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Thread: Discussion on Arthur and his knights

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    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
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    Discussion on Arthur and his knights

    I flipped through the search and didn't see anything, so I figured I'd give starting a topic a go. My friends just look at me like I'm speaking another language when I try to chat about Arthur's knights, so... anybody else?

    Who's your favorite? (and why) What's your favorite account or book (old or modern)? Recommendations and absolute no-gos? Random other rabbit trails?

    My favorite is Tristram (Tristan?), mostly because he's Launcelot, meaning epic in my book, only really flawed and makes me laugh where as Launcelot mostly annoys me. I haven't read too many different books, and I'd say Malory's version is my favorite, but I had to stop reading it after the first volume because I was waking up with nightmares about being trapped in armor almost every night. I enjoyed the first volume though! I really liked the Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell in junior high. Those, I think, are what got me into Arthurian lit. I need to find my old copies though, because I tried to reread them in e-book format, and the formatting was so bad that the whole first bit just bugged me too much to read. I should read Mists of Avalon again too. I read it about the same time, but I really don't remember it at all.



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    La Morte D'Arthur has always intrigued me, have you read it ? what are your thoughts on it, how does it compare to literature produced during the same time ?

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    One of the best non scholarly works about Arthur is The Sword in the Stone by TH White. It's about Arthur's education and preparation to be King. Originally written for young people, it still has something to give any reader.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    Launcelot mostly annoys me.
    Here, here!

    Hate Launcelot. Hate, hate, hate, hate Launcelot.

    Here's what I don't get: how is it romantic to fall in love with a woman who has been married to your king for decades and then run off with her and bring upon the kingdom a giant war that ends in the ruination of all. If she really loved Launcelot and not Arthur, she should've married Lance to begin with.

    I might've mentioned this, but I hate Sir Launcelot.

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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    If you're interested in Arthur, you must check out Chretien's romances and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. But if you don't have particular interest in the medieval period, you may find the other Arthurian stuff (of which there is LOT) boring. For more modern stuff, try Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court, and T.H. White's The Once and Future King. I highly highly recommend the last one, which is one of my all time favorite books. White might actually change your mind about Lancelot, since he gives the most moving portrayal of him. And he gives an absolutely hilarious account of Pellinore.

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    My favorite is Tristram (Tristan?), mostly because he's Launcelot, meaning epic in my book, only really flawed and makes me laugh where as Launcelot mostly annoys me. I haven't read too many different books, and I'd say Malory's version is my favorite, but I had to stop reading it after the first volume because I was waking up with nightmares about being trapped in armor almost every night.
    Ugh! Really? I think Tristan is my second least favorite of my Arthurian knights, after Galahad. His entire episode with Isolde is to be blamed on the love potion, which just deprives him of his free will. He and Isolde don't really love each; they're just under the effect of this magical potion. He'd be a much more interesting figure if his entire affair were not the result of this potion. I find him more interesting in his similarities to Classical heroes, which I don't think has been explored quite enough.

    I actually find some of the more villainous knights really fascinating, mostly because our modern sensibilities attract us to flawed heroes. Mordred and Kay, especially. Mordred been deeply wronged by Arthur, and through no fault of his own, has been case into the role of villain. It's interesting to think what might have happened had he not been such a pawn of his mother. There have been some sympathetic revisions made on the Mordred figure in modern Arthurian adaptations. And Kay...well...I just want to know what happened to him to make him such an ***.

    But of the "good" knights, I think I like Gawain the most. Of all the Arthurian knights, he's probably the original. Even the Celtic stories have versions of him. And he inhabits the all-important position of Arthur's nephew, and in the medieval comitatus the whole uncle-nephew dynamic assumed more importance even than father-son and husband-wife relationships. He's also supposedly the ladies' man of all the knights. Plus, I think Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the most elegant Arthurian poem ever written.

    I'm currently writing a paper on Chretien's Yvain, Knight of the Lion. So I guess my current interest is in him, and his problems of identity.

    Oh, if you want a really hilarious medieval Arthurian romance, you MUST check out Perceval of Gallois. This is the only Perceval text I've ever read WITHOUT a Grail story. It's more of a family romance and Bildungsroman, and Perceval is quite the dolt.
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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Transmodernism View Post
    Here, here!

