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Ministerul Educaiei Naionale i Cercetrii tiinifice

Colegiul Naional ,,Petru Rare Suceava


Prof. Coordonator,
Postolache Dana


cl. a XII-a E

Mai 2016

Table of Contents
I. Motivation
II. Content
Historical Arthur
Legendary Arthur
Arthurian Items
III. Conclusion
IV. Bibliography

I. Motivation
Myths and legends have always fascinated me and
Britain can be seen as having two kinds of geography: the
outer, visible one with hills, valleys, trees, rivers, and the
inner, mysterious, myth-haunted one which consists of
places that are often no more than names such as
Camelot or Badon. Rivers of ink have been spilled by
various writers in order to identify these places, many of
them remaining undiscovered for the simple reason that
they were never a part of this world at all, they were only
myth and legend. This is the reason why I chose to write
about a well-known legendary hero, King Arthur.

III. Content
a) Historical Arthur
King Arthur is the figure at the heart of
the Arthurian legends. He is said to be the
son of Uther Pendragon and Igraine of
Cornwall. Arthur is a near mythic figure in
Celtic stories such as Culhwch andOlwen.
In early Latin chronicles he is presented as
a military leader, the dux bellorum. In later
romance he is presented as a king and
One of the questions that has occupied
those interested in King Arthur is whether
or not he is a historical figure. The debate
has raged since the Renaissance when Arthur's historicity was vigorously
defended, partly because the Tudor monarchs traced their lineage to Arthur
and used that connection as a justification for their reign. Modern
scholarship has generally assumed that there was some actual person at
the heart of the legends, though not of course a king with a band of knights
in shining armor--though O.J. Padel in "The Nature of Arthur" argues that
"historical attributes of just the kind that we find attached to Arthur can be
associated with a figure who was not historical to start with."
If there is a historical basis to the character, it is clear that he would have
gained fame as a warrior battling the Germanic invaders of the late fifth and
early sixth centuries. Since there is no conclusive evidence for or against
Arthur's historicity, the debate will continue. But what can not be denied is
the influence of the figure of Arthur on literature, art, music, and society
from the Middle Ages to the present. Though there have been numerous

historical novels that try to put Arthur into a sixth-century setting, it is the
legendary figure of the late Middle Ages who has most captured the
It is such a figure, the designer of an order of the best knights in the
world, that figures in the major versions of the legend from Malory to
Tennyson to T. H. White. Central to the myth is the downfall of Arthur's
kingdom. It is undermined in the chronicle tradition by the treachery of
Mordred. In the romance tradition that treachery is made possible because
of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere.

b) Legendary Arthur
The name Arthur may be (and according to K. H. Jackson certainly is) a
form of Artorius, a Roman gens name, but, according to J. D. Bruce, it is
possibly of Celtic origin, coming from artos viros (bear man) - see
Welsh arth gwyr (T. R. Davies). Bruce also suggests the possibility of a
connection with Irish art (stone).
An outline of the hero's life is given by Geoffrey of Monmouth (twelfth
century) in his Historia Regum Brittaniae - History of the Kings of Britain.
Just how much of this life was Geoffrey's invention and how much was
culled from traditional material is uncertain. He tells us that King Arthur was
the son of Uther and
defeated the barbarians in
a dozen battles.
Subsequently, he
conquered a wide empire
and eventually went to war
with the Romans. He
returned home on learning
that his nephew Mordred
had raised the standard of
rebellion and taken
Guinevere, the queen.
After landing, his final
battle took place.
The saga built up over
the centuries and Celtic
traditions of Arthur reached the Continent via Brittany. Malory's Le Morte
D'Arthur would become what many considered the standard 'history' of
Arthur. In this, we are told of Arthur's conception when Uther approached
Igraine who was made, by Merlin's sorcery, to resemble her husband. The
child was given to Ector to be raised in secret. After Uther's death there

was no king ruling all England. Merlin had placed a sword in a stone,
saying that whoever drew it out would be king.
Arthur did so and Merlin had him crowned. This led to a rebellion be
eleven rulers which Arthur put down. He married Guinevere whose father
gave him the Round Table as a dowry; it became the place where his
knights sat, to avoid quarrels over precedence. A magnificent reign
followed, Arthur's court becoming the focus for many heroes. In the war
against the Romans, Arthur defeated the Emperor Lucius and became
emperor himself. However, his most illustrious knight, Lancelot, became
enamoured of Guinevere. The Quest for the Holy Grial began and
Lancelot's intrigue with the Queen came to light.
Lancelot fled and Guinevere was sentenced to death. Lancelot rescued
her and took her to him realm. This led Arthur to crossing the channel and
making war on his former knight. While away from Britain, he left Mordred
in charge. Mordred rebelled and Arthur returned to quell him. This led to
Arthur's last battle on Salisbury Plain, where he slew Mordred, but was
himself gravely wounded. Arthur was then carried off in a barge, saying he
was heading for the vale of Avalon. Some said he never died, but would
one day return. However, his grave was supposedly discovered at
Glastonbury in the reign of Henry II (1154-89).


