"I was not born to live a man's life, but to be the stuff of future memory. The fellowship of the Round Table was a brief beginning, a fair time that cannot be forgotten. And because it will not be forgotten that fair time may come again. Now once more I must ride with my knights to defend what was...and the dream of what could be."
— King Arthur, from John Boorman's Excalibur
The perfect king, who ruled Britain during a Golden Age with Merlin at his side, but fell to treachery, and now sleeps, waiting for Britain's hour of greatest need. Subject of many a Chivalric Romance, long known as the "Matter of Britain," alongside the Matter of France (stories of Charlemagne's court and wars with the Saracens) and the Matter of Rome (The Trojan War, the Aeneid, Alexander the Great).note These three matières (sources of inspiration) were defined ca. 1200 by the French poet Jean Bodel for French works; it does not encompass themes important to other literature, such as the German cycles about the Burgundians and the Goths, notably represented by the Nibelungenlied. Or, for that matter, all French or Anglo-Norman romances, whatever they claimed.There may be a kernel of historical truth to the myth, but it has been obscured by centuries of elaborations. If he existed, the historical Arthur may have been a Romano-British leader (a native Briton, ancestors of the Celtic-speaking Scots, Cornish and Welsh) who fought the invading Saxons after the Roman provincial government collapsed. Documents show that after the Battle of Mount Badon, the Saxon tide was turned back for almost a century, but the records are confused as to of who was in charge of the Britons at the time, if anyone; if he existed, Arthur's realm may have been an outpost of people not-getting-killed. The first surviving reference is from circa 600 A.D., and implies that either the legend or at least the man's reputation was well known even then. (It's a bit ironic that the historical representation of the heroic English king was—if he existed at all—actually a warrior who fought against the English.)It became very popular during the Middle Ages, during which times it was thoroughly reworked into Chivalric Romance and the Knights of the Round Table became heroic Knights Errant. Even French writers, despite patriotic liking for the Matter of France, agreed that the King Arthur tales were among the best ones of Courtly Love. (Also, since nobles and kings were actually related to Charlemagne and some of his knights, and more claimed to be, even to the fictional ones, tales about King Arthur were safer from What Do You Mean, It's Not Political? — the political usage of King Arthur being both later and less personal.)The themes of Courtly Love and later, the Holy Grail, caused writers to invent entirely new characters to introduce them. The version best known today is Le Morte d'Arthur, the work of Sir Thomas Malory, based on earlier material by Geoffrey of Monmouth and other literary predecessors, including multiple layers of retcons and crossovers. This version incorporates many originally separate stories about the Knights of the Round Table, and other legends such as Gawaine and the Green Knight, Courtly Love, and the myth of the Holy Grail.This holds true for the English-speaking world. As far as the French are concerned, Chrétien de Troyes' romances are the most important version of the Arthurian myth and for German-speakers it is the verse epics of the trio of Hartmann von Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Gottfried von Straßburg, especially Wolfram's Parzival. This is not founded on priority, but also on the superior literary quality of these four authors in comparison with their successors. In general, the way the Arthurian myth is viewed can depend very much on the nationality of the viewer; for people from the British Isles (and by extension, from the rest of the Anglosphere), it usually goes without saying that the Welsh (and English) medieval texts reflect an older and more "genuine" version of the myth than the French ones, even though they were in fact written down later. Here a lot is speculation and inference, as the (presumably mostly oral) traditions on which Geoffrey of Monmouth, Maistre Wace, Chrétien de Troyes and others based their works are lost to history.
Adaptation Expansion: Oh. Dear. Christ. To call this the greatest example in history is an understatement. As stated above, Arthur (may have) started out as a prominent Celtic chieftainRomano-British warlord and leader of a band of warriors. Think Jason And The Argonauts in fur with Cornish or Welsh accents. Several centuries and several foreign conquests later, Arthur has his own entire extensive mythology named after him! Also before Malory, come to that.
Anachronism Stew: Knights in shining armor during the fall of the Roman Empire? Why not? Anything pre-19th century is bound to fall into this.
Breakout Villain: Mordred, Arthur's nephew/son, and Morgan Le Fay, his half-sister and sometimes Mordred's mother, remain the only villains of the Arthur legends who are well-known to this day, even though there are loads of others. The popular image of Morgan herself as propagated by Excalibur, The Mists Of Avalon and other modern retellings combines her with Arthur's other half-sister Morgause who is Mordred's mother in the older literature.
Brother-Sister Incest: In later versions of the story, to add more angst, Mordred is both son and nephew of King Arthur. In earlier stories, he's simply Arthur's nephew, which also makes him Arthur's successor (given that either Arthur or Guenevere are barren). In the earliest Welsh sources, Arthur and Medrawd (Mordred's original name) aren't related at all.
Wrong king. He was predicting Arthur's father, Uther, whose banner was the red dragon, slaying the usurper Vortigern, whose banner was the white dragon
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: It is unsurprising that as Arthurian mythology evolved over the centuries and spread across Europe, many characters faded from existence or were replaced with local variations. Arthur's four sons - Amr, Gwydre, Llacheu and Duran - had all vanished by the 12th century. His full sister Anna became the mother of Mordred (who was not originally related to Arthur); she was eventually replaced by half-sister Morgause, who kept the blood-tie but is a different character entirely.
Continuity Snarl: In spades. To pick one example: who is King Arthur's greatest knight: Sir Gawain, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad? In the oldest tales, it was certainly Gawain.
Courtly Love: From very early on. Much of the medieval popularity of the King Arthur stories stemmed from the troubadours' discovery that these stories contained many elements (such as the rescue of ladies) that could be pressed into service of Courtly Love.
Cross Over: Morgan Le Fay originally appeared in the Matter of France, not Britain.
