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Why Monty Python and the Holy Grail Used Coconuts Instead of Real Horses

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is known for its knights, fights and coconut horses, but the latter was as financial a decision as it was a funny one.

One of the funniest movies of all time is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Featuring laughs on a Biblical scale, the movie is now a pop-culture classic that’s well-known across several generations. The humor stems from just how ridiculous the movie is, all while taking itself completely seriously as if it wasn’t a huge farce.

One of these jokes involves the Knights of the Round Table and their noble steeds, or rather, the conspicuous lack thereof. These horses are followed by sound effects further denoting their equine status, making the joke all the funnier. Believe it or not, however, this wasn’t an example of great comedy writing but rather a serious budgetary restriction. Here’s how Monty Python and the Holy Grail didn’t horse around when it came to its cheapest, funniest joke.

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The Holy Grail is a cackle-worthy comedy about the cup of Christ, with Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table seeking the eponymous goblet. Venturing forth to find the Holy Grail is no easy feat, meaning that the knights logically stay off of their own feet. Instead, they “ride horses,” but in a way that’s hilariously fake.

In the place of actual horses, the knights simply trot about as if they’re riding invisible equines. This looks completely ridiculous, especially since, with their armored regalia, the knights look otherwise convincing. To complete the “illusion,” clopping sound effects are heard to accompany the horses’ paths. Of course, these aren’t made by the treading of a horse’s feet but by the clanging of coconuts together. The silly sound effect is one of the movie’s most well-known jokes, but it’s actually as pragmatic as it is comedic, making it more than just a weird bit of British wit.

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The fake horses and the coconut cleats were not included in Monty Python and the Holy Grail simply to derive a few chuckles from the audience. In actuality, it was a budgetary reason, as the movie couldn’t afford real horses. As explained by John Cleese, Michael Palin came up with the idea of subbing in the real thing with coconut-derived sounds, creating a funny way to save money.

Actual trained horses and the tricks/stunts they’re used for can be very expensive to use in film, and The Holy Grail was no big-budget feature. The movie was made on $400,000, which it made back several times over with its $5,000,000 box office haul. Nevertheless, the budget likely would have shot up tremendously if the filmmakers did indeed try to bring in authentic equines. Cleese himself pointed out how this was a great example of necessity being the mother of invention, with the result being an uproarious addition to the movie’s humor through incredibly practical special effects. The Knights of the Round Table may not have found the Grail in the end, but the filmmakers certainly found a funny way around the high cost of horses.

Timothy Blake Donohoo is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing.

A professional freelance writer and marketing expert, he’s written marketing copy and retail listings for companies such as Viatek.

In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, watching documentaries and catching up on the latest Vaporwave and Electro-Swing musical releases.

Where Are the Horses In Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Monty Python’s Horse Sound Effects Were a Cost-Saving Measure

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