Angeles Arrien: I was thinking about, what would be a story, cross-culturally that has everything that you would ever want to know about relationships that I could tell? And would also have the shadow side of relationship, because any unclaimed part of our self, or a part of our self that we’ve judged in any way is always knocking at the door. I found a story that’s found in every culture of the world, that’s everything we need to know about relationship around connection and spaciousness. I thought I’d end this little riff with this story and then we could break up into groups and we could talk about what you related to the story and also the three processes of self (other and collective) and the four ways we can track to see if we are still alive. What’s inspiring me? What’s challenging me? What’s surprising me? What’s touching and moving me? So that I’m not walking the procession of the living dead.
This story is about the Knights of the Round Table.
…And the Knights of the Round Table had been living in this forest for a long time in a nice little village and community and doing really good work. But they decided that they really needed to do some deeper work and they needed to work just with the twelve of them and they knew there was a forest that only one person lived in and they thought that would be the perfect forest that they could work in together and go deeper for six months. They needed to do some really quality deep work.
And so Arthur thought, “Well, I’ll just go in and negotiate with this man in this forest. This King of the Forest.” So he went in and he said to the King of the Forest, “We thought it would be a really nice exchange, you know, we’ve been in the village for a really long time and we need some quiet time and you’ve had a lot of quiet time for years and maybe you would like to be in the village.
And the King of the Forest said, “No way. Now way. I like the quiet here. I like the animals and the birds and I like nature’s rhythm. No way.”
And so Arthur said, “Well, you know, you know, is there anything that we could do or find for you that would even tempt you to leave the forest in exchange for it?”
And the King of the Forest said, “Well there’s been this one question that I’ve been thinking about for years that I’ve never found the right answer to, and maybe if you found the right answer to it, you know, I’d think about leaving the forest and going over to that small village you’ve been taking care of.”
And so Arthur said, “Well, what’s the question?”
And he said, “Well, it’s not only the question. You have to get the right answer and you have to get the right answer in seven days or it’s not a deal.”
And, “Well,” Arthur said, “I need to know the question before I can make an agreement about whether I can do it in seven days or not.”
And he said, “Not only in seven days, but if it’s not the right answer, Arthur, it’s you life.”
And Arthur thought to himself, “Pretty heavy terms, this must be a big question.”
And he said, “Well, what’s the question.”
The King of the Forest said, “The question is: What does woman want?”
Arthur thought about it, he’d been married to Guinevere all these years and he still didn’t know. He thought this was a pretty good question. And he said, “Is that the question that you’re really serious about?”
And the King of the Forest said, “Yes. That’s the question I want the right answer to. What does woman want?”
Arthur thought to himself, “Well in seven days they could do a survey of all the ladies in the land. That was doable. On heavy terms, be my life if it’s not the right answer but it’s doable. We could do a survey of the ladies of the land for seven days and be back here in seven days.” He says, “You’ve got a deal.
So he goes out of the forest, and who does he run into but his most handsomest of knights, Gawain, and his most creative of knights. And he tells Gawain, “You know, look we have a deal but we’ve got to do a survey of all the ladies in the land in seven days.”
Gawain said, “Oh allow me to do a survey of the ladies in the land.”
Arthur thought, “Well that’s not such a bad idea, after all he’s my most handsomest of knights and he’s my most creative of knights and if anyone could get the right answers it would be Gawain,” because he’s one of those cool dude types, you know, the hunk variety type. And so Gawain went off and began to do a survey of all the ladies in the land.
About the fourth day into this survey Gawain himself decided that he’d just take a little pause in the meadow and think about because there had been three re-occurring themes that all the ladies in the land were saying about what they really wanted. And they were all congruent and some of them gave him pause. He thought, well his relationships would certainly be different now that he knew this consistent information but he had three more days to go so he decided he’d just take a little rest in the meadow.
He was lying on his back in the meadow and looking at the clouds and had his horse there and he heard a horse approaching, and the horse stopped, and then he sat up and somebody had gotten off the horse. So it was a beautifully bridled horse and he looked and all he could see was this long skirt with little feet. What did he see? Long skirt and little feet. What did he see? Long skirt and little feet beginning to move around the horse. And what did he see? Long skirt and little feet. And there, coming around the horse, he thought, well he’s prepared to ask another fair damsel, you know, what did she want? What did she really want in a relationship?
There standing before him was the ugliest woman he’d ever seen in his whole life. He had never seen such a grotesque looking woman in his whole entire life. In fact he had to take a couple steps back. I mean, he had a new definition of ugly, this was it. Ugly. I mean she had natty greasy hair and flies kind of hover crafting around her head and she had big red boils on her cheeks and a wart on her nose and when she smiled, you know, her teeth were yellow craggy and she had hair that kind of curled around her chin. And she was just ugly.