Depending on the Writer: Pretty much the textbook example. Arthur and his court have been re-interpreted by generation after generation over the centuries, to the point where any given Arthur would have great difficulty recognizing any of his counterparts.
Dressing as the Enemy: Balin and Balan do this on their separate adventures, though disguise was not their intent; their respective enemies simply had better armor and shields than they did. By the time they met up again, they couldn't recognize each other, and their reunion ended... badly.
Executive Meddling: You know how most stories of Camelot feature a Love Triangle between Arthur, Guenivere, and latecomer Lancelot? There's evidence that Lancelot's creator only turned him into the Queen's lover after being ordered to do so by his patron, one of Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughters.
Heroic Bastard: Most prominently, Galahad, son of Lancelot. Sometimes Mordred, Depending on the Writer. Though he is conceived out of wedlock, Arthur himself is not technically a bastard since his father marries his mother before his birth. In Malory, Arthur also fathers a son named Borre before he meets Guinevere - later a knight of the Round Table.
Heroic Lineage: Mostyn MS. 117 and Bonedd y Saint, Welsh manuscripts dating from the 12th-13th century, describe Arthur as a direct descendant of Llŷr Lledyeith, who also fathered the heroes of the Mabinogion.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Possibly Mordred. He is first mentioned (as Medraut) in the 10th-century Annales Cambriae (Annals of Wales) as having been killed in the battle of Camlaun along with Arthur, but the entry is ambiguous as to whether they were fighting on opposing sides.
Holy Is Not Safe: Later interpretations of the mythos said that only Sir Galahad, the purest of knights, could survive looking upon the Holy Grail. The same applied to his seat at the Round Table, the Siege Perilous, which marked the knight destined to complete the Grail quest. Anyone other than Galahad who sat in it would immediately die.
I Call It Vera: Not just Excalibur. Most of Arthur's equipment has names, such as his dagger Carnwennan and his spear Rhongomyniad.
Jesus The Early Years: There is a legend that Jesus travelled to Britain during his lost years — this perhaps explains the idea that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail to England after Jesus' death, and thus why the Knights of the Round Table are seeking it there. William Blake's poem "And did those feet in ancient time" (better known as the lyrics to "Jerusalem") was inspired by this story.
Kill 'em All: Almost everyone present at the Battle of Camlann dies, including Arthur in versions where he (later) succumbs to his wounds. Welsh traditions have either three or seven survivors of the battle, but by Malory only Sir Bedivere is left.
Love Triangle: Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot; and Guinevere, Lancelot and Elaine.
Tristan/Isolde/King Mark as well.
Merlin And Nimue: The trope maker and namer, as Merlin's relationship with the pupil that betrays him sets the pattern for the relationship between many future mages and their younger, opposite sex pupils.
The Middle Ages: Nearly every version of the story is set in a mélange of centuries stretching from about 500 to about 1,000 years (or even more) after Arthur's time. Very few are set properly in the period of the late Roman Empire.
Mid-Season Upgrade: Arthur pulled the Clarent (a.k.a the Sword on the Stone) successfully to become king of England. Said sword got destroyed in battle, but he was able to receive the better and the more famous Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Arthur himself, depending on where you believe his name comes from. There are some who have linked it to the old Indo-European word for "bear", whence also Ancient Greek ἄρκτος and Latin ursus, though it was replaced in most northern languagesnote That is, the ones spoken by people who would have run into bears quite often, including English, Old Norse and Russian, by euphemisms (for more details, see Bears Are Bad News). Oh, and as if being named after a bear wasn't badass enough, that same root word was probably connected to the Proto-Indo-European word for "harm".
Odd Name Out: The Orkney Brothers are Gawain, Gaheris, Gareth, Agravain, and Morded. Want to guess which two put the fall of Camelot into motion by demanding Arthur punish Guinevere and Lancelot for their adultery?
Offing the Offspring: Arthur tries to do this to baby Mordred, and succeeds years later. In earlier Welsh tradition Athrur kills a son named Amr.
One Steve Limit: Averted like whoa. There are four distinct Elaines, three of whom are connected to Lancelot: there's Elaine, Lancelot's mother who dies in childbirth; there's Elaine, Galahad's mother who rapes Lancelot because her daddy is an early advocate of eugenics; there's Elaine, the lady of Astolat who goes a bit Alex Forrest for Lancelot and ends up dying from her unrequited love; and then there's Elaine, sister of Morgan le Fay and Morgause, who accomplished less than either of them.
It's also apparently common in Arthurian mythos for parents to name their different children the same thing. There's a Sir Ywain and his half-brother, Ywain the Bastard. Leodegrance also pulls this when he names his bastard second daughter Guinevere Guinevak who, later in life, somehow manages to convince the Knights of the Round Table that she's the real Guinevere and her sister the imposter. Note to future authors, when trying to find inspiration for a villain's scheme, The Importance of Being Earnest is not the place to look.
There are at least three different Isolts. Tristan only marries Isolt of Brittany because he's in love with Isolt of Ireland and they're both called Isolt. Often the marriage doesn't work out too well, unsurprisingly.
Romantic Plot Tumor: The original information on Arthur focused on his ability to destroy Saxon armies whole-sale in twelve battles before dying in Phyrric Victory due to base treachery from his rival Mordred. Nowadays, the late romantic subplot of Lancelot dominates almost all retellings of the story, sometimes as the entire plot!
Sadly Mythtaken: From a Celtic folk hero, to a Post-Roman-Occupation Saxon-battling Welsh king, to an anachronistic Middle Ages King of Britain, the "modern" notion of King Arthur is radically different to the original legends.
Supernatural Aid: The Lady of the Lake giving Arthur Excalibur. In versions of the mythos where this actually happens, anyway.
