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Arthurian legend

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • In some stories, Gawain is Arthur's best knight and the ideal of chivalry. In others he's a flawed but principled hero. In other ones he's a boorish, impulsive Ax-Crazy Antihero. In others, he's the Table's Boisterous Bruiser, good-natured and hot-blooded, but also dim-witted, impetuous, and a frequent tool in conspirators' plans.
    • Kay's furious, hot-tempered personality is explained away in Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach as a function of his job as Arthur's bouncer. Tons of people showed up to the castle every day claiming to be worthy knights when they really weren't, and it was Kay's job to sort out the bad ones from the good. This explains his really jerkish behavior when Percival arrives at Camelot. If that's the case, he would also be a mean Brit long before Simon Cowell was born. And what happened to his magic powers?
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    • Is Mordred a rebellious and treacherous son or victim of fate? Moreover in even older tales where he's Arthur's legitimate nephew and not his son, was his takeover him enacting a grab for power or him just acting as a regent in his uncle's absence? The earliest tales say he and Arthur fell during a battle but where they fighting each other or were they on the same side? The text was extremely vague.
    • Medieval romancers occasionally note that, though an ally to Arthur, Merlin is actually evil, treacherous and disloyal by nature. He does take several questionable actions over the course of the story.
      • In the even earlier stories, Merlin/Myrddin was called Myrddin Wyllt (Merlin the Wild). He was a wild, hairy man that lived alone in the wilderness for some time, receiving prophecies.
    • The character that receives the most alternative character interpretation is Morgan Le Fay due to the inconsistent characterization of her. Is she genuinely driven by wrath towards Uther for having her father killed so that he could have her mother (which in turn begat Arthur)? Or is she a sociopath who simply uses this tragedy as a Freudian Excuse to cause havoc For the Evulz? Is she not evil and/or antagonistic in the first place as some works (e.g. Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini) imply? And what is her reason for taking her mortally wounded half-brother, Arthur, to Avalon to be healed?
      • In the earliest stories Morgan Le Fay was simply a mysterious/mystical healer associated with an island of apples. Even earlier than that, there was not a Morgan le Fay, but there was a Morgan Tud, chief physician. Morgan Tud bears little resemblance to Morgan le Fau, as Morgan Tud is a male with no familial relationship to Arthur.
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    • Was Morgause an adulteress that seduced Arthur, or did Arthur deceive her into sleeping with him by pretending to be her husband? And was either one of them aware of their relation?
      • In the Vulgate Merlin, where Arthur supposedly “tricked” Morgause into sleeping with him, it was revealed that Morgause loved Arthur, and even had her own children fight against King Lot for the sake of Arthur. So was Morgause only pretending? Was it so she wouldn’t get condemned? Was she a cougar? Later and earlier authors definitely think so. In the Vulgate Estoire del Saint Grail, which predates the Vulgate Merlin, it was Morgause who seemingly tricked Arthur into sleeping with her. Or at least, Arthur believed that he was sleeping with his crush from Ireland. Albeit, they were both grief stricken, but the author never claimed that Morgause believed that she was sleeping with her husband. While according to others, and possibly the original incest account, it was just good old adultery. Though in earlier accounts, Lot was the true and original father of Mordred.
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    • Guinevere is also often subject to different interpretations, with her portrayals ranging between a virtuous queen or a scheming adulteress. Another point of contention is her part in the love triangle: either her relationship with Arthur is merely an Arranged Marriage and she really loves Lancelot, or Arthur is her true love and her dalliance with Lancelot is either only a fling, brought on by manipulation from a third party (usually Morgause or Morgan), or cut out altogether to stick to the earliest versions where Lancelot didn't exist and Arthur/Guinevere was the established relationship.
  • Americans Hate Tingle: One would have better luck trying to find a penguin in the Sahara than finding any Arthurian lore from Ireland that depicts Arthur in any fashion other than a petty horse thief. A bit strange considering the many Irishmen in his court in Culhwch and Olwen, as well as his adventure in Ireland.
    • Also worth mentioning Scottish Arthurian literature that depicted Arthur and members of his court as tyrannical and lecherous villains, and portraying Mordred's power grab as a legitimate action to reclaim his birth right. Some even paint Mordred in a favorable light as a enacting rule of law and making peace with his neighboring realms, namely the Scottish King Loth. As for Arthur's conception, in some Scottish accounts this is used to say he was illegitimate and therefore Mordred was actually the rightful heir (in this version being the son of Uther's sister).
