TalkArthurian Legends

Join LibraryThing to post.


Nov 2, 2006, 8:05pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Mar 5, 2011, 9:59am

Can I kick this off by asking about overviews that members find most useful? The classic is The Quest for Arthur's Britain which contains much that is helpful but which is very much dated in that it was a snapshot of the state of play in the late 1960s. Another is 'The World of King Arthur' by Christopher Snyder, more recent but just as well illustrated (except for some tacky line illustrations). There are others, but perhaps that's a start!

Mar 5, 2011, 10:43am

On this topic I've only read Arthur's Britain : History and archaeology A.D. 367-634 by Leslie Alcock and The age of Arthur: Roman Britain and the empire of Arthur (3 vols) by John Morris.

I'm no expert, but I suspect both are somewhat dated by now.

Mar 5, 2011, 2:59pm

I'd long been fascinated by the idea of the "historical Arthur" and so was a fan of the various books by Ashe, Alcock, Morris and others. However, in recent years 'hard' scholarship (e.g. D. N Dumville: "Sub-Roman Britain: History and Legend", History 62 (1977): 173–92; and "The Historical Value of the Historia Brittonum", Arthurian Literature 6 (1982): 1–26) has become increasingly skeptical on the subject. I recommend folks check out Concepts of Arthur by Thomas Green, as well as Green's website . Green deconstructs my cherished historical-Arthur ideas, but ultimately I find him convincing.

Briefly his argument is that the 'historical Arthur' we think we know is a composite figure that emerged as early as (Pseudo-)Nennius c.800 c.e. Arthur the Dux Bellorum was a combination of distant recollections of the real anti-Saxon resistance (especially that associated with the historically attested Aurelius Ambrosianus) with a supernatural/legendary 'guardian of Britain' figure (called Arthur and variants), distantly cognate with Arcturus, and roughly comparable to Finn MacCool and the role he played in the legendary history of that other Celtic island. Even if you don't completely buy Green's thesis, it's worth checking out

Mar 5, 2011, 3:06pm

Interesting. I will try to find a copy. By the way, however, your link goes to "Concepts of Modern Physics" by Arthur Beiser. The correct link would be Concepts of Arthur

Mar 5, 2011, 3:42pm

That's weird. How did I/how did you do that? All I did was put "Concepts of Arthur" in brackets.

I see the book is not too expensive second-hand on AmazonUK. The site should give you some idea what kind of thing is in the book.

Mar 5, 2011, 3:45pm

The mysteries of the algorithm - now there's a good book title ;-)

Mar 6, 2011, 12:05pm

I just finished and reviewed Ambrosius Aureliani by Leon Mintz, who's a member of this group. He's put together a potential historical chronology and built his story around it. Check it out.

Mar 7, 2011, 6:30am

#6 When you clink to add your message the instructions for creating 'touchstones' come up on the right. Basically, all you have to do is use square brackets and the title will create a link. Don't despair if it doesn't always happen - touchstones are notoriously unreliable.

Edited: Feb 4, 2020, 10:58pm

I don't mean how do you make a touchstone-- I did what you describe -- but when I put Concepts of Arthur in the brackets it made a touchstone for Concepts of Physics by Arthur Somebody... and so, Weird....

Mar 7, 2011, 1:00pm

#10 Oh right, sorry. Just one of those touchstone things, I guess. You did scroll through all the options, I take it? It seems to be one of those weird glitches where very often an extremely well-known title will be ignored for something that only maybe contains a couple of the relevant words. Maybe one day when we're all in our dotage it'll get fixed.

Mar 7, 2011, 1:28pm

My favorite book on the literature of Arthur, as opposed to the history is Roger Sherman Loomis's The Grail from Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol. I'd be very interested in a similar study that looked at the Gawain tales through time.

Edited: Mar 7, 2011, 1:40pm

> 12 Gawain: A Casebook

>11 Booksloth: Ah... forgot to scroll-choose...

Mar 8, 2011, 8:15am

13: Oh, wow, an entire series on the characters. That'll keep me going for the rest of my life. Thanks!

Mar 8, 2011, 9:48am

At $125 a copy, I think I'll wait for the movie...

Mar 8, 2011, 10:06am

> 13,14,15

Still not cheap but there are second-hand copies avaiable for less than half that, on Amazon or Bookfinder.

A couple years ago when I was wading thru some of these expensive Arthurian scholarship books, I just took them out of my academic library. And if you don't have borrowing priveleges, at most of those libraries you can just go in and read them, or xerox the parts you need.

Mar 8, 2011, 11:27am

I live in a state in the US that still funds extensive interlibrary loan so that live-long learners can get most books they want for no cost.

Mar 22, 2011, 7:36pm

For myself, I like The Discovery of King Arthur by Geoffrey Ashe. Though many may not agree with the Riothamus=Arthur theory, it seems the most convincing at this point (to me, anyways).

Though I haven't read 'The World of King Arthur' by Christopher Snyder, I read An Age of Tyrants and found that full of information. I'll have to check 'The World of King Arthur'.