He thought, he couldn’t even look at her, and he said, “Good day,” he said, “I’m Knight Gawain and I’m a Knight of the Round Table and I’m doing a survey of all the ladies in the land and I was wondering if you could just give me your worthy answer and then we could both be gone on our ways…just really ugly.” He just couldn’t even look at her. His peripheral vision began to expand.
She said, “My name is Lady Ragwell. And I have the only answer that will give you the forest and save your king’s life.” And that got Gawain’s attention, how did she know the terms? The forest and his king’s life.
He said, “Well, let me just run by these three themes because I’m sure yours will fit.”
And she said, “I have the only answer that will work. But let me hear what you found so far.”
Gawain said, “Well, the first thing that woman wants is woman wants to be respected and honored for who she is.”
Lady Ragwell, she got all soft and dreamy eyed and she said, “Male or female, who doesn’t want to be honored and respected for who they are? But that’s not the right answer.”
Gawain went on and he said, “Well, the second answer then must be it. What woman wants is woman wants to have a sense of family and a sense of home and a sense of being protected and provided for.”
And Lady Ragwell, again, got all soft and dreamy eyed and she said very softly, “Male or female, who doesn’t want to be protected and provided for and to have a sense of home and a sense of family. But unfortunately that’s not the right answer.”
And Gawain said, “Well, the last one certainly must be it because all the ladies in the land so far have said this. All the ladies in the land want to have sweet nothings and affection and love spoken to them.”
This time she became very soft and very dreamy eyed. Still ugly. Still ugly. But very soft and dreamy eyed, and she said, Male or female, we all want to be loved and desired and spoken sweet nothings to. And regrettably that’s not the right answer.”
Gawain was stunned and he said, “Well then what is your worthy answer?”
She said, “Not until we strike a deal. After all, your king’s life will be saved and you will get the forest, but I must get something to. And my terms are these. That forty-eight hours after you return, you and I shall be married.”
Gawain, got this sickening kind of look. She was what? Ugly. Really ugly. And he was going to be married to the ugliest woman that he’s ever seen in his entire life. She was the ugliest woman in the whole kingdom. I mean really disgustingly ugly. And he said, “Ok. You know if this answer works. You know the other answers have greater odds. You know, I’ll give you my knightly word I’ll include it and I give you my knightly word that we’ll, you know, we’ll…”
She said, “Say it.”
“We’ll, we’ll get…ummm…”
“Married…we’ll get married in forty-eight hours. And I’ll have a castle and we’ll get married. If it’s the right answer,” and so he said, “What is the answer?”
She said, “What woman wants, and also most of all what woman wants but also men want this too, woman wants to have her way. That’s the right answer. And that’s the only answer that’s going to work.”
And Gawain thought about it for a moment and it certainly had been his experience, but you know, he thought what really will work is the answer about being loved and desired and spoken sweet nothings. So he thought he was still in a safe ballpark so he said, ‘Thank you very much and I’ll make sure that’s included in the rest of the answers. I give you my knightly word,” and they bid each adieu and said goodbye and he continued the survey of all the ladies in the land.
Seven days later he met Arthur at the edge of the forest and told him the four answers and Arthur said, “Oh, these are great.”
Gawain said, “You know, these are the three ones that every woman has said consistently but this is one I gave my knightly word that it be included so it has to be included.”
Arthur said, “Well one of these, I mean these are all great. One of these will definitely work.” So Arthur went into the forest and he met with the king and the king said, “Well Arthur. Today’s the day you have the forest, you have your life, or today’s the day I have my forest and it’s the end of your life. What have you found?”
Arthur says, “Sir, sir, what woman wants is woman wants to be honored and respected for who she is.”
The King of the Forest himself got all soft and dreamy eyed and he said, “My,” he said, “a worthy answer. Fine answer. Best answer I’ve heard for a long time but unfortunately not the right answer.”
Arthur went on to say, “Sir, what woman wants is woman wants to have a sense of home, a sense of family, a sense of being provided for.”
And again the king got all soft and dreamy eyed himself and said again, “Oh fine answer! Worthy answer! Impeccable answer, but regrettably not the right answer.”
Arthur thought to himself, “Well, two down, two to go,” he said, “Sir, what woman wants is she wants to be loved and desired and spoken sweet nothings to.”
This time the King of the Forest touched his heart and got all soft and dreamy eyed and said, “Oh, yes who doesn’t want to be loved and desired and spoken sweet nothings to? But regrettably, one of the finest and most worthy answers I’ve heard, but not the right answer.”
So this time Arthur gulped and he said, “Sir, this is not a consensus answer of all the ladies in the land but, sir, my knight has given his knightly word that it be included, sir, and this is the last answer, sir. What woman wants, sir, sir, woman wants to have her way.”
