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The Knights Who Say, "Ni!"

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Uploaded on Dec 7, 2008

The Knights Who Say Ni! are a band of knights from the comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, feared for the manner in which they utter the word "ni" (IPA: /ni/, like knee but clipped short).

The Knights are led by a man who is approximately 12 feet tall with disproportionately short arms and reindeer antlers inserted into his helmet (played by Michael Palin standing on a ladder; the original screenplay suggested that he be played by "Mike standing on John's shoulders"). The other Knights are of normal human dimensions and act as a chorus, only repeating words and phrases that the head Knight has spoken.

"Ni!" is only the most notable of the sacred words which they are assigned to protect; the others being "Peng" and "Neee-wom". All of these words are infamous for the palpable horror and fear they bring about, whether delivered by the Knights or not. According to King Arthur, "Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!"

The Knights demand that King Arthur bring them a shrubbery in order to pass through a patch of woodland which they guard. They require that it must be one that looks nice and not too expensive. As a result, Arthur and his companions return to a nearby village where they purchase a shrubbery from "Roger the Shrubber" (played by Eric Idle). Later, the Knights of Ni become the Knights of an odd string of syllables (although the knights apart from the head knight continue to say 'Ni'). The saying is spelled the following way according to the "script" subtitles available on the collector's edition DVD: "Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing (unintelligible muttering)"!

Because of the challenging pronunciation, King Arthur simply refers to them as "The Knights Who 'Til Recently Said Ni". Originally, the name was to be changed to "the Knights Who Go Ni... Whom... Ping."

Later, the Knights demand that King Arthur get them another shrubbery, and arrange the two shrubberies so that they get a two-level effect ("...with a little path running down the middle"), and to "...cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with... a herring!" Arthur refuses, claiming that such a feat cannot be done, to which the Knights reply "Oh, please?"

The Knights have a weakness in that a number of words, when spoken to them, cause them pain and agony. The only one of these words that is revealed in the film is the word "it". This apparently contradicts the earlier conversation, in which "it" is said, yet the Knights do not appear to be affected.

There was a further scene that was scripted, but was either cut or never filmed. In it, the Knights recovered from having "it" said, and when they hear someone else coming, they decide that they will demand another shrubbery, this time calling themselves the "Knights of Icky- icky- icky- pikang- zoop- boing".

Spamalot

The Knights appear in Spamalot, the 2004 Broadway musical "lovingly ripped off" from the film, with their first scene virtually unchanged. The Knights' new name changes almost nightly, improvised by the actor playing the lead Knight (originally Hank Azaria), but always starting with "Ekke Ekke Ekke F'tang F'tang Olé Biscuitbarrel..." which itself references several famous sketches from Monty Python's Flying Circus, including Election Night Special. In one performance, after the traditional shouting of "Ekke Ekke Ekke F'tang F'tang Olé Biscuitbarrel," the Lead Knight loudly screamed GOAL! for a very long time, before telling the audience the current soccer World Cup score ["It's one-one in the second half!"] and garnering large praise.

King Arthur refers to them as "The artists formerly known as the Knights who say Ni", a reference to Prince. The other major change in the scene is that the renamed Knights not only demand another shrubbery, but also that King Arthur put on a musical and take it to Broadway. King Arthur does attempt to fulfil this quest in the second act until the Lady of the Lake tells him that he is already in a musical—see fourth wall.

The genteel country-house connotations of a shrubbery were exploited by Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974) in the demand of the Knights who say Ni for an instant shrubbery: ARTHUR: O Knights of Ni, you are just and fair, and we will return with a shrubbery. HEAD KNIGHT: One that looks nice. ARTHUR: Of course. HEAD KNIGHT: And not too expensive. ARTHUR: Yes.

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