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King Arthur - how his story grew in the telling

Posted: Sat May 16, 2015 4:06 pm
by lpetrich
Many of us know the story of Arthur Pendragon, former King of Britain around 500 CE. He demonstrated his legitimacy by pulling a sword out of a stone, and he went on to conquer not only Britain but also nearby parts of Continental Europe. He and his friends had lots of colorful adventures, but his empire eventually fell. He is mortally wounded in the process, and he gets sent off to recover at the legendary island of Avalon.

But there is a curious lack of documentation from contemporary outside sources. They are rather limited, but they exist.

Instead, the first reference to him is around 820, in History Brittonum (History of the Britons). Some versions contain a preface by a Welsh cleric named Nennius, but aside from that, its authorship is unknown. Arthur appears as a dux bellorum (military leader) and as a miles (warrior, soldier), and he fights 12 battles. This is followed by several similar sorts of references.

Then another Welsh cleric, Geoffrey of Monmouth, got to work. Around 1136, he wrote Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), and he went into much more detail about Arthur and his associates than previous works had done. The Arthurian legend took pretty much its present form in it, and later writers expanded on it even further. If it is legitimate history, then what sources did Geoffrey have that Nennius didn't?

Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of argument about who the historical King Arthur had been. I've seen several hypotheses, including the hypothesis that he was a myth. But one thing is evident: a historical King Arthur was likely not much like the post-Galfridian Arthur. Galfridian -- from a Latinized version of Geoffrey: Galfridius.

The debate is likely how the debate over Jesus Christ's historicity would go if none of the participants had doctrinal commitments that would get in the way. There is no Church of King Arthur, and one can be a good British patriot even if one believes that King Arthur was pure fiction.

Historical basis for King Arthur - Wikipedia

Re: King Arthur - how his story grew in the telling

Posted: Sat May 16, 2015 5:59 pm
by Peter Kirby
Excellent points.

I have had a mind to go through many cases like this--King Arthur, William Tell, Ned Ludd, etc.

A consideration of the general case really should precede a study of the particulars, when approaching a topic as controversial as Jesus. It would help ground the conflicting intuitions of parties, with conflicting interests, in some sort of factual basis. Perhaps then it all could be analyzed and discussed more intelligently. We might even find some kind of "generally applicable rules of thumb" that might either help authenticate or disauthenticate individual figures of history, as figures of history.

Re: King Arthur - how his story grew in the telling

Posted: Sun May 17, 2015 7:44 am
by Clive
In this episode of the series, Wood explores the greatest British myth: the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Traveling round the Celtic world from Cornwall to Wales, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland, Wood uncovers the extraordinary story of how a shadowy Welsh freedom fighter — a Dark Age Che Guevara — became a medieval superman, and finally the model of a Christian hero.

On the way we discover the real stories behind the Round Table, Excalibur, and the Holy Grail itself, the unattainable, mystical cup of Christ which has inspired poets novelists and film makers from the Middle Ages right down to Indiana Jones, Monty Python and The Da Vinci Code. Finally, in an intriguing piece of historical detective work Michael offers us a tantalizing glimpse of a historical Arthur — but in the unlikeliest of places.
Another part of the book done with the TV series has a quote to the effect of being careful about historical cores!

Re: King Arthur - how his story grew in the telling

Posted: Tue May 19, 2015 4:44 pm
by DCHindley
Clive wrote:"We cannot slaughter each other out of the human impasse"
But I will defend to the death your right to do so


Re: King Arthur - how his story grew in the telling

Posted: Fri Oct 30, 2015 11:08 pm
by Japhethite
What do you think about my discovery that the 12 battles of "Arthur" of "Nennius" match the Saxon Shore forts of the Notita Dignitatum (and the Pa Gur battle sites match both), and that the Wonders of Britain match the same sites? (See my 2 papers here .) While it is true that there seems to be alot of growth/embellishment, it is difficult to tell if some things are late additions or from earlier "Welsh" sources. The Modena Archivolt maybe shows Dover (Guinnion/Eidyn). "Arthur" 1 may possibly even be Pelagius in the popes list...? (Arthur 2 (Cadwalon / Cadwaladr) may be Artus in Swedish list and/or Martin in popes list...?) Robin Hood seems to be much more of a growth figure (c 1170 to 1380). There seem quite a few early Christian evidences re Jesus.

Re: King Arthur - how his story grew in the telling

Posted: Fri Oct 30, 2015 11:10 pm
by Japhethite
sorry i forgot to paste in the link to the Arthur papers (it won't let me edit) ... ForumID=14