King Arthur is a mixture of Celtic and Germanic lore and also
some Mediterranean qualities. The Frenchman Chrétien de Troyes
the first to put a romantic veneer on Arthur and probably
his version of the tales from oral tradition. Manuscript copies of his
tales are the earliest written records of Arthurian romance, but Arthur
and other Arthurian characters appear in several other works:
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur,
though not technically the original version of the
legend (since the legend is an evolution that grew up around Celtic
via Wales and French romances), is the authoritative
and the basis for the modern fantasy authors' uses of the legend
Malory first unified all of the stories into one big story (even though
they don't always fit together properly).
- Gildas, 6th c. Latin cleric writing after the departure of the
"The Ruin of Britain" (ca. 540) mentions Ambrosius Aurelianus, whose
parents were rulers before him. The tie to the Arthur legend is the
of Baden incident.
- Nennius, 9th c. Welsh monk; "The Annals of the Britons" was
76 sections; in sec. 56, 'Arthur' details his single-handed slaying of
960 men of the enemy, Mordred, and tells of carrying the image of Mary
- William of Malmesbury, 12th c. monk; "Gesta Regum Anglorum"
the Kings of England) was made up of 5 books; Books 1 & 3 talk
Arthur (as Ambrosius) and Walwen (Gawain).
- Geoffrey of Monmouth, 12th c. (1137) Welsh monk; "History of the
of Britain" is the first to mention some of the prophecies; mentions
has both Arthur and Ambrosius Aurelianus; comes close to identifying a
"tribe" of ancestry for Arthur; is the first to give Guinevere's
but with Mordred, not Lancelot; gives Uther & Igraine's sleeping
- Wace (Was) of Lyman, 12th c. (1155); "The Legend of Brut"
& translation of Nennius mentions the Round Table for the first
The Round Table seated 1600 men and was shaped like a donut. Elaborates
on Arthur's return from Avalon.
- Giraldis Cambrinsus, 12th c. (1195) monk; "Principals of
to lore by giving us Guinevere; details the discovery of Arthur's grave.
- Layman (Leohman), 12th-13th c.; "Brut" is the first English
the Arthurian story in verse in English; makes Arthur an actual English
- Ralph Higdon, 14th c.; "Polychronicon" moves Arthur around
- "Alliterative Morte D'Arthur," 14th c.; vivid account of Arthur's
against the Romans.
Commonplace Characteristics of the
Knights of the Round Table
Britain's Thirteen Treasures
Return to Middle Ages Page