Stab the Sky: Many depictions of Arthur after pulling the sword out of the stone show him standing like this.
Starter Villain: Lucius, Emperor of Rome, is pretty much the first major enemy that Arthur has to face as king.
In some variations, King Lot (or Loth) is the first major enemy. This is usually depicted in such a way that although Arthur has been proclaimed High King, Lot and a number of other lesser rulers defy him and rebel.
Sword Plant: How the Sword in the Stone got into the stone.
Taking The Veil: In many versions Queen Guinevere ends up a nun, and Lancelot, a monk.
Sir Bedivere: Arthur's oldest companion, besides Kay; Bash Brothers with Kay and vice-versa. As the spotlight shifts to other (newer) characters, both remain Arthur's court officials. Also likely to become a [[Expy carbon copy of Lancelot]] in any Dark Age story where the latter isn't present
Percival: The young, naive fool who became a knight and saw the Grail... until later stories had Galahad see it instead.
Lancelot: The Lancer, The Tragic Hero, The Sixth Ranger, Sailor Earth (He is a latecomer in two senses: first, in that he first appears at the Round Table long after the vast majority of its membership has assembled; and second, the character entered the myth cycle several hundred years after it was first compiled.) Originally found in French-language sources, hence his name.
Morgause: Arthur's half-sister, Mordred's mother, sometimes blended with her sister Morgana.
There are many other knights of the round table, each with their own complex storyline, and, just in case you thought that wasn't enough, most of the names also have other, wildly different spellings. The worst offenders are probably 'Guinevere', 'Mordred', and 'Iseult', with special mention going to 'Nyneve', who sometimes gets entirely new names such as 'Nimue' and 'Vivien.' (Then again, try telling those names apart in cramped Gothic handwriting.) It's pretty much up to the individual what you chose to call them.
Excalibur, which is part of the early legends. Alternately known as Caliburn. There are two origins to Excalibur: the first, and older tradition, stating that Arthur received it from a surprisingly benign member of The Fair Folk, the Lady of the Lake, after the Sword in the Stone was broken; the second, that Excalibur was the Sword in the Stone from the beginning - this is a more modern origin, as writers thought it simpler to have only one magical sword, rather than two.
The only magic power Excalibur was ever traditionally specifically accredited with was glowing brightly, and that not always, but the scabbard was said to stop the wearer from bleeding, making it almost invaluable on the battlefield. It was said that the wielder of Excalibur could never be defeated in combat, but the actual mechanics of how this was possible were never traditionally set in stone (if even stated at all).
The Ship and Armaments of Arthur (including his knife, shield, spear, chain-mail, tabbard, and ship)
The Shield of Judas Macabee
Fail-Not, the Bow of Tristan
The Dispelling Ring of Lancelot
The Stone of Giramphiel
Excalibur's ivory scabbard, which could shield life
The Grail in Detail:
The history of the Holy Grail is rather complicated. Ostensibly the cup that Jesus drank from during the Last Supper, brought to Glatonsbury by Joseph of Aramathea, it's a Celtic invention that was unknown on the continent before the Arthurian mythos brought it there. It first surfaced in the late 1100s, in an incomplete poem by Chrétien de Troyes (whose contributions to Arthurian canon were action packed and unconcerned with spiritual matters), in which a naive Welsh knight named Perceval meets the Fisher King. A grail appears as part of a larger and quite bizarre mystical procession and is referred simply as "a grail" with no holy context, apart from carrying a host wafer. Perceval fails in his quest by not asking the Fisher King what the hell's going on (making this story the first ever Sierra adventure game).Over subsequent centuries, the Holy Grail grew into the entire raison d'etre of the entire Arthurian Court, when originally the Grail Quest was so singularly dangerous that there was a special chair at the Round Table reserved for those who dared attempt it, called the Siege Perilous. By giving the knights a single sacred focus rather than having them stumbling around Britain falling ass backwards into quests, this transformation made the sprawling tangle of stories more coherent, and elevated the moral standing of the knights.The Holy Grail itself also grew hugely in significance, in some cases taking on parts of various other magic hamper and cauldron myths, which created a mythological snarl whose origins modern scholars are nowhere close to deciphering (compare to the several lucid theories about the Sword in the Stone that have cropped up in modern scholarship). By the first decade of 13th century, in Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzifal's calling to the Grail Quest is explicitly a calling to a higher and better world than the normal quests of Arthur's court. The text claims that the Grail itself was the stone the neutral angels of Heaven stayed in during the war against Lucifer. By the 15th century, Malory depicts the Grail as so powerful that when Galahad (the most pure and dedicated of all the knights) succeeds on the Grail quest he instantly ascends to Heaven.
The Main Storylines Are:
Any modern Arthurian story that is not about either a) Lancelot/Guinevere/Arthur/Mordred/Morgan and the subsequent collapse of the court or b) specifically about Merlin, is generally going to be about the Grail Quest, despite dozens of other possible plots. However, Tristram and Iseult (usually under the German forms of their names, Tristan and Isolde) by themselves are also becoming more popular, mainly due to the popularity of romance stories.The genres used may vary from Historical Fiction (no magic and Saxon hordes as Mooks), to Heroic Fantasy, and the story can be set either in the Dark ages after the fall of Rome or in the present day, when King Arthur has returned.Major Arthurian Stories:
Historia Brittonum (or History of the Britons), traditionally ascribed to Nennius in the 9th century, although it may be much older. While not a story, per se, it contains the oldest written record of Arthur and lists the twelve battles he fought against the invading English. Of note is the fact that Arthur is not depicted as a king here but a dux bellorum, a warlord fighting on behalf of the native kings of Kent. According to Historia Brittonum, Arthur was so successful against the English that they were forced to bring in further troops and kings from Germany, increasing their numbers dramatically until the island of Britain was finally subjugated.
