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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Illustration by Gustave Doré for Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King

Camelot is the most famous fictional castle associated with the legendary King Arthur. Later romance depicts it as the fantastic capital of Arthur's realm, from which he fought many of the battles that made up his life. However, it is absent from the early material, and its location, if it even existed, is unknown. The name's derivation is also unknown, though it is similar enough to other Iron Age and Romano-British place names (such as Camulodunum) to suggest some historicity, though it would have little resemblance to its presentation in later literature.

After an archaeological dig at Windsor Castle in 2005, it was speculated that the large round building that was found could have been Camelot.

The castle is mentioned for the first time in Chrétien de Troyes' poem Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, dating to the 1170s. It is mentioned in passing, and is not described:

Upon a certain Ascension Day King Arthur had come from Caerleon, and had held a very magnificent court at Camelot as was fitting on such a day. (Vv. 31-32.)

Nothing in Chrétien's poem suggests the level of importance Camelot would have in later romances. For Chrétien, Arthur's chief court was in Caerleon in Wales; this was the king's primary base in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and most subsequent literature. It is not until the 13th century French prose romances, including the Lancelot-Grail and the Post-Vulgate Cycle, that Camelot began to supersede Caerleon, and even then, many descriptive details applied to Camelot derive from Geoffrey's earlier grand depiction of the Welsh town. In the 15th century Thomas Malory created the image of Camelot most familiar to English speakers in his Le Morte d'Arthur. He firmly identifies Camelot with Winchester, an identification that remained popular over the centuries, though it was rejected by Malory's own editor, William Caxton. Camelot is believed to be at the west coast of Wales. (read more . . . )

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Sir Galahad is a knight of King Arthur's Round Table and one of the three achievers of the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend. He is the bastard son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine of Carbonek, and is renowned for his gallantry and purity. He is perhaps the knightly embodiment of Jesus in the Arthurian legends. He first appears in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, and his story is taken up in later works such as the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.

Galahad's conception comes about when Elaine, daughter of the Grail King Pelles, uses magic to trick Lancelot into thinking she is Guinevere. They sleep together, but on discovering what has transpired, Lancelot abandons Elaine and returns to Arthur's court. Galahad is placed in the care of his great aunt, the abbess at a nunnery, and is raised there. "Galahad" was Lancelot's original name, but it had been changed when he was a child. Merlin prophesies that Galahad would surpass his father in valor and be successful in his search for the Holy Grail. It is also interesting to note that Galahad's maternal grandfather Pelles is generally considered to be a descendant of Joseph of Arimathea's brother-in-law Bran (whose line was entrusted with the grail by Joseph), making him matrilineally Jewish. (read more . . . )


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