Sunday, May 15, 2005

Review: The Mystery of King Arthur

The Mystery of King Arthur

King Arthur, the Round Table, Camelot, Lancelot, Gwinivere, Mordred, Excalibur, Merlin, etc ... you know the story, probably. But, did it really happen? And if so, where? And can we find any evidence in the historical records?

The King Arthur story comes to us as fables from the mists of history. The thing is, it's tantalizingly true, yet there isn't much in the way of historical proof any of it happened.

That's what this book sets out to explore. As it does, the book touches on quite a bit of the ancient history of England.

The only factual evidence of a King named Arthur is from the "Easter Annals", that's stored in the British Museum. There are two entries naming Arthur, one of which named Mordred. The dates are from approximately 500 AD.

However, the mythical evidence is far-ranging. Authors throughout the ages have written about the Arthurian legend, and the legend has grown with each one.

For example, Camelot, Arthurs capital city, was first mentioned by the 12th century author Chretien de Troyes. This book explains it is most likely a French corruption of Camalodunum, the Roman name for Colchester.

Mabinogion, The (Penguin Classics)One thing that's always been clear to me is the story must stem from Wales. This has to do with the etymology of Guinevere, because it is really an anglicization of the Welsh name Gwenhwyfar. This is also something the book goes into, especially as the Mabinogion contains a couple stories mentioning a great warrior named Arthur along with a few elements of the legend.

This is an excellent book in which to explore the Arthurian Legend.