I’ve been reading the Andrew Lang edition of The Tales of King Arthur to my kids at night the past week. Last night, we read the end of the quest for the Holy Grail (or Graal) where Galahad is sort of “taken up in the spirit” and breathes his last.
Late that same evening, I decided to withhold putting in another hour on my contract programming work and looked for a book to read instead. Since the new James K.A. Smith book hadn’t shown up in the mail yet, I grabbed a classic from Lewis – The Problem of Pain. Imagine my surprise then, when in the introductory chapter, he references and even quotes from the exact scene I had just read to my children an hour earlier as part of a brief survey on how men throughout the ages have held the supernatural in awe.
Quite the coincidence!
But then again, not really. The reason I chose the Lang edition out of about ten different variations I discovered at Powell’s City of Books in Portland over Christmas, was because I remember Tolkien repeatedly referring to Lang in his essay On Faerie Stories. So I was intentionally reading something Lewis would have been very familiar with already. So it shouldn’t be so surprising to find a footnote in the same circle. It was fun though.
On a side note, I must say that I am disappointed in this Lang edition. It is largely a condensed version of Mallory, but hasn’t been cleaned up much. Nearly none of the supporting characters are given an introduction. For example, Lancelot just shows up out of the blue with zero explanation of who he is. The following chapters refer to his sin, but there is no hint as to what it might be (his affair with the queen). The whole thing is a mess. I need to try again and find a different retelling. This one assumes far too much of the reader.