Pa Gur yv y Porthaur? ("What Man is the Gatekeeper?"): a poem found in the Black Book of Carmarthen, the oldest known list of Arthur's warband and the first mention of Cei and Bedwyr (later to be Kay and Bedivere). Arthur seeks entrance into a fortress, recalling the heroic feats of his retinue for the gatekeeper. This list was expanded on over the centuries, with each tale adding more and more characters from both history and folklore. A decendant is found in ''How Culhwch Won Olwen'', at which point the retinue has swollen to over 260 warriors, not counting fantasticanimals.
Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who is thought to have been of mixed Breton and Welsh stock. Completed ca. 1138.
Roman De Brut (Romance of Brutus) by Maistre Wace from Jersey, an expanded version of Geoffrey's Historia written for king Henry II of England in French verse and making even greater use of Breton traditions, completed in 1155. The Round Table is mentioned here for the first time.
Several stories from the Mabinogion, a compilation of prose from several 14th-century Welsh manuscripts. Scholars generally agree that the stories are older, but how much older (and in particular if they are or not older than Geoffrey's Historia or even Chrétien de Troyes' romances) is still a matter of debate. Currently the stories are placed in the years between 1060 and 1200 and it is assumed that the version of the stories of Peredur/Perceval, Geraint and Enid/Erec et Enide, and Owain/Yvain were developed independently by Welsh writers and Chrétien based on the same older sources.
The Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes, written ca. 1170 to 1190 - Erec et Enide, Cligès, Le Chevalier de la Charrette (The Knight of the Cart) aka Lancelot, Yvain, and the unfinished Perceval (Conte du Graal). Literary historians see Chrétien as the first author to treat the legends as fiction. In many ways, he created Arthurian romance and was very influential on other authors.
Erec and Iwein, Middle High German verse epics by Hartmann von Aue, both based on Chrétien de Troyes.
Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, from the first quarter of the 13th century. The most successful verse epic of the middle ages (by far the most manuscript copies surviving), a retelling and continuation of Chrétien de Troyes' last Arthurian romance. Wolfram also ties in the story of Percival with two other existing legends, making Parzival the father of Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan, and establishing Parzival's half-moorish elder brother Feirefiz as the ancestor of Prester John. Wolfram started a prequel epic somewhat misleadingly called Titurel (after the first person mentioned in the text), but did not live long enough to finish it.
Tristan by Gottfried von Straßburg, a contemporary of Hartmann and Wolfram, based on an older form of the story of Tristan and Isolde by the Anglo-Norman Thomas of England (of which only fragments survive). Gottfried did not finish this "classic" version of a much older story (which originally was not part of the Arthurian myth), so two other Middle High German authors wrote their own endings.
Lancelot The common label for a cycle of 13th-century French prose epics, originally a trilogy consisting of the so-called Lancelot propre (partly based on Chrétien), the Queste del Saint Graal (The Quest For The Holy Grail, which introduces Galaad/Galahad), and La Mort le Roi Artu and in all likelihood produced by several writers (quite possibly Cistercian monks) according to a general plan. This was followed by two prequels, the Estoire del Saint Graal and the Estoire de Merlin, completing the first cycle to relate the entire story from the beginning of Arthur's rule to his death.
Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory, an Early Modern English compilation of the earlier stories and epics, fusing the French Lancelot cycle with other stories like Tristan and Isolde, completed in 1470 and printed in 1485. Considered to be the ultimate medieval Adaptation Distillation of the legend (in the English-speaking world) due to its late date.
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In an episode of Time Trouble Tondekeman, our time-traveling protagonists accidentally screw up the part where Arthur is supposed to draw the Sword from the Stone, and once they realize who their new-found friend actually is, must set "history" back on track, coincidentally also sparking the British love of footy.
Vinland Saga has Askeladd, who declares himself to be the descendant of Arthur, and thus the rightful king of Britain.
Code Geass draws from Arthurian myth, most prominently with Britannia's Super PrototypeHumongous Mecha being named for Knights of the Round Table (Lancelot, Gawain) and the presence of the Knights of the Round, described as the Emperor's twelve elite soldiers. There's also Arthur, the stray cat that follows the Lancelot's pilot around, apparently for no other reason than to bite his hand whenever he lets his guard down.
Camelot is a recurring element in The DCU's Back Story. Characters linked to Arthur's court include:
Grant Morrison's Shining Knight book, a part of his Seven Soldiers maxi-series, revealed that the King Arthur myth keeps repeating throughout history: the Shining Knight in question is thrown forward in time from a more Celtic rendition into modern Los Angeles.
The Silent Knight, another one of Arthur's knights and a previous incarnation of Hawkman and the (adopted) ancestor of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent.
Madame Xanadu, who was once Merlin's lover and Morgaine's sister, Nimue.
According to The Books of Magic, Arthur himself slumbers beneath the earth in Fairyland, awaiting the day Britain needs him again.
Probably the most famous King Arthur story in the Marvel Universe is a trilogy of Iron Man stories by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, in which Iron Man and Dr. Doom visit Dark Ages Camelot (published in 1981), King Arthur's revival in the future (published in 1989), and have an adventure searching for Excalibur in the present-day (2008).
In the first post Heroes RebornAvengers story arc, the reunited Avengers fight Morgan Le Fey who uses the Scarlet Witch to transform reality into an alternate Medieval version where she is the absolute ruler.
Morgan Le Fay is a recurring supervillainess. In the Bronze Age, she was mostly Spider-Woman's archenemy. These days she'll pop up and give any superhero a hard time. She uses her son Mordred as her dragon.
The eponymous Witchblade is the feminine counterpart to Excalibur.
