One of my brothers, Joseph Armstrong, has always loved the legend of King Arthur, and wants to write his own version of the story someday. However, he's always had a slight dislike for King Arthur's use of the magic sheath that didn't allow him to be killed in battle. "That's cheating," He'd say.
So, finally, I decided to look it up. Let's see what the real deal is with this magic sheath.
Now as they rode thus through the forest together, Merlin said to the King: "Lord, which wouldst thou rather have, Excalibur, or the sheath that holds him?" To which King Arthur replied, "Ten thousand times would I rather have Excalibur than his sheath." "In that thou art wrong, my Lord," said Merlin, "for let me tell thee, that though Excalibur is of so great a temper that he may cut in twain either a feather or a bar of iron, yet is his sheath of such a sort that he who wears it can suffer no wound in battle, neither may he lose a single drop of blood. In witness whereof, thou mayst remember that, in thy late battle with King Pellinore, thou didst suffer no wound, neither didst thou lose any blood."
Okay, so my brother's right. So far it looks like the legend version of a video game cheat code. So....does that make King Arthur a cowardly cheat, now?
Then King Arthur directed a countenance of great displeasure upon his companion and he said, "Now, Merlin, I do declare that thou hast taken from me the entire glory of that battle which I have lately fought. For what credit may there be to any knight who fights his enemy by means of enchantment such as thou tellest me of? And, indeed, I am minded to take this glorious sword back to that magic lake and to cast it therein where it belongeth; for I believe that a knight should fight by means of his own strength, and not by means of magic."
Score! King Arthur isn't a cheat afterall! I must say Arthur's response made me grin. Certainly he is no coward.
But wait, he keeps the sheath in the end. Wha?
"My Lord," said Merlin, "assuredly thou art entirely right in what thou holdest. But thou must bear in mind that thou art not as an ordinary errant knight, but that thou art a King, and that thy life belongeth not unto thee, but unto thy people. Accordingly thou hast no right to imperil it, but shouldst do all that lieth in thy power for to preserve it. Wherefore thou shouldst keep that sword so that it may safeguard thy life."
Ah, the wise Merlin speaks. Surely his powers lie in sagacity rather than magic. Very truly he reminds the great king that his life does not belong solely to himself, but that he must first think of the good of his people before he throws himself into danger. He reminds King Arthur of restraint, and self control; imperiling his own life, no matter how gloriously, will do the people he's sworn to protect no benefit at all. Thus, he says, "keep that sword."
You're up, Arthur.
Then King Arthur meditated that saying for a long while in silence; and when he spake it was in this wise: "Merlin, thou art right in what thou sayest, and, for the sake of my people, I will keep both Excalibur for to fight for them, and likewise his sheath for to preserve my life for their sake. Ne'theless, I will never use him again saving in serious battle." And King Arthur held to that saying, so that thereafter he did no battle in sport excepting with lance and a-horseback.
[All exerpts taken from http://www.2020site.org/kingarthur/calibur.html]
Well, what better reply could you ask for? Arthur keeps Excalibur, the life guarding sheath, and his courageous and noble character all together. He withstands my scrutiny, and I am most satisfied. I may yet revisit his legend in another area sometime. We'll see how he holds up then, but for now, King Arthur requires no remolding, for him in his legend has yet to disappoint.