The Legend Of King Arthur Essay Research

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The Legend Of King Arthur Essay, Research Paper The Legend of King Arthur - The Origins and Different Interpretations of the Legend Today - There are countless versions of the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Most English versions are based on Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, but where did these tales originate, and what different interpretations are there today? This essay seeks to examine the roots and different renditions of the various legends circulating today. The first section deals with the origins of the legend. The second section speculates on who the “real” King Arthur could have been. A comparison of several different versions, and suggestions of why they differ are given in the third section, and the conclusion presents an

analysis on the ambiguity of the legend. The first question is, when and where did these tales originate? It is said that the earliest stories concerning King Arthur are the Welsh tales “Culhwch and Olwen” and “Dream of Rhonabwy” dating from before the 1lth century (Ford web page). Around 1139 Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote “Historia Regum Britanniae” (History of the Kings of Britain) which ‘glorified Arthur and made him an international warlord’ (Green web page). There seems to be much debate over whether Geoffrey made these stories up or whether he took most of his information from an earlier British source unknown to us as he claims. It cannot be denied, however, that regardless of their historical credibility, it was because of them that the name of Arthur,

strictly regional until then, spread to and inspired people all over the world. The French medieval poet, Chretien de Troys, brought most of the characters and stories we know today to the legend at around 1160-90. He transformed the names of Geoffrey’s characters from Welsh to the medieval French used today, and he was the one who introduced the famous knights, Lancelot, Gawain and Percivale. He was also the first to use the name “Camelot” for Arthur’s headquarters, and it was he who first told us of the Grail, though he didn’t associate any religious meaning to it (It was Robert de Boron who is responsible for transforming the grail into a holy symbol, in 1210). He was “the first to supply the literary form of the romance, to the transmission of the stories of

Arthur.” (Britannia web page) In the early 13th century, the Vulgate Cycle is written, changing the stories from verse to prose. The material begins to take on more historical and religious overtones, and here the idea that Mordred is the incestuous son ofArthur is introduced (David Nash Ford web page). In the 15th century, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte de Arthur is published. It is “the definitive English Athurian romance” (Britannia web page), and “With one stroke of his pen, he transformed Arthur’s Court from Dark Age obscurity to the height of middle age pageantry” (David Nash Ford web page). It is on this book that many of the modern versions are based, but by this time, it is mainly a work of literature, and there is little history left amongst his pages. From

these roots, many famous poets and writers have been inspired. William Blake, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Matthew Arnold Alfred Lord Tennyson, Mark Twain, Thomas Hardy, C.S.Lewis, John Steinbeck, Mary Stuart, and many, many more According to Geoffrey Ashe, the popularity of this legend is due to the fact that the stories “appealed to a wide variety of interests, in an age when there wasn’t much in the way of imaginative fiction,” and that “there was something for everybody”. He also points out that it “embodies the dream of a golden age which is found in many societies and mythologies,” nd that “it’s something we’d like to believe in” (Britannia web page). The number of versions circulating today only goes to show how true this