Don Rosa's Donald Duck story "The Once and Future Duck" has Donald, his nephews, and Gyro Gearloose traveling back in time to meet King Arthur... only this Arthur is a lot closer to the historical figure that may have inspired the legends. Once again, Don Rosa shows his work.
In Hellboy The Wild Hunt, Hellboy meets Morgana Le Fay of the Arthurian mythos, and discovers that his mother was the last remaining descendent of King Arthur, via the daugher of Mordred, and so he is the rightful king of Britain, as well as Hell. After some hesitation, he takes up Excalibur to call together an army of "The Noble Dead of Britain" to combat Nimue/The Morrigan's Chaotic Evil army of The Fair Folk.
The Muppets King Arthur - Kermit as Arthur, Rowlf as Merlin, Piggy as Morgana, Camilla the Chicken as Guenevere and Gonzo as Lancelot. The twist is that the Arthur/Morgana and Guenevere/Lancelot pairings are stable, there's no Love Triangle and they all live Happily Ever After. The Lemony Narrator notes that this isn't how it's supposed to go, but there we are.
Part of the backstory of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen includes King Arthur and Camelot, which is mentioned several times in the source material. The major addition to the mythos is that one of the Leagues members, the immortal genderchanger Orlando, was present not only when King Arthur was crowned, but was also part of the Round Table, and, after surviving the final battle, salvages Excalibur from the battlefield, which remains a treasured possesion of his/hers, until present day.
Dracula vs. King Arthur: In which Dracula is transported to his timeline and begins a conquest to take over Camelot, turning many of Arthur's knights and even his wife along the way.
Camelot wast the setting for multiple albums in the Belgian Comic Book series De Rode Ridder.
Lancelot du Lac, a deglamorized telling of the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot story by Robert Bresson
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is essentially a parody of various facets of the King Arthur legend, the Round Table, and medieval fiction in general. Ironically, because one of the Pythons was in fact an Arthurian scholar, this film is at times also one of the most accurate cinematic representations of the myths. For instance, it is the only film to properly depict Lancelot as he is written in Malory. No, really — Malory's Lancelot is a mentally unstable berserker prone to slaughtering innocents at almost no provocation, then collapsing in abject apologies afterward. Spamalot, the film's musical adaption, makes him Straight Gay, which is...tangential from Malory, to say the least. (Other writers were apparently more Ho Yay-oriented with Lance.)
John Boorman's weird and haunting Excalibur is often considered one of the best modern versions to play the myth mostly straight, explicitly setting the story in a mythical version of The Dark Ages and surrounding it with a mysterious sort of magic.
Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a 1984 film starring Sean Connery as the Green Knight and based on the poem of the same name.
The GrailQuest series by J.H. Brennan are Choose Your Own Adventure books where the main character is instead a farm boy turned knight (with the mind of the reader implanted in him). Merlin would send him off on tongue-in-cheek adventures.
The Squire's Tales: Classic King Arthur stories, accompanied by a Reconstruction of Camelot and Arthur as heroic ideals while deconstructing the $#!% out of courtly love. The heroes frequently point out all the Arthurian Romance cliches. Lancelot and Guenivere become The Atoner early on in the series after he gets his butt kicked in a lucky shot by one of the narrators.
C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength brings back Merlin as a person who trod the line between light and darkness when the distinction was less sharp. Both the heroes and villains are concerned about which side he'll be on when he awakens. It also depicts "Pendragon" as a divine title, now held by one of the heroes, and implies that it descends from "Numinor".
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner conflates Norse and Arthurian myth with real places in England. The cave with the sleeping Knights (and their horses) is a local legend in Alderley. Well worth reading.
Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff takes the legend back to its roots, including partly Romanized Britons fighting off invading "Sea Wolf" Saxon raiders, the difficulty in gathering and maintaining mounted warriors, horses barely big enough to carry large men and saddles without stirrups, near-starvation every winter, ambiguous mysticism and superstition regarding both curses and the Hill Folk, rare chainmail armor stolen from enemy war chiefs in place of "shining armor", and a dilapidated ex-Roman hill fort replacing "Camelot".
The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. Most specifically The Grey King and Silver on the Tree, the fourth and fifth in the series, respectively. Arthur, himself, makes only minute appearances in the series but many aspects reveal a heavy Arthurian influence (with a few events being direct consequences of the Arthurian Legends). And, of course, there's UncleMerry.
Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave (and its sequels) tell the story of Arthur from Merlin's perspective.
The point of view changes to Mordred for The Wicked Day. There is also a "side story," The Prince and the Pilgrim.
One of the more popular modern versions of the Arthur legend is the The Mists Of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and its sequence of novels, a retelling from the point of view of feminist neopaganism.
Gillian Bradshaw's "Down the Long Wind" trilogy, containing Hawk of May, Kingdom of Summer, and In Winter's Shadow, follows in the footsteps of Sutcliff, casting the story in terms of historicity, with sub-Roman Arthurian forces and messy political and relationship tangles. However, she also includes elements of the supernatural, focusing on the character of Gawain (called here by the Welsh name Gwalchmai, another Sutcliff parallel) and his battle against the forces of Darkness summoned by his mother Morgan, and his alliegance to the forces of Light (capital letters firmly in place). The first two books focus on Gawain's journey, and he continues as a major figure in the final volume, but Guenevere (called Gwynhwyfar in the trilogy) takes the role of viewpoint character.
In The Dark Tower novels by Stephen King, Mid-World has a mythical figure called "Arthur Eld" who is largely equivalent to King Arthur. The barrels and handles of Roland's guns are said to have been forged from the blade and hilt of his Excalibur. Roland is in fact a descendant of this Arthur, and has a son named Mordred, which is a fitting name for the unhappy young half-demon.
