King Arthur and the Round Table

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Profesor indrumator / Prezentat Profesorului: Nicolae Loghinas

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Introduction

King Arthur is a legendary king of the Britons in ancient times and the major figure in the Arthurian legend. He is considered a role model for the modern society because of the principles he believed in: equality between individuals and freedom of thought. Taking into account Arthur’s outstanding qualities and actions I believe that the legend of King Arthur is an interesting and fascinating field that is worth knowing either to satisfy your curiosity or for a better understanding of the message it sends.

King Arthur is the king who expelled foreigners from Britain, brought peace to the country and established a kingdom based on justice, law and morality. He also held court at his castle in Camelot and instituted an order known as The Knights of the Round Table. Eventually his realm crumbled and his illegitimate son Mordred grievously wounded him in battle.

The following pages represent a brief and clear presentation of several Arthurian legends as well as legendary places and figures of the time. From the first chapter, which deals with the historical context, we learn that King Arthur was the first born son of King Uther Pendragon and the way the legend developed. The second chapter describes the origin of a place named Camelot and talks about The Round Table which is said to be King Arthur’s famed table. Chapter three presents King Arthur in literature, Excalibur, his magic sword, King Arthur’s battles and legendary places in King Arthur literature. The last chapter is about the legend of the Round Table, the Holy Grail and King Arthur’s death and burial.

Many versions of the Arthurian legend say that Arthur will someday return, when he is again needed by Britain. Meanwhile, his brave acts serve as models for people of all nations and, most importantly, for keeping alive in our hearts the figure of an outstanding warior and a model of patriotism, King Arthur.

CHAPTER 1. The Legend of King Arthur

1.1 Historical context

Arthur was the first born son of King Uther Pendragon and heir to the throne. However these were very troubled times and Merlin, a wise magician, advised that the baby Arthur should be raised in a secret place and that none should know his true identity.

As Merlin feared, when King Uther died there was great conflict over who should be the next king. Merlin used his magic to set a sword in a stone. Written on the sword, in letters of gold, were these words: "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone is the rightwise born king of all England." Of course all the contenders for the throne took their turn at trying to draw the sword, but none could succeed. Arthur, quite by chance, withdrew the sword for another to use in a tournament. Following this he became King.

He gathered Knights around him and fought back against the Saxons who, since the Romans left Britain, were slowly but surely taking the country over. After many great battles and a huge victory at Mount Badon the Saxons' advance was halted.

Arthur's base was at a place called Camelot. Here he built a strong castle. His knights met at a Round Table. They carried out acts of chivalry such as rescuing damsels in distress and fought against strange beasts. They also searched for a lost treasure, which they believed would cure all ills - this was the 'Quest for the Holy Grail'.

Under the guidance of Merlin, Arthur had obtained a magical sword from The Lady Of The Lake. This sword was called 'Excalibur" and with this weapon he vanquished many foes.

Queen Guinevere, Arthur's beautiful wife brought romance to the story while his equally beautiful half sister Morgan le Fay added a dark side.

Unfortunately, as peace settled over the country things turned sour within the court of Camelot and civil war broke out. In the final battle at Camlan both Arthur and Mordred, Arthur's traitorous nephew, were mortally wounded. Arthur was set upon a boat and floated down river to the isle of Avalon. Here his wounds were treated by three mysterious maidens. His body was never found and many say that he rests under a hill with all his knights - ready to ride forth and save the country again.

The Romans left Britain in around 400AD. For a time the country continued to be governed in much the same way as it had for the 350 years of Roman occupation. Then chiefs of local tribes began a struggle for power, the country split into several kingdoms. Added to this, Saxon invaders attacked the country with more confidence. Some Saxons were even employed as mercenaries by British leaders to help in the fight against the raiders. These mercenaries settled in the South East and later rebelled against the Britons who had asked for their help.

Saxon influence extended over much of the South East of England by the year 450 AD. As more and more invaders settled, the Britons were pushed westwards into Wales and the South West. To the Romanised Britons these Saxons must have been barbarians. Under the Romans many of the population had become Christians. The pagan customs of the invaders must have added extra impact to the shockwave rippling across the country ahead of their advance. The time was right for a powerful leader to unite the Britons against these outsiders.

Indeed, between the years 500 and 550AD the Saxon advance was halted and a stalemate existed between the Saxons and Britons. It is during this period that Arthur is thought to have existed.

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