The Arthurian Tradition

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Gaul is still held by the Roman Empire, so Arthur's victory leads to a confrontation with Rome. He then hears that his nephew Modredus Mordred has married his wife Guenhuuara Guinevere and seized the throne. Arthur returns to Britain and defeats and kills Modredus on the river Camblam in Cornwall, but he is mortally wounded.

He hands the crown to his kinsman Constantine and is taken to the isle of Avalon to be healed of his wounds, never to be seen again. No one can say how much of this narrative was Geoffrey's own invention.


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He appears to have used the list of Arthur's 12 battles against the Saxons found in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum , along with the battle of Camlann from the Annales Cambriae and the idea that Arthur was still alive. Whether or not Geoffrey drew from other sources, the Historia Regum Britanniae was immensely popular. Well over manuscript copies have survived of his Latin work, and this does not include translations into other languages; [64] around 60 manuscripts are extant containing Welsh-language versions of the Historia , the earliest of which were created in the 13th century.

Scholars have long dismissed the notion that some of these Welsh versions actually underlie Geoffrey's Historia , advanced by antiquarians such Lewis Morris in the 18th century. Many of its elements were borrowed and developed, such as Merlin and the final fate of Arthur, and it provided the historical framework and setting for the romancers' tales of magical adventures. The popularity of Geoffrey's Historia and its other derivative works such as Wace 's Roman de Brut gave rise to significant numbers of new Arthurian works in continental Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, particularly in France.

There is clear evidence that Arthur and Arthurian tales were familiar on the Continent before Geoffrey's work became widely known see for example, the Modena Archivolt , [68] and "Celtic" names and stories not found in Geoffrey's Historia appear in the Arthurian romances. Arthur is very much at the centre of the pre-Galfridian material and in Geoffrey's Historia itself, but he is rapidly sidelined in the romances. He is a great and ferocious warrior in Geoffrey and the earlier materials who laughs as he slaughters witches and giants, and who takes a leading role in all military campaigns.

He simply turns pale and silent when he learns of Lancelot's affair with Guinevere in the Mort Artu , while he is unable to stay awake after a feast and has to retire for a nap in Yvain, the Knight of the Lion. Lacy observes that "his prestige is never—or almost never—compromised by his personal weaknesses… his authority and glory remain intact. However, the most significant for the development of the Arthurian legend are Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart , which introduces Lancelot and his adulterous relationship with Arthur's queen Guinevere, extending and popularising the recurring theme of Arthur as a cuckold, and Perceval, the Story of the Grail , which introduces the Holy Grail and the Fisher King and which again sees Arthur having a much reduced role.

Perceval was particularly popular, although he never finished it; four separate continuations of the poem appeared over the next half century, with the notion of the Grail and its quest being developed by other writers such as Robert de Boron , a fact that helped accelerate the decline of Arthur in continental romance. The most significant of these 13th-century prose romances was the Vulgate Cycle also known as the Lancelot-Grail Cycle , a series of five Middle French prose works written in the first half of that century.

The cycle continued the trend towards reducing the role played by Arthur in his own legend, partly through the introduction of the character of Galahad and an expansion of the role of Merlin. During this period, Arthur was made one of the Nine Worthies , nine exemplars of chivalry: The Worthies were first listed in Jacques de Longuyon 's Voeux du Paon in , and subsequently became a common subject in literature and art.

The development of the medieval Arthurian cycle and the character of the "Arthur of romance" culminated in Le Morte d'Arthur , Thomas Malory 's retelling of the entire legend in a single work in English in the late 15th century. Malory based his book on the previous romance versions, in particular the Vulgate Cycle, and appears to have aimed at creating a comprehensive and authoritative collection of Arthurian stories.

The end of the Middle Ages brought a waning of interest in King Arthur. Malory's English version of the great French romances was popular, but there were increasing attacks upon the truthfulness of the historical framework of the Arthurian romances established since Geoffrey of Monmouth's time, and thus on the legitimacy of the whole Matter of Britain. Humanist scholar Polydore Vergil rejected the claim that Arthur was the ruler of a post-Roman empire as found throughout the post-Galfridian medieval "chronicle tradition", to the horror of Welsh and English antiquarians.

The action is clearly set in Arthurian Britain, but the treatment is humorous and Arthur appears as a primarily comedic version of his romance character. In the early 19th century, medievalism , Romanticism , and the Gothic Revival reawakened interest in Arthur and the medieval romances. A new code of ethics for 19th-century gentlemen was shaped around the chivalric ideals embodied in the "Arthur of romance".

The historical sources

This renewed interest first made itself felt in , when Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur was reprinted for the first time since Tennyson's Arthurian work reached its peak of popularity with Idylls of the King , however, which reworked the entire narrative of Arthur's life for the Victorian era. It was first published in and sold 10, copies within the first week. This interest in the "Arthur of romance" and his associated stories continued through the 19th century and into the 20th, and influenced poets such as William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones.

While Tom maintained his small stature and remained a figure of comic relief, his story now included more elements from the medieval Arthurian romances and Arthur is treated more seriously and historically in these new versions. By the end of the 19th century, it was confined mainly to Pre-Raphaelite imitators, [] and it could not avoid being affected by World War I , which damaged the reputation of chivalry and thus interest in its medieval manifestations and Arthur as chivalric role model.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the influence of the romance tradition of Arthur continued, through novels such as T. Bradley's tale, for example, takes a feminist approach to Arthur and his legend, in contrast to the narratives of Arthur found in medieval materials, [] and American authors often rework the story of Arthur to be more consistent with values such as equality and democracy. The romance Arthur has become popular in film and theatre as well. White's novel was adapted into the Lerner and Loewe stage musical Camelot and Walt Disney 's animated film The Sword in the Stone ; Camelot , with its focus on the love of Lancelot and Guinevere and the cuckolding of Arthur, was itself made into a film of the same name in Re-tellings and re-imaginings of the romance tradition are not the only important aspect of the modern legend of King Arthur.