Arthurian Items
There were several objects that
played an important role in the stories
and legends of King Arthur and the
Knights of the Round Table. The most
obvious was the Round Table which
was given to Arthur as Guinevere's
dowry when they were married. The
Table became the place where the
Knights gathered and symbolized
equality, unity, and oneness.
There was also Excalibur, the beautiful, magical sword that was given to
Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. Excalibur was extremely powerful and at
the Last Battle of Camlann, Arthur had Bedivere throw Excalibur back into
the lake from whence it came. Finally, there was the Holy Grail. Much of
Arthurian Tradition hinges on the Quest for the Grail.


full stories


concerning King Arthur and his exploits appear to be the little known Welsh
tales of "Culhwch and Olwen" and the "Dream of Rhonabwy". Though
dating from before the 11th century, these two stories became a late
attachment to a collection of Welsh mythological tales taken from the 14th
century White Book of Rhydderch and Red Book of Hergest. Together, they
are known as the "Mabinogion": an introduction for aspiring poets.
Though the stories have a mythological slant, a certain amount of bardic
poetic license is to be expected. Their background, however, is clearly an
unfamiliar Dark Age society that gives us some idea of what the realArthur
was probably like.
The much-maligned Geoffrey of Monmouth, Archdeacon of Monmouth
and later Bishop of St. Asaphs, first popularized King Arthur's story, around
1136, in his "History of the Kings of Britain". Though he was writing some
six hundred years after Arthur's death, there is no reason to suppose that
Geoffrey's history was "made up...from an inordinate love of lying" as both
contemporary and modern historians almost universally insist. Geoffrey
claimed he had taken most of his information from an earlier British source
(he referred to it as "a certain, very ancient book written in the British
language"; ed.), unknown to us today.
The early portion of his history clearly relates the mythology of the Celtic
peoples and the stories of their gods, whom his source had turned into
early Kings: Bladud, Leir, Belenus, Brennius and so on. Later in his

account, however, he turns to real history. From the

time of Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain in 55 bc,
which both Geoffrey and the great man (ie. Caesar),
himself, relate at great length, we can no longer be
sure that the Archdeacon is reciting mere legend.
Much of his information has corroborative historical
sources like this. Who is to say that everything he
tells us, from then on, is not pure fact? Furthermore,
Geoffrey was the only source to hail the existence of
King Tenvantius of Britain, until modern
archaeologists began finding Iron Age coins bearing
his name: "Tasciovantus". What other gems of
Geoffrey's history have been dismissed by today's historians?
It was the French medieval poet, Chrtien de Troyes, however who, not
long after Geoffrey, introduced us to most of the characters and tales that
we now think of as an integral part of the Arthurian story. He specialized in
tales of Arthurian courtly love and thus brought us: Erec &
Enid(1160), Lancelot (c.1162), Cligs (1164), Yvain (c.1170) and the Count
of the Grail (also known as Perceval) (1180). He transformed the names of
Geoffrey's characters from Welsh to the medieval French used today.
It was Chrtien and those who followed him who distorted the Arthurian
story, so that the true historical Arthur became lost in an amalgam of Celtic
myth and literary fantasy. For example, neither Lancelot nor the Holy Grail
were part of the Arthurian legend before Chrtien came along. Both do
have origins in early Celtic myth, but there is little justification for including
them in Arthur's story.
During the early 13th century, the anonymous Vulgate Cycle further
embellished the Arthurian stories. This collection of romantic prose was
apparently put together by Cistercian clerics between 1215 and 1235, some
say at the instigation of their founder, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The vast
work consists of the Prose Lancelot, Queste del Sainte Graal, Estoire del

Sainte Graal, Mort Artu and Vulgate Merlin. It is particularly noted for
introducing the idea that Mordred was the incestuous son of King Arthur.
Sir Thomas Malory's 15th century work, "Le Morte d'Arthur" is, perhaps,
better known than Geoffrey or Chrtien. He took their stories and retold
them with an epic unity, creating the Romantic Age of Chivalry. With one
stroke of his pen, he transformed Arthur's Court from Dark Age obscurity to
the height of medieval pageantry. Being written in English and printed by
William Caxton, "Le Morte d'Arthur" was instantly available to the masses,
and it remains highly popular, even today, as a classic work of literature.
Malory's work, however, is just that: a work of literature. There is little
history left amongst his pages.
Arthur's modern popularity owes much to his re-emergence during the
Victorian Age at the hands of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His huge poetic elegy
entitled "Idylls of the King" led to a resurgence in interest in this early
monarch, as reflected in much of the pre-Raphlite art of the time. The
fascination is still going strong today. However, modern Arthurian students
have become much more critical of the romantic picture woven by many of
these literary greats. Nowadays, we tend to be much more interested in the
real Arthur, drawing upon the Mabinogion, Geoffrey and beyond, to
examine historical sources that may just show us a glimpse of the truth
behind this strangely compelling character.

The Legend of King Arthur is one of the most important
myths in European history. It evolved from a British king who
fought against invading hordes, to the fabled stories of King
Arthur and The Knights of The Round Table, full of adventure,
magic and love. But the true value of the legend is its ability to
be a window for us into Medieval times and see their ideas and

values. King Arthur the legend and the man have both shaped
and helped pass down the history of Britain throughout the ages.

IV. Bibliography
Historia Brittonum, by Nennius
De Excidio Britanniae, by Gildas