    Hate Launcelot. Hate, hate, hate, hate Launcelot.

    Here's what I don't get: how is it romantic to fall in love with a woman who has been married to your king for decades and then run off with her and bring upon the kingdom a giant war that ends in the ruination of all. If she really loved Launcelot and not Arthur, she should've married Lance to begin with.

    I might've mentioned this, but I hate Sir Launcelot.
    I don't think you understand Lancelot. It's easy to dislike Lancelot if you've seen movies starring (for example) Richard Gere in which Lancelot and Gueneviere stare moon-eyed at each other. In Mallory's account, Lancelot is the "ill-made knight". In other words, he's ugly. He accepts his ugliness and transfers his (possibly sexual) energy into becoming the perfect knight and warrior.

    One knightly ideal is to have a perfect love for some lady. In order to be a perfect, knightly love, there must be no lust involved, no hope of personal reward. Such chivalric love is ideal in part BECAUSE it is so selfless. And whom better to favor with such a love than one's queen (whom, by the way, Lancelot saves countless times)?

    Lancelot comes close to attaining such perfection. But flying too close to the sun (as Icarus discovered) is dangerous. Perfection, even for Lancelot is unattainable, and ideal, disinterested love can become a temptation -- as it does for Lancelot. Of course the near-perfect admiration and love with which Lancelot reveres Gueneviere is also a temptation for her - as it would be for any woman. The burning intensity of Lancelot's almost perfect love for his queen is too much for him to handle, and leads him to the betrayal of his king and friend. It's a great story, about how the closer we come to perfection, the more dreadful our fall.
    Last edited by Ecurb; 12-15-2010 at 06:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    I don't think you understand Lancelot. It's easy to dislike Lancelot if you've seen movies starring (for example) Richard Gere in which Lancelot and Gueneviere stare moon-eyed at each other. In Mallory's account, Lancelot is the "ill-made knight". In other words, he's ugly. He accepts his ugliness and transfers his (possibly sexual) energy into becoming the perfect knight and warrior.

    One knightly ideal is to have a perfect love for some lady. In order to be a perfect, knightly love, there must be no lust involved, no hope of personal reward. Such chivalric love is ideal in part BECAUSE it is so selfless. And whom better to favor with such a love than one's queen (whom, by the way, Lancelot saves countless times)?

    Lancelot comes close to attaining such perfection. But flying too close to the sun (as Icarus discovered) is dangerous. Perfection, even for Lancelot is unattainable, and ideal, disinterested love can become a temptation -- as it does for Lancelot. Of course the near-perfect admiration and love with which Lancelot reveres Gueneviere is also a temptation for her - as it would be for any woman. The burning intensity of Lancelot's almost perfect love for his queen is too much for him to handle, and leads him to the betrayal of his king and friend. It's a great story, about how the closer we come to perfection, the more dreadful our fall.
    Fair enough.

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    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
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    Oh happy discussion!!! /geek moment

    I only got through half of Le Morte D'Arthur.. I really need to finish it, but those dreams were actually quite terrifying. Maybe next month. The only other literature I've read of the time, what, 15th century?, is Paradise Lost which doesn't really compare because of the style and content. What I really want to do is make charts of who's who and who did what because I had trouble keeping some of the more minor names straight. I basically picked out the ones that caught my attention, Tristram, Launcelot, Kay, and Gawain. I remember other stories, but I can't remember who the knights were in them.

    I love Connecticut Yankee!! It's on my year's reading list.

    His entire episode with Isolde is to be blamed on the love potion, which just deprives him of his free will. He and Isolde don't really love each; they're just under the effect of this magical potion. He'd be a much more interesting figure if his entire affair were not the result of this potion
    That's just it. That's why I love him. He's as strong as Launcelot, he can fight off an army in his birthday suit, and yet the amount of fail around him is just so enormous. I like the fact that he doesn't meet the "standards" for Arthur's knights, and yet he could take any of them on, including Arthur's best. His thing with Isolde.. I mostly just waited until the ends of each stint when he would end up running around naked for a while. The contrast between that and the piousness of the other knights, aside from making me laugh out loud in public, really stood out for me.

