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July 22 , 2009

The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights - The Original Classic Edition


Along with Robin Hood, these ancient legends are a must-read - Who hasnt heard of King Arthur and the knights of his Round Table? In this book you meet them all including the magician Merlin, and the brave knights Sir Lancelot, Sir Gareth, Sir Tristam, Sir Bors, Sir Key, and Sir Galahad. All the old favorites are included Arthur drawing the sword out of the stone, Arthur receiving the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, Arthur becoming emperor, and Arthurs marriage to Guinevere. These events are recounted with surprising little drama. But dont give up too soon the best comes with all the quests and adventures of the knights that follow, including the Quest for the Holy Grail. This book is chock-full of entertaining adventures involving knights in shining armour, damsels in distress, fierce jousting and sword fights to the death, battles against hoards of enemies and giants, tournaments and miracles.

The medieval setting is painted in a rather idealized fashion, limited to the nobility and figures of the court, who embrace all that is beautiful, brave and noble. These virtues are sometimes portrayed rather simplistically, as unknown knights engage in mortal combat, and only after they have virtually killed each other do the introductions begin: What is your name? Behind this medieval mayhem is a heightened sense of chivalry more reflective of legend than fact, where knights battle to the death for the sake of a woman - even one they have only just met. But isnt that what the Arthurian legends are all about? Nobody is under the illusion that they are to be taken too seriously. Journeying to Arthurs Camelot is a form of escapism - suspend your sense of disbelief, watch the flashing swords and fearful battles, and enjoy.

How much truth there is behind the Arthurian tales will always be the subject of debate. The fact remains that there is an extensive and confusing body of legend to wade through. In this 1923 work, Knowles has essentially followed Malorys fifteenth century classic Morte dArthur. Even his language is antiquated and tedious, but persevere because you will soon find that this an enjoyable and essential addition that heightens the heroic atmosphere of the story and gives the legend a fittingly majestic touch. But it is doubtful that Malory or Knowles have been successful in making a great deal of sense out of the confusing mass of legend, because it is not unified in a plausible manner. Those looking for a more readable or easier introduction to king Arthur would be better served by the works by Roger Lancelyn Green or Howard Pyle.

This collection is primarily of historical value, in giving a true picture of the original legends as they have been transmitted across hundreds of years. Even if it is not always easy to read, it cannot be denied that Knowles has produced a very comprehensive collection of the Arthurian tales, and the unbelievable exploits of knights in shining armour will continue to entertain in the future just as they have done in the past. Along with the tales of Robin Hood, the tales of King Arthur are the most exciting tales that British history has produced.

This is the stuff of legend, and it is worth a read.

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