Le Morte d'Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory and Its Sources

By Vida D. Scudder | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE MERLIN ROMANCES

I

THE action of the Grand San Graal closes six centuries more or less before the opening of the Arthurian story proper. The romances partially incorporated in the earlier parts of Malory Morte are those bearing the name of the enchanter Merlin. These romances narrate the birth and youth of Arthur, his coming to the throne, his wooing and wedding of Guenevere, or Gonnore. They carry the action forward through three campaigns, against the hostile "kings" of Britain, against the Saxons, against the Romans, and they stop with the record of the birth of Lancelot. The account is founded on the pseudo-historians, especially on Geoffrey; it amplifies his material past recognition, but covers the same ground, up to the few pages which present the final tragedy. For Geoffrey passes at once from the Roman wars to his conclusion, giving no hint of that long development of chivalry in its glory with which later romance was to be mainly concerned, and for which the Merlin prepares the way. By Malory's time, the political and patriotic interest had passed into the background, and he compressed the long Merlin romances into the comparative brevity of his first four books, in order to hasten onward to present

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