    Ecurb - I hadn't thought of it that way. That's actually pretty romantic in some aspects. Who was it who added the story of Launcelot and Gueniviere?

    Gawain! Wasn't Gawain in Le Morte D'Arthur the one who kept messing up? Isn't he the one who killed the knight who surrendered as well as his lady? In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight he's portrayed as almost the perfect knight. That caught me off guard. Randomly, he's my favorite in the current Merlin series on BBC.

    And Kay...well...I just want to know what happened to him to make him such an ***.
    No kidding!

    Does anybody know if there's a list out there of all the knights and where they appear? (What stories and by whom type of thing?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander III View Post
    La Morte D'Arthur has always intrigued me, have you read it ? what are your thoughts on it, how does it compare to literature produced during the same time ?
    I've only read the last three books, out of Malorey's original 8, and I found it readable if not incredibly brilliant. The Arthurian legends are such important parts of English speaking culture that I think it's hard for people coming from that culture not to appreciate what is the most popular account of the Arthurian legends.

    As to in comparison to other prose work from around that period. I find Malorey's style fairly good and tolerable. Much more direct than Sidney's painful prose romance. Typical of the period, sentences tend to run on and on, sometimes for several lines, just adding subordinate clauses over and over; occasionally semi-colons will be used just to stretch it out longer, much like this, in a fashion that is very much different from the more standard grammar of 18th and 19th century English prose. It reminds me a lot of reading the KJV Bible, there's a lot of "wherefores" and "it came to pass" around in there. I would recommend a version with modernized spelling (the one on Project Guttenberg is modernized), for ease of reading.

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    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    Typical of the period, sentences tend to run on and on, sometimes for several lines, just adding subordinate clauses over and over; occasionally semi-colons will be used just to stretch it out longer, much like this, in a fashion that is very much different from the more standard grammar of 18th and 19th century English prose.
    Indeed.

    I found it a bit dry and repetitive, not to mention predictable, but it's forgivable. I did find myself nearly using old words in conversation a few times while reading it. The KJV is a good comparison.

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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    Does anybody know if there's a list out there of all the knights and where they appear? (What stories and by whom type of thing?)
    If you want some place better than wikipedia to go to, here's my site for all things Arthurian:

    http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/cphome.stm

    It's my university's project...I'm excited; I think they're going to let me start working on it next year!

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    I like the fact that he doesn't meet the "standards" for Arthur's knights, and yet he could take any of them on, including Arthur's best.
    What do you mean he doesn't meet the standards for Arthur's knights?

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    The contrast between that and the piousness of the other knights, aside from making me laugh out loud in public, really stood out for me.
    There are some great comedy moments in Arthurian lit. Anything Dinadan does is great. I seem to remember a moment in Malory when he convinces Lancelot to cross-dress, as a joke.

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    Who was it who added the story of Launcelot and Gueniviere?
    What do you mean who added it? Malory simply compiled all the stories; it's unclear who actually wrote any of the stories. But Lancelot was a French invention, who first appeared in Chretien de Troyes' unfinished romance, Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart, in the late 12th century. It's unclear where he got the idea for the affair from, though. His romance focuses on the abduction of Guinevere by Meleagaunt, and Lancelot's response to it...though the whole abduction of Guinevere by an "M" knight had long predated Chretien's version.

    Interesting fact: There's lots of speculation (still) that Chretien failed to finish the poem because he HATED the idea of Lancelot committing adultery. According to some scholars, he only included it because his patroness LOVED stories of courtly love, in which the lovers are often adulterous. Imagine that! One of the greatest love stories of all time might never have been written, if not for a romance-loving woman!!

    So...is this BBC Merlin series any good? I've been curious, but all the reviews I've read haven't been that great.
    Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, habitares libros in unum!
    ~Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

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    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
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    Awesome! That looks beyond fun to work on. I'll bookmark it.

    By standards for the knights, I mean piousness, not sleeping with your uncle's wife, not breaking your lover's heart by marrying someone else, not completely ignoring your wife. It just seems like, and again using Launcelot as the "ideal," Arthur's knights are up on a pedestal, one for being good fighters, but secondly for following honor codes and ideals of courtly love.

