The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights
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594 of 634 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 13, 2009
It's curious to me that this is the best-selling version of the King Arthur story in the kindle store, because it's a singularly flawed collection, well-eclipsed by other variants that are also available for free online; I suspect its popularity is an artifact of the search engine, not the book's own merits.

The author, Sir James Knowles, was an architect and friend of Tennyson, best known for founding the Metaphysical Society; this is, therefore, a very Victorian Arthur. In this case, "victorian" means "bowdlerized to the point of inanity." The story of Merlin's enchantment of Uther and Igraine to arrange Arthur's conception is almost completely elided ("When Uther, therefore, was at length happily wedded" -- yep, that's the whole story); Sir Tristram is apparently completely chaste with Iseult (King Mark just doesn't like him for some indiscernible reason) and even when Lancelot and Guinevere are caught together and the entire course of the story turns on adultery, such that bowdlerization was completely impossible, Gawain suggests that "it may well be that Lancelot was in her chamber for no evil." The story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is simply not included at all.

I suppose that kind of bowdlerization might be acceptable in a children's version of the Arthur stories, but this edition isn't good for that either, for two reasons: 1) like many free kindle ebooks, all illustrations have been removed, and 2) it's a kindle edition, and who gives a $250 ebook reader to a child too young to read a story with adultery in it?

There are other problems also. The King of Gaul (Sir Bors) is an ally for the first third and last third of the book, but in the middle, Gaul has a different king, Flollo, and Arthur conquers Gaul six ways from Sunday (mostly as a stopover in his conquest of Rome); timelines don't add up; so on, so forth. I didn't feel the author did a good job of telling the Arthur legends, in any particular. In short, this is a bad version of the King Arthur story and the general reader would be better off not wasting time on it.

I'm sure people are going to say "hey, it's an early victorian version, don't hold it to such high standards," but there's no reason for a modern reader to read these, any more than there's reason to read Sir Thomas Bowdler's "Family Shakespeare". For more "historical" versions of the Arthur legend, either of this versions' main source materials -- Geoffrey of Monmouth's _History of the Kings of Britain_ or Sir Thomas Malory's _Morte D'Arthur_ -- are superior reads (though I'll admit you'd want to skim Monmouth heavily). My own personal favorite, Howard Pyle's three-book version of the Arthur story ("The Story of King Arthur and His Knights," "The Story of the Champions of the Round Table," and "The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur") is similarly available for free online in the public domain, can be found with excellent illustrations by Pyle himself, is written in a fashion suitable for children and adults, and does a far better job of capturing the romance of the Arthur legends.

