The Legend of King Arthur
We are drawn to the Legend of King Arthur for his goodness in a world filled with violence and warfare. He had at his beck and call a noble band of loyal knights who could also be fierce warriors if the occasion called for it. Among generations of power hungry kings, Arthur stood above as gentle and kind. He was learned in the ways of truth and justice. He searched fearlessly for holy relics. The high ideals associated with him are to be emulated. History or mystery? Was Camelot really a part of Medieval history or was it, like Brigadoon, an ethereal mystery that everyone wants to believe in.
Brigadoon: A Scottish Legend
Brigadoon is a tale of two Americans hunting in Scotland. Suddenly a village no one has ever heard of appears before them. It doesn't appear on the map. A peaceful place - Brigadoon is seen every one hundred years. It has been legendary for centuries reappearing to whoever passes that way. One hunter falls in love and wants to stay. The other urges him to return to New York. While Brigadoon is obviously a fantasy the legend of King Arthur is a dream we fervently wish were true. Though historians now claim he was a mythical figure there is enough truth in his tales to leave room for doubt. We can allow ourselves to believe he was real.
King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table
There was a time when for hundreds of years King Arthur was purported to be a real person. A monk of Welsh descent named Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a book called "The History of the Kings of Britain." It chronicled royalty in Britain, including King Arthur. According to Geoffrey, Arthur lived from sometime in the late fifth century to 542 when he died in battle after being severely wounded. His last battle was against Sir Lancelot, the knight who had a a liaison with Queen Guinevere after which she was condemned to death by burning at the stake. Sir Lancelot rescued her from the fire and in the battle two of Sir Gawain's brothers were slain. King Arthur and Sir Gawain later pursued Lancelot to avenge them. Arthur was horrifically wounded and subsequently died. Geoffrey claimed to have found the facts of Arthurian Legend in an ancient book. The book was never seen by anyone else, either before or after the Monk passed away. Perhaps the book was as mythical as the Legend of King Arthur.
Many conflicting tales are written about the beautiful Queen Guinevere. Her life was filled with manipulation and deception. In one tale she was coerced into an adulterous relationship with Sir Lancelot. In another she was fully responsible for entering into the liaison. In one case she is depicted as an accomplice in Mordred's plot against King Arthur. In a conflicting account she had numerous confrontations with Mordred who was married to her sister. She was abducted several times in addition to the time Mordred kidnapped her. She either died at a convent or at the hand of Sir Lancelot. The stories originating in Scotland have her demise caused by imprisonment by Mordred's henchmen. Her grave at Meigle is still visible to this day. At least it is said to be her grave. There are only two facts about Arthur's Queen Guinevere that aren't contradictory. She was endowed with great beauty and she ruled England at his side. If he existed to rule England that is.
Sir Lancelot is well known but the other knights are not. Nurtured into adulthood by the Lady of the Lake, rescuer of Queen Guinevere from Meliagaunce. He rescued her not once but twice. The second rescue saved her from being burned at the stake to punish her for the adulterous relationship with him.
The Fisher King
The Fisher King entered the stories during the Quest for the Holy Grail. Injured badly and unable to ride after a battle in which his brother was killed, he provided fish for Joseph of Arimathea. For this and his bravery in battle a title was bestowed upon him.
Merlin The Magician
Merlin the Magician was advisor to Arthur. He was a prophet as well as a magician and was involved in the creation of Stonehenge. It is said that he assisted others in transporting the necessary rocks from Scotland to the current location where the great monument stand today.
The Green Knight
Another story stemming from Arthurian legend is that of the Green Knight. He wore garments of green and his skin and beard were tinged with green. He galloped in on a steed which had a green mane and tail. The weapon he carried was a mighty axe. He challenged the Knights of the Round Table to a beheading game. Upon their refusal he called them cowards. Sir Gawain then took the challenge. The goal was to wound
the other with one blow to the neck. Sir Gawain had the first turn. The Green Knight would then return in exactly one year to take his turn.
Sir Gawain's strength was great and with one mighty blow he decapitated the Green Knight. As the spectators waited for his body to fall to the ground, he leaned down, retrieved his severed head and rode off shouting "I will be back in one year's time."
The sword with magical powers, Excalibur, was presented to King Arthur by Vivienne who was known as the Lady of the Lake. Merlin the Magician worried that Arthur would fall in battle and asked for her intervention. Merlin mentored the Lady teaching her his magical skills. She eventually surpassed his skills and encased him in Glass Tower. Leaving him behind, she took his position at King Arthur's side. After the Battle of Camlann, she threw Excalibur into the misty waters and escorted the mortally wounded King Arthur to the island of Avalon. The tale continues with Morgan le Fay and her eight sisters ruling Avalon. Each sister was a healer and Avalon was an Elysium for King Arthur and other mortally wounded heroes.
Guinevere is depicted in a different persona in each tale related in the literature. In one version her adultery lead to the downfall of Camelot. When her relationship with Lancelot is discovered Guinevere is sentenced to burning at the stake as punishment. Sir Lancelot returns just in time to rescue her from the fire. In the melee the two brothers of Sir Gawain are killed. Gawain reacts in a rage and convinces King Arthur to declare war against Sir Lancelot in retaliation. The king places Guinevere in the care of Mordred before riding off to avenge the two brothers of Sir Gawain. Meanwhile Mordred has plans of his own to marry the beautiful Queen and capture Arthur's throne. Perhaps he expected Arthur to fall in battle as he subsequently did. There are myriad plots created and carried out in these twisted stories that comprise the Legend of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table.