    I think I must have read just far enough into volume two to read that part, because I definitely recall Launcelot in drag at some point.

    Yeah, I'd read a bit about how Malory compiled the stories. What I meant was some parts of the Arthurian legend are older than others. Correct me if I'm wrong (my memory's not always the best with details), the legend started in England, went through France practically down toward Italy, and then came back to England, right? I thought it was the French who invented Launcelot. Is that story you mentioned translated into English by any chance?

    The BBC Merlin is ... well it has plot holes you could drive a semi through and mixes 15th century castles with crusades armor... actually the military technology is one giant mishmash of what looks cool... and Morgana wears high heels and machine crocheted sweaters... but aside from those (and other) inconsistencies, I love it. I can forgive it's faults, partly because of the repeated use of the word "prat" in reference to Arthur, but mostly because there are epic sword fights, dragons, magic, Arthur, his knights (in strange orders), and lots of humor. It's a good mix for me, and watching it an episode or two at a time, I don't notice the plot inconsistencies so much. Actually I only noticed a few of them my first watch-through. I noticed a lot more when my friend and I had a marathon.
    Last edited by sithkittie; 12-16-2010 at 09:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    ....So...is this BBC Merlin series any good? I've been curious, but all the reviews I've read haven't been that great.
    It's absolute tosh! Very watchable, highly enjoyable but just don't expect to recognise anything remotely Arthurian about it - only the names have been retained. It's a bit like Troy - you'll waste an awful lot of time trying to fit the story you know to what you're watching. Forget it, just sit back and enjoy the (ahem) handsome young men and the action - feel free to hiss Morgana whenever she appears.

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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    By standards for the knights, I mean piousness, not sleeping with your uncle's wife, not breaking your lover's heart by marrying someone else, not completely ignoring your wife. It just seems like, and again using Launcelot as the "ideal," Arthur's knights are up on a pedestal, one for being good fighters, but secondly for following honor codes and ideals of courtly love.
    I dunno. Tristan is frankly a blank slate to me. Nothing he does is really under his control, so it's hard to try to apply morality to his story. If you love Tristan, you should read Denis de Rougement's Love in the Western World. It's a really fascinating argument about the origins of the Tristan story and the various types of love in conflict in the story.

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    What I meant was some parts of the Arthurian legend are older than others. Correct me if I'm wrong (my memory's not always the best with details), the legend started in England, went through France practically down toward Italy, and then came back to England, right?
    Yes, roughly. Italy is not that big for Arthurian stuff. Germany has more. But England and France are usually the Arthurian hot spots. And, yes, there are definitely some Arthurian stories which are older than others. For example, Guinevere and Gawain (and his family) have been around forever, even in the really old Welsh Arthurian poems, of which we only have fragments. But basically, any of the Continental stuff would be derived from insular Arthurian material that moved into Europe, most with the troubadours of English royalty who would journey with their patrons onto the Continent. So any of the French knights would be newer inventions than the insular ones.

    I believe Tristan is not Arthurian in origin. His was one of those satellite stories that got sucked into the Arthurian fold.

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    I thought it was the French who invented Launcelot. Is that story you mentioned translated into English by any chance?
    Chretien de Troyes is French! Troyes is a town in northern France. And, yes, all his Arthurian romances have been translated into English.

    And now, I've got to get back to my Yvain paper, which I'm SO CLOSE to finishing. Gah, I hate the end of the semester.
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    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman
    Chretien de Troyes is French!
    Ahah, sorry, inflection didn't come across on the forum. That was a "right, though so, good to know" statement.

    And yes, I'm procrastinating on my two finals (for the same class due the same day, seriously??) that I have left. God love the internet for that. Good luck on your paper!

    Quote Originally Posted by kasie
    feel free to hiss Morgana whenever she appears
    I really, really hate Morgana. I don't even bother trying to match the story with the ones I know. Definitely a show to just sit back and enjoy for what it is. There are some "Ehehehe!! Yes!!!" moments when the stories line up though, which is a bit of extra fun.

    Off topic: Yes! I managed to figure out how to quote with names now! /is a little slow sometimes

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