And the King of the Forest narrowed his eyes and stood up and looked at Arthur and said, “You, you have been talking to my sister! The forest is yours!” And he stormed out of the forest.
Arthur was so relieved and he went out of the forest and he pounded on Gawain and he said, “We did it! We did it! We did it!”
Gawain said, “Sir, which answer, sir? Sir, which answer, sir?” And Gawain said, “Sir, sir, please tell me which answer. I’ve given my knightly word to one of these.”
Arthur said, “Well, the one that woman wants to have her way.”
Gawain said, “Really? That’s the answer? Sir I have to marry that woman in forty-eight hours. I gave my knightly word,”
Arthur said, “Well, of course you should marry that woman. Who was that woman that saved my life and also gave us our forest? Of course you must marry her, of course. And who is this woman?”
Gwain said, “Sir, sir, it’s Lady Ragwell, sir.”
This time it was Arthur’s turn to pale and he said, “Do not tell me you gave your knightly word to the ugliest woman in the kingdom.”
And Gwain said, “Sir, I did, sir. She’s the one that gave me the answer, sir, sir, sir. And I have to get the castle, sir, sir. And we have to get married in forty-eight hours, sir.”
And poor Arthur, he went home and he told Guinevere and Guinevere said, “But can’t it be a small wedding?”
Being the knights they were they found the castle and being the knights they were they made sure the way to the castle and the marriage feast was lined with garlands and flowers and big archways in which Lady Ragwell could ride under and wave to the crowds.
So sure enough, forty-eight hours later, Lady Ragwell was waving to the crowds and waving to the knights and they could barely, barely look up and wave back because she was so ugly. She had this natty greasy hair. These flies that hover crafted around and these big red boils on her check and a wart on her nose and yellow craggy teeth and hair that curled around her chin and she was so ugly. She just reeked. She just smelled foul.
They went to the marriage feast and they got through the marriage feast. They were eating and she would eat the turkey drumsticks and flicks of turkey would go up into her hair and grease was all over her face and everyone just couldn’t look at her. They couldn’t look at her they were so grossed out. And it was a long day for Gawain. Finally. Finally. Finally. The feast was over and he took her inside the castle and closed the door. And he was so relieved that it was over.
And she said, “Now, Gawain, now you must kiss me. And I’m entitled to marriage privileges. And you must take me to bed.”
Gawain thought to himself, “It’s been a very long day. A very long day.” But being the knight that he was he kind of mustered himself up. And he looked at this hairy red-boiled cheek. And he just kind of closed his eyes and he just leaned over and kissed her. Then he opened his eyes, and there standing before him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his entire life. And he thought, “Oh it has been a long day. I’m just totally hallucinating.”
She said, “That’s right Gawain. One half of the spell’s been broken. And now you get to choose. Which part of the day you want me ugly in and which part of the day you want me beautiful in.”
And he thought, he’s going to sit down for this one. So he sat down on a stone bench in the castle and he thought, “Well, if she was ugly during the day, night could be rather interesting. But if she was beautiful during the day everyone wouldn’t be so depressed about his plight but night could be rather difficult.” And he went back and forth and finally he said, “You know, this is going to affect you more then it’s going to effect me so why don’t you choose which part of the day you want to be beautiful in and which part of the day you want to be ugly in.”
Then the other half of the spell was broken because she got to choose to have what part of the day. She had the power of choice again to have her way. And it’s said that they lived very happily ever after in that castle.
But it’s also said that in that castle is where that old, old saying comes from: Remember the journey first and relationships will fall into place.
What was that old saying? Remember the journey first and relationships will fall into place.
Because male or female, we all want to be honored and respected for who we are. Male or female, we all want to be protected and provided for and have a sense of home or family. Male or female, we all want to be loved and desired and spoken sweet nothings to. And male or female we don’t want to have our choice taken away from us. Male or female, we want to have the power to choose and not have our choice taken away.
So that we can learn to learn, learn to choose, and learn to relate.
Remember the journey first and relationships will fall into place.
Remember the journey first and relationships will fall into place
And there’s always a Lady Ragwell in each one of us, whether we’re male or female, the parts of ourselves that we deem ugly or undesirable, but it’s our integrity who will always look beyond appearances.
And he kept his knightly word.
And he kept his knightly word.
Jennifer Block: Did they live happily ever after?
Angeles Arrien: Yes, they lived happily ever after. They did. And it’s said that they lived well and they died well. And it’s said that they lived well and they died well because they remembered the journey first and relationships will fall into place.
So that’s a good place for us to take a little pause and just see, where you are and what’s been stirred this morning because a lot’s been stirred.