Welcome to day 11 of the April from A-Z Blogging Challenge and to the letter “K”.
King Arthur is a legendary leader of Britain in the late 5th century, early 6th century. He is said to have defended Britain against Saxon invasion from a castle called Camelot, heading a band of knights who were of the same rank and therefore met around a round table. A lot of Arthur’s story is made up of folk-lore and myths, and much of it is disputed by modern historians. For example, nobody can say for certain where Camelot was situated. There is some thought that it is near the Welsh borders in Somerset, and there is other thought that it is in modern day Glastonbury. There is a burial chamber at Glastonbury Abbey marked as the final resting place of Arthur and his wife Guinevere, but there is no proof that that is actually true.
The first person to write about Arthur was Geoffrey of Monmouthshire in the 12th century. His work “Historia Regum Britanniae” (History of the Kings of Britain) seems to be made up of earlier texts – tales and poems – by the bards and storytellers from Wales and Breton amongst others. Arthur is presented as being a great warrior who defended Britain against both human and supernatural enemies.
What we accept as Arthurian legend today is comprised of a series of retellings and romantic, mythological embellishments on Geoffrey’s story. For example, the Knights of the Round Table, the sword Excalibur, Arthur’s resting place in Avalon, the quest for the Holy Grail, his childhood at Tintagel Castle, his father Uther Pendragon and the wizard Merlin have all come from different sources and have grown from seeds sown by earlier writers.
Arthur and his legends have been of enduring interest throughout the ages, with many books, poems, songs, paintings, plays, comics, TV and films being penned about him. After Thomas Malory wrote “Le Mort d’Arthur” there was a downturn in interest from the 16th century which was renewed and revived in the early 19th century. It came at a time when there was a wider renewal of interest in all things medieval, such as chivalry and romance. Malory’s work inspired Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” in 1832 among other works, and more recently T H White wrote “The Once and Future King” (1958), Disney released an animated telling of the story in “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) and Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote from a feminist perspective in “The Mists of Avalon” (1982).
Even more recently, the comedic musical “Spamalot” gave yet another fresh perspective to the legends and has made sure Arthur and all he represents continues to be embedded in our culture at every level even today.