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King Arthur, Arthurian Legends, & The Holy Grail


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#1 maikeru

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 08:52 PM

I know there's quite a few of us who are interested in fantasy, science fiction, and history here on the forums, and as I was starting to immerse myself in the King Arthur mythos and works again (Le Morte D'Arthur, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights retold by John Steinbeck, and the books by T.H. White), I thought Hypography would be the perfect place to discuss the subject. Though we live in a modern time when myths and legends fade from memory, what surprises me is how persistent the stories and legends surrounding King Arthur remain, ever alive and vibrant and colorful, the source for an innumerable number of movies, plays, books, and scholarly and historical studies. There is no end to people's fascination with King Arthur, Guinevere, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table.

I remember I first encountered King Arthur in the Disney animation "The Sword in the Stone," which was loosely based on T.H. White's works. Over the next several years, my general interests in European and world history led me to read Le Morte D'Arthur when I was a teenager. I read it once, from cover to cover, though I didn't understand all of it at that time. Since then, I also read John Steinbeck's novelistic retelling of the Le Morte, have watched a few movies based on the stories (Excalibur, for example), and seen its influence in modern fantasy. Besides Tolkien, much of modern fantasy in books and movies owe their heritage to Arthurian mythology.

If you have an interest in King Arthur, any of the stories or works created by Arthurian authors and "chroniclers," or the history behind the mythos, please share it here. Part of the reason why I am so interested in it right now is that I feel there is something very powerful and human at the core of the stories, though I am not quite sure what it is--that is, why are they so popular and why have they lasted so long? There is something there that has given these stories meaning and relevance to people's lives for over a thousand years.

#2 LaurieAG

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 09:07 PM

If you have an interest in King Arthur, any of the stories or works created by Arthurian authors and "chroniclers," or the history behind the mythos, please share it here. Part of the reason why I am so interested in it right now is that I feel there is something very powerful and human at the core of the stories, though I am not quite sure what it is--that is, why are they so popular and why have they lasted so long? There is something there that has given these stories meaning and relevance to people's lives for over a thousand years.


Hello Maikeru,

Have you read 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'?

It's a bit different to many of the other tales because the original copy was written in Welsh (anonomously) circa 1400.

#3 CraigD

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 09:28 AM

Saying I have an interest in the history and mythos surrounding King Arthur is an understatement beyond my ability to briefly describe!

I was born in 1960. My first memorable encounter with the mythos was the 1967 multiple-Oscar-winning musical "Camelot". As a result, my childhood was spent imagining Arthur as a entirely historical (as it would be many years before I clearly distinguished historical fiction from historic fact) 15th Century king of England. Among my most treasured childhood toys was a 12” articulated plastic doll that could be dressed entirely in snap-together pieces of plastic 15th century plate armor, each with its name printed on the inside, a same-scale plastic horse with small wheels in it hooves, also with a full set of snap-together plastic armor (almost certainly from the 1968 Marx Noble Knight line), and a pair of corded remote control vehicles that looked like horses, on which a pair of lance-clutching knights could be mounted on spring-loaded mechanisms that ejected them when a lance stuck their shield (or when they stuck a rough spot on the floor, or for no apparent reason :hal_skeleton: )

In my teens and later, I read a lot of fiction and history related to Arthur, from the traditional (eg: Mallory and White) to some truly bizarre works. I can’t recall the title and author, but one novel involved a clubbed-footed, psychopathic Arthur manipulated by a scheming charlatan Merlin, thwarted by an Irish mercenary and his Welsh witch companion!

Historically, we know that the Arthur legend is almost certainly derived from an amalgamation of dark-age British and European warlords spanning centuries, and the classic “Death of Arthur/Camelot” cannon (The drawing of Excalibur from a stone or anvil, the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle, adversaries Mordred and Morgana, etc.) , on which the novel “The Once and Future King”, and loosly derived movies such as “Camelot” and “The Sword in the Stone”, etc. are based, is a modern dramatic invention. The afactuality of the cannon is, IMHO, of almost no consequence to its power or popularity – it is a class of stories so compelling that history must be adapted to fit it, not vice versa.

Attempting to provide a recommended reading list would be a novel-length undertaking, I fear, so I’ll just toss out one that I believe stands out as managing to adhere loosely to the cannon, while being as historically accurate as any fiction author has yet, in my experience, achieved: Steven Baxter’s 2003 novel “Coalescent”. It’s 5th Century authenticity is especially remarkable, as its present-day story is wildly fabulous. As with nearly all of Baxter’s work, I highly recommend this novel – though, for people confining their reading to only the Arthurian, only this one of his novels. It’s one of the few novels touching on Arthur from the exclusive perspective of Guinevere - though a very different character than the traditional one.

#4 gubbyrichie

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 06:08 AM

Hi All, I too share your interest in matters Arthurian, particularly in the stories of Perceval. I have tried to analyse one of them called "The High History of the Holy Grail" as translated by Sebastian Evans in the 1890s. I have approached this from a symbolic perspective using my limited understanding of Jungian psychology. It seems to me that essentially it is a story of self-exploration, about gaining self-knowledge. Perceval is the hero that does this and achieves salvation. Arthur, Gawain and Lancelot all illustrate various difficulties that hinder the process. The process appears to be mediated by the maiden the mother and the crone, who are the three aspects of the pagan goddess. However, my feeling is that these symbols are used to represent the divine within rather than something pagan. My paper on this is called "The Yonic Symbol, the grail and a Templar Secret", its on Scribd and is the first item returned in a google search of the title. I'd be very pleased to hear from anyone on this subject even if you think my views are rubbish - just say why. Cheers, gubbyrihie

#5 gurocat

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 06:34 AM

Have you read the Welsh Arthurian sources? The Mabinogion and Y Gododdin are both available in online editions. See in particular "Culhwch and Olwen" and "The Dream of Rhonabwy", both from the Mabinogion, for an early image of Arthur somewhat at odds with later Chivalric images.