Portal:King Arthur

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Arthur was a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries AD. . He appears as the ideal of kingship both in war and peace; even in modern times he has been ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Britons of all times. Over time, the popularity of the stories of King Arthur has captured interest far beyond his being the legendary hero of one nation. Countless new legends, stories, revisions, books, and films have been produced in Europe and the United States of America that unabashedly enlarge on and expand the fictional stories of King Arthur.

The scarce historical background to Arthur is found in the works of Nennius and Gildas and in the Annales Cambriae. The legendary Arthur developed initially through the pseudo-history of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh collection of anonymous tales known as the Mabinogion. Chretien de Troyes began the literary tradition of Arthurian romance, which subsequently became the Matter of Britain and one of the principal themes of medieval literature. Medieval Arthurian writing reached its conclusion in Thomas Mallory's comprehensive Morte D'Arthur, published in 1485. Modern interest in Arthur was revived by Tennyson in Idylls of the King, and in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites. Key modern reworkings of the Arthurian legends include Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, T.H. White's The Once and Future King, and Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal.

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The Winchester Round Table

In the legend of King Arthur, the Round Table was a mystical table in Camelot around which King Arthur and his knights sat to discuss matters crucial to the security of the realm. In some versions, the wizard Merlin also has a seat.

The Round Table first appears in Wace's Roman de Brut, though the idea of Arthur surrounding himself with the world's finest warriors dates back to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and the medieval Welsh material such as Culhwch and Olwen and the Triads. The most popular origin story of the table first appears in Robert de Boron's Merlin, and was taken up by the later prose romances. In it, the table was created by Merlin in imitation of Joseph of Arimathea's Grail table; itself an imitation of the table of the Last Supper. In works like the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, the Round Table was created for Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, and was kept by Uther's vassal Leodegrance after his death. When Arthur becomes king, he receives the table as a gift when he marries Leodegrance's daughter Guinevere.

There is no "head of the table" at a round table, and so no one person is at a privileged position. Thus the knights were all peers and there was no "leader" as there were at so many other medieval tables. There are indications of other circular seating arrangements to avoid conflicts among early Celtic groups. However, one could infer importance on the basis of the number of seats each knight was removed from the king. The siège périlleux ("dangerous chair") was reserved to knights of pure heart. (read more . . . )

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Gawain (/ˈɡwɪn/ or /ɡɑːˈwn/), also Gwalchmei, Gawan, Gauvain, Walewein and others, is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development. He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as the greatest knight, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He is almost always portrayed as the son of Arthur's sister Morgause (or Anna) and King Lot of Orkney and Lothian, and his brothers are Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred. In some works he has sisters as well. Gawain is often portrayed as a formidable but brash warrior, fiercely loyal to his king and family. He is a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor, and a consummate ladies' man. In some works, his strength waxes and wanes with the sun; in the most common form of this motif, his might triples by noon, but fades as the sun sets. His knowledge of herbs makes him a great healer, and he is credited with at least three children: Florence, Lovell, and Gingalain, the last of which is also called Libeaus Desconus or Le Bel Inconnu, the Fair Unknown. In later Welsh Arthurian literature, Gawain is considered synonymous with the native champion Gwalchmei.

Gawain is commonly considered identical with the Welsh hero known as Gwalchmei (or Gwalchmai) ap Gwyar, who appears in the Welsh Triads and in Culhwch and Olwen, an Arthurian romance associated with the Mabinogion. His appearance in Culhwch, which probably dates to the 11th century, makes him, like Cai (Kay) and Bedwyr (Bedivere), one of the earliest characters associated with Arthur. Here Gwalchmei, like Gawain, is Arthur's nephew and one of his chief warriors; Arthur sends him and five other champions with the protagonist Culhwch on his journey to find his love Olwen. (read more . . . )


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