Friday, March 23, 2007
King Arthur. Where to start? I think I first became acquainted with the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table at about the time Excalibur was released in 1981. Oh sure, Disney had released The Sword in the Stone back in 1963, but I'm not sure that counts. I haven't seen Excalibur in many years, but I'll never forget the scene when Percival, during his search for the Grail, comes across a number of his fellow Knights hanging dead from a tree, their corpses being picked over by birds. Disney can't compete with the imagery of Excalibur. The story of King Arthur can compete with any soap opera. There's love, lust, betrayal, magic-- you name it. Not only that, but it's the kind of story that can even get historical scholars debating its importance (perhaps Alex can weigh in here). However, from my perspective as simply a fan of sword and sorcery myth, King Arthur looms large as an influence on the genre. Whenever you see or read a story about a young man unaware of his legacy, such as Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter, it's pretty easy to see the just how much these stories take from the King Arthur legend. And though many think that Harry Potter is a direct rip-off of Star Wars, I would argue that Star Wars is sort of a King Arthur-in-space kind of story. Luke Skywalker parallels Arthur in many ways: Luke is raised as a farmer unaware that he is the son of royalty (Queen Amidala in this case), learns of his legacy from Obi-Wan Kenobi--who could be considered a Merlin-type character, and uses a lightsaber-- a sort of space-age Excalibur IMO. You can fill in the blanks with Harry Potter too. And just the sheer volume of literature spawned by the King Arthur story is staggering. I mean, you have everything from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain to The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. There are individual novels about virtually every character from Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot and Guenevere-- and on. This topic is so huge, that I honestly don't know how I can possibly cover it all. In fact, I know I can't. So why don't you tell me what the Arthurian legend means to you. What movies do you think of? What books? What famous stories do you think find their roots in King Arthur?