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King Arthur: The True Story
The Amazon Book Review
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Amazon and all who participated in providing myself with this wonderful fact filled true story book.
The first thing the authors do is strip away things that weren't part of the original Arthur story--the knights, for instance, represented old Celtic gods or unrelated legends that were tacked on later, or were just invented out of whole cloth. Guinevere (originally Ganhumara), Excalibur (originally Caliburn), and even Merlin were likewise later additions--though Merlin may be the earliest, perhaps a memory of the Welsh bard Merddyn, who may even have recounted some of the very early legends. And so we're left with Arthur himself, and perhaps some beginnings of Camelot and the origins of the sword in the stone and lady of the lake legends.
Next they have a look at the early Welsh tales of Arthur, which aren't much help. They look at the old genealogies of Welsh princes, and of course there's no Arthur listed. They review what's known of the early history following the departure of the Romans, and follow Vortigern and Ambrosius. And they describe the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons and the beginnings of the conflict between them and the native Britons. And then they go to look for Arthur.
Any search for a historical King Arthur will be limited by the assumptions it necessarily starts out with, and this book is no exception. Arthur might have been a war leader (rather than an actual king) who helped the Britons in their struggle, as some of the sources imply. Or he may have been a compilation of heroes merged into a single heroic figure, or he may even have been made up entirely. The authors of this book set out specifically to find a "King Arthur" (i.e., a historical ruler of the period who used the (nick)name Arthur in some form), and it's no surprise when they find him.
When they do reveal the man they think was the historical King Arthur, the reader's first thought is "Who?", and with good reason. The prince they identify is entirely obscure, just a name in the annals, and nothing about him was recorded. That, they suggest, is precisely what makes him a good candidate--a man with no historical record can be made into a hero to suit any legend. Perhaps they're right--I'd like to think so personally, and their reasoning is plausible enough, but realistically there's just no way to know. There's so much uncertainty in the historical record that you have to make too many assumptions in order to reach any conclusion. In the end, while I'd like to think they've got it pinned down, I have to remind myself that a lot of other possibilities exist, and that too many of their conclusions just seem too pat. But I can still remain disdainful of over-the-top romanticizations such as that dreadful movie "Excalibur".
On a technical note, the authors have a distracting habit of abusing semicolons, by using them in place of colons at the top of lists. A semicolon acts like a period, to separate two statements that could stand as individual sentences; it's not a colon with comma influences.
Most recent customer reviews
Theory here claims "Arthur" line through Cunneda, Enniam Girt, through a murky...Read more