice that in many of the traditional Arthurian tales, Sir Lancelot can trace his family line all the way back to King David. I figured that surely this stray detail has meaning. But what exactly is the significance of this Biblical connection? When looking at these two men together, I found that Lancelot’s life in many ways mirrors that of his ancestor.
Perhaps the most obvious similarity between the two is their greatness. David as a young boy kills a giant with just a few stones. He is an admired king who wins the trust of an entire nation and proves to be a noble hero again and again. In the same way, Sir Lancelot is famously known as a brave, chivalrous hero- perhaps the best knight at the Round Table, second only to Arthur himself. Lancelot is known throughout Camelot as the knight who, as Sir Thomas Malory says, “in all turnementes, justys, and dedys of armys, both for lyff and deth, he passed all other knyghtes…. So this sir Launcelot encresed so mervaylously in worship and honoure.” To the people of Camelot and Israel, these two men served as famous, admirable heroes and role models.
No human role model, however, can be perfect. These two men strive for greatness, yet fall to the same temptation.
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.”
-C. S. Lewis
Both David and Lancelot are all too familiar with the strength of temptation; neither of them are able to withstand it. Sir Lancelot, as the famous story goes, is overcome with lust for Queen Guinevere, wife to his best friend. He betrays his friend and has an affair with his wife. David also has an affair with the wife of a friend. He steals the beautiful Bathsheba and, when she becomes pregnant, David sends her husband to the front lines, a place of certain death. These men are fully aware of temptation’s strength.
Two Christian men.
Admired as valiant heroes.
Both fall to the temptation of lust.
Both willing to betray a friend in order to do so.
The apple never falls far from the tree.