Friday, March 23, 2007

Arthur

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?

13 comments:

Scotty said...

I love the story of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, whether it be factual documentaries or pure non-fiction. Like you said, SQT, it has all those elements - love, lust, treachery, betrayal, hope.

About the only portrayal I don't like would be the starring Keira Knightley. Don't know why exactly; I just don't, yet.

I especially liked
First Knight, starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere and the one about Excalibur.

There's a few more listed here as well.

If you're looking for some discussion areas on Arthur, this isn't a bad place...

SQT said...

I haven't seen the Keira Knightley movie. I was thinking about making a movie list of films about King Arthur, but I suppose I could always do that later. To be honest, I liked the topic but was feeling a bit lazy today.

I will have to check out the links. Thanks for posting them Scotty.

deslily said...

I really love Excalibur! I watch it every time it comes on.. what a case for that movie!!

I have to say though.. I most like the stories about Merlin more then Arthur.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's a great story; I have the Malory book.

Sarah said...

In a bizarre coincidence, we have Excalibur here from Netflix tonight. Because we realized that, somehow, neither of us have seen it. My personal favorite King Arthur? The Monty Python version, of course.

ShadowFalcon said...

For me its TH White Once and Future king. I did like that Merlin mini series though. Whe I was a historian I alway dreamed of settling the Camelot arguement...

off to dig out my sword

Skittles said...

I agree.. Excaliber was a terrific movie!

Lee said...

I am a huge fan of the Mary Stewart books: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment and The Wicked Day. Have you read them?

You are right. Jerry Springer ain't got nothin on Arthur and Mordred and Guinivere and Lancelot.

Lee said...

Also I just can't help but think of the Arthurian legend whenever I think about the Kennedys.

SQT said...

Lee

I can't believe I haven't read those Mary Stewart books, they sound so good. I'm going to try to hit the bookstore today and see if I can find some of them.

Lee said...

If you lived close, I'd lend them to you...they're awesome. You;ve inspired me to read them again. Please let me know what you think....

SQT said...

I will. I picked up the Crystal Cave yesterday-- gotta love the used book store-- so I'll read it soon.

Samantha said...

I'm a medieval geek, and I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Despite the fact that I've fully immersed myself in academia related to Arthur, my two touchstone texts are still Disney's Sword in the Stone and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon . I can find the Arthur element in just about anything, and endlessly annoy my friends and family with my Arthurian interpretations of pop culture.