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Old June 10th, 2017, 08:17 PM   #1

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Le Morte D'Artur--a very surprising read


Good Day All,

Just finished sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Artur. Now, I am from the Excalibar generation, so I was already aware that that King Arthur story was not the tale of lost innocence that has come down to us from T.H. White, Broadway, and Hollywood, but I was not ready for this. The real story is pretty much and inversion of the story as we know it.

The story that we know is of a good wizard engineering a perfect social order which is undone by a good man succumbing to the forbidden love of a woman. It is almost an original sin story, with the promise that, if we all believe, the good old days of innocence might return. The real story is of a very evil wizard engineering a kingdom of brave but immoral men who sow the seeds of their own destruction almost from the start.

Some examples of the differances between the modern telling and the real story:

1) MERLIN IS PROFOUNDLY EVIL, AND CONVINCES ARTHUR TO DO SOME VERY NASTY THINGS.
Merlin is given to be the Devil's son--literally. There is no indication that the order he engineers in Camelot represents the perfect order of things, or even that it is place of justice (it isn't). In one illustrative moment, he convinces Arthur to murder all of the noble babies born on Mordred's birthday to thwart the prophecy that Arthur will be killed by someone born that day.

2) MERLIN IS ONLY IN A MINISCULE PART OF THE BOOK.
About 3-50 of a 500 page book.

3) ARTHUR ISN'T IN MUCH EITHER
Obviosuly, he survives until the end, but it is really the story of the knights. After founding the kingdom and the war with Rome, he has one notable combat with Tristam, and then only appears for a series of cameos until the end.

4) LANCELOT IS FAIRLY WICKED, AND HE AND GWYNEVERE ARE FOOLING AROUND FROM THE START
There is no gradually building of love tht erupts into a conflagration of passion. They are going at it from the start. Nor does Lancelot every really repent (except to god at the very end). He lies to Arthur's face even when caught. Lancelot if wicked in other ways, and constantly fights againts fellow round table knights for glory. The fights sometimes end in death. God rebukes him by not letting him see the mysteries of the holy grail.

5) GWYNEVERE IS SIMILARLY WICKED
At no point, none, is it ever given that she and Arthur have any love between them. That being said, she is also wicked in strange ways. At one point, she is willing to forgive an attempted rapist when he offers to give her land.

F) EVERYONE IN CAMELOT KNOWS AND KEEPS THEIR SECRET UNTIL THE END
Some, including Bors, even help with rendezvous and the like.

6) ARTHUR IS A BIT OF A DOLT AND A WEAKLING
He seems blissfully unaware of an affair that lasts for decades. At the end, it is given that he always suspected and turned a blind eye because he had it so good he didn't want to ruin things. Even when he goes to war with Lancelot, he wishes he could just forget the whole thing, but is shamed into fighting by Gwain.

7) THE MORALITY OF EVERYONE IN THIS IS PRETTY ALIEN
There are a thousand other examples. Brothers killing brothers, fighting, killing, and forgiving for reasons that are unfathomable. At least one of the knights is a rapist, which is just kind of all right with the rest of them.

At one point, one of Gwain's brothers beheads their mother for fooling around with Lamerock, while letting Lamerock go for the moment for the sake of honor(?!). Later, they dishonoranbly ambush and murder him.

The quest for the holy grail, and the rebuke of many of the knights, is a sort of way of bringing this to the fore and making it clear that the age of Camelot is NOT an age of morality and order.

Another interesting example of the strange morality of the story is God's reward to Galahad's for finding the holy grail--death. He is allowed to die for being pure of heart. Percival, the second purest knight, similarly follows in his footsteps and is rewarded with death.


8) LANCELOT IS NOT THE BEST KNIGHT.
Nope. His son, Galahad is the best, and at one point during the quest for the holy grail, one of the emmisaries of god tells him flat out that if he fights Galahad, he will lose.

He is most consistantly called the best of his generation, but even that is disputed, as Tristam and Lamerok are also called the best at different times. Lancelot is the most skilled, but it is given that Tristam is bigger and stronger. The two fight fight three times, and the results are mixed, only slightly favoring Lancelot.

9) GWAIN IS SECOND RATE AND VILLAINOUS.
I always thought he was one of the best. But he loses a lot, and at one point two knights, I think Tristam and Lancelot, have a conversation about how weak he is, agreeing on 6-7 knights that are better, including his own fairly obscure brother Gehris. Gareth, Dynadan, Palomides, Tristam, Lancelot, and several others, possibly Bors and Ector, are all given to be better than Gwain. Also, he is trecherous in his behavior towards Lamerock and Lancelot.

10) ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS IS A MUSLIM
Just found it an odd thing to be in the premier novel about Latin Christendom. Palomides, who is perhaps the fourth best, is a Muslim and is much more of a main character than Arthur or Merlin.

11) THE KINGDOM DOES NOT COLLAPSE WITH THE DEATH OF ARTHUR
It is said that Sir Constantine becomes king and rules wisely and justly. So much for nostalgic memories of the good old days of Camelot.

I just found the entire thing surprising. Anyone else read it and/or have some thoughts?

Last edited by cachibatches; June 10th, 2017 at 08:26 PM.
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Old June 10th, 2017, 11:08 PM   #2

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Sir Thomas Mallory is the author [we could say the creator] of the traditional King Arthur. He collected sources elaborating them to build a complicated scenario and a nice story for a novel.

