The truths and legends about King Arthur
by Alairic Seruthsson
Page 1 of 2What makes the legends of King Arthur so popular? Why has
the tale of an ancient Briton chieftain become a classic of literature?
Because, besides having all the elements of a good tale: history,
blood-and-guts battle scenes, romance, and chivalry, there is something for
everyone. The Arthurian Legend as we know it today has been passed down
through many historians and storytellers, and each has left their mark. The
tale has been shaped by Welsh bards, Norman minstrels, British and French
monks, and poets and historians through the ages. Each culture that has
helped make the story of King Arthur the classic of literature it is today
has a myth that resembles a facet of the Legend. The history of many
cultures affects the story.
Perhaps the most influential contributor to the Arthurian Legend has been
the Catholic Church. The first historical records of a real Arthur were
kept by Welsh Monks. This record book was called the "Easter Annals," or
"Analles Cambriae." These records were made during the years 447-957 A.D.,
and were used by the monks to calculate the date of Easter, comparing dates
to their current events. The Easter Annals tell of the "Battle of Badon, in
which Arthur carried the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and
three nights on his shoulders, and the Britons were the victors."(3) The
only other mention of Arthur in these records was in AD 537: "The strife of
Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut perished." (3) The Christians of
Britain in this time period were missionaries and monks attempting to gain
followers for their faith. If the common people believed one of their
heroes was of the Christian faith, it would make the missionaries’ job so
much easier, because most people through the ages would follow the example
of heroes they worshiped.
There were many miracles that occurred in the Legends of King
Arthur. When Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, he performed a miracle.
These miracles may have been added by the influence of Christianity. One
of the requirements of becoming a Christian saint is that a person must
perform miracles. However, Christianity probably was inspired by the
popularity of men who committed supernatural actions.
The King Arthur stories of today are saturated with pious Christianity.
Arthur and his knights swear their oaths by the Virgin Mary, they
are granted visions by Jesus Christ, and regularly encounter saints in the
courses of their quests. The most famous Arthurian quest is the Quest for
the Holy Grail, the cup supposed to have been used by Christ at the Last
Supper, and to have held His blood and sweat. The Holy Grail was believed
to have been brought to Britain in 63 A.D., by Joseph of Arimathea.
Joseph landed at a point in what is now England, where he
founded Glastonbury Cathedral. The monks of Glastonbury later claimed to
have the bones of Arthur and Guenivere, but most believers in the stories
say that could not be true, as the wounded Arthur was taken to the Isle of
Avalon. The Isle of Avalon was believed to be the island of Eternal Youth.
It was here that Arthur was taken, to join the bodies of all his knights.
There they would sleep until Britain needed them again. Most cultures have
a mythical land like this; a place where one could live forever. The Irish
believed in Tir na n’og, also called the Isle of Youth. Ponce de Leon, the
explorer, discovered Florida while searching for the fabled Fountain of
Youth. The Briton hero, Bran, was said to have been sent, after he was
killed, to a land where men lived forever.Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Alairic Seruthsson, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.