The story of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Guinevere, and Excalibur are timeless reminders of a world lost in time. Goodreads shows more than 720 assorted novels based on the Arthurian legend, including my own, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides. This doesn’t include a hundred or so plays, operas, comic books, films and television series based on the legend.
The question remains as to why the story of King Arthur still resonates today? Winston Churchill said, “It is all true, or it ought to be; and more and better besides.” That’s how many of us feel when we read or watch something based on the legend of King Arthur. He wasn’t just a story, he was a man who brought us the code of chivalry, united a kingdom and marched toward a new beginning.
There are many things that point toward the fact that King Arthur was a real person, not just a legendary figure. Archeologists recently discovered what they believe is the round table mentioned in the mythos. There is even a website dedicated to listing dozens of artifacts with some history related to the Arthurian legend. And let us not forget that the monks of Glastonbury Abbey are said to have discovered the remains of Arthur and Guinevere in the churchyard of St. Dunstan in Glastonbury.
Many believe in the legend of King Arthur so much that they believe he will one day return to lead England. Thomas Mallory wrote in Le Morte d’Arthur that, “Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesus into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross.” All of this just adds more credence to the mythos of King Arthur.
So what do we know?The first mention of King Arthur is in the History of the Britons, penned in 830, and attributed to an author called Nennius. A more elaborate tale of King Arthur came about in the 11th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth published his book The History of the Kings of Britain. Arthur’s entire life is outlined for the first time in this work, right from his birth at Tintagel, to his death, and the legendary figures of Guinevere and Merlin are introduced.
The consensus is that Arthur probably did exist, either as an individual or a composite of several others. Many of the Dark Age heroes were real men upon whom mythical talent and position were often thrust by storytellers. So there is a possibility that Arthur was a Celtic warrior from which the rest of the mythology was formed.
These are just a few examples of the combination of fact and fiction that molded the legend of King Arthur as we know it today. It is that unknown factor that makes this legend so memorable to many and inspires writers like myself. The legend of King Arthur is just the beginning of a story yet to be told. It is as immortal as the man himself.