There are countless versions of the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Most English versions are based on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, but where did these tales originate, and what different interpretations are there today? This essay seeks to examine the roots and different renditions of the various legends circulating today. The first section deals with the origins of the legend. The second section speculates on who the "real" King Arthur could have been. A comparison of several different versions, and suggestions of why they differ are given in the third section, and the conclusion presents an analysis on the ambiguity of the legend.
The first question is, when and where did these tales originate? It is said that the earliest stories concerning King Arthur are the Welsh tales "Culhwch and Olwen" and "Dream of Rhonabwy" dating from before the 1lth century (Ford web page).
Around 1139 Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote "Historia Regum Britanniae" (History of the Kings of Britain) which 'glorified Arthur and made him an international warlord' (Green web page). There seems to be much debate over whether Geoffrey made these stories up or whether he took most of his information from an earlier British source unknown to us as he claims. It cannot be denied, however, that regardless of their historical credibility, it was because of them that the name of Arthur, strictly regional until then, spread to and inspired people all over the world.
The French medieval poet, Chretien de Troys, brought most of the characters and stories we know today to the legend at around 1160-90. He transformed the names of Geoffrey's charact...
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...hat it is the fact that nothing can be concluded that appeals to us and draws so many people into the enchantment of this legend. The room left for imagination is what made King Arthur and his knights immortal
-Britannia's website on King Arthur. Includes a timeline, an interview with Geoffrey Ashe, chronology, biography on characters, and much more.
-David Nash Ford s website on King Arthur. Includes a detailed research on the roots of the legend, along with speculations on the identity of the king. Sympathetic to Geoffrey of Monmouth.
-Thomas Green's website on King Arthur. Explores various aspects of the Arthurian legend and literature. Includes various theories on characters.
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