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3.7 out of 5 stars
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (Dover Children's Classics)
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82 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Although Howard Pyle was born in Delaware, he is best known as purveyor of myth and legend to several generation of British and American children -- and their parents.

Published in 1902, THE STORY OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS (Unabridged) is probably the most comprehensive of the Arthurian legends available in one volume--certainly the most comprehensive for kids. We follow Arthur during his "Sword in the Stone" period, then on to adulthood with a nod at the romantic complications that the play/movie "Camelot" focused on, then later an older Arthur and his followers articulate the legend of the grail (spoofed by Monty Python and reverently presented by a score of other writers).

Although 1902 was just past the end of the "Decadent" movement in English arts and literature, this volume displays no cloying irony or clever design a la Aubrey Beardsley. It was, after all, meant for children, although very small children should have it read to them by an understanding sibling or adult. In fact, what I appreciate most about it is its full-body quality that appeals to me as an adult just as it did as a child.

Is calling this tome "unabridged" a mere marketing ploy? Fortunately not. So many kids' books -- this one included -- have been abridged, then dumbed down, and frequently illustated so profusely that they come across more as a kind of black-and-white Classics Comic than the real thing. And rarely does the book jacket or publishing page admit as much! Of course, I'm not totally averse to abridging a long and challenging work for the sake of the children, and there have been a couple of intelligent shortenings of Pyle's work. But the publishers of this book wisely chose to indicate it is unabridged -- a novel exception these days and a happy one. When we're dealing with cultural history and myth this seminal, it's best not to gloss over the details and the nuances of interpersonal relations that give the Arthurian legend such "oomph" even today.

A note on the quality of the physical book itself: it is extraordinary, really about halfway in workmanship between an ordinary hardbound book meant to mass readership and the much more expensive Folio Society type of book with its art papers and commissioned drawings. THE STORY OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS (Unabridged) has smoothly-trimmed pages, beginning to be a rarity in this age of sloppy, pseudo-deckle cuts. The type font is accessible and attractive and there's enough room to make reading it a pleasure but not so much that it screams "Kid stuff." The spine is bound in quarter-round buckram, not synthetic fabric or cardboard. There's even a ribbon marker included. At this price, I doubt any publisher using USA presses could make much of a profit; this version was printed in China. (There are some people who object to buying/receiving made-in-Mainland-China goods, so the potential gift-giver might think about that beforehand.) But for the money -- and even for more money -- you'll never get this kind of quality, both literary and physical. Highly recommended.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 1997
This book transports the older child into a world of magic, knights and ladies. The main focus is King Arthur, but also features Merlin, and some of King Arthurs Knights. This book provides an excellent opportunity to expand an older childs vocabulary as the author has clearly researched and included elements from King Arthurs time. I read this book aloud to my ten year old daughter and sometimes my wife and we all loved the spirit and adventure. Be aware that this book is not "politically correct" (written in 1903!). There are some really wicked women that torment King Arthur and his knights, and the knights themselves are not always "shining" to todays standards. I am now ordering the next in the series to continue with the adventure!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2005
Howard Pyle delivers yet another splendid book which recaptures the enchantment and chivalry of the legend of Kind Arthur and his knights. Some have complained of the archaic english, but I love it. It only adds to the magic of Pyle's story. This book is filled with the adventures of noble knights, and it does an amazing job of keeping your interest. Somehow, even after many previous jousts and sword matches, Pyle makes each one more interesting than the last.

I also love the "moral of the story" section he does at the end of most major book divisions. He did not do that in the other Pyle book I have read (The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood), and I very much liked them. In such he made allegories of Excalibur and its sheath (to God's Truth and faith), and does likewise with many things, always wishing to teach to us some truth through his writings about Arthur and his knights. I also loved the oath of the knights of the Round Table:

"And this was the covenant of their Knighthood of the Round Table: That they would be gentle unto the weak; that they would be courageous unto the strong; that they would be terrible unto the wicked and the evil-doer that they would defend the helpless who should call upon them for aid; that all women should be held unto them sacred; that they would stand unto the defence of one another whensoever such defence should be required; that they would be merciful unto all men; that they would be gentle of deed, true in friendship, and faithful in love. This was their covenant, and unto it each knight sware upon the cross of his sword, and in witness thereof did kiss the hilt thereof."

