'Lost' Monty Python and the Holy Grail Sketches Discovered in Michael Palin's Archives
Monty Python and the Holy Grail almost had a different ending. The original sketch, discovered and published by The Times, described an epic, bloody battle that pitted the Camelot knights against French troops, as well as the infamous killer rabbit with “a vicious streak a mile wide.”
This forgotten sketch and two others—in which a Pink Knight and a Wild West bookshop make appearances—were found in boxes of actor Michael Palin’s private archives that had been brought to the British Library in London. According to Vulture, the sketches had been written for Holy Grail but didn’t make the final cut. Palin, a Monty Python member who played the Leader of the Knights Who Say Ni, among other Holy Grail characters, said it was their custom to write more material than was needed.
The 1975 comedy about King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail is famous for its absurd sketches and witty lines, including one of the best insults in movie history—“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.” And although the film features a Black Knight and Green Knight, it nearly had a Pink Knight, too.
In the lost sketch, the Pink Knight demands a smooch from King Arthur, declaring “None shall cross this bridge save he who shall give me a kiss.” The king refuses, and the two men fight it out before falling down together. Seeing this spectacle, a passing monk comments, “You could at least go indoors. You landowners are all the same.”
The other sketch surrounds a news reporter who enters a building that looks like a saloon but is actually “the last bookshop before you get to Mexico.” When he asks if any nearby trading posts sell beer, the bartender replies, “Not since they started specializing in modern European authors.”
As for the ending, the Python troupe decided to cut their proposed battle scene short because it would have been too costly. In fact, the film was so low-budget that the troupe couldn’t afford real horses, which led to the running joke of knights riding on invisible horses and clapping coconut shells together to mimic the sound of hooves clopping. Plus, the unexpected ending they ultimately went with was considered funnier.
These sketches and other highlights of Palin’s archives are currently on public display at the British Library's “Michael Palin: Writer, Actor, Comedian” exhibition.