Books: Brush Up on Your Arthurian Legends

Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), September 21, 2008 | Go to article overview

Books: Brush Up on Your Arthurian Legends


Byline: by Lorne Jackson

HE'S the finest Arthur English fiction ever produced.

No, I'm not talking about Arfur Daily.

The greatest of the greats was King Arthur - the big cahuna of the Round Table.

You can't get more English than this mighty, mythological monarch.

Or can you?

The Welsh claim Arthur as their own, while many early versions of the Arthurian tales were 13th century romances from... France.

This autumn the BBC is broadcasting Merlin, a new take on the legend, starring Arthur's magical mate.

Knowing the Blatantly Bias Corporation, it will undoubtedly be packed with finger-wagging messages about the evils of Western imperialism and the wonders of multiculturalism.

Which is why I won't be tuning in.

Instead, I'll be browsing through the cream of Arthurian fiction on my shelves.

Here's the niftiest novels about the Knightly crew.

LE MORTE D'ARTHUR by Thomas Malory *****

ARTHUR was the poster boy for chivalry in the Middle Ages.

Yet, ironically, the principle author of Arthurian mythology in the Medieval era was a dodgy jail-bird from the West Midlands.

Not much is known about Sir Thomas Malory. What is on record is mostly bad.

Probably the lord of the manor of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire, he turned to a life of heiness lawlessness, which included cattle rustling and rape.

Not surprisingly, he ended up in prison.

After twice escaping, he was banged-up for good.

And it was good - for literature lovers.

Because while incarcerated, he wrote the magnificent Le Morte d'Aarthur.

An abbreviation of the French texts, supplemented by English ones, along with a pinch of Malory's own creative flair, this version of the legend influenced everything that came after... including Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Excels like Excalibur. …

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