Adapting the Arthurian Legends for Children: Essays on Arthurian Juvenilia

By Harty, Kevin J. | Arthuriana, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Adapting the Arthurian Legends for Children: Essays on Arthurian Juvenilia


Harty, Kevin J., Arthuriana


BARBARA TEPA LUPACK, ed., Adapting the Arthurian Legends for Children: Essays on Arthurian Juvenilia. Studies in Arthurian and Courtly Cultures. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Pp. xxi, 320. ISBN: 0-4039-6296-0. $55.

The centrality of the Arthurian legend to the proper education and rearing of children, especially boys, has long been recognized. In this excellent collection of essays by diverse hands, Barbara Tepa Lupack, co-author of the definitive 1999 study King Arthur in America, provides the first comprehensive overview of Arthurian juvenilia.

The editor's introduction lays out the plan of the collection, previews its contents, and most interestingly mines the works of modern authors who have written about Arthur to uncover the ways in which Arthurian juvenilia played a role in their own developments first as children and then as writers. Andrew Lynch follows with a detailed discussion of adaptations of Le Morte Darthur from 1485 to the present that were intended for younger readers, or what Lynch calls 'Malory's third tradition.' Lynch notes that 'since the mid-nineteenth century there has been a troubled double apprehension of the Morte: that it is somehow particularly suitable for children yet can only be made so by strenuous adaptation' (1). More recent adaptations aimed at young audiences include, of course, those for screen and television, and Lynch in speculating about the continued popularity of the Morte notes that Malory's third tradition has often been responsible for the continued vitality of the Arthuriad in times where it otherwise went into decline as the subject of works in other genres (38-39). Complementing Lynch's essay about the 'words' that comprise Malory, Judith L. Kellogg follows with an essay on 'Text, Image and Swords of Empowerment in Recent Arthurian Picture Books,' demonstrating how the illustrated Arthurian text 'can be reinterpreted to mirror back a society's varied and changing cultural expectations and concerns' (68-69).

The most popular American Arthurian text remains Twain's Connecticut Yankee. Following up on her earlier publications about film adaptations of Twain's novel for children, Elizabeth S. Sklar notes that the assumption that Twain is 'juvenile fare' is problematic (75). …

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