“Ye Legend of Sir Stupid and the Purple Knight”
This piece by Pynchon appeared in his high school newspaper, the Oyster Bay High School Purple and Gold, in 1953, a few months before Pynchon graduated at the age of 16.
The text is taken from Clifford Mead’s Thomas Pynchon: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Materials (Elmwood, IL: The Dalkey Archive Press, 1989), and according to both Mead and our own investigation these stories are in the public domain.
By Thomas Pynchon
Purple and Gold, 19 March 1953, 2. “Ye Legend of Sir Stupid and the Purple Knight”
“Ridiculous!” roared King Arthur, slamming his beer mug on the Round Table. “Purple, you say?”
“All purple, my liege,” said Sir Launcelot, nervously wiping the foam from his face, “head to toes. Completely.”
“I say! Most irregular. Well, what does he want?”
“He wants audience with you, my liege. It seems he’s done ole Cholmondesley in.”
“With an axe, your grace. A purple axe. He says he’ll do the same to us all if we don’t send a challenger to fight him in fair battle.”“Well?”
“Well, he he’s twenty feet tall.”
“Twenty! Oh, I say! Ghastly business! Who’ve we got crazy enough to fight him? How about you, Launcelot?”
“Oh, no, my liege. Cut my finger last night peeling potatoes. The pain is beastly.”
“Rotten luck, old chap. Well,” he addressed the knights of the round table, “there’s a big purple idiot outside who’s looking for a fight. Who’s game?”
Then up spake Sir Bushwack, a sturdy youth with a broad beam and a low center of gravity: “Where is the bloke? I’m not afraid, even if he is twenty feet taII!” Sir Bushwack had been drinking.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Launcelot, telling him to bid the knight enter. And Launcelot did this, and the horns sounded, and in staggered a tremendous giant, perhaps four feet in height, dragging behind him a ten-foot purple axe. He had a vast quantity of purple hair which fell down over his eyes, and was clad in purple armor, and his feet in purple sneakers. He led a noble steed, also purple, which resembled a cross between a Shetland pony and an armadillo.
King Arthur whispered to Launcelot, “I thought you said he was twenty feet tall.”“That’s what he told me, your majesty.”
“That’s what he what? Why you ...”
The rest of King Arthur’s tirade was drowned out by the purple giant, who was bellowing in a mighty voice:
“Okay, I can beat any man in the house! I ain’t scared of nobody ‘cause you’re all ... “ he hiccoughed “ ... chicken to fight me! Come on, who’s first?”
Up spake Sir Bushwack, shouting, “I challenge thee, Sir Knight!” The purple knight laughed. “Look what’sh challenging me! You slob, I can,hiccan lick you with, hic one hand tied behind my back! Come ahead!” Then did the purple knight pick up the purple axe and begin to whirl it about his head, faster and faster. Sir Bushwack waddled up dubiously with sword in hand, feebly attempted to parry, then quickly retreated. The purple knight stood and laughed.
“Chicken, all of you! Scared to fight me! Har! Har!”
Suddenly, the horns sounded and into the hall rushed a very brave and manly knight, Sir Stupid.
“I say!” he shouted to all and sundry, “Old Fotheringay’s run amok! He and his horse fell into that newly-pressed grape juice up at the distillery, and ...”.
Then he caught sight of the purple knight and stopped short. King Arthur started to laugh hysterically, spilling beer hither and yon.
“I say, old Fotheringay’s gone and fallen into the wine vat! Old Fotheringayl Haw, Haw, Haw! Old Fotheringay’s got high on grape juice! Haw! In the still of the knight!”
Old Fotheringay stood digesting this in silence. Then slowly he began to chuckle and whirl that axe.
“Oh, oh,” Sir Stupid whispered to Arthur, “here he goes!” With a savage yell, Old Fotheringay charged the Round Table, swinging his axe. In an instant, the hall became the scene of a free-for-all. The purple knight was in the thick of the whole mess, smashing furniture, beer kegs, and anything else that happened to be in his way. The hall resounded with the clanging of swords, the splintering of wood, and the demonaical chuckling of the purple knight. In the midst of the noise and confusion, Sir Stupid buttonholed Bushwack.
“Noble knight,” he said, “art thou truly dedicated to thy leige?”
“And wouldst thou suffer discomfort to rid thy liege of this menace?”
“Surely,” Sir Bushwack said absently, as he ducked a flying beer mug.
“That’s all I wanted to know! Fotheringay! You feeble-minded halfwit cretin! Over here!”
Infuriated, the purple knight whirled toward Sir Stupid and raised his axe. Sir Stupid lifted the protesting Bushwack and hurled him bodily at Fotheringay. There was a loud, splintering smash as the purple knight went down, and then all was silent, except for the gurgling of beer from a shattered keg. Sir Stupid stood over the horizontal Fotheringay.
“Now, thou proud knight,” roared Sir Stupid triumphantly, “now what hast thou to say?”
Slowly, the purple knight looked up and sneered. “CHICKEN,” he said.