Last time, on The Da Vinci Code, our heroes crawled slowly towards the home of Sir Leigh Teabing, an absurdly named character who managed to be face-clawingly annoying even over an intercom, so just imagine what the fucker is going to be like in person.
Sophie starts to relax a bit as they approach the chateau.
It was a relief to get off the road, and she could think of few safer places to get their feet under them than this private, gated estate owned by a good-natured foreigner.
So good natured he puts the intercom on the wrong side of the gatepost, just to be difficult. So far he sounds like a raging anus to me, but maybe that’s Dan projecting his anglophilia onto Sophie, who doesn’t really have a personality at all, let’s be honest. I know I’ve ragged on Langdon for being a poorly developed character, but Sophie is just as bad. She’s basically a plot device who exists to ask questions and smell nice.
Langdon wraps the box in his tweeds, which Sophie rightly points out is a really shit means of hiding it, but Bob has an answer for everything.
“Teabing never answers his own door; he prefers to make an entrance. I’ll find somewhere inside to stash this before he joins us.”
Holy shit. A semi-colon in the wild. I don’t remember seeing one of those before.
You know a thriller is really exciting when you greet a semi-colon sighting like the Sasquatch just wandered through your kitchen and helped himself to Battenburg cake.
Oh, and happy birthday to the Bluff Creek Bigfoot footage, which turns fifty this year. It’s been fifty years and nobody has filmed Sasquatch footage quite like it since then, possibily because the ape suit disintegrated in an accident in the drycleaners sometime in 1968. I don’t know. I’m just spitballing here. It could be that Sasquatch don’t actually exist, but that’s never stopped people before, like that professor in Idaho who has devoted his entire life to searching for the beastie.
So you see, that does actually happen – academics going peculiar and wasting their credibility on nonsense. Brown’s not completely pissing into the wind here. Unfortunately this would just be a way better book if Teabing were a Sasquatch enthusiast.
Actually everything is better with Sasquatch. It’s just such a great name. Why would you even bother with Bigfoot when you can call them Sasquatch?
Anyway, yeah. This book is not about Sasquatch, because this book hates fun.
Langdon paused. “Actually, I should probably warn you before you meet him. Sir Leigh has a a sense of humour that people often find a bit…strange.”
Strange? Really, Bob? Sophie grew up with Jacques Sauniere, for fuck’s sake. We only met the man for a single chapter but in death he proved himself so exotically, extravagantly weird that even Zaphod Beeblebrox might be moved to raise a lazy eyebrow in his direction. I think she can handle strange.
And I can handle strange, too. I’m just not very good at annoying.
A French butler opens the door, but not before we learn that the door is made from carved oak and cherrywood. As ever in The Da Vinci Code, our main characters’ wood recognition skills are on point.
The butler guided them through a lush marble foyer into an exquisitely adorned drawing room, softly lit by tassel-draped Victorian lamps. The air inside smelled antedeluvian, regal somehow, with traces of pipe tobacco, tea leaves, cooking sherry and the earthen aroma of stone architecture.
Oh, yeah. I’ve heard of that. You can buy it in an aerosol to spray around the place if you’re trying to sell your house to Downton Abbey fans. Also, how is marble lush?
Robert stashes the box under a sofa and then Leigh makes his entrance.
“Sir Robert!” a voice bellowed somewhere behind them. “I see you travel with a maiden.”
Oh God. If he’s going to keep talking like he escaped from the fucking Renn Faire I think I’m going to lose my lunch.
Teabing appears. He wears metal leg braces due to having polio as a child. Like Ian Dury, but less fun. A lot less fun.
Their host arrived at the bottom of the stairs, appearing to Sophie no more like a knight than Sir Elton John.
Yeah, that’s the thing with knights, Sophie. I know the French replaced the whole shebang with the Legion d’Honneur, but British knights are not actually obliged to dress up in fucking armour or something. Also I have difficulty believing anyone who went to Royal Holloway didn’t at some point bump into at least one person with a title. I went to a London university where one of the senior lecturers was an actual Earl, for God’s sake.
Despite the aluminium braces on his legs, he carried himself with a resilient, vertical dignity that seemed more the by-product of noble ancestry than any kind of conscious effort.
I’m not sure if this drooling over the aristocracy is Sophie or Dan, but I’m guessing it’s Dan, since Sophie doesn’t have a consistent enough character to gauge whether she’s impressed by titles or not. I think her entire role in this bit is to be impressed and agog and that’s it. In other words, she’s the WHHHARRRGAAARBL dog of this section. Remember that guy? Yeah, she’s him. And you know what that means.
It means the shithose is about to get turned up to eleven.
Teabing arrived and extended a hand to Langdon. “Robert, you’ve lost weight.”
Langdon grinned. “And you’ve found some.”
Turning now to Sophie, [Teabing] gently took her hand, breathing lightly on her fingers and diverting his eyes. “M’lady.”
Sophie glanced at Langdon, uncertain whether she’d stepped back in time or into a nuthouse.
¿Por qué no los dos?
Jesus. M’lady. Just stick a fedora on this creep and call it done.
Teabing briefly introduces the butler as Remy Legaludec, because that’s probably going to be important at some point, then we get down to the ridiculous reason for this whole silly business. Langdon says he has some information regarding the Grail and says he’s prepared to spill the tea, if Leigh is willing to do so first.
Teabing wagged his finger. “Ever the wily American. A game of quid pro quo. Very well, I am at your service. What is it I can tell you?”
Langdon sighed. “I was hoping you would be kind enough to explain to Ms Neveu the true nature of the Holy Grail.”
