The Dolorous Stroke, which is not about sex
Q: How does the term 'dolorous stroke' fit into the stories surrounding the search for the Holy Grail?
Answer (by me):
The Dolorous Stroke was when Sir Balin stabbed King Pelles in the genitals with a spear. This was even more unfortunate than it sounds, because the spear had also been used to stab Jesus during his crucifixion, and was therefore magic, and Bad Things begin to happen.
Pelles becomes unable to have sex, and he is therefore unable to have a son to be the next king. However, he has a daughter named Elaine, and he decides he'll use her sexuality instead.
Elaine has been trapped in a bath of boiling water by a sorceress. Sir Lancelot arrives, being all heroic, and gets her out of the bath, "naked as a needle" as Malory puts it. Pelles and Elaine get Sir Lancelot drunk, and Elaine uses her magic ring (honestly) to trick Lancelot into having sex with her. "Wit you well that Sir Launcelot was glad, and so was that lady Elaine that she had gotten Sir Launcelot in her arms." says Malory.
Next morning, Lancelot is angry because he thinks his strength depended on his being a virgin. I have no idea why-- girl cooties or something. Elaine then "skips out of bed all naked" (Malory is getting quite excited here) to tell Lancelot that she's pregnant. Pregnancy tests have evidently become less quick and reliable since the days of King Arthur.
Lancelot jumps out of the window and runs off. Nine months later, Elaine bears a son, Galahad, who has the same hangups about virginity as his father, and is insufferably priggish in every version I've read.
Elaine then vanishes from the narrative, since she's just a plot element. I would have said that the story was only interested in you if you have a penis, but then again there's Pelles.
Anyway, Pelles is frustrated and sad and infertile, and because of the magic, the kingdom starts becoming frustrated and sad and infertile as well. So Pelles has nothing to do except sit outside his castle fishing, and holding on to his long wooden rod all day. This is why Pelles is called the Fisher King.
When Galahad grows up, he becomes a Knight of the Round Table, and goes in search of the Grail along with all the others. Guess what? Pelles was actually looking after it the whole time. Lancelot and Galahad both find it, but Galahad gets to keep it because he's a virgin.
Now we find out why Pelles wanted Galahad to be conceived:
Galahad finds the same spear as before, which is now bleeding. He cures Pelles by thrusting the spear into the wound between his legs. No, seriously. Suddenly Pelles is no longer sad and frustrated, and the land becomes fertile again, and everyone's happy. But Galahad is still totally a virgin, of course.
(Bear in mind that these stories have been told over and over again for a thousand years, and the details change in the telling. Sometimes it's Percival rather than Galahad who finds the grail, for example.)
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Syndicated 2016-01-30 23:08:02 (Updated 2016-01-30 23:20:04) from Monument