Fairytale Retellings & Prompts: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

This month we’re doing a series called the A-Z blogging challenge where we dive into Fairytale Retellings and provide prompts for writers. Writers are the people making the books, television shows, and movies of tomorrow. For more information on the challenge check out my earlier post here.

King Arthur and the knights of the round table in short centers around a boy who pulls a sword from a stone making him the true king and his relationships with both Lancelot and Queen Guinevere who enter into an amorous relationship behind his back. Then there’s the wizard Merlin. Wait! Let’s go back to the beginning.

According to the Encylopedia Brittanica, Arthurian legend, the body of stories and medieval romances, known as the matter of Britain, centering on the legendary King Arthur.

Medieval writers, especially the French, variously treated stories of Arthur’s birth, the adventures of his knights, and the adulterous love between his knight Sir Lancelot and his queen, Guinevere.

This last situation and the quest for the Holy Grail (the vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper and given to Joseph of Arimathea) brought about the dissolution of the knightly fellowship, the death of Arthur, and the destruction of his kingdom.

Was King Arthur a real person or not? The debate continues but here’s what we think we know. He might have been a Romano-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons sometime in the late 5th to early 6th century.

Or it’s possible he was the King Arthur who fought twelve battles culminating in the Battle of Badon. It is said he single-handedly killed 960 men. Recent studies call in to question the reliability of the Historia Brittonum where this data was found.

The origin of the Welsh name “Arthur” is also debated. The most widely accepted etymology is derived from the Roman (family name) Artorius. (It sounded good coming from Clive Owen’s lips).

What about the sword, the stone, and Merlin? That fictionalized story of the education of Arthur was written in the novel Once and Future King by T.H. White. A 12-year-old orphan named Arthur, commonly called Wart, accidentally scares off a deer his older foster brother Kay was hunting, causing Kay to launch his arrow into the forest.

In attempting to retrieve the arrow, Arthur meets Merlin, an elderly wizard who lives with his talking pet owl Archimedes. Merlin declares himself Arthur’s tutor and returns with him to his home, a castle run by Sir Ector, Arthur’s foster father.

Ector’s friend, Sir Pellinore, arrives to announce that the annual jousting tournament will be held in London, and the winner will be crowned king. Ector decides to put Kay through serious training for the tournament and appoints Arthur as Kay’s squire.

On the day of the tournament, Arthur realizes that he has left Kay’s sword at an inn, which is now closed for the tournament. Archimedes sees the legendary “Sword in the Stone” in a nearby churchyard, which Arthur removes almost effortlessly, unknowingly fulfilling the prophecy. When Arthur returns with the sword, Ector recognizes it and the tournament is halted.

In the Disney version, Ector places the sword back in its anvil, demanding Arthur prove that he pulled it. He pulls it once again, revealing that he is England’s rightful king. Later, the newly crowned king Arthur sits in the throne room with Archimedes, feeling unprepared for the responsibility of ruling, but Merlin returns from Bermuda and resolves to help Arthur become the great king that he has foreseen him to be.

Little known fact: Arthur has also been used as a model for modern-day behavior. In the 1930s, the Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table was formed in Britain to promote Christian ideals and Arthurian notions of medieval chivalry.

It didn’t stay in Europe but made it’s way across the ‘pond’ to the United States where hundreds of thousands of boys and girls joined Arthurian youth groups, such as the Knights of King Arthur, in which Arthur and his legends were promoted as wholesome exemplars.

What about you? Have you ever considered what kind of story this would be if the players were different or if it had a modern retelling? Comment below, I’d love to hear your ideas.

For more blogs participating in A to Z 2020 click the link here.

ABOUT T.S. VALMOND:

T.S. Valmond is the science fiction and young adult fantasy author of The Bolaji Kingdoms Series and The Verity Chronicles. As an award-winning poet, world traveler, and sign language interpreter she uses her experiences to fuel her stories. She’s a regular contributor to the website and founder of the Riders & Flyers group.

4 Comments

  1. I love the Arthurian legends, the Lady of the Lake, Merlin, all this magical legendary story 😉
    K is for Kaleidoscope

    1. Oh, I should have mentioned Lady of the Lake!!! I love that story. The artwork depictions of that story are some of my absolute favorites.

  2. T. H. White didn’t really invent any of those, they are from the original legends, but he did retell them really well 😀 I have always wanted to retell an Arthurian story…

    The Multicolored Diary

    1. So true!

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