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Arthur and His Legend. Man, Myth, Archetype. Why is Arthur important?. Gave conquered people a hero (6 th -11 th c) warrior chief Forms a cultural identity/common history for England (Anglo-Normans) chivalric king knights 2 nd most referenced character in Western literature.

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arthur and his legend

Arthur and His Legend

Man, Myth, Archetype

why is arthur important
Why is Arthur important?
  • Gave conquered people a hero (6th-11th c)
      • warrior chief
  • Forms a cultural identity/common history for England (Anglo-Normans)
      • chivalric king
      • knights
  • 2nd most referenced character in Western literature
did arthur really exist
Did Arthur really exist?


  • Celtic/Anglo-Saxon Arthur
    • Welsh chieftain
    • warrior in the histories of 500-1100
    • may have really existed – not a king
  • Anglo-Norman Arthur (the one we know)
    • could just be a combination of great leaders
    • Normans add chivalry, romance, quest, love, etc.
    • Norman romances focus more on knights.
important authors
Important Authors

Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain

  • 12th century
  • fictional account
  • collects earlier writings and brings legend to the forefront
  • attracts attention of new generation of writers
  • no stories of knights, just Arthur and warfare
  • introduces Merlin
  • *one of the most influential books of the Middle Ages

Chretien de Troyes, (Cray'te'en day Twa), Lancelot

  • 12th century
  • introduces character of Lancelot
  • romance / single hero adventures

Sir Thomas Malory, (see literature book, page 169), The Death of Arthur

  • 1400's
  • premier Arthurian work
  • combines histories and romances
themes of the legend
Themes of the Legend
  • Love Triangle
    • Copied throughout Western Literature
  • Traitor
    • Judas figure – Mordred
    • Lancelot
  • Grail
    • Cup that Jesus drank out of at the Last Supper
    • Joseph of Arimithea brought grail to England
    • What does the grail represent?
      • Unanswered philosophical / cosmological questions
      • “quest” which requires much of the individual
  • Fall of the central community / end of order
  • Messianic Return
    • “Once and Future King”
  • Arthur
    • wise, generous, magnanimous, trustworthy, loyal, human
    • the ideal Christian hero
    • son of UtherPengragon and Igraine
  • Guinevere – Arthur’s wife
  • Merlin – magician / protector of boy king
  • Sir Galahad
    • illegitimate son of Lancelot and Elaine
    • last descendant of Joseph of Arimethea
    • perfect knight
    • only one to fulfill Grail quest
    • fills Siege Perilous at round table
  • Percival (Perceval)
    • awarded sight of the Holy Grail
    • not an exceptionally bright knight
  • Sir Gawain
    • nephew of Arthur
    • known as “the Courteous”
    • the best of the chivalrous knights
    • (later stories downgrade his importance)
    • was Arthur’s favorite before Lancelot
  • Lancelot – most famous of all knights
    • favorite of Arthur
    • champion and lover of Guinevere
    • fights war with Arthur
    • kills Gawain
    • goes back to England to find Arthur dead, round table dissolved, and Guinevere a nun; becomes a monk himself
    • character was a French creation. Bedivere was Welsh figure
  • Mordred – Arthur’s son / traitor
  • Morgan Le Fay (Morgause) – Arthur’s half-sister
    • enchantress
    • seeks revenge on Arthur
  • Igraine – also known as Ygerna
    • wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall
    • mother of Arthur
  • UtherPendragon
    • in love with Igraine
    • came to Igraine disguised as her husband; thus Arthur was conceived
important places
Important Places
  • Tintagel
    • Igraine
    • place of Arthur’s conception
  • Glastonbury
    • small town in England where Arthur is supposedly buried
    • lies in and around a cluster of hills, the tallest of which is called Tor
  • Avalon
    • island of Celtic mythology
    • supposedly where Arthur is taken after his final battle
    • home of Morgan Le Fay
    • Atlantis
    • Isle of Apples
  • Camelot
important objects
Important Objects
  • Sword in the Stone
    • Arthur’s royalty is revealed to him when he completes this test
    • establishes Arthur as defender of faith and king by divine right
  • Excalibur
    • given to him by the Lady of the Lake
    • in some versions it is the sword he pulls from the stone
  • Round Table
    • Symbol of equality