Who was King Arthur? Despite, or perhaps because of, so many authors’ accounts of King Arthur, it is impossible to discern which Arthur is the real Arthur, or if in fact there is one at all. Some works are considered historical, and some literature, though this distinction is hardly credible since it is based on the author’s societal position during his lifetime. The Authors were rarely specific about Arthur’s life: most did not discuss the time or place of Arthur’s reign. Therefore, much of our information is not factual. With that in mind, Here are the accounts of some of the more Prominent contributors to the Arthurian Myth.
Historia Brittonum Nennius Nennius wrote his histories in Bangor in the 9th century. He was the first to write about King Arthur and focused mainly on his battles. His writings are important because, while they may not be entirely true, they Allow us to place Arthur’s story in a verifiable time in history. He mentions Arthur’s battles in the midst of other historical battles with which we are familiar. It is probable, though, that Nennius was writing about a man who is not the Arthur with whom we are most familiar.
Arthur of Britain Geoffrey of Monmouth Geoffrey’s account of Arthur is included in his History of the Kings of Britain (12th century), and is considered historical. However, this does not make it entirely reliable. He placed Arthur in the 5th century, but incorporated many Welsh legends into his writings and invented many himself. For example, only in his History is Arthur’s sword known as Caliburn and the character of Mordred is his nephew.
The Knight of the Cart Chretien de Troyes Chretien De Troyes was a french writer in the mid-12th century; he was born when Geoffrey of Monmouth was published. His literature can be held accountable for the introduction of Lancelot, Camelot, and the Holy Grail into Arthurian Legend. His stories did not focus directly on Arthur, but used his court as a backdrop. The Knight of the Cart tells the story of Lancelot’s rescue of Guinevere from Melegeant. He tells nothing of Merlin, Excalibur, or any of the knights of the Round Table.
Joseph d’Arimathia Merlin Robert de Boron Robert De Boron lived in Burgundy and wrote his Poems in 1180. His works are considered to be literature as well. He elaborates on the presence of the Holy Grail, but Arthur is hardly mentioned. At the time He was writing, The supposed bones of the real Arthur and Guinevere were found at Glastonbury. This refuted the belief that Glastonbury was previously Avalon, the burial site of the Holy grail, because Arthur never found the Grail.
The Vulgate Cycle various authors The Vulgate Cycle is a medieval collection of eight volumes telling the most detailed story of Arthur. This account involved every central character found in all Arthurian literature, including Nimue, Merlin’s true love. It defines Lancelot’s and Guinevere’s affair as the central cause for the breakdown of Arthur’s Round Table. This text adopts much of its plot from Robert De Boron and Chretien De Troyes.
The Death of Arthur Sir Thomas Malory Sir Thomas Malory wrote during the reign of King Henry V (to whom Malory’s Arthur looks very similar). He places Arthur’s Court in Winchester, where Arthur is the reigning leader of all men. The title of his book is misleading, and was given by a mistaken editor at the printing press. In his later works, Lancelot becomes the dynamic protagonist of Malory’s stories. In fact, he was the Hero of his own novel, called The Tale of Sir Lancelot Du Lake.
The Coming Of Arthur Alfred Lord Tennyson Tennyson wrote a series of poems and novelettes about most of the characters found throughout Arthurian history, focusing on no one in particular. His book The Coming of Arthur focuses on Arthur’s conquests and his marriage to Guinevere, but does not mention Lancelot or Merlin (who appears five poems later).
The Once And Future King The Book of Merlyn T.H. White White’s classic work is a beloved combination of four previous ones: The Sword In The Stone, The Queen Of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle In The Wind. These four stories tell of the King Arthur with which everyone today is most familiar. This story was made into a made-for-tv movie in 1998. T.H. White then continued the story in his Book of Merlyn, which colors and completes Merlin’s life.
Where does History point? Though we don’t know the exact history of Arthur, it is safe to assume that he was a leader forced to defend his land from many different invaders. Geoffrey of Monmouth probably came closest to giving us a reliable history, because He wrote Arthur as a Celtic chieftain fighting the Saxons. This account is likely to be factual because history tells us that after the 5th century, the Celts were forced into Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland by the Saxons.
Will we ever know? Over the years, Arthur’s story has been edited, elaborated, and artistically altered by dozens of authors; It would be impossible today to distill the facts from the fiction. Is there a real man behind the myth? However solid our evidence may be, and whoever claims to know the “Correct” story, we will probably never know the answer to this question. However, there is no doubt that his legacy as a true Mystical hero will endure for generations to come. The End
Bibliography Rise, Brian Edward. Arthurian Legend. Encyclopedia Mythica. April 27, 2004. http://www.pantheon.org/areas/folklore/arthurian http://www.pantheon.org/areas/folklore/arthurian Nennius. Historia Brittonium. April 27, 2004. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/nennius-full.html http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/nennius-full.html Geoffrey of Monmouth. The history of the kings of Britain. Penguin USA: 1977. King Arthur: A Man For the Ages. http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/4186/Arthur/htmlpages/kingarthurfaq5.html http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/4186/Arthur/htmlpages/kingarthurfaq5.html The Legends of King Arthur. San Francisco University. April 22, 2004. http://www2.sfu.ca/archaeology/museum/kingarth/1intro.html The Prose Vulgae Cycle. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. May 1, 2004. http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/middleages/topic_2/vulgate.htm http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/middleages/topic_2/vulgate.htm King Arthur and the Matter of Britain. May 3, 2004. http://www.legends.dm.net/kingarthur/malory.html http://www.legends.dm.net/kingarthur/malory.html By Amelia Taber