Stephen Lawhead's books, beginning with Taliesin, have Celtic mythology being mixed with Atlantean (clearly Greek-influenced) mythology and is written from a strongly Christian perspective.
Peter David wrote a series of books with King Arthur set in the present day. The first book, Knight Life, had Arthur (using the name "Arthur Penn") Schwarzenegger his way into the office of Mayor of New York City. The second book had him quit being President to find the Holy Grail. And the third had the simple plan of his using the Grail to produce a healing tonic.
The Power of One and its sequel Tandia by Bryce Courtenay borrow heavily from Arthurian Myth, even though it's about a South African boxer during the beginnings of Apartheid.
Teresa Edgerton's Green Lion trilogy has strong Arthurian overtones, particularly the backstory in which the kingmaker wizard Glastyn brought the heir of the High King out of obscurity after an interregnum. The current High King established the Order of St. Mark as a knightly order supposedly based on merit. By the opening of the first book, however, Glastyn has left the Standard Royal Court, turning over his job to his young apprentice, and the king and most of his older knights have stopped going on quests and aren't paying enough attention to their respective jobs of running The Kingdom and keeping order.
Many of the characters in the Wheel of Time series and much of the underlying skeleton of the story are adapted from Arthurian myth: Egwene Al'Vere (Guinevere), Morgase (Morgawse), Elayne (Elaine of Carbonnek), Nynaeve (Nineve), Rand Al'Thor (Arthur) and many, many others. Also, sa'angreal (a rare type of magical artifact) = "Sangreal" = The Holy Grail.
One particular sa'angreal is Callandor, the Sword in the Stone - that is, the Sword in the fortress called the Stone of Tear - and Rand draws it.
The most obvious Arthur parallel would be Artur Hawkwing, the legendary great king whose middle name was Paendrag, and whose descendants, at least, are returning across the Aryth Ocean.
The perhaps most interestingly named character is Galad Damodred - named after Galahad and Mordred? - who is a Religious Zealot and Rand's half-brother through their shared mother, Tigraine.
Some parallels can be seen between Elayne of Andor (whose symbol is a golden lily) and Elaine of Astolat, the lily maid.
Jack Whyte's A Dream Of Eagles series follows several Celtic, Roman, and Frank characters as they weave a "could have been, realistic" take on the Mythology.
In The Magic Treehouse books, one of the major characters is Morgan Le Fay, who helped the kids in disguise for the first four books. They had no idea until she revealed herself near the end of Book 4.
Terry Pratchett's short story "Once and Future" features a time traveller stuck in the past re-enacting the King Arthur legend. In a twist, the king who pulls the sword from the stone happens to be a woman.
Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles tell a largely historically plausible version of the story with lots of Saxon mooks. The same author's Grail Quest series moves the quest for the Holy Grail up to the time of the Hundred Years' War, by which time Arthur is a legend, claimed by the English, Welsh, Scottish and Bretons as one of their own. It also subverts a number of traditional aspects, especially in regard to Mordred (who is Arthur's half brother and his king) and Lancelot (who is a treacherouscoward).
Arthurian mythology is apparently true in the world of Harry Potter, which is hardly surprising given that the series is, after all, a Fantasy Kitchen Sink. In the first book, two of Harry's first Chocolate Frog cards are of Merlin and Morgan le Fay and throughout the series there are references to a medal of valor known as the "Order of Merlin", but we're not really given any details beyond that — except that he's a Slytherin. Merlin seems to be a wizarding version of an extreme Memetic Badass and/or Folk Hero, as wizards generally swear by him in a fashion similar to how people swear by Jesus ("Merlin's Beard", "by Merlin", "Merlin!", "what in the name of Merlin", etc.) However, he was probably not a religious/holy figure, as not all references are reverent ("Merlin's Pants", "what in the name of Merlin's saggy left —")
Ginevra "Ginny" Weasley may or may not be named after Guinevere ("Ginevra" is the Italian form of "Guinevere"), which would be... interesting what with her father being named "Arthur". And then there's her brother Percy (Percival?).
I am Mordred by Nancy Springer tells the story of King Arthur from Mordred's perspective (duh). Written as a young adults novel, it touches upon nearly all of the main Arthurian characters and heavily plays on the dichotomous themes of destiny and free will. Maybe Mordred isn't all that bad and maybe King Arthur isn't the paradigm of honor and chivalry he's always portrayed as. She also wrote a prequel, following Morgan in her early years.
Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy: The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing-Places and King of the Middle March retells the Arthurian legend and several others alongside the story of Arthur de Caldicot, heir to the Mediaeval estate of Catmole, as he travels to the Holy Land on crusade.
Jo Walton's series The King's Peace and The King's Name features the King-Arthur-equivalent of the fantasy world it's set in. Some readers have found it confusing that not everything in the story is the direct counterpart of something in Arthurian legend, especially the protagonist, who is an entirely new character.
Meg Cabot's Avalon High. It's actually not bad, or better than a lot of teen fare out there, at least.
In The Dresden Files, it is pretty much confirmed that Micheal's sword, Esperaccius, is Excalibur. Also, Harry's master and maternal grandfather Ebenezer McCoy was taught by a line of master wizards whose methods descended from Merlin himself.
Douglas Clegg's Mordred, Bastard Son is another retelling of the legend from Mordred's point of view, casting Arthur as an incestuous rapist and Morgan and Morgause as insanely violent trauma victims. Oh, and Mordred's gay and in love with Lancelot.
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve is a new Demythtified version of the story. The main character is Gwyna, the real Lady of the Lake, who is a slave girl taken in by the bard Myrddin (pronounced almost exactly like Merlin), and helps Arthur to deceive people into thinking he's a destined hero. Most of the names return to something akin to their medieval versions, with Kay being Cei and Bedivere being Bedwyr.