But whatever version you pick, this one is a poor place to start. It does have some strengths -- chiefly an encylopedic compilation of at least some version of almost every PG Arthur-related tale -- but the author's victorian mores seem to have twisted far too many of the stories into unrecognizability. Not recommended.
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116 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2001
Who hasn't 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 Launcelot, Sir Gareth, Sir Tristam, Sir Bors, Sir Kay, 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, and Arthur's marriage to Guinevere. But this is just the beginning of excitement - followed by numerous quests and adventures of the knights, 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 isn't that what the Arthurian legends are all about? Nobody is under the illusion that they are to be taken too seriously. Journeying to Arthur's Camelot is a form of escapism - suspend your sense of disbelief, watch the flashing swords and fearful battles, and enjoy.
That's not to say that the Arthurian tales do not reflect any reality. Arthur's world is in many respects a real medieval world. Medieval beliefs in paganism and Christianity are evident throughout. Witchcraft and enchantment is presented as alive and deadly, and conversely the true religion - in this case the beliefs of the medieval Catholic church - is evident throughout as knights commend themselves to God in prayer, thank him for his help, and even repent from their sins. The whole notion of the Holy Grail is of course a very Christian tradition - although a tradition that represents more fiction than fact. And the moral virtues of justice, truth and right for which the honorable knights fight are still noble ideals of virtue today. Arthur's kingdom is presented as a kingdom blessed by the grace of God, a beacon of light symbolizing all that is good and true and right, and a worthy model for kingdoms in today's world because it revolves around timeless virtues. Tales that promote dignity, courtesy, courage, respect for right, respect for female dignity and purity are as ennobling as they are entertaining.
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 work, Green has essentially followed Malory's fifteenth century classic "Morte d'Arthur." But unlike most other writers, such as Sir James Knowles, Green has made some significant improvements:
1. Firstly, the traditional Arthurian tales are a confusing mass of legends. But Green consciously weaves all the tales together as part of a single pattern. He needs to take some liberties with legend in order to achieve this, but these alterations are minor, and the end result is a plausible reconstruction with a clear development, revolving around the establishment of Arthur's kingdom, its climax with the successful quest for the Holy Grail, and subsequent downfall.
2. Secondly, most other collections slavishly follow the body of legend inherited by Thomas Malory. Green follows Malory in the main, but has researched the legends carefully for himself, and also incorporates some Arthurian legends not found in Malory.
These innovations of Green result in a very readable and successful version of the Arthurian tales, and yet one that does not significantly sacrifice faithfulness to legend. Those looking for a more historical reflection of the Arthurian tales would do well to turn to a version of Malory, such as that by Sir James Knowles. And those looking for a more developed and extensive modern version where the author has taken liberties beyond the original legends, would enjoy the classic work by Howard Pyle. But as a faithful, plausible and enjoyable introduction to the tales, you can't go wrong with this superb effort by Green.
Most readers looking to be introduced to the Arthurian legends need look no further than this collection by Green. It's not as grand as Malory, but it's a better read. There is no end to the accomplishments of sword and sorcery, adventures and quests. To our sorrow, Arthur's kingdom ends in darkness and disgrace, but not before it has shone with a wonderful and memorable light. 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's worth a read.
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76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 1999
I have loved the tales of Camelot since I was quite small. Due to this, several friends have asked me where they should begin. Over and over again, I recommend Green. His work is not majestic like Malory, but much easier to read and follow, especailly for a neophyte. Children love it, as do adults; this book gives the basic nobility of the tales, giving a good clue as to why they've been so popular for so long. Green also includes several tales of Sir Gawain, so he is not the near-felon he seems in several late medieval texts. The books is charming, moving, sad, happy, and everything else you could wish from Camelot. If you haven't read of Arthur before, begin here; if you want to remember why you loved these tales to begin with, read Green. He provides more than you would ever expect.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2000
This copy of the brought down story, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table is by Roger Lancelyn Green. This book is the book that you must get for the holidays. This book has everything that a reader could ask for. The times were mischievous. Evil was waiting brake out through the cracks of the darkest parts. Morgana Le Fe, a woman educated in wizardry, who used her powers in the good. When the squire, Arthur went looking for a sword for his brother, Sir Kay, he came across a sword stuck in stone. Unaware of its power, Arthur pulled it out. Then England knew who their king was.Following the advice of Merlin, his wise counselor, Arthur created a round table for his knights. The knights went on quests, fighting evil and seeking the Holy Grail, Only the purist could see the Grail. This book is about many knights ` adventures. come up often or you'll see the chronicles of Merlin. The reason you may not see this book being reviewed because almost every American has read King Arthur. Some people do not like the mystical aspects in this book or the old English. There are battles with dragons and wizardry but that's the type of book it is. I recommend this book to families in America for it is not just a book your kids will enjoy but is also for the whole family. King Arthur is historical and adventurous. The battles are realistic and the writing is "encouraging" for it keeps, you the reader yearning to read on.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2000
This book has the most thrilling example of medieval life than any other book that I have seen,or heard of!When I read this book,after only reading a few pages,I got hooked on it,and just couldn't seem to put it down!I hope other people will enjoy this book as much as I have.The book's descriptions of kings,knights,battles ,damsels,Lancelot,Guinevere, and most of all Arthur were wonderful!Even though I am only 12,I recomend this book to young readers everywhere!

(this next part of my review was written at a later date)

This was the first review I ever posted on amazon, and it seems rather odd now, going back and looking over it...because I'm seventeen, five years have passed, and I still love this book. I suppose that's why I've read it twenty-eight times; I fell in love with it as a child and it stayed with me. And so, I still recommend it! If you're young, enjoy adventure, with a healthy splash of fantasy and faith, then you will enjoy this. That's my recommendation; maybe in another five years, I'll come back and add to it.
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50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2009
I enjoyed this book, or what part of it I read, anyway. It is the rather un-nuanced account of the adventures had by a group of knights (of the Round Table, of course). There is no character development and very little overarching plot to tie the stories together, but there is something oddly compelling about it. There is a great deal of smiting, and rending helms asunder, and rescuing fair maidens in distress (can you imagine???? The evil giant makes ladies actually do manual labor, though they be of high birth!).

You get the general idea pretty quickly, I've read half and feel like I've gotten all I will get out of this book. It's free though, so I am glad I checked it out.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2007
I have read many versions of the Arthurian legends, and revisited them again in three different books recently. Of those, this version was the best. It was compiled from several different sources, and manages to flesh out some of the legends of the lesser knights and Merlin the Enchanter more than many versions.

Despite being a Puffin Classics edition, it does not condescend to the reader, nor read as a diluted telling, as is so often the case in educational publishing. If you are looking for a clean, coherent telling of the Arthurian tales that won't require wading through archaic language, this is the version for you.

The paperback pricing is nice too.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2008
I use this text as one of the "novels" that I teach in my British Literature high school class. Although the reading level is listed as ages 9-12, it works well at this level because some of the vocabulary is antiquated (smote, damsel, scabbard, jerkin, etc.) It is a very good translation of Le Morte D'arthur, and Roger Lancelyn Green has done a tremendous job of condensing the volumes of stories in that work into this selection.

There are illustrations as well to help students visualize what is happening. Unfortunately, as we become more geared to "viewing" stories on a screen, the skill of imagination in our children is greatly compromised, so pictures help them see the story. This version accomplishes that task, even though the pictures are simply black and white.

