'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.
The perfect king
. Ruled Britain
during a Golden Age
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
A legendary, and somewhat tragic figure, in most versions of the myth Arthur tries to overcome the chaos of the land and the notion of 'might equals right' through chivalry, but is ultimately undone as noble chivalry depends on might to enforce order. This, in conjunction with his failings as a husband in trying to be the perfect King, along with his last act often attributed as being forced to kill his only son in battle. Nevertheless, the romantic Arthurian legend stands for all that was noble and good in the medieval ideal of chivalry, and of how a perfect king should be, compassionate, decisive and just.
Like the other great British folk hero Robin Hood
,note 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 who fought the invading Saxons after the Roman provincial government collapsed. Documents show that after the Battle of Mount Badon
, the Saxon conquest was turned back for almost a century, but the records are confused as to 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 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
. 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.
The Main Plot Features Are:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: King Arthur's sword (called Excalibur or Caliburn or whatnot) is almost always portrayed this way.
- 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 chieftain Romano-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.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Mordred in some adaptations. The trope's alternate name is Arthur And Mordred for a reason.
- Bastard Bastard: Mordred, who may be the Ur-example. The illegitimate son of King Arthur and his half sister, who plotted against his father.
- Because Destiny Says So: The sword in the stone and the rise of Camelot
- Bed Trick: Both Arthur and Galahad are conceived this way.
- Befriending The Enemy: In Prose Lancelot Sir Lancelot manages to befriend Prince Galehaut of Sorelois, who at the time was at war with King Arthur over a disputed territory, which eventually resulted in a peace settlement between the warring royals.
- Big Good: Arthur, at least in the stories that focus mainly on his knights.
- Bittersweet Ending: Arthur's power is broken at the Battle of Camlann and he departs for Avalon to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence from which he'll return when Britain (or France) needs him again. Can be a straight Downer Ending if this note of hope is downplayed.
- A Boy and His X: Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, AKA "A Knight And His Lion".
- Breakout Character: Arthur himself. He isn't mentioned at all in some of the earliest histories, though the authors were often writing within living memory of some of the greatest victories attributed to him. Later stories have him as the dux bellorumTrans. of a coalition of Briton kings; while he's a fairly important figure, he's apparently not mentioned as being a king himself. It isn't until still later tales that Arthur comes onto the scene as a king himself and the single pivotal character.
- 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.
- The Call Left A Message: The Sword in the Stone and the Siege Perilous.
- Celtic Mythology: Has its roots in Cornish and Welsh legends.
- Changeling Fantasy: Arthur is raised by Sir Ector. Though treated well, he's considered of lower rank than Ector's biological family, who have no idea of his true identity.
- Child by Rape: Both Arthur himself (see Bed Trick above) and Mordred, through rape by fraud.
- The Chosen One: Merlin predicts Arthur's coming in the form of a vision of a Boar note driving out the Saxons and relieving the Britons.
- Earlier was his predicting of 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 sons - Amr, Gwydre, Llacheu, Kyduan 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.
- Another example: In some versions, Arthur battles the Roman Empire (which fell no later than 476 AD) but his knights include Sir Palomedes the Saracen (which can be taken to mean either the Arab or the Muslim - and Islam began in 610 AD).
- Cool Sword
- 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.
- Damsel Errant
- Death of the Old Gods: Most modern re-tellings have this going on at least in the background.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Lancelot, King Lot, King Urien, King Pellinore, and Galehaut (no, not Galahad).
- And possibly the earliest example: Osla Big Knife, who is the only named leader of Saxon forces at Badon Hill in Welsh sources, and who later joins Arthur on a quest to hunt Twrch Twyth.
- 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.
- Double In-Law Marriage: Brothers Gareth and Gaheris marry sisters Lyonesse and Lynet.
- 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.
- The Fair Folk: Usually present to some degree.
- Fisher King: The Trope Namer, particularly in stories concerning Perceval.
- Five-Man Band
- Folk Hero: King Arthur is popular legend in Britain and France.
- Give Me a Sword: Arthur sometimes pulls out the sword without noticing, because Kay sent him to get him a sword.
- The Good King: Arthur is the Trope Codifier
- Half-Human Hybrid: Merlin is only half human. His father may have a been a Fae, The Devil, an incubus, or no one.
- Healing Shiv: Excalibur's scabbard stops its wielder from bleeding, making it invaluable on the battlefield.