Teabing looked stunned. “She doesn’t know?”
Langdon shook his head.
The smile that grew on Teabing’s face was almost obscene. “Robert, you’ve brought me a virgin?”
Ok-ay. If I was Sophie I would be feeling very, very uncomfortable right now. The guy calls you a ‘maiden’, breathes on your fingers and ‘m’lady’s you like a total neckbeard and now appears to be unreasonably invested in your hymen. The creep factor in this scene has just flown off the charts.
Langdon winced, glancing at Sophie. “Virgin is the term Grail enthusiasts use to describe anyone who has never heard the true Grail story.”
Grail enthusiasts need to get some less gross terminology, otherwise they’re going to keep coming across like those swivel eyed fathers from Colorado Springs who take their daughters to Purity Balls. And that’s never a good look.
Teabing asks Sophie how much she knows and she tells him.
“That’s all?” Teabing fired Langdon a scandalous look. “Robert, I thought you were a gentleman. You’ve robbed her of the climax!”
“I know, I thought you and I could…” Langdon apparently decided the unseemly metaphor had gone far enough.
I’m glad somebody has, because this is treading dangerously close to sexual harassment.
Teabing already had Sophie locked in his twinkling gaze. “You are a Grail virgin, my dear. And trust me, you will never forget your first time.”
Okay then. Excuse me. I think I need a sick bucket.
Yes, we’re finally here, folks. We have reached the part where – after several hundred chapters of annoying teasing – we’re about to learn the true nature of the Holy Grail.
Over tea and scones, because Leigh is just that English.
I hate you, Leigh.
“To fully understand the Grail,” Teabing continued, “we must fully understand the Bible. How well do you know the New Testament?”
Sophie shrugged. “Not at all, really. I was brought up by a man who worshipped Leonardo da Vinci.”
Not sure how this would lead to a complete ignorance of the Bible, but this is Sophie we’re talking about. By this point she is an empty vehicle for the mother of all mansplanations.
Leigh picks a Leonardo book from the shelf and goes quotemining with all the depth of an Instagrammer.
“Leonardo’s feelings about the Bible relate directly to the Holy Grail. In fact Da Vinci painted the Holy Grail, which I will show you in a moment, but first we must speak of the Bible.” Teabing smiled. “And everything you need to know about the Bible can be summed up by the great canon doctor Martyn Percy.” Teabing cleared his throat and declared, “The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.”
This is news to our heroine, who – despite an expensive education at one of Britain’s best universities – is surprised to discover that the canon of scripture was not only decided by committee, but also that there were no celestial fax machines at the Council of Nicaea.
Following some grim, tag-teaming smugness from Leigh and Langdon – on the topics of Constantine, Mithras and sun worship – Teabing finally gets to the point, which is that the divinity of Jesus was formally recognised as doctrine at the Council of Nicaea.
Teabing then contends that the church made a deliberate attempt to suppress accounts of Jesus’s mortal life in the interests of making him appear more divine.
“Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike.”
This is – of course – absolute donkey cock. By the time of the Council of Nicaea the church’s picture of Jesus had already evolved into something far more complicated than either/or. “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the father,” – as the Nicene Creed has it. This is the beginning of the complex doctrine we now know as the Holy Trinity, which posits that as well as his Holy Ghostly tendencies, Jesus was not only wholly man but also wholly God. Here was a God you could sell as one who knew what it was to be you, what it was like to suffer the aches and temptations and probably even occasionally the haemorrhoids that attended his fleshly disguise. And suffering? Well, he sort of wrote the book on that one, what with all that unpleasantness at Passover. The early Church fathers knew this was one of the greatest selling points of Christianity; that’s why they weren’t prepared to let the mortal part of Jesus go any time soon.
And as for them embellishing the gospels that made him godlike? Nuh uh. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with the so called Infancy Gospels will know that they feature a far more magical and godlike Jesus than the one whose entire childhood – other than the nativity – passed largely unremarked in the Synoptic gospels and didn’t even feature in the Gospel of John. Yes, Luke has him getting lost into the temple as a precocious child and saying he was not lost but ‘about his father’s business’, but The Gospel of Thomas has child Jesus doing some straight-up infant pagan God shit, including raising the dead, striking people blind and bringing a flock of pottery birds to life. If Leigh is correct, then surely this should have made the cut?
But Leigh isn’t correct, because Leigh – like everyone else in this book – is a bloviating nit.
Having once again asserted that the Church throughout history has suppressed the truth, Leigh then flips to a print of The Last Supper. Because he is terrible, he tells Sophie to close her eyes and play a little game with him. If I were Sophie, I would not do this, but then if I were Sophie I would have made my excuses at the first ‘M’lady’ and gone outside to take my chances with the gendarmes.
Sophie closes her eyes and answers various questions about the painting. What were they eating in the painting? (bread) what were they drinking? (wine), then he asks her how many glasses are on the table.
“One cup,” she said. “The Chalice.” The Cup of Christ. The Holy Grail. “Jesus passed single chalice of wine, just as modern Christians do at communion.”
Teabing sighed. “Open your eyes.”
She did. Teabing was grinning smugly. Sophie looked down at the painting, seeing to her astonishment that everyone at the table had a glass of wine, including Christ.
HEY DID YOU GUESS THAT THE HOLY GRAIL WASN’T A CUP YET?
I may as well confess; I’m actually quite tired by now.
“Not what it is,” Teabing whispered. “But rather who it is. The Holy Grail is not a thing. It is, in fact…a person.”