I am EXTREMELY disappointed with your Durendal-model broadsword, fashioned for me by your apprentice a fortnight past. Your advertising suggests that this model will “Cleave thine enemies in twain!” and I will “Never be outdueled again!” Not only was my enemy left in one piece, but the sword’s “balanced cutting edge” and “Lancelot-model haft” both failed me at a crucial moment. So instead of standing gloriously on the field of battle as the blood of mine enemies flowed as a river around me, I was left holding part of a handle with half a blade wobbling in a tree trunk 10 paces behind me. Luckily, Sir Harold was doubled over in laughter and I was able to beat a hasty, if red-face retreat.
I was led to believe that this sword would “put an end to my search for that perfect blade,” as your crier throatily warbled at me outside the tavern. Instead, here I am ready to go crusading in a month, and I’m out 12 gold pieces and have no sword. How many infidels am I meant to slaughter with a handle and a prayer? I demand restitution. Normally, I would challenge you to a duel, but I can’t even do that. Don’t give me any malarky about your apprentice being nine, either. If he’s old enough to work a bellows, he’s old enough to craft a bit of steel into a killing machine.
In any case, I think it’s only fair that you replace my faulty blade with an Excalibur model. Maybe you should throw in some new crossbow bolts as well. Otherwise, I will have to report you to Sir Humphrey and Sir Sledgehammer, who live at the end of my arms and are very interested in jousting with your face.
Yeoman Frederick de Simpleton
Though no record exists, Simpleton was likely not amused when he received a reply–now in our archives–from the blacksmith, explaining that the sword had done exactly as promised–by distracting Simpleton’s enemy with its shoddy workmanship, the sword had allowed Simpleton to “cleave his enemy in twain.”
All the remains of Simpleton’s second letter to the blacksmith is the phrase “I know you are, but what am I?”
While on his crusade, it is believed that Simpleton introduced the phrase “I know you are, but what am I?” to the Middle East, where it continues to cause unnecessary strife and bloodshed today.
As for the blacksmith’s 9-year-old apprentice, Al, he abandoned the blacksmith trade in his mid-40s, decided to become a comedian and died almost immediately of plague.