Portal:King Arthur

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Arthur was a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries AD. . He appears as the ideal of kingship both in war and peace; even in modern times he has been ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Britons of all times. Over time, the popularity of the stories of King Arthur has captured interest far beyond his being the legendary hero of one nation. Countless new legends, stories, revisions, books, and films have been produced in Europe and the United States of America that unabashedly enlarge on and expand the fictional stories of King Arthur.

The scarce historical background to Arthur is found in the works of Nennius and Gildas and in the Annales Cambriae. The legendary Arthur developed initially through the pseudo-history of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh collection of anonymous tales known as the Mabinogion. Chretien de Troyes began the literary tradition of Arthurian romance, which subsequently became the Matter of Britain and one of the principal themes of medieval literature. Medieval Arthurian writing reached its conclusion in Thomas Mallory's comprehensive Morte D'Arthur, published in 1485. Modern interest in Arthur was revived by Tennyson in Idylls of the King, and in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites. Key modern reworkings of the Arthurian legends include Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, T.H. White's The Once and Future King, and Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal.

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The Matter of Britain or the Arthurian legend is a name given collectively to the legends that concern the Celtic and legendary history of the British Isles, especially those focused on King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The 12th century French poet Jean Bodel created the name in the following lines of his epic Chanson de Saisnes:

Ne sont que iii matières à nul homme atandant,
De France et de Bretaigne, et de Rome la grant.
(translation: "There are but 3 literary cycles that no one should be without: the matter of France, of Britain, and of great Rome". Jean Bodel, Chanson de Saisnes)

The name distinguishes and relates the Matter of Britain from the mythological themes taken from classical antiquity, the "matter of Rome", and the tales of the paladins of Charlemagne and their wars with the Moors and Saracens, which constituted the "matter of France". While Arthur is the chief subject of the Matter of Britain, other lesser-known legendary history of the British Isles, including the stories of Brutus of Britain, Old King Cole, King Lear, and Gogmagog, is also included in the subjects covered by the Matter of Britain: see King of the Britons.

The legendary history of Britain was created in part to form a body of patriotic myth for the island. Several agendas appear in this body of literature.

The Historia Britonum, the earliest known source of the story of Brutus of Britain, seems to have been devised to create a distinguished genealogy for a number of Welsh princes in the 9th century. Traditionally attributed to Nennius, its actual compiler is unknown; it exists in several recensions. This tale went on to achieve greater currency because its inventor linked Brutus to the diaspora of heroes that followed the Trojan War, and thus provided raw material which later mythographers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, Michael Drayton, and John Milton could draw upon, linking the settlement of the British Isles to the heroic age of Greek literature, for their several and diverse literary purposes. As such, this material could be used for patriotic mythmaking just as Virgil linked the mythical founding of Rome to the Trojan War in The Æneid. Geoffrey of Monmouth also introduced the fanciful claim that the Trinovantes, reported by Tacitus as dwelling in the area of London, had a name he interpreted as Troi-novant, "New Troy". (read more . . . )

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Gawain (/ˈɡwɪn/ or /ɡɑːˈwn/), also Gwalchmei, Gawan, Gauvain, Walewein and others, is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development. He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as the greatest knight, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He is almost always portrayed as the son of Arthur's sister Morgause (or Anna) and King Lot of Orkney and Lothian, and his brothers are Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred. In some works he has sisters as well. Gawain is often portrayed as a formidable but brash warrior, fiercely loyal to his king and family. He is a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor, and a consummate ladies' man. In some works, his strength waxes and wanes with the sun; in the most common form of this motif, his might triples by noon, but fades as the sun sets. His knowledge of herbs makes him a great healer, and he is credited with at least three children: Florence, Lovell, and Gingalain, the last of which is also called Libeaus Desconus or Le Bel Inconnu, the Fair Unknown. In later Welsh Arthurian literature, Gawain is considered synonymous with the native champion Gwalchmei.

Gawain is commonly considered identical with the Welsh hero known as Gwalchmei (or Gwalchmai) ap Gwyar, who appears in the Welsh Triads and in Culhwch and Olwen, an Arthurian romance associated with the Mabinogion. His appearance in Culhwch, which probably dates to the 11th century, makes him, like Cai (Kay) and Bedwyr (Bedivere), one of the earliest characters associated with Arthur. Here Gwalchmei, like Gawain, is Arthur's nephew and one of his chief warriors; Arthur sends him and five other champions with the protagonist Culhwch on his journey to find his love Olwen. (read more . . . )

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