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck. A modern-English adaptation of the Arthurian legend, based on the Winchester Manuscript text of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Sadly, Steinbeck died before finishing and it currently ends with the tale of Lancelot.
According to Night Watch, Arthur was a not-particularly-nice puppet king of Merlin, the most powerful Dark Other of all time.
In Dragons In Our Midst, the main character, Billy Bannister, is the second coming of Arthur. The entire plot is built around the Arthur/Christianity principle.
David Lodge's satirical Campus NovelSmall World uses the Grail legend as a frame for the story of academics on the conference circuit. Characters include leading professor Arthur Kingfisher (Fisher King, geddit?) and the Irish Innocent Abroad Persse McGarrigle (Percival/Parzifal) and the Grail itself is a lavishly-funded sinecure.
Shanna Swendson's Enchanted, Inc.. features Merlin as the CEO of the company.
Parke Godwin's Firelord and Beloved Exile, which use the post-Roman warlord versions of the story. What little magic appears can be handwaved away, and The Fair Folk are cast as the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Britain. Notable in that the second book deals with the aftermath of the legends, following Guenevere through a fragmenting Britain after Arthur's death.
John C. Wright's War of Dreaming delves into the Arthurian mythos, and includes Merlin as a character in the present day. It notably re-examines certain aspects of the story, such as what the heirs of Arthur would do if they were actually around.
David Drake's early novel The Dragon Lord: Drake has commented that the personality of his Arthur — a military genius, but vicious and twisted — is a cross between Alexander the Great and Adolf Hitler.
In Tim Power's novel The Drawing Of The Dark, Duffy, a 16th century mercenary, learns to his dismay that he is the reincarnation of King Arthur, sent to protect Vienna (and a magical dark beer), from the Turkish invasion.
Another young adult novel, The Magic Cave/The Hidden Cave by Ruth Chew, concerns two young children who find Merlin trapped inside an oak tree (although he's there by his own error, thanks to wanting to knowwhat was inside an acorn, rather than due to Nyneve). The titular cave is actually a transformed drainage pipe which uses portal magic to take Merlin and the kids to various places, such as the library, the botanical gardens (for herbs to do magic), and eventually the museum to obtain an artifact (the Eye of Horus) to take Merlin back to his own time.
Mercedes Lackey's book Gwenhwyfar, which takes the Welsh tradition that Arthur married three different women all named Guinevere (Gwenhwyfar in Welsh) and tells the story of the third girl.
Dawnflight features a dangerous Guenivere, here called Gyanhumara, who's from Scotland and finds herself in an Arranged Marriage with one of Arthur's untrustworthy allies. Then she and Arthur meet, fall into love (and plenty of lust) and wind up becoming a Battle Couple, breaking off her engagement by the end. Notably, several key subplots and characterizations were derived from Norma Goodriche's theory on the mythos.
The Fantasy Island episode "King Arthur in Mr. Roarke's Court", which brings Arthur (played by Robert Mandan), onto that 70s island, leaving a guest whose fantasy was to meet King Arthur (Tommy Smothers) to keep him out of trouble 'till Roarke can put him back in his proper place and time.
Arthur of the Britons was series featuring a realistic Arthur as a warlord fighting Saxon invaders in Dark Ages Britain.
Mr Merlin: A modernized Merlin seeks out a present-day hero to teach.
In the Doctor Who serial "Battlefield", Merlin is revealed to be a future regeneration of the Doctor.
MacGyver, episode "Good Knight MacGyver": As he is prone to do, Mac gets clocked on the head and finds himself transported to King Arthur's court, where he saves King Arthur, discovers Merlin to be little better than a stage magician, clears the good name of his ancestor, prevents the early discovery of gunpowder by Morgan La Fey, and finally reveals his own first name.
Babylon 5: "A Late Delivery From Avalon", and other references. In that episode King Arthur himself arrives on the station but turns out in fact to be a gunner whose actions triggered the devastating Minbari war in the show's Back Story. He adopted the King Arthur persona as a way to cope with his guilt. Arthurian symbolism makes sporadic appearances throughout B5 and Crusade in the form of the council of races, and the sword and shield on the emblem.
Kaamelott: a comical French series, close in spirit to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. At least in the first seasons, it focused on everyday life and mundane events at Kaamelott/Camelot (though it also incuded mythological/historical jokes from all over the middle ages.) Most characters were made to be really, er, obtuse.
Stargate SG-1: Merlin is revealed to be an Ancient who had stayed on Earth to develop a defense against the Ori. Camelot is on another planet, and SG-1 finds the Sangraal, a piece of Merlin's anti-Ori weapon. They never quite confirm who Arthur actually was, but Daniel theorizes that he was a mortal who Merlin helped ascend.
Morgan le Fay was also an Ancient, sent to stop Merlin. In a subversion of the mythology, she ended up aiding him (and SG-1).
Merlin: A 2008 BBC Saturday Night series focusing on the early life of the wizard.
Merlin: A 1998 miniseries starring Sam Neill in which Queen Mab figures in place of Morgaine Le Fay, brings Celtic mythology into play, similar to:
The Goodies protect a descendent of King Arthur from having Camelot seized by a greedy land developer. Because medieval law still applies on Arthur's land Hilarity Ensues as both sides resort to torture and jousting to force the issue. Gags include Excalibur being used as a club (because no-one can remove the stone from the end) and Ye Secret Weapon — a giant magnet that proves highly effective against metal armor and swords.
Camelot: A 2011 series co-produced by Starz and GK-TV.
Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore" contains numerous references to Arthurian legend.
