The Legend of Arthur

The Legend of Arthur
King Arthur depicted on a tapestry

King Arthur is one of the most ancient and famous legends in English history. He is portrayed as the ideal king. Even though the first books to include his legend within their pages were history books, this king is just a legend, perhaps inspired by a fifth-century Briton prince who died fighting the Scottish Picts.

The mythical king is first mentioned in a history book by an author named Nennius, written in 830. In his book, Nennius describes Arthur as a victorious general who fought in 12 battles, defeating the Anglo-Saxons. From these writings, we can conclude that Arthur was just a legend, not a real person.

The next important appearance of King Arthur in literature was in 1066, when a man named Geoffrey of Monmouth included the king in his History of the Kings of Britain. This is the first time when Arthur's tale was told in full, the first time the legendary sword Caliburn (Excalibur), the wizard Merlin, and Arthur's wife Guinevere are mentioned.

The story of the Holy Grail first appeared in a poem in 1181-90 by Chrétien de Troyes, a French poet who was part of King Henry II's court, after the Norman Conquest. Unlike the previous Arthur stories, which focused on courtly romance, this one explores spiritual questing as its main theme.

These are only a few examples of Arthurian tales, but are some of the most important. Some other Arthurian stories are Morte d’Arthur (1486), The Idylls of the King (1856-1885), and The Pendragon Cycle (1987-1999). The legend of Arthur has been inspiring writers for more than one thousand years!