The Knights of the Round Table were considered the paragons of a certain kind of chivalric virtue throughout the Arthurian legends. While martial prowess was a key component in their reputation, and an important qualification to join the august company, the knights were also supposed to follow a moral code and to conduct themselves in a manner befitting their status as members of King Arthur’s court. Failure to abide by the knights code would bring shame, expulsion, or even death. The greatest of the knights, Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristam, etc are praised just as often for their gallantry, for the chivalry, and for their refusal to unfairly take advantage of others even when doing so would benefit themselves, as they are for their victories in battles or tournaments.
Fred Rogers is considered a paragon of modern virtue. Throughout his life, he championed kindness, understanding, and education in a way few other have. He is nearly universally revered among Americans of a certain generation, and even after his death, he is often quoted, memed, or cited by those who promote the values he has come to represent.
Beyond their status as role models, however, there seems little that connects Sir Lancelot with Mr Rogers beyond the quasi-medieval setting of the Neighborhood of Make-Beleive…or so I thought.
Recently, I’ve been re-reading Le Morte de Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, which is considered by many to be the authoritative text about the Arthurian legends. Currently, I’m in the middle of the 11th book, which tells the tale of Sir Lancelot. The first 3 chapters of that book tell of how, through deceit and and magic, Dame Brisen fools Lancelot into sleeping with Lady Elaine, King Pelles’ daughter, in order to fulfill the prophecy that the child Lancelot would beget of Elaine would be Sir Galahad, the knight destined to find the Sangreal.
I was not thinking of Mr. Rogers when I read this, even when the phrase “Lady Elaine” appeared, until I came across this passage from chapter 3:
The close mention of “lady Elaine” and the phrase “fair child” recalled the character Lady Elaine Fairchilde, the proprietor of the Museum Go Round, and general thorn in the side of King Friday the 13th from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
Did Mr. Rogers have this passage in mind when he named the character? Apparently not. According to the official Mr. Rogers website, Lady Elaine was named after Rogers’ adopted sister, Laney. Still, from now on, in my mind then two will always be connected.
In my own head canon, Lady Elaine, dubbed Fairchilde on account of her famous role in the Arthur Story moves to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to try and start a new life. Her ill-treatment at the hands of her father, King Pelles, has caused he to mistrust all kings, and her role as a pawn of a patriarchal prophecy has caused her to rebel and actively develop her strong, independent, contrarian personality. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.