- 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.
- Hidden Backup Prince: Arthur.
- 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.
- King in the Mountain: Arthur sleeping until his hour comes again.
- Knight Errant: Particularly Gawain, Lancelot, and Galahad. Gawain And The Green Knight is the Trope Namer.
- Knight In Shining Armour: The extent, as with just about every trope associated with King Arthur, depends on the version.
- The Lady's Favour
- Last of His Kind: Merlin is revealed as the last of the shape-changers in his childhood, before Arthur's birth.
- Lawful Stupid: Arthur. So determined to bring about this new Rule of Law idea that he lets himself be used by evil people in the guise of upholding the law.
- Living MacGuffin: Guenevere.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- The Lost Woods: Where else to go for your quest?
- Love Triangle: Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot; and Guinevere, Lancelot and Elaine.
- Tristan/Isolde/King Mark as well.
- Also: Gorlois of Tintagel / Igraine / Uther Pendragon
- And while we're at it : Blonde Esmerée / Gingalain / la Pucelle aux Blanches Mains
- 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 Sword on the Stone successfully to become king of Britain. 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.
- Moses in the Bullrushes / Secret Legacy: The young King Arthur; also an embittered anti-Moses, in the form of Mordred, after Arthur (our hero!) had a lot of babies killed. (Different versions put different twists on this last bit.)
- Multiple-Choice Past: Everyone.
- 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 , 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".
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: The massacre of the May Day babies.
- 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.
- Only the Worthy May Pass: Why only Arthur can pull the sword in the stone.
- Oracular Urchin: Merlin's first appearance in the legend.
- Phlebotinum Battery: Sir Gawaine is solar-powered, he's strongest in the morning as the sun rises but grows weaker and as it sets.
- A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: Arthur's archetype in pretty much every adaptation.
- Public Domain Artifact: Excalibur/Caliburn, the Sword in the Stone, the Round Table, and the Holy Grail
- Public Domain Character: A literal army of them — See below.
- Rasputinian Death: The Welsh version of the "historical" Merlin says he could only be killed this way.
- Royal Blood
- 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.
- Second Coming: See Bittersweet Ending above.
- Semi-Divine: Merlin is often portrayed as the child of a demon and mortal, although in the original myths he was depicted as something of a fey spirit, so half-fairy was more likely.
- Sole Survivor: Only Sir Bedivere survives Arthur's last battle in Malory. Earlier Welsh legends also have just a few survivors: one warrior was so beautiful that he was mistaken for an angel while another was so ugly that he was mistaken for a devil, and thus they escaped harm.
- Space Whale Aesop: The origin of Merlin: Don't forget to say your prayers, and don't argue with your siblings, or else you'll be raped by Horny Devils while you sleep.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Every character's name has multiple spellings.
- 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.
- Tsundere: Queen Guinevere and Lady Lynette.
- Trial by Combat: One way of settling disputes in the setting, and especially important to protecting the adulterous relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere.
- Turn Out Like His Father: Percival's mother did not want him to become a knight.
- The Worf Effect: Gawain seems to suffer from this a bit - the Johnny-come-lately knights (Lancelot et al.) often establish their badass cred by defeating him.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: Guinevere
- In Erec and Enide by Chrétien de Troyes, Enide is ascribed this title.
- Wound That Will Not Heal
- A Year and a Day: The time span in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- You Can't Fight Fate: The fall of Camelot.
The Main Characters Are:
- King Arthur: The Hero, The Captain and Knight in Shining Armor.
- 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 carbon copy of Lancelot in any Dark Age story where the latter isn't present
- Sir Kay: Arthur's foster brother, originally a Boisterous Bruiser, later the Butt Monkey; also The Big Guy (literally "The Long Man" in Welsh). In many versions, he is also the Snark Knight.
- Galahad: Messianic Archetype and an early Marty Stu.
- Guinevere: The Chick, Damsel in Distress, The High Queen and God Save Us from the Queen! in some iterations.
- Gawain: Originally The Lancer, then wimpified. by the French to pump up Lancelot. Modern versions are more forgiving, after their fashion.
- 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.
- Merlin: The original Wizard, Mentor, The Professor, sometimes half-demon. Based on legendary Welsh mystic Myrddin Wyllt, who wandered the woods as a wild haired mystic and converted to Christianity, later adopted as an oracular figure for Arthur, since both of them were basically Welsh; the Welsh maintain separate accounts of the "historical" Myrddin's life and places he visited.
