Portal:King Arthur

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Arthur is a fabled British king who figures in many legends. 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 have 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, as the Matter of Britain, 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 Matter of Britain or the Arthurian legend is a name given collectively to the legends that concern the Celtic and legendary history of the British Isles, especially those focused on King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The 12th century French poet Jean Bodel created the name in the following lines of his epic Chanson de Saisnes:

Ne sont que iii matières à nul homme atandant,
De France et de Bretaigne, et de Rome la grant.
(translation: "There are but 3 literary cycles that no one should be without: the matter of France, of Britain, and of great Rome". Jean Bodel, Chanson de Saisnes)

The name distinguishes and relates the Matter of Britain from the mythological themes taken from classical antiquity, the "matter of Rome", and the tales of the paladins of Charlemagne and their wars with the Moors and Saracens, which constituted the "matter of France". While Arthur is the chief subject of the Matter of Britain, other lesser-known legendary history of the British Isles, including the stories of Brutus of Britain, Old King Cole, King Lear, and Gogmagog, is also included in the subjects covered by the Matter of Britain: see King of the Britons.

The legendary history of Britain was created in part to form a body of patriotic myth for the island. Several agendas appear in this body of literature.

The Historia Britonum, the earliest known source of the story of Brutus of Britain, seems to have been devised to create a distinguished genealogy for a number of Welsh princes in the 9th century. Traditionally attributed to Nennius, its actual compiler is unknown; it exists in several recensions. This tale went on to achieve greater currency because its inventor linked Brutus to the diaspora of heroes that followed the Trojan War, and thus provided raw material which later mythographers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, Michael Drayton, and John Milton could draw upon, linking the settlement of the British Isles to the heroic age of Greek literature, for their several and diverse literary purposes. As such, this material could be used for patriotic mythmaking just as Virgil linked the mythical founding of Rome to the Trojan War in The Æneid. Geoffrey of Monmouth also introduced the fanciful claim that the Trinovantes, reported by Tacitus as dwelling in the area of London, had a name he interpreted as Troi-novant, "New Troy". (read more . . . )

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In the Arthurian legend, Sir Lancelot (Lancelot du Lac, also Launcelot) is one of the Knights of the Round Table. In most of the French prose romances and works, he is characterized as the greatest and most trusted of Arthur's knights, and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories – but Arthur's eventual downfall is also brought about in part by Lancelot, whose affair with Arthur's wife Guinevere destroys the unity of Arthur's court.

Lancelot is a popular character, and has been the subject of many poems, stories, plays, and films as a famous figure in the Arthurian cycle of romances. To the great majority of English readers the name of no knight of King Arthur's court is so familiar as is that of Sir Lancelot. The mention of Arthur and the Round Table at once brings him to mind to moderns as the most valiant member of that brotherhood and the secret lover of the Queen. Lancelot, however, is not an original member of the cycle, and the development of his story is still a source of considerable disagreement between scholars.

According to legend Lancelot's father is King Ban of Benoic and his mother's name is Elaine; his illegitimate half-brother is Hector de Maris. Dame Albatross is his aunt, King Bors is his uncle, and Sir Bors and Sir Lionel are his cousins. With the Fisher King's daughter Elaine, he becomes the father of Galahad (in some sources, Galahad is also Lancelot's own baptismal name). (read more . . . )

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Arthurian legend - British traditional history Britons of the Southwest - Knights of the Round Table - Medieval legends - Mythological kings - People in Cornish history - Sub-Roman Britain - Sub-Roman monarchs - Welsh monarchs - Welsh mythology - Celtic people

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