Portal:King Arthur

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The King Arthur Portal

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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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Illustration by H. J. Lang

The Questing Beast, or the Beast Glatisant (Barking Beast), is a monster from Arthurian legend, the subject of quests by famous knights like King Pellinore, Sir Palamedes, and Sir Percival. The strange creature has the head and neck of a serpent, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion and the feet of a hart. Its name comes from the great noise it emits from its belly, a barking like "thirty couple hounds questing".

The first accounts of the beast are in the Perlesvaus and the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin. The Post-Vulgate's account, which is taken up in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, has the Questing Beast appear to King Arthur after he has had an affair with his sister Morgause and begotten Mordred (they did not know they were related). Arthur sees the beast drinking from a pool just after he wakes from a disturbing dream that foretells Mordred's destruction of the realm; he is then approached by King Pellinore who reveals it is his family quest to hunt the beast. Merlin reveals the Questing Beast had been borne of a human woman, a princess who lusted after her own brother. She slept with a devil who had promised to make the boy love her, but the devil manipulated her into accusing her brother of rape. Their father had him torn apart by dogs, but before he died he prophesied his sister would give birth to an abomination that would make the same sounds as the pack of dogs that killed him. The beast has been taken as a symbol of the incest, violence, and chaos that eventually destroys Arthur's kingdom. (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 . . . )



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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