  • Badass Decay: Originally Kay (Cai) had magical/supernatural powers and was one of Arthur’s best knights, considering wounds from Kay’s sword couldn’t be healed. Then Perceval shows up to Arthur’s court. After Kay questions Perceval’s abilities, insults fly and Kay slaps a woman that would only laugh when she saw the greatest knight (or strikes a dwarf and his she-dwarf who had been silent for the time they’d spent in the court only to immediately greet and praise Peredur/Percival), Perceval goes off on a quest and later defeats Kay, breaking his collarbone. The cycle repeats with newer knights, until Kay’s only purpose in the stories only seems to be taunting and insulting new knights so they will get angry and go off on quests and make names for themselves just to prove Kay wrong.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In Culhwch and Olwen, Arthur's court is not at Camelot but at Celliwig in Cornwall. He also has several sons, and the only knights recognizable from later stories (if barely) are Kay, Bedivere and Gawain. Many of the knights have magical powers and use these regularly.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Half of the classic stories come from France of all places. May be in part because British culture ended up fleeing to Brittany among other places after the Anglo-Saxon conquest.
    • It’s no coincidence that the French Lancelot was given so much attention by the later French writers, while the older Welsh knights like Bedivere and Kay were rarely featured and Kay’s powers were never mentioned again.
    • the French don't like Arthur. If they did then they wouldn’t be portraying him terrible. The French legends are propaganda meant to demonize Arthur. That’s why he is made into his complete opposite since the French were only interested in basterdizing, butchering and ruining the english Christian hero. Hence he’s always portrayed in a negative light.
    • To a lesser extent, the Scots, who, while unrelated to Arthur directly (they're Irish and Pictish mostly, with a little bit of British down south) got on the bandwagon as well. They do, however, revise the stories from time to time to make it more favorable to their own national heroes (like King Lot).
    • And then there's the English, but then, it is pretty common for countries to celebrate their deep past while glossing over all the invasions and revolutions in between.
    • The Germans love Arthur too, particularly the Grail legends.
    • Also interesting to mention that there is also one work of Arthurian lore, Melekh Artus, written in Hebrew in 1279. The fact that Jews, who weren't exactly treated all that well during the times most Arthurian works were composed, also seemed to like the Arthurian legend (sans the grail stories) suggests that some ideals of the legends appealed to people outside its intended audience.
    • To say nothing about how enamored Americans, whose very nation was founded on the rejection of monarchy and particularly British monarchy, are with Arthurian myth.
    • The Japanese are in love with Arthur...well, a version of Arthur, anyways.
  • Ho Yay: There's loads of this between Lancelot and Galehaut. When Galehaut sees Lancelot's battle prowess, he's so dazzled that he gives up his goal of claiming Arthur's kingdom and surrenders to the king just so he has a chance to become Lancelot's friend. Indeed, Lancelot and Galehaut become very close, so much so that whether their relationship was platonic or romantic is a subject of academic debate, much like with Achilles and Patroclus. Some stories even claim they get buried side by side.
  • Memetic Badass: Before Galahad, before Lancelot, before Gawain, Arthur was this to the mythos that now bears his name. The Arthurian Welsh Triads in particular tend to either have Arthur (referred to as the Red Ravager) as the third (and thus most powerful example) of each triad, or the fourth, generally establishing that whatever the other three guys were known for, Arthur was it Up to Eleven.
    • In fact, literally the earliest possible mention of Arthur accepted by most experts can be paraphrased as "This one guy is a Billy Mac Badass to end all other badasses, but he was not Arthur."
  • Memetic Mutation: The Black Knight. More significant as a character type than as an individual character. There was more than one but they're hardly ubiquitous in the medieval stories.
  • Newer Than They Think: What? There is no Lancelot in the original legends? Mordred is Arthur's nephew and heir with practically no sister hanky panky going on? Arthur is a Badass Normal himself and his Power Trio includes Cai and a one-handed Bedwyr? The realm falls because of plain old duplicity and treachery and not some convoluted fate? And where the heck is Merlin?
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: The original information on Arthur focused on his ability to destroy Saxon armies whole-sale in twelve battles before dying in Pyrrhic 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.
  • Signature Scene: It wouldn't be Arthurian legend without mention of Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone. The Battle of Camlann is another notable moment.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The Parzival Poem features the character Feirefiz, Percival's half brother from a Moorish mother, and explicitly a pagan. While he does convert to Christianity, at no point before his conversion was he shown to be a bad person or evil, and was just as noble as his half brother. This is particularly notable for being implemented by the author in the early 13th century, where that was not a common view to have.
  • Values Dissonance: While par for the course with any old legend, there is one particular one that changes tied to the portrayals of quests and combat prowess: in the old Welsh legends, adventures and quests are group activities (Arthor himself is almost never without his Power Trio of himself, Cai, and Bedwyr) and there is nothing wrong with ganging up on badguys, while the later Romance takes almost exclusively focus on single warrior adventures that are stuffed to the gills with jousting and even the villains tend to follow Mook Chivalry.
  • Woolseyism: Originally spelled "Myrddin," but changed to "Merlin" by Geoffrey of Monmouth because Myrddin sounded/looked too much like the French "merde" and he wanted to avoid naming his prophetic wizard after the French word for poop. It's worth noting that his audience was French-speaking Normans. In Welsh the -dd would be pronounced as -th.

