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What (original) texts are there about King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable?

I want to read the most original English texts about Arthur and his fellow Knights. Who wrote them and what are the names of the books?

1 Answer

  • aida
    Lv 7
    7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The earliest writing about Arthur makes him the leader of Celtic British forces fighting the Anglo-Saxons, who invaded Britain a few generations after the Romans pulled out (which they did about A. D. 409). The earliest histories are in Latin; the earliest poems and romances, in Welsh. The first coherent story about Arthur as a king with a court and knights is probably the 10th century Welsh romance "Culhwch [pronounced "Killhook"] and Olwen." It's included in the Welsh collection *The Mabinogion," which is available in several translations.

    Then in the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth produced a Latin *History of the Kings of Britain*, which launched the legend of Arthur on the non-Celtic areas of Europe. It, too, is available in translation, and it includes quite a few of the now-familiar details, but it's still a supposed history. (How truly historical it is, is another matter.

    In the mid to late 1100s, two narrative poems, based and elaborating on Geoffrey's history and both called "The Brut," were written--the first, by Robert Wace, in Norman French and the second, by Layamon (a great admirer of Wace's poem), in early Middle English. Wace's poem is the first extant piece of literature to mention the Round Table. Both these works, however, deal with the history and legends of Britain from long before the Roman conquest.

    Between these two works, in the 1160s and 70s, Chretien de Troyes, writing for the Countess of Champagne, truly invented the Arthurian romance. He wrote several stories involving the gallant deeds of members of Arthur's court, and one of them, *The Knight of the Cart*, first introduces Launcelot into the picture. Guinevere, with her name spelled quite a few different ways, had been in that picture for some time, but now for the first time we encounter her affair with Arthur's foremost knight. Another of Chretien's romances, *Perceval*, introduces the quest for the Holy Grail. These and three others are collected in a book called *Arthurian Romances*.

    After that, there were many Arthurian romances in French, mostly anonymous, and there is also an English work, the *Morte Arthur* (sometimes called the Alliterative Morte Arthur and not to be confused with the book coming next). Then about 1460, Sir Thomas Malory's wrote *Le Morte d'Arthur*, which became the definitive treatment of the legend. It was actually published, in the modern sense, in July 1485--one of the earliest books printed in England. It's a collection of mostly French romances, translated and adapted into late Middle English. I recommend Keith Baines's edition, which is slightly abridged and modified, at least for a start.

    Source(s): Taught a college course in the Arthurian Legend.
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