Chances are even if you haven’t seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you’ve heard of a killer white rabbit or seen allusions to it in other movies or video games. In a continuous effort to find the holy grail, Arthur and his men run into the Enchanter–Tim the Enchanter. After a lot of explosions, he explains he knows where the last holiest grail was, being the Caerbannog cave. However, there is a catch: there’s a vicious monster at its opening.After traveling to the cave, the knights’ ‘horses’ became spooked, leaving them to approach on foot. Hiding behind some rocks, the group waits nervously for the monster. Dozens of ones of the fallen men before them are scattered at the opening. But an innocent white rabbit scurries out leaving the knights to mock Tim, but Tim stands his ground insisting it’s dangerous. The rabbit peers at them menacingly, waiting for their approach.
Bors decides to go after it, just to have his head bit clean off by the rabbit (literally a complete chop) which no one but Tim expected. The knights panic and Tim mocks “I warned you, but did you listen to me? Oh, no, you knew it all, didn’t you? Oh, it’s just a harmless little bunny, isn’t it? Well, it’s always the same.” Arthur and his men, panicking, shush him but charge anyway. In the attack, the rabbit viciously kills Gawain and Ector. After retreating the knights try and figure out what will kill it. Queue the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.The hand grenade is brought over by three monks, chanting “Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem” which is a Latin funeral rite, translating as “Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest.” The third carries a thurible, also known as a censer, a religious incense burner carried in liturgies.
If the hand grenade looks familiar, you’d be correct in recognizing it. It’s a parody of a Globus Cruciger. It looks like a sphere with a cross on top, known to represent the lord’s authority over the world. This symbolism can be seen in quite a few places such as artworks and coins. It’s also a symbol in alchemy for antimony, a metalloid.
As the grenade is handed over, Arthur asks how it works, so the monks read the book of Armaments:
“And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, ‘O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that, with it, Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits in Thy mercy.’ And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals and fruit bats and large chu–
(Maynard asks him to “skip ahead, brother”)
And the Lord spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.”
The men say “amen” and Arthur throws it on the count of 5, technically. He counts “1, 2, 5” before Galahad’s correction, then he says ‘three!’ and throws it at the rabbit, killing it.
Fun fact: the Caerbannog cave is a real place. In Scotland, at Perth and Kinross the Tomnadashan mine resides as a common tourist attraction for Monty Python fans (or fans of historical mines and caves, but it really is all fans in search of the rabbit).
The Tomnadashsan mine was built in the 18th century by the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, John Campbell. He was obsessed with finding precious minerals such as copper, gold, and sulfur. He even tried expanding it at one point with the help of 16 men. However, it was an unsuccessful venture. Though it’s not for sure, it’s thought that Lord Breadalbane’s death caused the mine to close.
If you ever try to find it, know it’s notoriously hard to find. On the 25th anniversary, stars Michael Palin and Terry Jones went to revisit the site and ended up not being able to find it. However, there are plenty of guides online to help find your way as well as Google Maps coordinates. The main landmarks seem to be a wooden fence with a gate that leads to hills and rocky ledges, and once you find it there should be a tree that seems to be ‘sprouting’ out of the cave.Spelunking sites advise not to explore abandoned mines due to safety concerns, but some seem to agree that this cave isn’t harmful to explore. It’s still not a good idea to do unless you’re trained, but a quick peek inside with a flashlight is harmless. This cave is still open to the public, so there are no issues getting to it, as long as you can find it. At the site, inside and around the cave you’ll find plush white rabbits and plastic body parts left by fans.