This except, I think, well sums up this book, in which these oaths are held, and if they are not, retribution always follows swiftly. In the land of Camelot, good deeds before God are of highest value, and wicked deeds are always subject to disapproval and punishment.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2004
A wonderful book! It has adventure on every page. I could not put it down. I like knights and adventure and this book has it all. It is also nice because it's not really simple language or a tiny vocabulary, because I like challenges. Also, it doesn't repeat iself, and you don't guess what happens as soon as you start it. I like it a lot, and I wish I could give it more than 5 stars! I recommend this book as one of my favorite books!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2005
While this book is intended for kids, adults will probably appreciate it as well...I know I did. If you've tried to wade through Mallory's Le Mort d'Arthur recently, you might agree that it can be relatively slow going and tedious reading at times. Pyle's version of the tales are excellent, and can be read much more easily (and in my opinion with more entertainment) than Mallory's book. I'd recommend this to anyone, young or old, who likes adventure stories and wants to start or continue learning about the Arthurian legends.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2001
This book was well written, but the language was extremely sophisticated. The author wrote the novel in how ,now days,we thought the residents of the Medival Times talked. The overall story wasn't too bad, but not as good as I thought it would be. Although the novel was difficult to read, from what you could make out was truly brought to life. You could tell that Howard Pyle truly has a love for writting; reflected from the content in the novel. This novel would be for anyone with an adventerous soul. This novel truly helped my understanding of the Medival history.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
At the turn of the century, Howard Pyle turned his considerable talent as a storyteller to writing tales of the Round Table. When I glance at my Grail Lore books, his name jumps out at me again and again. Not only is he a wonderful storyteller, he does some of the most amazing illustrations for each tale.
Born before the US Civil War in Wilmington Delaware, he was enchanted by storybooks and the drawings such as Grimm's Faerytales and that influence is clear in his books. So Pyle set about in his twenties to pen stories of Pirates, Robin Hood and Arthur and his knight. His love of these tales was brought to bear as he created "grown-up" storybooks.
This is one of my favourite of his works. The illustrations of Arthur, Merline and the Knights of the Table are brilliant. It covers the early tales of Arthur, as his identity was discovered by performing the Miracle of the Sword, then moves on to Arthur's winning of his Queen. He gives stories of Merlin, Sir Pellias, Sir Gawain and others in this amazing storybook for lovers of Grail Lore.
No Grail Library Collection should be without it.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2001
Even though this book is very well written. It is NOT and I mean NOT a 9-12 book. The grammar and words are for the reading level of a high-schooler, or adult. Unless I have read a different version... They had the same covers and everything, but it was a hardcover. I don't recommend this to an average kid, unless you're some ultra genius.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I think it would be difficult to find a folk hero, historical figure or group of legends that are better known, have spawned more literature and have had more movies made of them than King Arthur and his legendary Round Table and the Knights and Ladies who were a part of his story. To be frank, I grew up on this stuff, and furtherer more, admit to having been tremendously influenced by these stories when I was younger. In a fashion, they are very much a part of my total make up. I can well remember reading and being read to out of this very rendition. That being said...

Howard Pyle first published this work in 1902. This book represents the first volume of Pyle's retelling of the Arthurian Legend. These books, as most of this author's work, were directed toward young people of that time. Do not though make the mistake of considering this work a simple child's story, as it is far more than that. When I was in high school and then college, I ran headlong into Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, and like many other young students, when completely numb. Later, I read Baines' rendition, which was of course more readable, but still quite a chore. While these works are certainly worthwhile, and should certainly be read by anyone with the least bit of interest in classical literature, they never-the-less are not easy works. Actually, they are rather difficult and you actually have to work at them. This is good, but sometimes you just want to relax and enjoy a good story. (I often speculate as to just how many people have been completely turned off to classical literature via having been forced to read these old tales when they were young. For those of you who were; a suggestion...try rereading them now. It is amazing what twenty or thirty years will do to your outlook!

This offering by Pyle fits that need, both for the younger reader and for the adult. I admit to taking great delight in reading this author's rendition of these old tales and am absolutely thrilled that they are again in print and in such a wonderful edition. The language Pyle uses stays true to the archaic style it was meant to be, yet it is not overwhelming. While the Malory translation is just a kick above G. Chaucer's, it is never the less difficult in this day and age. Pyle has toned things down so that the average reader can read and enjoy without a lap full of arcane dictionaries setting in their lap, yet he has not lost the essence and beauty of the original work.

This volume starts with the birth of Arthur and then covers many of the tales concerning the various Knights of the Round Table. We meet Sir Kay, Queen Morgana le Fay, Sir Pellias, Sir Gawaine, the wicked down fall of Merlin; The Lady Vivian, Merlin himself and many, many others. The courtly manners, speech and now long outdated attitudes are all meticulously recorded in a readable manner. Now do beware; this is not a politically correct book by any means. The original basis for the story goes back hundreds of years and Pyle's rendition was, after all, written in 1902. Actually, if this one is read to a much younger child, an adult really should do the reading and offer explanations as to why events were handled in the way they were.

This particular volume is of course illustrated by Howard Pyle himself. I must admit that he is probably one of my most, if not the most, favorite of the older illustrators. The pen and ink drawings are so typically Pyle that it is difficult to confuse him with others. The ample illustrations in this volume are all of that style and in fact strongly resemble old wood engravings. Pyle of course was the creator, or at least the inspirational origin of the Brandy Wine School of Illustration, which include some of the best of the past and are still quite influential today.

For a pure reading joy, this volume is difficult to beat. I cannot wait to get my hand on the rest of the things.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 1999
I found the book very interesting. It is a great story of legend. The stories have been passed down for many generations; Howard Pyle has done a great job of keeping the stories alive and well written. The characters in the book are all very well developed, by not giving you all of the characteristics at one time. From the beginning to the end, never telling more than what need's to be told. In the beginning of the novel starting with the young King Arthur, before he was the king, telling of how he meet each one of the knights of the round table, and how they came to be at his services. To me that most interesting part of the book was in the beginning when Sir Kay and the other knights where engaged in the battle, the description of the fight, and especially of how Arthur came by the great sword excalibur. The descriptions of not just the first, but of all of the great battles involved in the unfolding of the final story are just great. The book is a great piece of literature and I would recommend it for anyone who needs a little adventure in his or her lives
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