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Topic: Which King Arthur book?

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Subject: Which King Arthur book?
Date Posted: 8/18/2010 1:58 PM ET
Member Since: 2/25/2007
Posts: 13,991
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I'm looking for a book to serve as a "refresher" on  King Arthur and his knights---something that stays pretty close to the original tale, with the characters and relationships explained and/or re-told in contemporary language.

Nothing as "re-imagined", nothing re-interpreted as Marion Zimmer Bradley or Mercedes Lacky's new one, or most modern novelists; and not White's version. . I like them and I have plenty, but that's not what I's seeking now.

I just want something relatively easy to read, and tells the stories as closely as possible to the original.

Date Posted: 8/18/2010 10:50 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 1,716
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The Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart is a good one. It's told from Merlin's POV, but sticks to the original tale like you prefer.

It was originally published in the 1970s, but has been re-published a couple of times since then with newer coverart.

ETA: Also recommend the Camulod series by Jack Whyte. Starts generations before Arthur. Focuses on each generation from Arthur's Roman roots on down. More historically (as much as it can be) based than complete fantasy.

Last Edited on: 8/18/10 10:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/18/2010 11:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,510
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I think what you are looking for is not possible.

A.    What is the original tale? Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote something titled History of The Britons in the 12th century. He covers Arthur in several whole books. What occurs would be barely recognizable to one whose knowledge of the Arthurian Legend varies little from Camelot.

You mean Malory? (1485)   Have you read this one? A long time before the middle of this one, I tired of knights smiting one another. Like man, there are just so many ways you can do this.

And there is Merlin and his role. Exactly what was his role? It varies with the telling. And what is with him getting fooled by Vivien and imprisoned. Few wrriters if any tell this story without putting their own "twist"  on things.

B  You want an "easy" read?  Given the extent of the material available how could you possibly get one .

Date Posted: 8/20/2010 8:29 PM ET
Member Since: 4/9/2009
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If you want a "historical" Arthur, try Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon trilogy: Taliesin, Merlin & Arthur. Just be aware that Lawhead is a christian and so puts that viewpoint into the story [which I don't mind, as I'm one also :-)]...

Date Posted: 8/22/2010 11:21 AM ET
Member Since: 4/6/2006
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There are many good reads like you want - most of them older as they count as Classic stories, written before the newer revisionist tellings.  I read one when I was a kid.  Still available is King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green' it's a Puffin Classic meant for YA, but in old-fashioned style.


Cheers, Margaret  

Date Posted: 8/23/2010 2:28 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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I'll second the recommendations for Mary Stewart's series and Lawhead's trilogy.  I liked Mary Stewart's slightly better, though.

John, I agree with you on Le Morte D'Arthur.  The section on Tristran and Isolde was the only thing that let me finish that one.

I think some of the problem with getting an "accurate" telling of the King Arthur legend is that even in the first tellings of it, like Le Morte D'Arthur, the hunt for the grail and Lancelot/Guienevere is almost a side story.  It's a small section of the books/poems.  Greater emphasis gets set on telling the battles the knights get into, their parentage, what their shields looked like, etc.  Even when they're hunting for the grail, a great portion of their time is spent on jousting and random battles.  There really isn't a whole lot of interaction with other knights, other than the occasional feast.  And even the details of the story of Lancelot and Guinevere differ depending on who you're reading. 

I think that most authors put their own spin on things just to have enough of a tale to write a novel off of.

Last Edited on: 8/23/10 2:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 8/27/2010 4:01 PM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
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In my opinion Mary Stewart's trilogy ( there was a fourth book about Modred added later) is the best retelling of the Arthurian legend. Stewart attempts to be historically accurate in terms of the actual time period of the King Arthur legend ( post Roman occupation, early Dark Age England rather than the High Middle Ages).  I thought this trilogy was brilliant, Stewart tried to interpret elements of the Arthurian legends realistically in a " how could this piece of mythology have actually happened." There are elements of magic in the story but they are understated and subtle.

Date Posted: 9/28/2010 4:05 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
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Personally, I like John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights.  I really like Steinbeck's accessable yet descriptive writing style, and he read Malory's work and worked hard to modernize it.  The only downside is that the tale is incomplete, as he hadn't finished it when he died, but what is completed is great.

It does include Merlin, Uther Pedragon, Arthur's birth, the sword in the stone, Arthur's marriage, Morgan le Fay, Gawain, Ewain, Marhalt and the beginning of Lancelot's affair with Guinevere.

Date Posted: 9/29/2010 12:48 AM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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Yeah!  Elizabeth's post is probably the only one in the whole thread worth reading (including mine, or course). Quite well-written. Grandkids read it and liked it. I just made sure it is still on the Steinbeck shelf and am considering taking it with me on vacation.

Date Posted: 11/13/2010 3:36 PM ET
Member Since: 4/6/2010
Posts: 33
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I'm surprised no one's mentioned T.H. White's, "The One and Future King."   I'm not really interested in King Arthur stories, but this appears to be quite a popular one.