Book Analysis: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

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King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
Retold by Deborah Tempest


erlin, the wise man of legend in stories of ancient Britain, realises that the country will be plunged into turmoil at the death of its strong leader, Uther. So he arranges to take away the heir to the throne, Uther’s son Arthur, and hide him in anonymity against the time when he can take his rightful place as king.


As Merlin had feared, on the death of Uther, civil war breaks out, and it is only when Arthur is already a young man that Merlin judges the time is right for him to emerge from obscurity. He travels to London, with Sir Ector who has looked after him for so many years, and, without realising the significance of his actions, Arthur pulls the sword from the stone which marks him out as the next king. He quickly gathers around him the bravest and best knights in the kingdom and Merlin makes a round table for them to sit at in the perfect city of Camelot. Thus begin the adventures of the Knights of the Round Table, tales of bravery and chivalry, but tales, too, of treachery, kidnapping and violent death.

The stories of King Arthur have passed down through the histories of both Britain and France. There is some historical evidence that a person called Arthur or Uther was a leader or king in Wales, Cornwall or Northern Britain. This person

led the Britons against the Anglo-Saxons from the London area in the fifth century AD. There is a record of a King Arthur winning the battle of Mans Badonicus in 516 AD. However, another account gives the date as 500 but does not mention Arthur. The death of someone called Arthur is recorded at the Battle of Camlann in 537. Camelot could be a corruption of this name. The theme of romantic, courtly love and the importance of chivalry runs as a thread through the Western literature of the Middle Ages. At a time when life for most people was, as a later philosopher called it, nasty, brutish and short, the idea that there could be men who could travel the country, fighting evil, rescuing damsels in distress and falling in love was perhaps more appealing than in our more egalitarian times. There was a certain truth behind the myth. Knights certainly existed, serving a king or lord in return for land or pay, and fighting his battles for him. Ladies in the Middle Ages sometimes appointed knights as champions to fight their battles for them. However, even by the 17th century, the notion of the knight-errant, the original freelancer, was seen by many as absurd, and famously ridiculed in the stories of Don Quixote, attacking sheep and windmills in the mistaken belief that they were fearsome foes.

© Pearson Education 2001

Penguin Readers Factsheets
T e a c h e r’s n o t e s
Communicative activities
The following teacher-led activities cover the same sections of text as the exercises at the back of the Reader and supplement those exercises. For supplementary exercises covering shorter sections of the book, see the photocopiable Student’s Activities pages of this Factsheet. These are primarily for use with class readers but, with the exception of the discussion and pair/groupwork activities, can also be used by students working alone in a self-access centre.



It will be useful for your students to know the following new words. They are practised in the ‘Before You Read’sections of exercises at the back of the book. (Definitions are based on those in the Longman Active Study Dictionary.) Chapters 1–3 archbishop (n) the most important priest in a country, in some Christian religions brave (adj) dealing with danger, or difficult situations with courage castle (n) a very large, strong building built in the past to protect the people inside from attack helmet (n) a hard hat that covers and protects your head king (n) a man from a royal family...
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