Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

January 5, 2017

The King Arthur Myth

Filed under: Myths — Frank Fiore @ 3:15 PM

One of the greatest myths of all time happens to be KING ARTHUR. While we spend more and more time thinking about the conspiracies, and myths happening today. This myth still fascinates even though it took place many hundreds of years ago. The question is… do you believe in King Arthur?

Is He A King?

Arthur, sometimes known as ‘the king that was and the king that shall be’, is recognised all over the world as one of the most famous characters of myth and legend. Yet, if he existed at all, he would not have been a king, but the commander of an elite army of fighting men. Furthermore, he would have lived more than 500 years before medieval legends suggest. All that is known, with even the least degree of certainty, is that a man named Arthur, or Arturus, led a band of heroic warriors who spearheaded the resistance of Britons against the invading Saxons, Jutes, and others from the north of Europe, sometime in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. He was certainly a warrior.

The Reality of the Round Table?

The Round Table is the centerpiece of the Arthurian world. Per the 13th-century poet Layamon, Arthur ordered the table to be built for him by a famous Cornish carpenter, who somehow made the table capable of seating 1,600 men, yet easily portable to wherever Arthur set up his mobile base of operations. Is the 1,600 number an exaggeration?

Other stories suggest it was Merlin, the king’s magician, who made the table – “round” he said, “in the likeness of the world” – and who sent out a call to the bravest and truest knights to join a great fellowship whose task was to care for the disenfranchised, and who would do no harm to anyone who did not deserve it.

Lancelot and Guinevere

Love stories actually feature a great deal in the Arthurian world. Tristan and Isolde, for example, best known these days from Wagner’s 1859 opera that retold their story, were famous doomed lovers. But another story, originating in France, became one of the best known of the Arthurian tales: the love story of Lancelot and Guinevere.

The 12th-century poet Chrétien de Troyes gave us an account of their romance in his Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart. No stories before this feature Lancelot, so we must assume that Chrétien invented him. Lancelot became known as the greatest knight of the Round Table and Arthur’s most trusted ally, but it was his illicit love for Queen Guinevere that made him famous.

Merlin?

Merlin’s origins are almost as difficult to establish as Arthur’s. A collection of poems, magical and mystical in nature, is attributed to a princely bard named Myrddin, whose British name was changed because of its unfortunate similarity to merde (excrement) in French. The 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, who included Arthur in his History of the Kings of Britain (1138), also wrote a Life of Merlin (c1150), in which a sixth-century prince goes mad after seeing his nephews killed in battle and who hides in the forest, telling stories to a pet pig. Geoffrey clearly considered this was the same Merlin as the character included in his later History of the Kings of Britain.

Will Arthur Return?

Belief in Arthur’s expected return to his country was kept alive in stories for many years by the people of Britain. Arthur’s bones were supposedly found at Glastonbury Abbey in 1191, though this was nothing more than a fabrication designed to quell the belief that Arthur would return to expel the invading Normans. Nevertheless, some bones were indeed interred in a black marble tomb in 1278 at the expense of Edward I.

And if you want to see an action packed version of conspiracy theories, check out my three-book series – The Chronicles of Jermey Nash.

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