Ah Monty Python. Seems they never get old. I still get as much joy out of watching The Holy Grail as I did the first time I saw it as a tender youth.
Seems that the Pythons are once again in the news. This time through no fault of their own. A copy of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch was found by utility workers under a fire hydrant cover, causing a nearby pub to be evacuated.
This gives me a chance to look back at the Holy Grail and admire it some more. The Pythons were delving into a myth that makes up so much of the medieval English psyche that it can’t be ignored. Impressively they became a group of film makers who spent a great deal of time and energy researching this myth, so much so that when they make light of it they do so from a position of historical knowledge. Monty Python’s The Holy Grail is an absolute must for any medievalist.
Even if you’re not a Python fan you owe it to yourself to see this film if you’re at all interested in Arthurian myth and the foundations of English, Welsh and French world views. The Pythons have gotten everything right in this. A perilous quest, inspired by god, involving a fool or fools who must mature and live through countless otherworldly tests and threats to finally acquire the Telos, the ultimate quest object, the Holy Grail, only to have it snatched away from them again in the end.
The grail is timeless, and not likely to be available to mere mortals for any length of time. The Holy Grail makes lampooning these cornerstones of the mythical universe seem effortless, when in fact if you’ve read extensively on the subject, you’ll find they’ve incorporated almost every major element of Arthurian myth into their tale and many minor ones as well. And they’ve done it so well that the unaware public has no idea they’ve just received an extensive education in Arthurian myth. Now that is film making.
The one bit that’s shockingly missing is Guinevere. Why one of the Pythons did not end up in drag doing her is a mystery we may never solve. Perhaps budgetary constraints? Time limits on the film? Still and all they’ve got Merlin (in the form of Ted, who is modeled on earlier versions of Merlin or Myrddin or Merlin Ambrosius) Lancelot (a later french addition) the whole quest elements and of course the Grail.
They mythical monsters faced in the Python’s version such as a the Vorpal Bunny, the monster in the cave and the Knights who say Ni can all be traced back to the likes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Supernatural monsters and events abound in early and modern Arthurian legends.
Now that I think further on it, Mordred may not be in the movie either – unless you count the entire French nation as representative of the vehicle of fate which will ultimate finish Arthur. Or the British police.
I did not know that knock-off Holy Hand Grenades were still a hot commodity. In fact, you can own your own Mini Plush Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch for $19.00.
And hey – anyone remember the Holy Grail CCG? I had a two boxes of unopened starters at one point that I eBayed. Now I’m regretting it.
[tags]monty python, medieval, geek, holy hand grenade[/tags]