Le Mort d’Arthur

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Chris 5 years ago.

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  • #15476

    Jamie
    Keymaster

    So what do you think of it?  It's quite reminiscent of Celtic Myths isn't it?  There wasn't really a strong central narrative or moral (or an explanation for why things are the way they are), but instead it was sort of just a collection of events.That vibe, by the way, was part of why I wanted to include it in the Podcast, because it feels slightly like the remnants of an oral history rather than a myth as we generally experience them today.Anyway, what did you think?

  • #17431

    Chris
    Participant

    I heard this today and firstly I thought this was a great idea and the reading was fun. It was just the right length for an episode of its type and was engaging because of the pace and rhythm and, of course, James' style of reading, which I thought was quirky and extremely well read. Merlin's croaky voice….brilliant!!As you mention in the podcast the style of writing is clunky and this is what I like about it. Hearing it is certainly easier than reading it, especially if the text has been updated to Early Modern English or even Modern English; if we were to read the Middle English version of Malory's time I think it would be a little harder to get through and understand  ???I haven't read this but I do like the way each book has a collection of short chapters (mini individual stories in their own right, or as you say Jamie, events) that were reorganised by William Caxton. I went ahead and downloaded two volumes to my Kindle and followed along with James' reading for the first four chapters of book 1. Great stuff. I don't think it really matters if there is no strong central or moral focus, does there need to be? Is this a bad telling of a popular story if doesn't conform to those things? Of course not. Would you call a modern day book rubbish if it didn't have a strong narrative or moral focus? I guess it depends on the book, who is reading it and what frame of mind that individual is in at the time. We are all too different for this to be justly answered  :-  bUt I would like to hear other people's opinions if they have any.All I can say is I am not used to Malory's literary style, being that it was written about 550 years ago, but I did enjoy the episode and it was fun to read along side James' reading. I hope there might be the possibility of more chapters from this tale added in the near future  ;)Out of curiosity, how much of the original story do you think has been changed over the years with updates, re-edits and re-phrasing of new editions?

  • #17432

    Jamie
    Keymaster

    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.  This is all stuff I'll be chatting about in the podcast, I'm sure.  But it's pretty interesting, I think....Anyway, that's enough of me talking and I don't want to stifle the discussion.  So... thoughts on Le Mort D'Arthur (or on the myth of Arthur in general)?

  • #17433

    Tim the Enchanter
    Participant

    Anyone who is interested in reading these stories without dealing with all the ye olde englishe should check out John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Aurthur and His Noble Knights.  Steinbeck spent years translating and updating Mallory's book.  Unfortunately Steinbeck died before he finished it, but he got pretty far. 

  • #17434

    anonymous
    Participant

    I think the big question is, will we be getting more?  If not, can we get our hands on the rest of the audio?

  • #17435

    Jamie
    Keymaster

    We will be continuing the tale over in the members podcast. In fact I think he's working on the next installment this week. :)

  • #17436

    anonymous
    Participant

    *channeling my inner Mr Burns*  Excellent…I'm not sure how this happened, but I've never heard the tale of King Arthur.  I mean, outside of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."  I know bits and pieces, key players, but the rest... nope.  So this is really a treat, and I'll be waiting anxiously for more.  Maybe getting my hands on an ebook to follow along with, too. 

  • #17437

    anonymous
    Participant

    Found the whole thing rather good.Brought back fond memories of the rather camp film Excalibur (and for the etymology of that - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excalibur - although I always thought it meant hard lightning, in Welsh - live & learn).One grouse ... it's Le Mort D'Arthur not Le Mort De Arthur as both the narrator and Jamie insisted on mispronouncing.  >:(Keep up the good work.

  • #17438

    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.

  • #17439

    anonymous
    Participant

    Hmmmm.  Trying to work in where the Monty Python 'watery bint' comes into the story.  I guess the sword in the stone and the lady of the lake are two versions of the same myth. 

  • #17440

    stanthegoomba
    Participant

    Hmmmm.  Trying to work in where the Monty Python 'watery bint' comes into the story.  I guess the sword in the stone and the lady of the lake are two versions of the same myth.

    Either that, or they were two distinct myths that were later conflated. In the early medieval Romances, the Lady's principle role was to beguile Merlin (and trap him in a tree!) and the sword in the stone was Excalibur. In later versions, the Lady of the Lake was the one who bestowed Excalibur to Arthur. Confusingly, Mallory tells both stories. Arthur receives Exalibur twice, once from the stone and again from the Lady, as if he'd somehow lost it in the woods and promptly forgotten about it.

  • #17441

    anonymous
    Participant

    Another observation is, why Le Mort d'Arthur?  The story begins before his conception.  Shouldn't it be La Vie d'Arthur? or, at the very list La Vie et Le Mort d'Arthur?I think it is telling that the author would have felt that his death was what belonged in the title.

  • #17442

    anonymous
    Participant

    I'm not sure how this happened, but I've never heard the tale of King Arthur.  I mean, outside of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."  I know bits and pieces, key players, but the rest... nope.  So this is really a treat, and I'll be waiting anxiously for more.  Maybe getting my hands on an ebook to follow along with, too.

    Jessaminnie, for a wonderful retelling of the legend, read T.H. White's "The Once and Future King". More romantic and, well, fictional, than Le Mort d'Arthur, but still faithful to the original story. And once you've read that, for a good laugh, watch the 1968 musical "Camelot". Richard Harris gives his own unique spin to Arthur.

  • #17443

    Chris
    Participant

    Found the whole thing rather good.Brought back fond memories of the rather camp film Excalibur...

    I haven't seen John Boorman's Excalibur for years; I think I was only seven or eight when it came out in the very early 80's and I saw it last maybe fifteen years ago. Great movie in it's own way but quite dated now I think and yes it is a little camp.Loving the reading the of Le Mort d'Arthur though. The accompanying music is perfect, nicely composed and really sets the scene. A great job all round and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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