Academic journal article Mythlore

Arthurian Figures of History and Legend: A Biographical Dictionary

Academic journal article Mythlore

Arthurian Figures of History and Legend: A Biographical Dictionary

Article excerpt

ARTHURIAN FIGURES OF HISTORY AND LEGEND: A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY. Frank D. Reno. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. viii + 264 pp., pbk. ISBN 978-0-7864-4420-5. $39.95.

PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE MATTER OF BRITAIN, especially from the standpoint of history and the possibility of a historical Arthur, will find much to engage them in this book. Two caveats at the outset will keep them from feeling disappointed.

First, though the book's title proclaims its interest in figures of history and legend, the author is much more interested in history and deals with legend mainly as it is related to history. The entry on Taliessin, for example, concerns itself almost entirely with whether or not the Bard actually existed and has not a single word about Charles Williams's use of the character--an omission that will loom particularly large for students of the Inklings (223-4). That omission is even more telling in the light of the fact that other modern re-tellers of the Arthur story, even more modern and less significant, are discussed--Marion Zimmer Bradley, for example (184).

Second, the author has a particular historical thesis that he wants to push: that "misinformation has distorted British history of the fifth century by ignoring a bona fide Arthur of the second century and not crediting a great king of the fifth century [Ambrosius Aurelianus] who was conflated with Arthur" (1). …

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