Percivale’s Thirteen Penitents

After five years of adventuring in forgetfulness of God, Percivale met a party of three knights and ten ladies on their way back from confession to a holy hermit. The ladies certainly, and perhaps the knights also – the wording of the translations leaves me unsure – were barefoot, hooded, and wearing rough clothing. (D.D.R. Owen says “hair-shirts”.)

The knights were unarmed, for, as they told Percivale in their shock at seeing him armed, it was wrong to wear weapons on Good Friday. One of the knights gave Percivale a theological discourse which has been called more profound than the one his hermit uncle was later to give him. The group directed him to the holy man for further spiritual guidance; having just been there themselves, they had marked the path by tying branches. It interests me that this group of thirteen repeats the numbers but reverses the gender count of the group involved in first awakening Percivale to the existence of knights.