- Morgan (or sometimes Morgana) Le Fay: Sometimes The Man Behind the Man and would-be Queen, sometimes a Trickster Mentor, almost always an Evil Sorcerer. Except in certain feminist and/or neo-pagan retellings of the stories, in which she's usually the hero and Arthur is an evil patriarchal Christian bastard, or the pawn of same; and in probably her earliest appearance in Geoffrey of Monmouth, where she's just Arthur's on-staff magical healer and sister.
- Nyneve/Nimue: Merlin's pupil, and lover. She eventually goes Deceptive Disciple on him and, in the classical version, places him under an enchantments and seals him in a tree or rock. Whether or not this is justified depends on how she and/or Merlin are portrayed. Frequently blended with Morgan for the convenience of having a Composite Character be responsible for all of Arthur's woes.
- Mordred: The Dragon, Arthur's illegitimate son and nephew, though he was originally just a nephew and foster son on roughly equal footing with Arthur.
- The Orkney Brothers (Gawain, Agravaine, Gaheris, Gareth and Mordred): Five-Man Band
- Tristram and Iseult: Star-Crossed Lovers
- Sir Not Appearing In This Film (or Epic, or whatever): Obviously.
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).
- Insane sharpness is another reasonably-constant quality of the sword
- The Sword in the Stone, which is featured as an entirely different sword than Excalibur/Caliburn in most versions of Arthurian myth.
- The Round Table: Barring Excalibur, the most iconic item in Arthurian Mythology - the freakin' furniture they installed. The congregation of knights are named for it, after all.
- The Siege Perilous, the last chair of the Round Table to be filled, prophesied to be filled by a knight who would not live long thereafter.
- The Holy Grail, an addition which came to dominate the late medieval version of the myth, though it is often excised in modern works.
There are also a metric ton
of other lesser-commonly-known artifacts from the myths. Just a few are:
- The Broken Sword - The Grail Sword
- The Sword of the Red Hilt
- The Shield of Joesph of Arimathea
- The Shield of The Burning Dragon Knight
- The Green Sash
- The Thirteen Treasures of Britain
- 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
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
and Saxon hordes
), 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
The most important pre-modern Arthurian works include:
- 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 fantastic animals.
- 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-Grail, or Vulgate Cycle; followed by the Post-Vulgate Cycle - 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.
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A 14th-century English poem, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien, among others.
- The Weddyng Of Syr Gawen
- The Stanzaic Morte Arthur
- The Alliterative Morte Arthure
- Syr Launfal
- 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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Anime & Manga
- 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 Prototype Humongous 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.
- Nanatsu No Taizai draws several influences from the Arthurian myth. To name a few: The main character Meliodas is named after Tristan's father. The country in which the series takes place in is called Britannia and there is a kingdom called Lyonesse. An allusion to the Sword in the Stone was made by one of the antagonists. One of the characters is a Gender Flip version of Merlin. Two others are named after Lancelot's parents, Ban and Elaine.
- Soul Eater features Arthur's sword Excalibur as the legendary sword who's... extremely annoying as fuck. However, it is implied that Arthur himself put up with Excalibur and the sword wasn't as annoying when in Arthur's hand, even growing a beard. Now, without Arthur, though... yep, super annoying as ever.
- The myths were adapted into two series by Toei in the late 1970s / early 1980s: Entaku Kishi no Monogatari: Moero Arthur (lit.: "Story of the Knights of the Round Table: Burn Arthur"), and Moero Arthur: Hakuba no Ouji ("Burn Arthur: Prince on White Horse"). A number of foreign language dubs of the former series are called simply "King Arthur", although there was an English dubbed compilation movie called "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table". Video game players may recognize the theme from latter series in the arcade game Frogger (if they get far enough).
- Saber of the Nasuverse is a gender-bent King Arthur and wields both Caliburn (the Sword in the Stone) and Excalibur. Mordred appears as her evil clone and Fate/Zero's Berserker is revealed to be Lancelot.
- Camelot is a recurring element in The DCU's Back Story. Characters linked to Arthur's court include:
- The Demon Etrigan, a fiend from Hell summoned by Merlin to defend Camelot in its final hour against Morgaine le Fey. Morgaine has gone on to become a recurring foe of both Wonder Woman and the Justice League of America.