Rick Wakeman's Concept AlbumThe Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Blind Guardian's "A Past and Future Secret" is about King Arthur and the fall of Camelot. "Mordred's Song" is, unsurprisingly, about Mordred. "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight" is about Tristan and Isolde. The singer's other band Demons & Wizards has "Winter of Souls," which is also about the conflict between Arthur and Mordred.
Ayreon's "The Final Experiment" involves the protagonist going to King Arthur's court and getting on Merlin's bad side.
Kingsword Go ahead and guess what this one's about.
There is a power metal band called Kamelot. While they haven't really played on Arthurian themes in any of their recent work, their fourth studio album featured a song titled "The Shadow of Uther". And their third album was titled Siege Perilous.
King Arthur Pendragon, of course. It's there in the title. Heavily based on Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur but not afraid to plunder other sources if need be, and notable for magic causing the timeline to advance rapidly from the Dark Ages (complete with marauding Picts and Saxons) right through to the 15th century during the course of Arthur's reign allowing just about any Arthurian tale from any of myriad versions of the myth to be fit in somewhere. The Great Pendragon Campaign explicitly identifies the phases of Arthur's reign with periods in the history of England, from the Norman Conquest to the Wars of the Roses, in terms of the political situation and the available technology.
GURPS Camelot, which includes rules for three possible settings: "Traditional", "Historical", and "Cinematic" with the option of mixing-and-matching depending on what you want to be accurate mythology, what you want to be realistic Dark Ages, and what you want to be Rule Of Cool. All three Camelots are referenced in GURPS Infinite Worlds, which notes that the "Historical" Arthur (Artorius Riothamus) is one of many Arthurs found in otherwise non-mythic timelines, fitting just about any theory as to who the "historic" Arthur was.
On any parallel with a current date between 410 and 660 A.D., the Patrol by now routinely expects to discover the “real Arthur” in a North Welsh hill fort, a Scottish border wall, or a detachment of Roman cavalry.
TSR's Amazing Engine game, Once And Future King supplement. The game takes place during the 46th century (4,500-4,600 A.D.) throughout the Earth's solar system, with everyone involved (including King Arthur and his knights) using high tech devices and weaponry. Merlin is a computer program with Artificial Intelligence. How did this come about? Scientists created clones using DNA from 5th century British warriors and programmed their brains with the principles of chivalry. The clones rebelled against their creators and took over the solar system by force.
Henry Purcell wrote the "semi-opera" King Arthur, or The British Worthy (1691), at least one number of which, the Cold Song, is popular today. The libretto by John Dryden dumps pretty much all characters apart from Arthur and Merlin in favour of a new cast of new characters; Arthur ends up marrying Emmeline.
Richard Wagner's Parsifal is somewhat loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Arthurian romance Parzival. Wagner's earlier Lohengrin also tangentially touches the Grail myth. Note that Wagner moves the action from the 5th to the 10th century A.D.
Eric Idle and John Du Prez's musical Spamalot, an adaptation of Monty Python And The Holy Grail focusing on being very silly.
One of the early Sierra games was Conquests Of Camelot, involving King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail and the three knights that went missing in search of it. It combines almost every aspect of the Arthurian mythos, and naturally, has room for several Monty Python references.
Prince Arthas is a inversion of King Arthur. The sword he pulled from a stone (actually, magic ice or something) was very powerful, and marked him as destined for a throne. But it stole his soul, and the throne in question was that of an undead Evil Overlord rather than the throne of The Kingdom he was born to. He's advised by a wizard with an odd life cycle, like Merlin, but the weird thing about this wizard is that he's a necromancer who Arthas killed and later helped come back as a lich. He disbanded the Silver Hand, an order of paladins, and while he later founded an order of death knights, which is an inversion on more than one level: not only are they ignoble and unholy but it wasn't even a new idea or original in-world, making it the reverse of both the Round Table and the Silver Hand.
Sent up by the real location of the Sword being hidden beneath a fake, theme-park-ride version of Arthurian myth.
The Arthurian motifs in Ace Combat Zero deserve more than a passing mention and are significant enough for people to be able to write papers on them ? just check the page.
Sonic and the Black Knight involves Sonic the Hedgehog as a Fish out of Water as he is summoned the legends of Arthur, for he must save the kingdom from Arthur himself, who is now Brainwashed and Crazy, with a new getup akin to Sauron and a very unique sword, and is ruling the land tyrannically as the eponymous Black Knight. Oh, and Merlin has a grand daughter in Merlina. And other Sonic characters serve as the likeness for Arthurian characters: Knuckles is Gawain, Shadow is Lancelot, and Blaze is... Percival? Tails being a blacksmith and Amy being the Lady Of The Lake makes more sense, though.
There are several references in the Fire Emblem video game series to the Arthurian legends. In Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword there is a Lord called Uther who has a brother named Hector which may be a reference to Ector, Arthur's foster father. Also in Blazing Sword, there is a tome called Excalibur. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has Gaiwain, also known as Greiland an early sword called Ettard could be named after the Lady Ettard. In the sequel to POR, Radiant Dawn, there is a mage called Pelleas which is the name of the knight who loved the Lady Ettard. There are also the twin swords Ragnell and Alondite. Ragnell was the name of Sir Gawain's wife, Alondite is supposedly the Japanese pronounciation for Lancelot's sword, Arondight.
Gargoyles was a series where All Myths Are True - including King Arthur. A proposed spinoff, Pendragon, would've followed him in his search for Merlin and then the Holy Grail (as well as addressing the fact that he woke up before Britain needed him).
Blazing Dragons, series created by Monty Pythons' Terry Jones stages a parodic re-enaction of the Arthurian myth where all the characters are replaced by Punly-named Dragon (King Allfire, Castle of Camel-hot, Sir Loungelot and so on and so forth)
Dragon Booster features a hero called Artha Penn (and his brother Lance) whose arch foe is named Moordryd Paynn.