For readers who enjoy quest stories and legends, this is wonderful choice.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2002
This book was about how King Arthur's life supposedly was. He was born after King Uther tricked an enemy duke's wife into thinking that Uther was her husband. That child was given to Merlin, and he was un-christened, and was given to Sir Ector. He became a squire at his new home and had a bigger stepbrother to help. When the sword in the stone appeared, all the knights and noblemen around England appeared to try and pull it out, since the person who pulls out the sword in the stone is supposedly the king of all England. Throughout his life he encountered many people like Sir Lancelot of the Lake, who fell in love with his beloved wife, Guinevere, and also gave birth to a child with his half-sister when she disguised herself. He would later become a legend for all the things he had done during his life.
I read this book because I watched the movie from Disney called "The Sword in the Stone." It sparked my interest of knights and I was fascinated with the Middle Ages ever since. Then when I went to the library, this book was the only one about King Arthur that wasn't checked out, so I read this wonderful recount of the amazing life of Arthur.
I recommend this book to everyone above the age of 9. There are some "not so good for children parts" in this book. If you are a child who wants to read about King Arthur, then you should choose this book. If you want something that is easier, I suggest you not to select this book since it is kind of a hard book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
If you're in search of a King Arthur retelling for young readers that stretches from his birth to his death and includes everything that happens in between, I personally would recommend Rosemary Sutcliffe's King Arthur Trilogy. To me, it is the quintessential compendium of King Arthur lore, taken from a variety of sources, and retold in Sutcliffe's beautiful poetic-prose. Variations of the legend are a dime a dozen these days, but to me, Sutcliffe's version is the best.

However, for those with a particular interest in Arthurian legend, and eager to get their hands on every bit of literature surrounding him, then Roger Lancelyn Green's classic is just as essential. As a member of one of the famous Inklings of Oxford University (a group that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis), Green was keen to organize the myriad of Arthur-related stories and combine them into a structured whole, all in a novel that would be accessible to children. As such "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table" is notable not simply due to the coherency that Green lends to what had previously been a diverse array of legends, but that for the first time they were specifically geared toward children.

Most of the Arthurian novelizations prior to this had used Thomas Malory as their basis, but in his prologue Green outlines his wider collection of sources, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Godfrey of Strasbourg, Chrestien de Troyes, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and a variety of other British, French and German ballads. Even the epilogue is derived from a folktale that was recorded (comparatively) recently in a King Arthur anthology by Sir Edmund Chambers.

Green's contribution was to make each disparate adventure part of a fixed pattern with a running theme of good versus evil, the rise and fall of the kingdom, and chivalry and holiness set against temptation and treachery. In doing this, the book is divided into four parts: The Coming of Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, the Quest for the Holy Grail, and the Departure of Arthur. This chronological outline has been followed by pretty much every Arthurian novelist since.

Everything you know - and some things you don't - about the legend is recorded here: from Arthur's secretive birth, his fostered upbringing with Sir Ector, the sword in the stone, the retrieval of Excalibur from the lake, the founding of Camelot, his marriage to Guinevere, and the Round Table. The familiar characters are all present and accounted for: Arthur, Guinevere, Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, Morgana le Fay, Sir Gawaine, Sir Lancelot, and the rest of the Knights of the Round Table. The second book records the assortment of adventures that these knights get up to in the kingdom of Logres, and the third recounts the quest for the Holy Grail. Finally, the tale reaches its tragic conclusion when the evil designs of Mordred and the fatal love affair between Arthur's queen and his best knight come to light.

Some things have been sanitized a little for younger readers. Here Lancelot and Guinevere's affair goes no further than a clandestine meeting behind closed doors, and the fact that Mordred is Arthur's incestuous son by his half-sister has been exorcised completely.

In terms of prose, Green writes clearly and simplistically - it's certainly easier to read than Malory, but also a bit dry compared to Sutcliffe. What he provides here is the bare bones of the Arthurian insight, with characters outlined in broad strokes. There is virtually no insight into characterization, and the plot itself can get immensely complex, even with Green's unifying structure. Random things happen for no rhyme or reason, and the narrative is full of things such as love at first sight, honor before reason, miracles beyond the understanding of mortals, and other inexplicable occurrences.

The behavior of its characters can be equally baffling. Knights can go from chivalrous to bloodthirsty at the drop of a hat, and though Morgana le Fay is the main antagonist of the first part of the book, she disappears for the middle segment and then reappears as a benevolent figure to take Arthur to Avalon. There's no attempt made to explain the abrupt about-turn.

Certain prominent characters disappear completely without any closure on where they went or how they died, while others pop up out of nowhere without any real introduction. Then there are the plot-holes, such as: if the Lady of the Lake is with Arthur on the barge taking him to Avalon, then whose was the hand that caught Excalibur in the lake only minutes before?

However, it's important to note that I'm not pointing these out as flaws, but merely factors of the book. Green follows the obscure reasoning of the legends, and his goal was not to explain these inconsistencies, but to record and organize them. To expound too much on what is really happening is the work of later Arthurian novelists, and - in a way - deprives the oldest incarnations of the story of their mystery. Like all the best Arthur retellings, this one retains the enigmatic nature of the legends, and as stories go, is a rewarding experience.

This particular Puffin Classic includes biographical information on the author, a character guide, a study guide for teachers with suggested activities based on the book, and an introduction by David Almond.
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