- The Shining Knight, a member of the Round Table who was frozen in ice for many centuries (years before Captain America thawing out with The Avengers was a glimmer in Stanley Lieber's mind) and decided to keep protecting Britain by fighting Those Wacky Nazis.
- 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.
- Aquaman, King Arthur Curry of Atlantis, is sometimes compared to King Arthur. At one time, his Hook Hand was even replaced with a hand made of magic water given to him by the Lady of the Lake.
- In Marvel Comics:
- The backstory of The Black Knight.
- 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 Reborn Avengers 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.
- Merlin was the original patron of Captain Britain. In Excalibur it is later revealed that Merlyn (now spelled with a y) is a powerful cosmic being who helps police The Multiverse. Merlin's many, wildly varying appearances in earlier Marvel stories are explained by the fact that when dealing with humans, Merlyn likes to shapeshift and give people wildly contradictory impressions of him so that no one knows what he's really all about.
- Rom Spaceknight once encounters the frozen form of King Arthur in a subterranean chamber, slumbering away the ages until Britain's hour of greatest need will awaken him. As an alien, Rom doesn't know who Arthur is, but as a Knight in Shining Armor himself, he feels an instinctive kinship with him.
- In one The Phantom comic, it was revealed that one of the ancestors of the Phantom was a Knight of the Round Table.
- In Camelot 3000, Arthur and Merlin return in the year 3000. The knights are reincarnated in various forms (Tristan is female, Perceval is a grotesque mutant).
- Matt Wagner's Mage The Hero Discovered and Mage The Hero Defined utilizes Kevin Matchstick as King Arthur reborn, Edsel as the Lady of the Lake, Mirth as Merlin, et al. The Fisher King, the Marhault Ogre, Crom Cruich and the Wild Hunt put in appearances, often with some Modernisation.
- 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.
- Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table was an Elseworlds story featuring Batman as...a Knight of the Round Table.
- Caliber is a comic series that transports the Arthurian Mythos to The Wild West. A magic gun replaces Excalibur, a Native American Shaman stands in for Merlin, etc, etc.
- In Hellboy The Wild Hunt, Hellboy meets Morgana Le Fay of the Arthurian mythos, and discovers that his mother was the last remaining descendant of King Arthur, via the daughter 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 possession 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.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- 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 Fisher King sets a semi-symbolic Grail Quest in modern Manhattan.
- First Knight deals with the whole Arthur/Lancelot/Guenevere love triangle.
- Dragonheart is set after the Arthurian era, but the hero is a knight of the "Old Code" estsblished by Arthur and the Round Table.
- King Arthur (2004), in the Dark Ages setting. A bit of a flop, it was infamous for a poster that gave flat chested Keira Knightley what can only be called Photoshop surgery on her breasts.◊ It's unusual among popular portrayals for having Arthur as a Roman officer. It was also unusual for claiming to be Very Loosely Based on a True Story. The writers studied up on the various candidates for the historical Arthur and settled on a "historical" account (actually written several hundred years after the events supposedly took place) that the public are generally unfamiliar with, namely that Arthur was the commander of a legion of displaced Sarmatians, Trapped Behind Enemy Lines and Fighting for a Homeland, who became leader of the Britons after the fact. Ironically they got it from both sides for their trouble, in part because they decided to mix up an unfamiliar historical portrayal with newly bizarre Hollywoodisms, such as the aforementioned Keira Knightley as Guinevere, a blue, Breast Plated Pictish (!) Warrior Princess.
- 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.
- Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene contains a barely recognizable version of Arthur.
- Alfred Tennyson's Idylls of the King, a series of long poems, was very influential in the 19th century.
- William Morris wrote quite a few poems about Arthurian characters.
- 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.
- Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthurs Court.
- T. H. White's The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn.
- 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 Uncle Merry.
- 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 which began the trend of highly sympathetic readings of Morgan.
- Phyllis Ann Karr's The Idylls of the Queen (a title playing on Tennyson's Idylls of the King) is a retelling of part of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur as a murder mystery, using Kay as the narrator/detective and Mordred as his sidekick.
- 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.
- Galad's half-brother Gawyn appears a parallel to Gawain.
- 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 treacherous coward).
- 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.
