The Proud & The Humble in King Arthur

In King Arthur and His Knights of The Round Table by Roger Lanclyn Green, pride is a great sin. Pride, in Biblical terms, is elevated and unjustified self-interest. Pride often leads knights to their downfalls. Humility, on the other hand, elevates knights to higher places. One knight who goes the prideful way is Balyn; one knight who goes the humble way is Sir Bors de Ganis. The stories of these two knights illustrate that pride leads to death, and that humility leads to life.

In King Arthur, Balyn is a knight in King Arthur’s court. Balyn is considered a good knight. Nonetheless, The Lady of the Lake comes to Arthur and asks for Balyn’s head. Balyn, instead of asking God for help, kills The Lady of the Lake. In that moment, that instinct to defend himself – and not to rely on God’s assistance – resulted from pride. In Proverbs 16:18, it says, “Pride goes before destruction and an haughty spirit before the fall.” Balyn’s pride ultimately leads to his tragedy and death. His story, therefore, illustrates that while pride may cause one to feel elevated momentarily, it will eventually lead to downfall.

King Arthur has prideful characters, like Balyn, but also has humble characters, like Sir Bors de Gannis. Sir Bors is a good knight, and, unlike Balyn, always asks God for help. When he faces a dilemma in which he must save either his brother, Lionel, or a damsel, Sir Bors asks God to save his brother while he saves the damsel himself. Yet when he meets Lionel later, Lionel wants Sir Bors dead. Sir Bors asks his brother for forgiveness, and does not fight when prompted, unlike Balyn had in the previously mentioned circumstance. Sir Bors is later reconciled with Lionel, and enters the Enchanted Ship, which only the pure hearted can enter. With Sir Bors’ entrance to the Enchanted Ship complete, his story illustrates that humility leads one to higher places.

Stories like those of Balyn and Sir Bors teach that the way of the proud is not a good way to follow. Indeed, in King Arthur, pride is not the way of the knight. Instead, humility is the way that will lead a knight to higher and more righteous places.