Arthurian Legend - Essay

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Arthurian Legend, group of tales in several languages that concern the legendary King Arthur of the Britons, his realm, and the knights of his inner circle. The legend is one of the most enduring tales in recorded history. It first appeared in the 5th or 6th century ad and took its basic form between the 12th and 15th centuries. It continues as a popular subject in modern times.

The legend presents Arthur as a leader in ancient times who defeats the Saxons and other enemies. He thereby unites the people of Britain in peace and harmony. Eventually his kingdom weakens from within—in part because of the illicit love between Arthur’s queen, Guinevere, and the knight Lancelot—and Arthur himself is struck down by his own illegitimate son, Mordred. Many stories then say that Arthur is taken to the island of Avalon for his wounds to be healed. The legend tells that he will return in the hour of Britain's greatest need.

The Legends
Arthur is conceived when King Uther Pendragon falls in love with a married woman, Ygraine, and arranges for the magician Merlin to transform him into the likeness of Ygraine's husband. The husband, Gorlois, dies in battle, and Arthur's parents marry soon thereafter.

But Merlin exacts a price for his assistance. Uther and Ygraine must give to him the child who will be born. When Arthur is born, Merlin delivers him to Hector (also called Antor), who raises Arthur alongside his own son, Kay, and trains him to be a squire to Kay once Kay becomes a knight. When King Uther dies, the land is left without a leader, so one must be chosen. Ensuing events take different forms from text to text, but virtually all include the story of the Sword in the Stone. According to legend, Merlin announces to the assembled barons that God has established a test to identify the chosen successor to Uther. Before the cathedral they find a great stone, topped by an anvil in which a sword is embedded. Merlin informs them that no one other than the intended king will be able to draw the sword. All those present try and fail the test. Meanwhile, Arthur is sent to find Kay's sword. Unable to do so, he sees the sword in the stone and easily draws it. The barons make him repeat the test a number of times because they do not want to be ruled by a young commoner, but they eventually recognize his claim to the throne.

With Merlin as his adviser, Arthur begins his reign. He first fights Britain's enemies, and early texts describe him defeating the Saxons, Picts, and Scots and overrunning Ireland and Iceland. His conquests are made easier because of his marvelous sword, first called Caliburn and later known as Excalibur. He receives the sword from a hand that emerges from a lake. (In some versions of the story, Excalibur is the Sword in the Stone.)

Arthur rules his land from Camelot, his favorite castle, and he meets, courts, and marries a beautiful young woman named Guinevere. Following his initial wars, he and his followers enjoy a period of peace, during which he founds a fellowship of knights known as the society of the Round Table. The shape of the table that serves as the group’s meeting place ensures that all who sit around it are equal in status.

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| Galahad|
In Arthurian legend, the knight Galahad completes the quest for the Holy Grail, the sacred cup used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. Galahad was the son of the knight Lancelot.| Encarta Encyclopedia|

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Men come from every land to be knighted by Arthur and to seek fame as members of the Round Table fellowship. One of the finest knights is a young Frenchman named Lancelot. He quickly becomes one of Arthur's favorites, but he also falls in love with Queen Guinevere, and she with him. Their illicit love is one of the major causes for the eventual destruction of Arthur's kingdom. But Arthur’s own flaws contribute to his...
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