- Gerald Morris's The Squire's Tales retells a number of Arthurian legends.
- 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 Sulien series, composed of 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 and title character, 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 (second) magic teacher and maternal grandfather Ebenezer McCoy is the latest link of a Master-Apprentice Chain stretching all the way to the original Merlin himself, who was also the founder of the White Council (and his name having since become the title given to The Archmage leading it).
- 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 Novel Small 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.
- In the 4th novel in Disgaea novel series Laharl and Flonne travel back in time and meet King Arthur.
- 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.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel uses Sir Palomedes the Saracen Knight, one of the more obscure Arthurian characters.
- 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.
- The young adult novel, Winter of Magic's Return by Pamela F. Service, and its sequel, concerns three young children in post-nuclear war England. One of them turns out to be a youthened/reborn Merlin who had lost his memory and, even after he gets it back, has some issues with remembering spells and making them work right. Ends up becoming a Magic Comes Back scenario.
- 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 know what 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.
- Marcus Pitcaithly's The Realm Of Albion is set in an Arthurian world, albeit a few centuries before Arthur's birth.
- 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.
- The Adventures Of Sir Lancelot, the first UK series made in colour.
- 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.
- The Doctor Who serial "Battlefield" has near-future Earth invaded by two factions of Magic from Technology Arthurian knights from a parallel universe, the good ones serving the (dead) Arthur and the evil ones led by Morgana and Mordred. It is strongly suggested that their Merlin was a future incarnation of the Doctor himself.
- 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.
- This episode also demonstrates a Critical Research Failure on the part of the writer - or at least on the part of the characters. Doctor Franklin protests that the man cannot be Arthur because his speech patterns are too modern... An interesting observation, since King Arthur shouldn't be speaking English at all!
- 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. It follows the legends only loosely,with Arthur raised prince of Camelot and Merlin a boy close to Arthur's age who is Arthur's servant and must hide his magic due to King Uther and later Arthur forbidding magic in Camelot. Gwen/Guinevere is the servant of Morgana introduced as Uther's ward and only revealed as his daughter in season 3. Mordred is a Druid boy who may or may not be Arthur's nephew, Gwaine is a noble hiding as a commoner and Lancelot is a commoner for real. Gwen is seduced by a zombie-type Lancelot but never cheats on Arthur.
- 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 Mists of Avalon, a 2001 miniseries adaptation of Marion Zimmer Bradley's 1981 book, with pro-feminist subversions.
- 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.
- The "Fisher King" two-parter that bridged the first and second seasons of Criminal Minds featured an unsub who believed himself to be the titular King from the Grail myths and envisioned the BAU as modern-day Knights of the Round Table, forcing them on a "quest" to save a young girl's life. According to behind-the-scenes features, the show's writers built the initial characters and story around that same theme, and you can find plenty of parallels between the two if you try.
- Briefly mentioned in the Charmed episode; "Sword and the City", Piper pulled the sword Excalibur from the stone in a very Arthurian-style and later became corrupted by it.
- Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore" contains numerous references to Arthurian legend.
- Rick Wakeman's Concept Album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
- Various edits of the opening track, Arthur, which tells us briefly of Arthur's ascendency, have been used by The BBC to herald every general election since 1979 (with one exception).
- 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.
- Grave Digger's Concept Album Excalibur is based on legend of King Arthur.
- A large portion of the songs by Heather Dale. Among others:
- 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.
- In Crystal Caliburn, the player is King Arthur, and must assemble the Knights of the Round in order to undergo a quest to retrieve the Holy Grail.
- King Arthur Pendragon is 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.
- The CAMELOT Trigger FATE setting has John Arthur as a freedom fighter in a Robot War turned King of Earth, MerLN and MerGN as good and evil AI, Project MORDRED is about MerGN creating an evil clone of Arthur, and the "armour" of the knights is in fact mecha.
- What the Noble Knight archetype in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG are based on, with the exception of Joan. To wit, Artorigus is Arthur, Laundsallyn is Lancelot, Gawayn is Gawain, Medraut is Mordred, Gwalchavad is Galahad, Drystan is Tristan, Borz is Bors, and Peredur is Percival.
- The knights of Bretonnia in Warhammer, replacing Britain with France, Arthur with Gilles le Breton, and the Christian elements with a (possibly) sham religion of the Wood Elves.
