Ledia Runnels' "World of Fantasy Fiction"

{December 24, 2011}   Legend of King Arthur: a Literary Search
'King Arthur fighting the Saxons' - illustrati...

King Arthur fighting the Saxons

How a tale can become so great as to attain the level of legend is proved in the stories of King Arthur of Camelot. Like all glorious myths of ancient times, this fantasy adventure has sparked the imagination of untold writers since a Celtic warrior named Arthur came onto the scene. This hero is said to have lived somewhere between the late 5th and early 6th century, during the soul-wrenching era known as the Dark Ages. Arthur is named as the key player in bringing peace to war-torn Britain in medieval times.

The first to succumb to the glory of Arthur is 12th century (1129) Welsh cleric, Geoffrey of Monmouth, famous for writing,  Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). Monmouth’s work implies that there once lived a “true” king of Britain named, Arthur.

The next to continue Arthur’s legendary presence is a Norman poet by the name of Wace, (1115-1183). His poem entitled: Roman de Brut or Brut elaborates on King Arthur’s legendary round table.

Between 1170 and 1190 AD, the French poet, Chrétien de Troyes wrote five Arthurian romances. These epic poems broadened the scope of the Arthurian tales by introducing the legends of Lancelot, the Holy Grail and the Fisher King.

The next significant piece of literature to bring the legends another step closer to mythological greatness is the 13th century work known as the Lancelot–Grail, (the Prose Lancelot, the Vulgate Cycle, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle). The author for this work is, to this day, in debate.

The aforementioned work significantly influenced the English writer, Thomas Malory. His Le Morte d’Arthur is written in the late 15th century and helps to solidify the legend of King Arthur to epic proportions.

In 1832 Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during the Victorian era, brings the legend of Camelot to the Victorian era, first with his narrative poem, The Lady of Shallot“. To even greater influence does Tennyson’s book, Idylls of the King catapult the Arthurian Legends to a place of prominence that lingers still in the minds of people everywhere even to modern times.

In 1835 William Wordsworth. an English Romantic poet continues the tradition with “The Egyptian Maid”. This epic poem recalls an allegory concerning the Holy Grail.

Terence Hanbury (T. H.) White, an English author, published the fantasy adventure novel, The Once and Future King  in 1958.  The title for the novel is taken from the Le Morte d’Arthur which stated that this is written upon King Arthur’s tomb.

Avalon, written in 1965 by American author, Anya Seton is another of my personal favorites that takes place years after King Arthur’s glory days. The novel uses the legend of Avalon to an enticing degree.

The Crystal Cave is written in 1970. Taken from the creative “pen” of English author, Mary Stewart, the fantasy adventure is the first in a series of Arthurian novels that tells the early life of Merlin, the famous magician and mentor to King Arthur.

In The Mists of Avalon, written in 1983 by the brilliantly versatile, American fantasy/science fiction writer, Marion Zimmer Bradley, starts a new tradition. In her epic fantasy, she relates the Arthurian legend from the perspective of Morgaine (Morgan Le Fey), the half-sister of Arthur; Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) the adulterous queen to Arthur; Viviane, the high priestess of the enchanted Isle of Avalon; Morgause, the aunt of Morgaine; and Igraine, Arthur’s mother.

For your reading pleasure, I have listed below all web addresses for the earlier works sited in the article, with the exception of the Vulgate Cycle. (I had a difficult time finding the text in whole available for free on the internet. I have instead included a summary breakdown of the writing listed under References). The 20th century novels from White, Stewart, Bradley and Seton, since they are still protected under copyright law, live on the shelves of your local library or book store.

I would love to hear from anyone who has a favorite Arthurian novel to share. If you would like to leave a COMMENT below.

Meanwhile, enjoy the Adventure!

Merlin's Sleep

"Merlin's Sleep" by bill barber via Flickr


History’s Mysteries: The Knights of Camelot (video)

In Search of Myths and Legends –  King Arthur


King Arthur:


Vulgate Cycle:


The Once and Future King:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Once_and_Future_King

The Crystal Cave:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Cave

The Mists of Avalon:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mists_of_Avalon

Avalon (novel):   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon_(novel)

SITED WORKS (Included are links to full text):

Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey Monmouth:


“Roman de Brut” by Wace:


Le Moret d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory:


“The Lady of Shallot” by Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson:


Idylls of the Kingby Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson:


The Egyptian Maid”  by William Wordsworth:


English: King Arthur sculpture, Llangybi Close...

Sculpture of King Arthur


[…] A Literary Search for the Legend of King Arthur (fairytalesbylediar.wordpress.com) […]

[…] A Literary Search for the Legend of King Arthur (fairytalesbylediar.wordpress.com) […]

orples says:

King Arthur was a favorite in our household when my boys were growing up. I need to reintroduce him to my grandchildren, along with the knights of the round table, and the other heroes of that era.

LediaR says:

Have you watched the UK series, “Merlin”. At first I really hated the way they portrayed King Arthur. But then I gave it another chance and was completely hooked. King Arthur has been a favorite of mine since I saw the movie “Camelot” (I was an impressionable 13 year old) and fell completely in love with Richard Harris’ version.

orples says:

No, I have not watched it. I’ve seen it advertized, but I just don’t have time to watch too much T.V. My big thing used to be movies, but I don’t have time for them either anymore. I just try to catch a few shows through the week to relax my mind a little. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, it seems.

LediaR says:

I know what you mean by only so much time.

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