Other books by Dave Whitaker:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: Historia Regum Britanniae

Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain) sometime between 1135 and 1139. It is, as Wikipedia says, a “pseudohistorical account of British history”beginning with the settlement of Britain and continuing until the Anglo-Saxons assumed control of Britain around the 7th century.

It is significant in Arthurian literature for placing King Arthur in the context of British monarch history. According to Geoffrey, Vortigern conspired with the Saxons to usurp the throne. Aurelius, the rightful heir, wrested back power and was succeeded by his brother, Uther Pendragon, who was the father of King Arthur.

Geoffrey introduced many of the ideas which would become benchmarks for many Arthurian stories to come. He created characters such as Merlin, Uther Pendragon, and Guinevere. He also told stories of Arthur's conception at Tintagel, Excalibur, and the king's final days.

According to Geoffrey, Arthur assumed the throne at age 15 when his father dies. The new king fought a series of twelve battles against the Saxon barbarians, creating an empire including Ireland, Iceland, and the Orkney Islands.

Following twelve years of peace, he conquered Norway, Denmark, and Gaul. As he prepared to march on Rome, Arthur learned that his nephew Mordred, whom he left in charge of Britain, married Guinevere and seized the throne. Arthur returned to Britain and killed Mordred, but was left mortally wounded. He handed the crown to his kinsman Constantine and was taken to the isle of Avalon to be healed, but was never seen again.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: Le Morte d'Arthur

Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was one of the earliest printed books in England and is probably the best-known work of English-language Arthurian literature today. It was originally written as eight books and then published as 21 books by William Caxton in 1485.

Malory likely started work on the project in the early 1450s while he was in prison and completed it by 1470. His aim was to create a comprehensive and authoritative collection of Arthurian stories. To that end, he largely translated the French Vulgate Cycle and compiled them with other Middle English sources.

The original eight books were:
  • Book I: From the Marriage of King Uther unto King Arthur that Reigned After Him and Did Many Battles (Caxton I–IV)
  • Book II: The Noble Tale Between King Arthur and Lucius the Emperor of Rome (Caxton V)
  • Book III: The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot Du Lac (Caxton VI)
  • Book IV: The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney (Caxton VII)
  • Book V: The First and the Second Book of Sir Tristrams de Lione (Caxton VIII–XII)
  • Book VI: The Noble Tale of the Sangreal (Caxton XIII–XVII)
  • Book VII: Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere (Caxton XVIII–XIX)
  • Book VIII: The Death of Arthur (Caxton XX–XXI)