- The newly-dubbed knights are Knights Errant, young warriors roaming the countryside in search of adventure. Once they prove themselves worthy, they become Knights of the Realm, your standard Knight in Shining Armor (with a piece of land and peasants). A Questing Knight gives up the land and title to look for the Grail, the cup held by the Lady of the Lake (see sham religion by the Wood Elves). If she deems him worthy and lets him drink of it, he becomes a Grail Knight, living longer than other humans.
- Shadows over Camelot is a board game styled after the Arthurian myths, where the players take on the roles of Knights of the Round Table of their choosing (including King Arthur himself). The knights cooperate in going on quests and defending Camelot against encroaching evil forces—with a twist that one of them is secretly evil (i.e. the other players don't know who the traitor is) and must work to ensure Camelot's downfall.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, King Arthur is a werebear. Yeah, it is awesome.
- 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.
- Lerner and Loewe's musical Camelot, an adaptation of White's The Once and Future King focusing on the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot Love Triangle.
- 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.
- Though they don't appear in the story proper, the exceedingly powerful Knights of the Round summon in Final Fantasy VII is clearly based on Arthur and his knights.
- Backyard Skateboarding has the unlockable Excaliboard (obviously based on Excalibur) and mentions of the Knights of the Round Table in the Medieval European Fantasy level, Merry Old Englandland.
- King Arthur The Roleplaying Wargame
- Prince Arthas of WarCraft 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.
- Tears to Tiara is a prequel of sorts in an Alternate Universe, showing the rise of King Arthur with the help of a Demon King, Arawn.
- Tomb Raider Legend deconstructs the King Arthur myth by making Excalibur in reality a really, really ancient artifact that predates the Arthur myth and is mentioned in various other myths and legends. "Every culture's got one." Insufferable Genius Alister constantly states how unlikely the legend is to be true, while Lara remains optimistic and Zip just thinks Excalibur is a cool sword and constantly confuses it with the sword in the stone. When he realises this is irritating Alister greatly, he continues to do this deliberately. Lara approves. In the end, it turns out that Excalibur is real, as is King Arthur and Avalon, and Lara gets to use the sword as a weapon on the final boss.
- 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: The Belkan War deserve more than a passing mention and are significant enough for people to be able to write papers on them. Just check out this 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.
- The Legend Of Prince Valiant
- King Arthur & the Knights of Justice had a modern professional American football team transported back in time to fill the roles of the knights of the round table.
- 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.
- King Arthur's Disasters a humorous, anachronistic, British Cartoon about a moronic King Arthur's failed attempts to woo the spoilt Princess Guinevere.
- Thundercats had an episode where Mumm-Ra disguised himself as Arthur to fool the Lady of the Lake into giving him Excalibur, the greatest sword that ever existed, so he could finally defeat Lion-O and the Sword of Omens. It almost worked, but then he made the mistake of revealing his identity, prompting Merlin to show up and kick his ass.
- Morgane Le Fey was a recurring enemy in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, who was frequently seen with her bratty son Mordred. In their final appearance, she helps the justice league defeat Mordred, who has cast a spell to banish all adults in the world to another dimension so he could rule the world. Eventually they trick Mordred into breaking the spell that keeps him ageless, and ends up with Age Without Youth.
- Arthur and the Square Knights of the Round Table was a humorous Australian version from The Sixties, with quirky design and animation influenced by UPA. Arthur was a very small man, only half the height of Guinevere who was always implied to be the brains of the pair. Lancelot was rather vain and had a speech impediment caused by a gap in his teeth. The Court Jester was the resident Deadpan Snarker ("What do you take me for - a fool?"), while Merlin was always coming up with new potions, not all of them entirely successful. Morgana le Fay was allied to the Black Knight, but their efforts to overthrow Camelot were always defeated, usually by a combination of their incompetence and bad luck. A handful of episodes made it onto DVD in Britain in 2001.
- Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Ridersnote (Robert Mandell's other series) was largely inspired by the myths. Including (but not limited to) Gwenevere's name (based on "Guinevere" from the original), Merlin as their spiritual advisor, Merlin's talking owl companion Archimedes (called Archie for short), and the series setting: the kingdom of Avalon (whose capital city is called "New Camelot").
- The Smurfs Season 9 episode "Smurfs Of The Round Table" is set in Camelot, England with Morgan le Fey as the episode's main nemesis.