The film King Arthur

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Much of what Cerdic does is open to this. His intentions are hard to read, and he doles out kindness and cruelty in the same gruff and joyless tone of voice.
    • A good example when he protects a female prisoner from two of his own men, killing one of the men when he objects, on the argument that "we don't mix with these people". Then, when she starts to thank him, he turns around and kills her as well. Was he really motivated by a theory of racial purity? Or did he simply realize that he couldn't protect her for long?
    • His actor Stellan Skarsgaard decided to play him as someone bored with conquests, who only does it out of instincts. Arthur is his first Worthy Opponent in years, and reignites his spirit.
  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation: This film, probably more than anything else, has helped popularize the idea that the "historical King Arthur" was a Roman dude named Lucius Artorius Castus (due to the major problems the Sarmatian theory has, it remains a fringe theory among scholars). After it was released, the concept started popping up in more media like the Total War series and Vinland Saga, though not necessarily mentioning Sarmatians explicitly. Before the film was released, Kinoko Nasu was aware of the "Roman Arthur" concept since the true name of his version of Arthur is "Artoria" (the feminine form of "Artorius"), and in supplementary materials he posits that the mythical Arthur was a Composite Character of Roman and British leaders. But such references were rare.
  • Awesome Music: "Budget Meeting" is far more awesome than anything with that name deserves to be.
  • Better on DVD: The director's cut removes some scenes, makes the battles Bloodier and Gorier and changes the order of some other scenes around to make the film flow better.
  • Complete Monster: Cerdic, the warchief of the Saxons, is a brutal Blood Knight leading his forces across Britannia to destroy all in their paths. First seen amongst a burnt out village, Cerdic stops a Saxon from raping a woman simply because such a coupling would "water down" their Saxon blood and promptly kills the soldier when he protests before he orders the woman killed anyways. Cerdic promptly orders his men to rampage across Britain with explicit instructions to leave behind no man, woman or child who can even carry a sword. In the final battle with Arthur, Cerdic sends his men on a diversion that will get them killed and roars they are his men when his son Cynric protests the decision. During the battle, Cerdic viciously kills Tristan after making certain Arthur can see the fight, having decided earlier Arthur is the only man worth killing.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Bors is a Boisterous Bruiser who provides some much needed levity like revealing his bastard children have numbers instead of names, kicks all sorts of ass in battle and is brought to life by Ray Winstone.
    • Tristan is an ace archer played by Mads Mikkelson in one of his rare non-villainous roles.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight
  • Ho Yay: Arthur and Lancelot are very close and have several intimate scenes that give off this vibe. Some argue that they have more on-screen chemistry than either independently has with Guinevere.
  • Love to Hate: Marius is a complete Hate Sink but Ken Stott's performance makes him quite entertaining.
  • Narm: This exchange between Lancelot and Guinevere sounds incredibly forced and just there to provide a girl power moment for the latter.
    Lancelot: There are a lot of lonely men out there.
    Guinevere: Don't worry. I won't let them rape you.
  • Nausea Fuel: Guinevere is introduced needing to have some of her fingers bent back into position. The viewer is spared the sight of this, but not of Gwen's pained screaming.
  • Nightmare Fuel: This version of the sword in the stone story - Arthur was a child when his mother was locked in a burning house by Pict warriors. He tried to pull the sword out of his father's grave, but was too late to save her.
  • Older Than They Think: Turning Guinevere into an Action Girl is actually Character Rerailment - in the original sources her counterpart actually was one. It was only from the 13th Century onward that she underwent Chickification to focus on her affair with Lancelot.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Ganis only appears in the second act, but flirts with being a Badass Normal and offers to fight with the knights against the Saxons. While he's refused, he does get the others to safety.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: The film got a lot of flack when Keira Knightley revealed that posters of the film had photoshopped her breasts to be larger.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Strangled by the Red String: Actually averted. Arthur and Guinevere do share many scenes together, and it's Guinevere who convinces Arthur to find another cause to fight for - so they do make some kind of emotional connection. Their sex scene before the battle is however less about being in love, and more about having fun before the battle begins. Although the last scene is of their wedding, enough of a Time Skip could have passed to allow them to fall in love.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Two out of the Holy Grail trio - Bors and Galahad - are featured as supporting characters. The third in the story Percival is not in the film, nor does the film provide a Demythification for the grail.
    • Guinevere is the only woman of any note in the film. Arthurian legends have plenty of interesting females like Morgan le Fay, Morgause, Nimueh and the Lady of the Lake (who is sometimes any of the previous three). It would have been interesting to feature some of those, especially since women enjoyed higher status of power in Pict society.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The story is clearly demanding to be treated like an epic, with Loads and Loads of Characters - a lot of whom vanish or get Demoted to Extra. At only two hours, it's in need of more screen time. Word of God agrees.


Example of: