The Screwtape Missives, Part VI

by Viscount Sir Galen of Bristol

©2004, Paul T. Mitchell,
This work may not be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without the permission of the author.

My Dear Wormwood,

Let us consider the dual nature of knighthood in the Society, and how we can put it to use.

So much of the attention of SCA members is fixed on knighthood (although some may simply call it “peerage” to avoid an emphasis on fighting, or to include their other peers) because so many of these people were raised on tales of King Arthur, the Round Table, St. George and the like.

The SCA has two types of knights: “ideal” knights and “real” knights.

“Ideal” Knights are always honorable, humble, puissant, courteous, respectable and pious. There are no “ideal” knights in existence. This is a picture they hold up to discuss knighthood, but it has little basis in any reality, either in history or in their absurd “Current Middle Ages.”

“Real” knights are the actual people who have been knighted in the SCA. Real knights are supposed to be trying to behave like ideal knights, but in reality most believe that they have “made it” and that their conduct is “chivalrous enough”. While there are a few whose unstinting efforts to realize the ideal has made them very good indeed, they are a minority, and their humility prevents them from drawing attention to it.

You can use this duality to make your patient into the sort of knight we want him to be. Even the best knights cannot be ideal all the time. Let your man think that the ideal behavior is merely show — meaningless and unimportant froth. The lapses from ideal behavior is what your patient should be taught to think of as “real” knighthood.

Thus, the lost temper, the ignored blow, the drunken revel, the worst armor, the out-of-practice tourney, all these can be made to be seen as the standard of “real” knighthood. Your man, combining the worst aspects of several knights, may even be led to consider himself worthy of knighthood now! This can lead to a very satisfying sort of simmering discontent.

By this method, whenever your man begins to think of the “ideal” knight, you can distract him by leading him to find examples of the ideal quality among the real knights. Soon, he will cease altogether to try to be like the ideal knight, and will instead try to emulate flawed models: real human people.

This emphasis on “reality” or “what is possible” at the expense of pursuing excellence has been used effectively by us for decades to undermine the efforts of men. It’s a proven method — use it!

But don’t let him recall that all he does changes reality, either for the better, or the worse, depending on his goals.

Your affectionate uncle,


Continue to The Screwtape Missives, Part VII

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