Aug 3, 2011, 3:27pm

Never got round to joining in this thread after kick-starting it; sorry!

Here are my thoughts on some of the works mentioned.
The Quest for Arthur's Britain by Geoffrey Ashe: this was published during the time of the excavations of South Cadbury and rode the crest of that wave of enthusiasm, being republished several times in paperback over the next decade. Literary and historical background mostly still reliable, but the archaeology has moved on. Ashe is still alive and writing.

Arthur's Britain by the late Leslie Alcock. One of the contributors to The Quest ... and director of the Cadbury dig, subsequently becoming Professor of Archaeology at Glasgow University. The final excavation report (2 volumes) came out around the time of his death; I haven't read it, but no doubt the analysis of the historical context will have been substantially revised over nearly four decades.

The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650 by John Morris: much as I respect his erudition, everything he wrote in this tome has to be critically examined, as his deductions stretched the surviving evidence to and often beyond breaking point.

Concepts of Arthur by Thomas Green: mentioned favourably by Crypto-Willobie, this has to be a thorough examination of the evidence, with conclusions I concur with 97.5% of the time. Perhaps a little too thorough on occasions, as he frequently repeats or paraphrases himself, often within a paragraph. Also, the whole is rather dense; a shame, as he has a good grasp of the extant materials.

The Discovery of King Arthur by Geoffrey Ashe: again, I've a lot of respect for Ashe, but despite some acceptance by North American academics, his attempt to match the trope of Arthur's betrayal while in Gaul with Riothamus' achievements and disappearance in Gaul is interesting but not convincing. Just too many apparent coincidences and leaping to conclusions without firm evidence.

An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Britons, A.D. 400-600 by Christopher A. Snyder: again, I have this, and have skim-read this, found it interesting and intend at some stage to complete and review it properly.

Ambrosius Aureliani by Leon Mintz: not read this. Apart from a stage in the 1970s, I tend now to give fictional takes on Arthur a miss; the last one I read was Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve as I enjoyed his Mortal Engines fantasy sequence.

The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol by Roger Sherman Loomis; again, very interesting but very dated take on the grail, largely superseded by Richard Barber's The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief. One of those titles not to be read in isolation from a range of other academic studies.

Gawain A Casebook by K ed R. H: Busby Thompson: I've got (but only skim-read) the King Arthur title in this series but not this Gawain volume. No doubt as scholarly as one would expect from a compendium such as this.

Concepts of Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser: an unusual addition to the corpus of traditional Arthurian research; hasn't yet made it to my shelves though. And maybe never will.

Sep 16, 2011, 1:42am

This message has been deleted by its Arthur.

May 24, 2012, 11:29pm

Just resurrecting this topic to put in my two bits worth now that I've discovered you! I'm reading The Mammoth book of King Arthur by Mike Ashley. I haven't read his conclusion/s yet, but he certainly seems to have left no stone unturned in the quest for an historical Arthur. It's such a complex subject, but the tables of genealogies, maps, etc all do a good job keeping me fascinated.

Aug 21, 2012, 12:48pm

>21 Marlie5:
Sorry about the lack of response! Have you finished Mike Ashley's book? Did you enjoy it, even review it?

Feb 4, 2020, 11:09pm

>15 Larxol: >16 Crypto-Willobie: >19 ed.pendragon:

With regard to the high price of Concepts of Arthur by Thomas Green (now apparently known as Caitlin Green) the whole book is now available as a free downoad on her website , along with much other interesting material on Sub-Roman Britain and 'Arthurian' times. Here's the book's free download page -- it's a 288 page pdf:
Well worth the read.

Oct 7, 2020, 10:50am

Just curious as to whether anyone (besides M. Pendragon) has checked out Concepts of Arthur...

Edited: Oct 7, 2020, 11:37am

>24 Crypto-Willobie: I haven't read that one, no.

I took a course on Arthurian literature back in college, and the text we used was The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation edited by Norris J. Lacy and James J. Wilhelm. I really like the book, and I still have it.

I don't remember how much it cost, though, for anyone looking for a book to purchase. It's pretty hefty, physically speaking, even in the paperback form I have, so I can't imagine it's cheap. Amazon has the Kindle version for $56.04 (assuming you don't want to rent it, which is more for students who need it for a class, I assume), and the paperback used at $45.86 and new at $57.55, again, assuming you don't want to rent it.

I don't think I've ever seen an e-book that expensive. I'm a little horrified. At that price, you might as well just spend an extra buck fifty and get the paperback, if you don't use e-books for disability accommodation.

You could probably get it cheaper if you did some shopping around, but I don't know how much cheaper. Which is a shame, because it's a really good book. It might be available from libraries, though.

Oct 7, 2020, 12:23pm

Well, Concepts of Arthur is now FREE online:

Concepts of Arthur by Caitlin Green: the whole book is now available as a free download on her website , along with much other interesting material on Sub-Roman Britain and 'Arthurian' times. Here's the book's free download page -- it's a 288 page pdf:
Well worth the read.