Literature / Idylls of the King
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
's verse narrative Idylls of the King
is inspired by Arthurian legends
, especially Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur
; however, it also draws extensively on the Mabinogion
and French traditions. The complete Idylls
consists of 12 poems, plus a dedication to the deceased Prince Albert and an epilogue addressed to Queen Victoria
. Tennyson, a longtime enthusiast of the Arthurian tales, worked on the collection for decades: the first four poems appeared in 1859, and the last one in 1885. In the complete book, the poems are not in order of writing or publication.
It was illustrated by Gustave Doré
Provides examples of:
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Thoroughly deconstructed by the end, as physical appearance turns out to be an utterly unreliable way of judging character.
- Berserk Button: Balin responds badly to any number of things, but especially to perceived insults to himself and to Guinevere.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Round Table is destroyed, Arthur is dead and gone and civilization is in ruins. Still, the good Sir Bedivere remains, and the new year is at hand.
- Darker and Edgier: The poems become grimmer and gorier as the Round Table dissolves.
- A Day in the Limelight: Because Tennyson doesn't try to replicate Malory in his entirety, a number of significant characters, like Merlin, appear in no more than one or two poems apiece.
- Dead Man Writing: Elaine leaves a posthumous message for the court in "Lancelot and Elaine".
- Death Seeker: The heartbroken Arthur after he realizes the extent of Guinevere's and Lancelot's treachery.
- Driven to Madness: Sir Pelleas, complete with Madness Mantra ("I have no sword").
- Fisher King: As Arthur's power fades and the Round Table slowly disintegrates, the seasons change for the worse.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Guinevere's passion for Lancelot destroys the Round Table by undermining everyone else's virtue.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Why Arthur Jumps at the Call in "The Coming of Arthur."
- Subverted in "Gareth and Lynette." Because of some backstage maneuvering by Arthur, Lancelot does not go on the quest when Lynette asks; when he does put in an appearance later on, Lynette is exasperated instead of pleased.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Guinevere whenever a woman gets too close to Lancelot, as first becomes apparent when Vivien shows up.
- Heroic Vow: Knights must swear one to join the Round Table.
- Holier Than Thou: Pellam's understanding of Christianity.
- Idiot Ball: Carried by several characters.
- Thanks to his Incorruptible Pure Pureness, Arthur doesn't pick up on the relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot.
- Merlin allows himself to be tricked by Vivien.
- Tristram doesn't pack up to go, despite Isolt warning him that Mark could return any second.
- Killed Offscreen: Sir Gawain, who dies offstage between "Guinevere" and "The Passing of Arthur."
- Kill 'em All: The battle at the Red Knight's court on a small scale, followed by Arthur's final battle on a large one.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted, sort of. Arthur strongly advocates male chastity and tells Guinevere that he was a virgin before he married her. Similarly, Sir Galahad's purity is linked to his virginity. A number of knights fail to pass this test, though.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Lynette spends most of "Gareth and Lynette" trying to provoke Gareth, whom she believes to be base-born, until she changes her mind near the end.
- Tame His Anger: "Balin and Balan" subverts this trope. Balin does his best, but once he's separated from Balan and begins to doubt Guinevere, his self-control evaporates.
- The Dividual: Balin and Balan, of the syndividual type. Balan is capable of restraining Balin's anger issues. Then, they split up.
- Triang Relations: Type 12, although platonic on the male ends. Arthur loves Guinevere and Lancelot. Lancelot loves Guinevere and Arthur. Guinevere loves Lancelot, but not Arthur.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Because Tennyson skips large chunks of the legend, some characters simply disappear without a trace (Vivien), or have blink-and-you'll miss-it resolutions to their plot (Lancelot).