Attempts to portray Arthur as a genuine historical figure of c. As Taylor and Brewer have noted, this return to the medieval "chronicle tradition" of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Historia Brittonum is a recent trend which became dominant in Arthurian literature in the years following the outbreak of the Second World War , when Arthur's legendary resistance to Germanic enemies struck a chord in Britain. Arthur has also been used as a model for modern-day behaviour. In the s, the Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table was formed in Britain to promote Christian ideals and Arthurian notions of medieval chivalry.

Lacy has observed, "The popular notion of Arthur appears to be limited, not surprisingly, to a few motifs and names, but there can be no doubt of the extent to which a legend born many centuries ago is profoundly embedded in modern culture at every level.

Arthurian legend

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see King Arthur disambiguation. For other uses, see Arthur Pendragon disambiguation. Historicity of King Arthur. List of works based on Arthurian legends. Y Gododdin cannot be dated precisely; it describes 6th-century events and contains 9th- or 10th-century spelling, but the surviving copy is from the 13th-century. See Rahtz and Carey On his possessions and wife, see also Ford See Haycock , pp. On the Glastonbury tale and its Otherworldly antecedents, see Sims-Williams , pp.

Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l'Ouest, , , pp. See further, Roberts b and Roberts See List of books about King Arthur. Barber, Richard , King Arthur: Hero and Legend , Woodbridge, UK: Barber, Richard , The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief , London: Lancelot en prose [ French MS A Tragedy , London: Bromwich, Rachel , Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Welsh Triads , Cardiff: A General Survey", in Grout, P. Boydell and Brewer, pp. University of Wales Press, pp. Bromwich, Rachel; Evans, D. Simon , Culhwch and Olwen. Jane , Arthurian Fictions: Re-reading the Vulgate Cycle , Columbus: A Story from Clonmacnoise?

Celtic Studies Publications, pp. The Battle of the Books", Arthurian Interpretations A Summary Catalogue of the Manuscripts , Cambridge: History and Legend", History , 62 Texts and Sources , Cambridge: Green, Thomas b , Concepts of Arthur , Stroud: Jones, Gwyn; Jones, Thomas, eds. Kibler, William; Carroll, Carleton W.

King Arthur

Arthurian Romances , London: Wyeth , New York: Allowing readers to embark on a pictorial journey into the treasure house of Arthurian lore and legend, this book brings the magical world of Arthur alive. The author shares insights into stories, characters, sources and inner meaning with a look at Merlin, King Arthur in history and myth, the Grail Quest and Arthur in the modern world. By the author of The Elements of the Allowing readers to embark on a pictorial journey into the treasure house of Arthurian lore and legend, this book brings the magical world of Arthur alive.

Hardcover , 96 pages. Published November 1st by Element Books first published Merlin , King Arthur. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Arthurian Tradition , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Arthurian Tradition. Lists with This Book.


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This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Sep 20, Arthurianmaiden rated it liked it Shelves: This short arthurian non fiction book left me a bit perplexed. I- I am not sure what to think about it. I liked the small chapters which were quite interesting and well written down, I was quite curious about the "exercise" part. As an atheist scientist I couldn't see much the point of it but they were truly fun, at least some of them. I can't give it full stars because it was really short and the quantity of informations is not very big or innovative. I think that the only chapters I truly found This short arthurian non fiction book left me a bit perplexed.

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I think that the only chapters I truly found interesting and where I could read new informations were the one about the women and the one about the Holy Grail. Also I wasn't particularly fond of deductions introduced as "it must have certainly be" without actually a motivation. They were not explained so I only have the word of the author to trust for this "most certainly" origin of the character or tradition.

I'd maybe recommend this book to people that are more interested in a generic knowledge about arthuriana and these specific themes Round Table, Arthur, Merlin, women as goddesses, Grail, Lancelot and Tristan, Avalon, Celtic underworld. Nov 25, Al Gritten rated it liked it. This is a very readable overview of the Arthur of history and of legend by a well-written and world renowned scholar of Arthurian legend. He begins with the historical Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, and Lancelot and then adds the early pagan legends that developed around them, and then explores the means by which these early legends were later Christianized.

He explores not just the people but also the legends around Camelot, the Grail, and Avalon.

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He looks at some of the potential spiritual signifi This is a very readable overview of the Arthur of history and of legend by a well-written and world renowned scholar of Arthurian legend. He looks at some of the potential spiritual significance of the legends for both the early pagan faith and for the Christian who embraces the romance of Arthur and the knights of the Round Table.

Apr 07, Roger rated it liked it. This made for interesting reading but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And as much as I might like it, I do not think Arthur is really waiting to spring back to life in our hour of maximum peril. Gorgeous illustrations, semi questionable text. Was he the war leader of a Celtic tribe? The last bastion of Roman "civilization" left behind to defend Britain against the invading Saxons? Was he real or just legend? How does Merlin and the Holy Grail fit into this legend? John Matthews offers a brief and informative look at the legend of King Arthur and how many streams of myth, legend and history fed into his current incarnation.

Aug 02, Maureen Hickey rated it it was ok. I was hoping to learn more about the Arthurian legends I hold so dear, but there was nothing I didn't already know. And also the narrator sounded like he truly believed in the legends and encouraged all of us to go on "The Quest" for the Holy Grail.

Guide to the classics: the Arthurian legend

I honestly don't know if he was being serious or not. Mar 06, Monique rated it liked it. Pretty interesting survey of Arthurian traditions.