Monty Python and the Black Knight

He Who Would Not Give up


A friend reminded me of a story the other day which holds a lot of meaning for me. It is the Monty Python scene where King Arthur has to fight the Black Knight in order to gain passage across a bridge.


During the ensuing fight, King Arthur soon succeeds in chopping off the arm of the Black Knight.

As the Black Knight stands there, staring at the sight of his severed limb, King Arthur says to him: “Now stand aside, worthy adversary…!”

Upon which the Black Knight stubbornly retorts: “’Tis but a scratch!”

“A scratch?” King Arthur replies. “Your arm’s off!”

“No it isn’t!” the Black Knight answers defiantly, and then explains, “I’ve been hurt worse…”

At that point King Arthur calls the Black Knight a liar and so the fight continues.


A few blows later and King Arthur chops the Black Knight’s sword arm off also. With blood spurting everywhere, King Arthur proceeds to give thanks for the victory, upon which the Black Knight kicks him in the head and knocks him down.

Before Arthur knows what is going on, the Black Knight kicks him again and shouts: “Have at you!”


The argument about who won the fight continues until the Black Knight says: “Oh, had enough, hey?”

To which Arthur replies: “Look you stupid bastard, you’ve got no arms left!”

While they continue to argue about this, the Black Knight keeps kicking Arthur.


Soon Arthur decides that he has had enough and chops the Black Knight’s leg off also.

Again, blood spurts everywhere, while the Black Knight, now crazed with anger, cries: “Right! I’ll do you for that!”

Hardly believing his ears, King Arthur asks, “You’ll what…?”


While the Black Knight is hopping around and challenging Arthur with, “Come here!”

Still astonished, Arthur says, “What are you going to do? Bleed on me?”

To which the Black Knight retorts, “I’m invincible!” and then proceeds to attempt head butting Arthur and challenging him with, “come on then!”


Annoyed, King Arthur then proceeds to chop the Black Knight’s other leg off also.

At this, the Black Knight realizes his position and, gazing upon his position, suggests,

With the Black Knight lying helpless without limbs in a pool of his own blood, he then suggests to King Arthur: “All right. We’ll call it a draw…” as Arthur rides off.


Then, twisting for a better view, the Black Knight cries; “Oh, oh I see. Running away, hey? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what’s coming to ya!”


And then, with bitter fury he adds, “I’ll bit y’ legs off!’


Upon reliving this scene, it suddenly struck me that I seem to have something in common with the Black Knight. I was about fourteen when the school bully, who was eighteen, threw an apple core at me for no reason at all and struck me squarely against the side of the head.


As he passed me along the stairs I swung round and kicked him – hard. He was so astonished at this unexpected attack that he couldn’t decide what to do and by the time the surging traffic had swept us apart it was too late to act. He never tested me again after that.


I don’t give up easily. I have always been a stubborn child.


Of course, stubborn is a two-edged sword. When stubborn implies tenacity it tends to be a good thing. But there is a balance. My father warned me early on to know when to stop flogging a dead horse. The first then you do when you fall into a hole, I was told, is to stop digging.


It takes a while to get the balance right.


As for the Black Knight, I think of him often. Lying there, helpless with his severed limbs and sword scattered around him. But for him the fight was no yet over. He was slain to be sure, but in his mind he was still not conquered.


It strikes me as particularly important that however much we may sometimes be beaten in real life, the important thing is not to be beaten in our minds. Even the Good Book had something to say about refusing to admit defeat where it reads in Psalms that, “for a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again. But the wicked shall fall into mischief.”


This also sometimes happens in nature. I remember hearing a tale about a honey badger that confronted an elephant at a water hole one day. The elephant, which was probably several hundred times the badger’s size, wished to drink. But the badger would not share his water. Every time the mammoth beast approached, the badger would have at him, snarl and kick up dust and bite the elephant’s feet.


This went on for quite a while until, disgusted and frustrated, the elephant finally shook his ears and stomped off in undignified defeat.


There was no reason why the badger should have won the fight, except that he wanted to strongly enough. It was as if he too, had managed to convey the Black Knight’s message: “I’ll bit y’ legs off!’