Posts Tagged ‘arthurian’

A Hint of Arthurian Legend

I was at the storycraft meeting for my writing group earlier this week, and while we were mostly talking about pacing (ah, pacing), we also had gotten somewhat sidetracked on dystopian stories. (To be fair, we got there from talking about whether or not emulating the general plotline of a classic dystopia would preserve the pacing, but still.)

One of the guys brought up The World’s End (the movie), and as none of the rest of us had seen it, he proceeded to describe it using other movies as examples. And he topped it off with “With just a hint of Arthurian legend. Everything’s better with a hint of Arthurian legend.”

We laughed, and I brought up Kingsman, which I saw on Saturday (and was excellent and I highly recommend it), as another example, and then we probably got distracted by something else.

But I got to thinking a little later. Is it really Arthurian legend that makes it better? It’s not like Arthurian legend is strongly superior to other forms of mythology, either in terms of longevity or subject matter. Is it better to have a hint of Arthurian legend versus, say, Norse mythology?

I suspect a hint of any sort of mythology helps a story, because it ties the story into something older, maybe even something arguably instinctual.

As for Arthurian legend versus other mythologies, the differentiation probably comes from cultural exposure. American culture is a mixture of other cultures, yes, but I think the argument could be made that we perhaps draw most of our influences from English culture. I would think that, universally, we’re more familiar with Arthurian legend because of our cultural exposure. (There are exceptions, of course–people of different backgrounds are more familiar with the mythologies that go along with their background–but I think everyone knows the basics of Arthurian legend.)

What do you think, Squiders? Does tying a bit of mythology into a story make it resonate a little more? Is Arthurian legend any better than other mythologies? Would you argue that another type of mythology is stronger in our cultural background?

Sungenre Study: Arthurian Fantasy

Arthurian Fantasy can be considered a subgenre of the subgenre of Mythic Fantasy (how’s that for getting somewhat meta?).  Mythic Fantasy (which we have yet to get to), involves weaving mythological elements into a story’s world or plot.  Arthurian Fantasy takes the King Arthur legend and incorporates it.

The King Arthur legend can be considered fantasy by itself.  It involves wizards (Merlin), sorceresses, enchanted swords, and a host of other things that are generally considered to be fantasy elements.  (Merlin ages backwards, in a lot of versions, which is kind of awesome but would be a bit awkward, when you look like you’re six and really, like, 500.)

Arthurian fantasy can be a straight retelling of the legends, can be from a minor character’s point of view, or can change some aspects to fit the author’s fancy.  It can add new characters in that never existed in the original story, or it can even involve Arthur’s resurrection.  (Arthur is one of many mythic figures from around the world that are supposed to come again when their country is in need.  I saw the statue of another, Holger Danske, in Denmark.)  An excellent example of the latter is Peter David’s Knight Life, where Arthur returns and runs for mayor of New York City.

There can be very little magic or a lot.  People can be evil or not, depending on how the story is told.  There’s a lot of variety here for the same basic story that’s been around since at least the 9th century.

One might wonder what’s so endearing about it.  Is it Excalibur?  The love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot? Merlin’s wisdom?  The quest for the Grail?  (Admittedly a later addition to the story.)  Arthur’s half-sister Morgan le Fay?  Whatever it is, people keep coming back for more.

Some of the best known 20th-century Arthurian books include T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle, TA Barron’s Lost Years of Merlin series (YA), and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence (also YA).

Does Arthurian fantasy float your boat, Squiders?  Sick of it?  What’s your very favorite interpretation, in whatever media?  (I’ve always been rather partial to Disney’s The Sword in the Stone – I just wish they had done the rest of the story at some point.)