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Will the Real King Arthur Please Stand Up

Like several other folks around here, I stayed up last night to watch the History Channel's special about the real King Arthur. Now, I have to say up front that I have been a "fangirl" about Arthurian legends and archeology for practically my entire life--including dragging my poor new husband to Glasconbury Abbey ruins so that I could stand there at Avalon and buy Rosemary Sutcliff's book "A Sword At Sunset." King Arthur is why I studied Ethnohistory. So, what's my take on that show? Exactly like cofax7's--rambling, mixed up, and very very portentious and self-important. Not even Patrick Stewart could save this sucker.

So, what did we learn?

  • Aurilious Ambrosius could have been Arthur.
  • Lucius Artorius Casius in 150 AD, a Sarmatian Calvary captain could have been Arthur--Gilian Bradshaw's inspiration for Island of Ghosts? Definitely a weird mixed up theory 300 years later for Jerry Bruckleheimer's movie "King Arthur"
  • Arthur means Bear and was a symbol for somebody at Badon Hill.
Now the archeologist was good and explained about Saxon incursions taking many years. That lady was annoying with her puffery and repetitions about Arthur being mythologized for political purposes. And If I saw the same images again I was gonna scream. How many times do we have to see running feet, helmeted guys, and the same friggen ship sailing. And that guy with the crown walking the battlements. At least get permission to use picts from the movie Camelot or Excaliber or Merlin for heaven's sake!

Ok, students, for those of you who want to read further: Here's my favorite list of books about the "real" King Arthur.

The Discovery of King Arthur by Geoffrey Ashe: a little out of date but has a great discussion of archeology, history, and mythology. He thinks Arthur was a Breton.

The Quest For Arthur's Britain by Geoffrey Ashe: really good archeology book.

The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650 by John Morris: A relatively turgid but exacting overview of Iron Age British history.

Arthur's Britain: History and Archaeology, Ad 367-634 by Leslie Alcock: A really good archeological overview and the first book I ever read about the real Arthur.

The Arthurian Handbook, 2nd Ed. by Norris J. Lacy (ed): I haven't read this but I have read a lot of the authors included here. Sounds like a great source book.

You can tell I'm about a rabid on this topic as I am about Farscape. Could be a pattern here? hmmmm?


Thanks for the recommendations. I may order a few of these, it's been years since I read up on this. When I was in college I took a semester course on Arthurian literature, starting with Chretien de Troyes and ending with TH White, but we didn't read any of the scholarship, just the literature.

I may have to go see King Arthur just to mock it. I'll bring my Sutcliff collection with. *grin*
I agree wholeheartedly!!! I was thinking the same thing which is probably why I only got through part of it. (Seems you and I have more than just Farscape in common! I'm also quite rabid about Arthurian legend and I've already read the books on your list as well as almost every major fictional telling that I could get my hands on!) You know a very well done and excellent series about King Arthur (totally fiction of course) is the Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead. It's a fun read with an interesting perspective. And his Albion series is excellent as well.

Glad to see you 'out and about'. I was getting ready to send you a PM or an email to see if things were alright since I hadn't seen you around for a while. Hope all is going well!