Re: Re: Le Mort d’Arthur

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stanthegoomba
Participant

The changes?  Geez, I imagine that the story has changed dramatically from Arthur's time.  But there are bits that seem ancient to me.  Like the heavy druidic overtones of Merlin (omniscience, demand of Arthur unchristened, etc) the random bits of historical explanations (like who married who and who they were related to).  But as for what has changed over time and what parts still reach back to the original story... who knows?  Maybe if there was an Arthur, he was a bastard of a noble.  Christianity and Paganism were both present in Britain at 500 CE, so maybe there was that odd religious tension in his early life.  Later we're going to see water playing a heavy role in his destiny and it will have a spiritual aspect to it, which sounds pretty druidic to me.  Many of his battles involve crossing, which would have put a small cavalry unit at an advantage against a larger infantry army.  And in the historical recount of the anglo saxon age, we're going to see that many of the "Battles" of this period were closer to gang fights.  The massive scale of warfare that the Romans employed would disappear.  In general, the fights were small and very personal.  So perhaps, if there was an Arthur, he was a rebel leader who used small numbers of cavalry to ambush his rivals' infantry formations. 

Interesting points, Jamie. I think it's difficult to know for sure how much of the Arthurian legend is indigenous.The first mentions of Arthur as a British war hero are from texts like Historia Brittonum in the 9th Century. But the Arthur we (and Mallory) know and love was developed over hundreds of years, and often not even in British sources. As we heard in yesterday's member cast, Mallory cites "the French book" for some of his claims. The reality is that most of his novel was adapted from French romances, like those of Chretien de Troyes. It's likely that Mallory's knowledge of Britain's Celtic past was even more limited and stereotypical than that of the Romans. For him, Arthur was an English national legend, not really a British one--a justification of a unified, chivalric, God-sanctioned Christian England.I think that some contemporary versions of the legend have been more careful about situating the characters and their problems in British history. Marion Zimmer Bradley, for example, rehabilitates Morgan Le Fay by portraying her as an upholder of Celtic, druidic culture in a society that is becoming increasingly Christian and intolerant. Jack Whyte takes the alternative fiction route and explores your idea that Camelot was a rebel colony of abandoned Romano-Brits who revolutionized warfare by having a highly effective calvary.Of course, as you've proven over and over in your podcast, a number of these assumptions--that Druidism had a strong presence during Roman times, that Celts frolicked in the trees and communed with nature all day, and that Christianity was always an invasive, oppressive force--are not really accurate. So modern writers may be just as far from the truth of things as Mallory was, despite their efforts to repatriate the legends.

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