Exploring the Theme of King Arthur

As I was looking for classic literature for my young son years ago, I stumbled upon Camelot by Jane Yolen (a short story collection). By no means are these stories classic King Arthur, but they were inspired by the more traditional writings. My enthusiasm for this great book lead me to search for other King Arthur related books-both traditional and modern. Since then, I have been amazed by the selection and quality available. Some round out the original stories; some delve into or showcase the historical facts; and others tell their own version as a tribute or possibly more satisfactory explanation of events.

Two classic works familiar to those who have been enthralled with Arthur’s world are The Once and Future King (series of novels-1938 to 1958) by T. H. White and The Story of King Arthur and his Knights (begins a 4 volume set 1903 to 1910) by Howard Pyle. The stories in both are brief and, to me, less interesting than the more recent creations. The style is different than what people are accustomed nowadays. The Legend of King Arthur (1988) by Robin Lister and King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (1953) by Roger Lancelyn Green may be easier for most children, and therefore, more enjoyable. The Sword and the Circle (1979-1st of a trilogy) by Rosemary Sutcliff is also a faithful telling of the stories.

All of these are based on much older works that scholars read:

  • History of the Britons by Nennius, early 9th century Welsh monk
  • The Mabinogion-eleven Welsh mythological and legendary tales, anonymous-late10th century (Wikipedia says all Welsh dates of Arthur are controversial)
  • History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth-early 12th century
  • Poems by Chrétien de Troyes-including stories of Lancelot, Perceval, and theHoly Grail-late 12th century
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight-14th century poem, anonymous
  • Le Morte de Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory-15th century-the 1st collection ofKing Arthur stories.

These in turn have some basis in oral tradition, although much of what we know became the standard through embellishments during the Middle Ages.

Some books discussing the historical facts of King Arthur are:

Picture books of King Arthur tales include:

  • The Kitchen Knight (1990) retold by Margaret Hodges and il by Trina SchartHyman
  • King Arthur and the Legends of Camelot (1993) by Molly Perham-more a story collection than picture book, but has many full-page illustrations
  • Merlin and the Dragons (1995) by Jane Yolen and il by Li Ming
  • King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1996) retold and il by Marcia Williams
  • Young Arthur (1997) by Robert D. San Souci and il by Jamichael Henterly
  • Merlin and the Making of the King (2004) retold by Margaret Hodges and il byTrina Schart Hyman-higher reading level, but leans heavily on illustrations.

Others that either just touch on the legend of King Arthur and his knights or have greatly altered or expanded upon the tales are:

For even more books of Arthur and his world check out Wikipedia’s list of books.

2 Responses to “Exploring the Theme of King Arthur”

  1. Esther Devonshire Says:

    I’m trying to read this in the 3.838 rc of the BOLT web browser and the page looks sorta broken up. Might want to take a look.

  2. minerva66 Says:

    The website does not support non-standard browsers. Try using a computer instead.

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