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Le Mort D'Artur

But telling the story of King Arthur as we know it today falls to Sir Thomas Malory. In his Le Morte d'Arthur, The Death of Arthur, printed in 1485, he retold many of the tales that had first been circulated by word of mouth and were then written down. But he dressed Arthur in the fashions of his own times, transforming him into a 15th-century hero. As Homer was to Odysseus, so was Sir Thomas Malory to Arthur.

Malory's text transports the reader to a dreamland of castles and kingdoms, in which the love of adventure and glory were reason enough to wage battles. Though these adventures are as real as a boy's dream, they're as difficult to place in the latitude and longitude of today's world.

Le Morte d'Arthur opens with Arthur conceived as the illegitimate son of Uther Pendragon, the Head Dragon or King of the Britains. After being raised in secret, Arthur proves himself king by drawing the sword, Excalibur, from a stone. He marries Guinevere, founds the Knights of the Round Table at Camelot and begets a son, Mordred, in unknowing incest. Following 12 years of prosperity, Arthur's knights commence a quest to discover the Holy Grail, during which time Lancelot, his chief knight, consummates an adulterous affair with Queen Guinevere. Ultimately, the couple is discovered and Arthur pursues Lancelot into France, leaving Mordred behind as regent. At the end of the story, Arthur discovers an attempt by Mordred to seize the throne and returns to quash the rebellion. In a final battle, Mordred dies and Arthur receives a mortal wound, after which he's transported on a barge to the Vale of Avalon. Following the battle, Arthur's sword Excalibur is reluctantly cast to the Lady of the Lake by Sir Bedivere, while both Lancelot and Guinevere enter holy orders and live out their lives in peace.



This, in essence, is the famous tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as most people know it. But Arthur is more than simply an inspiration for book, stage and film. The British Isles abound with the wealth of the Arthurian legend. In every part of the land, the great king lives on in folklore. In fact, King Arthur figures into more legends attached to ancient sites in England than any other character.

Next: Arthurian Sites

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