King Arthur

Damsels in distress, chivalrous knights, courtly love and romance, magicians and magical swords, friendship and betrayal this is the world or Arthurian legend. He pulled a magical sword from a stone when he was only a boy. He thought all men were equal and created the Knights of the Round Table. Perhaps no other King in literature has been written about more than King Arthur. There have been countless books, poems, songs and films made about and depicting the acts and life of King Arthur. Two films that retell the Arthurian legend are the 1995 medieval film First Knight, starring Sean Connery as King Arthur, Richard Gere as Lancelot and the 1981 epic fantasy film, Excalibur which stars Nigel Terry as Arthur, Nicholas Clay as Lancelot and Cherie Lunghi as Guinevere. Both films are available for viewing in the Chateau De La Mer, Cinema by the Sea movie theater.

Rather than retell the story of Arthur here, we will allow the reader to review literature and films about Arthur on your own. Perhaps the two most common questions often asked about Arthur are:

First, did King Arthur actually live, was he a real man of flesh and blood or is he entirely a character of fiction?

Second, why is the story and legend of Arthur so enduring and what allows it to capture our imagination more than a thousand years after he lived if he lived at all?

In regards to the first question, while there is no doubt much of the story we know today about Arthur is made up fiction, the historical basis for King Arthur has long been debated by scholars. One school of thought, citing entries in the History of the Britons sees Arthur as a genuine historical figure, a Roman-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons sometime in the late 5th to early 6th century. The other text that seems to support the case for Arthur's historical existence is the 10th-century Annales Cambriae, which also link Arthur with the Battle of Badon. The Annales date this battle to 516–518, and also mention the Battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Mordred were both killed, dated to 537–539. These details have often been used to bolster confidence in the account and to confirm that Arthur really did exist.

Some scholars believe that the real King Arthur and that all of the later myths and fictional and romanticized stories are based on is the Roman-British warrior Arturus or Artorius who fought Brittan’s enemies after Brittan was conquered and then later abandoned by the Roman empire. The Roman name of Arturus or Artorius was changed to Arthur down through the centuries. Later myth and legend were added to the deeds of the real Arturus/Artorius to give us the mythical Arthur we all know and love. Other scholars argue that Arthur was originally a fictional hero of folklore or even a half-forgotten Celtic deity who became credited with real deeds in the distant past. Historical documents for the post-Roman period are scarce, so a definitive answer to the question of Arthur's historical existence is unlikely. It seems we will never know for certain of the real origins of King Arthur as so much has been lost through the ages.  But if you are one who believes that where there is smoke there is also fire, then you will believe that the legend of Arthur, King of Camelot are undoubtedly based on the actions and deeds of the real Arthur, the war-lord who protected Brittan from its enemies.

In response to the second question, why is the legend of King Arthur timeless? King Athur is the most legendary icon of medival Brittan. Over the centuries his story has been told and retold. Images of Arthur are on display in the halls of England’s Parliament to this day. While Arthur may not be the perfect man, in the eyes of many he is the perfect king.  Arthurian qualities are too numerous to mention. Arthur is strong, chivalrous, noble, he believes that good will conquer evil and that the strong are made strong so they can protect the weak. Arthur did not seek power out of vanity or vain-glory, but when he had power he used it for good to lift up others. He was a loyal friend, a fair judge, a strong leader and an exemplary example to others. And while Arthur had a tragic end his story is one that will continue to inspire and capture the imaginations of those who come to know Arthur, the once and future king.

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