Thursday, July 14, 2011

Galahad by Josh Ritter

Posted by Simcha 3:24 AM, under | 5 comments

I'd only heard of Josh Ritter recently, due the publication of his book Bright's Passage, which has been receiving phenomenal reviews. Out of curiosity about this singer-turned-author I looked him up online and listened to a few of his songs, which I ended up really enjoying. Though I've become enamoured with one of his songs in particular, called Galahad, and I just can't get it out of my head. There is just something about the story that's told, and the way that Ritter sings it, that I find really compelling.

Now I'm completely out of touch with what music is currently popular in America so it's possible that everyone knows this song but I'm just so hooked on it that I thought I decided to share it with you here (plus it gives me an excuse to listen to it again.)

I'm curious, though, if there is some kind of story behind this song about Galahad that I'm not aware of. If you know anything about it, let me know.



I have to say I love the animation! I wonder who did it?

Isn't it Galahad of the Arthurian legends? I'm with Melissa - the animation's very striking.

So clearly this is a parody of Galahad's quest for the grail and ascension to Heaven. The way Ritter portrays Galahad is consistent with Arthurian legend (in that he is almost insufferably chaste). Because of his purity he can obtain the grail, unlike his father Lancelot, who is an adulterer ("no Guinevere for hand-jobs").
What is intriguing is not the portrayal of Galahad, but that of the angel. There is a long tradition surrounding the keepers of the Grail. Namely, there is a succession of grail-keepers, most notably The Fisher King. Whoever achieves the grail can heal the Fisher King, and release him from his guardianship. Ritter has assigned an angel as the grail-keeper here, and this angel seems not only to dislike the angelic life, but to especially dislike his duty as grail-keeper. When Galahad drinks from the grail, it appears the angel is released from his service and can live a more "mortal" life eating lamb-chops and such. Essentially Galahad eschewed the pleasures of human life in order to attain Heavenly grace, and the angel can't understand why. Bored with angelic life and released from guard-duty, the angel goes off to enjoy the things Galahad missed out on.

Thanks for the explanation Kyle. While I'm familiar with some of the King Arthur stories I didn't realize there was so much about Galahad and the grail. I'll definitely have to read more about this.

also note that the last lines of the song switch from third person to first person, "The Angel smoked a cigarette, when he was sure Galahad was dead
He picked all of his clothes up off the floor.
Then I put on his boots and armor, I laid his body on the altar,
Put his helmet on then I headed for the door."

its almost as if this is an autobiographical allegory for a turning from faith

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