We should remind that he used French and English tales as sources. Among other details, keep in mind that the tale of Gareth seems to be a product of Mallory.

Sir Mallory interpolates and interprets as well in his work, so if on a side he is The Author who built the "official" figure of King Arthur, he cannot be considered reliable and we need to examine his sources.

During the following centuries the figure of the Great King has been elaborated again and again and it has been romanticized more and more [he and the personages in his tales].

Then, some words about Sir Thomas:

he wasn't an angel and considering his personality, it's obvious he has written such a work. [He had elected to the Parliament, but he had also denounced several times for theft, rape, violence and attempts to kill someone ...].
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Old June 10th, 2017, 11:54 PM   #3

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Was palamedes Muslim. He was a Christian convert right?
And I seem to remember him getting beaten a lot.
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Old June 11th, 2017, 12:01 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edric Streona View Post
Was palamedes Muslim. He was a Christian convert right?
And I seem to remember him getting beaten a lot.
He as a Saracen for most of the story. He converts and then is not much heard of again. He gets beat alot by Tristam, who is one of the big three. But he is able to beat a lot of very good knights such as Gareth, and overall, might be the fourth best (of his generation, before Galahad), although it is debatable.
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Old June 11th, 2017, 06:42 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by cachibatches View Post
He as a Saracen for most of the story. He converts and then is not much heard of again. He gets beat alot by Tristam, who is one of the big three. But he is able to beat a lot of very good knights such as Gareth, and overall, might be the fourth best (of his generation, before Galahad), although it is debatable.
It's been many years since I read it. Is he described as a Muslim? He might be described as pagan Saracen.
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Old June 11th, 2017, 08:55 PM   #6
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Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Artur is not the official version of the King Arthur Story. There is no official version of the King Arthur Story. And there is no true version of the King Arthur Story either, except so far as the very earliest mentions may be historical.

Furthermore, the first publication of Le Morte D'Artur was in 1485, just 532 years ago. That makes it one of the more recent and modern versions of the King Arthur story. There is no reason to write like Sir Thomas Malory started it all by writing the original version.
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Old June 11th, 2017, 09:24 PM   #7

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Originally Posted by Edric Streona View Post
It's been many years since I read it. Is he described as a Muslim? He might be described as pagan Saracen.
I always thought "Saracen" described a Muslim. You probably know better than I, but ths from Wiki:

Saracen was a term widely used among Christian writers in Europe during the Middle Ages. The term's meaning evolved during its history. In the early centuries AD, Greek and Latin writings used this term to refer to the people who lived in desert areas in and near the Roman province of Arabia, and who were specifically distinguished as a people from others known as Arabs.[1][2] In Europe during the Early Medieval era, the term came to be associated with Arab tribes as well.[3] By the 12th century, "Saracen" had become synonymous with "Muslim" in Medieval Latin literature.
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Old June 11th, 2017, 09:25 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MAGolding View Post
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Artur is not the official version of the King Arthur Story. There is no official version of the King Arthur Story. And there is no true version of the King Arthur Story either, except so far as the very earliest mentions may be historical.

Furthermore, the first publication of Le Morte D'Artur was in 1485, just 532 years ago. That makes it one of the more recent and modern versions of the King Arthur story. There is no reason to write like Sir Thomas Malory started it all by writing the original version.
What are the older ones I can readily pick up? Or even order, for that matter?

I am on a bit of a King Arthur kick, now.
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Old June 11th, 2017, 09:34 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MAGolding View Post
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Artur is not the official version of the King Arthur Story. There is no official version of the King Arthur Story. And there is no true version of the King Arthur Story either, except so far as the very earliest mentions may be historical.

Furthermore, the first publication of Le Morte D'Artur was in 1485, just 532 years ago. That makes it one of the more recent and modern versions of the King Arthur story. There is no reason to write like Sir Thomas Malory started it all by writing the original version.
This is true. And he alludes to several books he used to get his information from.
Since it is very likely all fictional I still wonder what the early stories were like.
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Old June 11th, 2017, 10:29 PM   #10

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King Arthur wasn't ...


Quote:
Originally Posted by MAGolding View Post
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Artur is not the official version of the King Arthur Story. There is no official version of the King Arthur Story. And there is no true version of the King Arthur Story either, except so far as the very earliest mentions may be historical.

Furthermore, the first publication of Le Morte D'Artur was in 1485, just 532 years ago. That makes it one of the more recent and modern versions of the King Arthur story. There is no reason to write like Sir Thomas Malory started it all by writing the original version.
I was rhetoric ... "official" in the sense that from his work on, the others have anyway taken something from him.

The figure of King Arthur [as I have said several times] is probably a literary construction, a work in progress, which started in literature, not in real history. In other words, the King Arthur of Sir Mallory didn't exist and it's also probable that a King Arthur wasn't ...

Here we can debate again the matter of fact that the authors of his time [supposed time] don’t mention him [and we can discuss the rational explanations why they didn’t] or that there are no historical recorded references to this powerful king [and his kingdom] out of Great Britain [no diplomatic relations for such a huge kingdom?].

The substance is that “King Arthur” was created putting together different figures and events, tales, legends and tradition. And the process took centuries.
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