Last Friday, I watched A Knight’s Tale a humorous (especially in the character of  Geoffrey Chaucer) film which demonstrates that human beings are in control of their own destinies and can change the rigid structures they create to put people into fixed categories.

The film begins with a rugby match. The players are young soldiers who have enlisted in the army.  The rugby game is a simulation of war.  Though it is rough and people get hurt, it is fun and enjoyable.  Then suddenly there is the announcement of war against the Mahdi and his followers in Sudan and these young men are about to be thrust into the reality of war.  All the soldiers, still thinking of war as a game, are jubilant except for Harry, who enlisted simply to please his father, a high-ranking official in the army.  Harry suddenly becomes acutely aware that war means killing and being killed and he resigns his commission.  His best friends regard his action as an indication of cowardice and send him four white feathers. A white feather was a symbol of cowardice.

As Harry assumes the identity of an Arab, he sees the war from the “enemy” point of view.  He rides with the “enemy” but he is really caught between the two sides and that makes it impossible for him to do what a soldier does – kill.  And in the big battle, he sets about saving the friends who sent him the white feathers.  The only time he kills is in self-defence.

Harry is from the real world and vulnerable.  In the war situation, he is tested and tried and develops strength of character and the will to survive.  He understands now from experience that war is not a romantic adventure in which courage and cowardice are attitudes that can be symbolised by such things as white feathers.  In reality, courage develops through the way one acts in difficult situations.  And Harry, through his actions, advocates peace and friendship in the midst of war.  It takes the greatest courage to go against tradition.