Did I Ever Tell You ... ?


Essay by
Scott Farrell


February 2003


Think of knights in shining armor and the Code of Chivalry, and you probably think of timeless stories of heroism and adventure. Perhaps you remember the first time you saw Disney's The Sword in the Stone, a fanciful animated re-telling of the first book of T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Maybe you have visions of your high school English Literature class, where you were introduced to the adventure of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Or maybe you've studied the classic stories of memorable medieval heroes, such as the poem of El Cid, or the Song of Roland.

But no matter what level of knightly adventure stories you enjoy, there's something they all have in common: They are all about people doing things. The characters in these stories are faced with all manner of challenges — in both figurative and literal senses of the word — and they must use their wits and their swords to make things right.

This isn't a coincidence. In the days of knights and armor, nobody had much in the way of formal education, and only an elite few had the luxury of philosophizing about the cosmic implications of right and wrong. Stories like those about King Arthur, Count Roland or El Cid — stories about people doing things - provided the audiences of the Middle Ages with concrete, inspirational examples of the Code of Chivalry in action.

Things have changed quite a bit since then. Today, if we are in a quandary about moral, ethical or spiritual matters, we often turn to self-improvement gurus and informational books for advice. And while there is a great deal of useful information to be found in such books and seminars, we sometimes overlook the power of a good story.

And this isn't the latest New York Times bestselling biography kind of story we're talking about here. This is storytelling in the most medieval, chivalric sense of the word — sitting around the dinner table or at the fireside with mom and dad, or grandma and grandpa, listening to their accounts of growing up, making their way in the world and overcoming the challenges that lay between them and their dreams.

Stories like these convey a broad range of lessons. They remind us that adversity and defeat are ultimately survivable. They teach us that education and talent should always be supplemented with ingenuity and determination. And they allow us to be the torch bearers for future generations, to remind them of what has come before.

Most of all, sitting side-by-side with generations young and old, sharing the fears, hopes and struggles that have been universal among the human race since time immemorial, reminds us that there are knights in shining armor of all ages, genders and backgrounds who live beside us, each and every day of our lives.


© 2003 Scott Farrell

Real tales of modern virtue at
Chivalry Today:
Reimagining the Code of Chivalry

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