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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The historical basis of King Arthur is a source of considerable debate among historians. The King Arthur of Arthurian legend appears in many legends but it has not been decisively established whether his origin was entirely mythical or whether he was based on one or more historical figures.

A popular view holds that Arthur was a real person. By most theories, and in line with the traditional cycle of legends, he was a Romano-British leader fighting against the invading Anglo-Saxons some time between the late 5th century and early 6th century. Archaeological studies show that during Arthur's alleged lifetime, the Anglo-Saxon expansions do seem to have been halted for a whole generation. If he existed, his power base would probably have been in the Celtic areas of Wales, Cornwall and the West Country, the Brythonic 'Old North' (covering modern northern England and southern Scotland) or possibly Brittany. However, controversy over the centre of his supposed power and the extent and kind of power he would have wielded continues to this day.

There are only three early sources that mention Arthur. The earliest, by date of composition, is a British poem, "Gododdin", which was probably composed around the year 600. It refers to a warrior who "glutted black ravens [i.e. killed many men] on the rampart of the stronghold, though he was no Arthur". The earliest surviving manuscript of this poem dates from about the 11th century, however, so it is possible that this line is a later addition.

The next reference comes from the Historia Brittonum, usually attributed to Nennius, a Welsh ecclesiastic who was probably active in the early ninth century. Nennius lists a dozen battles fought by Arthur, and gives him the title of "dux bellorum", which can be translated as "war commander". Nennius also says that Arthur fought "alongside the King of the Britons", rather than saying that Arthur was himself king. One of the battles Nennius lists appears to be the same as a great British victory mentioned by Gildas in an earlier history, the battle of Mons Badonicus, though Gildas does not give the name Arthur. (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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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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