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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Some of the Works Which Inspired Otter

image of Camelot from claricemoran.wikispaces.com

My brother-in-law, Chris, emailed to tell me how much he'd enjoyed reading Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. Among other things, he said, "It is a wonderfully told story in a way that kids can really hear it - clear action, descriptions, themes, the 'small person's' perspective, et al."

Chris also posed some questions which other readers might have so I thought I'd address them via the blog. He skipped King Arthur lore as a kid so he wondered if the characters were mine or historical. In a nutshell, the people are taken from Arthurian legend while the mice are my creations. Interestingly enough, because so much has been written about King Arthur and company, I felt freer to write my own interpretations. I stuck to some basic ideas - Arthur is raised by Sir Ector along with Kay, who is Ector's biological son. Arthur doesn't know his real father is King Uther although Merlin is well aware of Arthur's true parentage. Arthur does become king by pulling a sword from a stone. The circumstances of him needing to find a sword for Kay in the jousting match sticks to the traditional stories as well.

The tales of Arthur are generally much bawdier - the equivalent of R-rated movies. I was largely motivated to write this story because I couldn't find kid-appropriate versions of the Arthur tales. Also, many of the stories focus on the quests of various knights and very little on Arthur himself.

Chris also asked how much research I did. I've read many King Arthur books over the years, but here are some of the most notable. My introduction to King Arthur came at the hands of John Steinbeck and The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights in 8th grade. That book was largely a retelling of what is probably considered the definitive version of Arthur - Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. I went on to read Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave and sequels which told Merlin's story. I read T.H. White's The Once and Future King, which served as the basis for the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone and the famed musical Camelot.

When I set about writing Otter and Arthur, I rewatched classic movies like Excalibur and the others mentioned. I reread Steinbeck, Malory, and White. In fact, Arthurian fanatics will note Otter meets a band of mice named after Malory and White as well as Geoffrey "Monmouse." His name is taken from Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote the classic Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136) which chronicles the Kings of Briton. Sharp eyes will pick up other character names taken from authors and characters of Arthurian legend.

I also watched a slew of documentaries and hit the Internet for research into King Arthur characters and tales. There's no shortage of material! I loved it, though. It is hard to say what has fascinated me through the years about King Arthur, but I hope I have brought that passion to my own retelling of the Arthurian legend.

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