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And yet another novel has been written featuring King Arthur’s children. This one focuses on the child from Welsh tradition, Amir or Amr, here named Amhar. He is one of the main characters in Aenghus Chisholme’s 2014 novel AD 517: Arthur the King.

AD 517: Arthur the King makes King Arthur’s son Amhar its hero.

Actually, two of Arthur’s children are in this novel. Amhar is the legitimate son of Arthur and Gwenhwyvar, and heir to the kingdom. Mordred is the illegitimate son of Arthur and Morgan. For most of the novel, Mordred is a bit in Amhar’s shadow, and the two act together, which is not surprising given that Amr’s story is one in which he is slain while fighting his father, and he may likely have inspired the development of Mordred’s role as the son who slays his father. (In the original Welsh legends, there’s no indication Mordred and Arthur are even related to one another. For more on the development of both of these children in early Welsh sources, see my book King Arthur’s Children.)

Aenghus Chisholme has previously written three other Arthurian novels, the stories of which are occasionally referenced in the novel, although AD 517: Arthur the King can be read as a stand-alone novel. Amhar appears in all of the earlier novels, but he is just an infant and small child in them and not a major character.

Before I describe the plot of AD 517: Arthur the King, I will give a spoiler alert here since it’s impossible to discuss this novel without giving away the ending.

The story begins with Arthur defeating the Saxons at Badon. He now rules more of Britain than any previous king. That said, he has not driven away all the invaders of Britain. The Saxons, Jutes, and Angles still exist on his shores. Arthur wants to rid the island of all these invaders, but his son Amhar is against this, trying to convince his father that many of them were born in Britain and are as much Britons as the Britons themselves. Arthur does not want to hear this and begins a program of ethnic cleansing that enrages Amhar. Arthur is upset by his son’s attitude, even though Gallahalt tries to explain to him that Amhar, who is twenty-five, is too young to remember the earlier years when war was necessary.

Meanwhile, a sorcerer named Ivorwulf has been spying on Arthur’s castle at Caerleon. Morgan eventually realizes this and warns Merlin. They decide they will kidnap Ivorwulf to prevent him from aiding their enemies. Ivorwulf is working for the Saxons, Jutes, and Angles, who are forming an alliance against Arthur. However, before Morgan and Merlin can get Ivorwulf back to Caerleon, they are themselves abducted by Nimue and other fairies. Ivorwulf manages to free them and tells Merlin and Morgan he realizes they must be allies against the fairies who are the true enemies of Briton. (There’s a lot of stuff about fairies in the book and how they can no longer reproduce because Christianity is weakening them. The fairy stuff was a bit much for me. I like a little magic in Arthurian novel, but these fairies were over the top, especially in their sexual appetites. A couple of sex scenes with fairies were nothing but erotica and too gratuitous in my opinion since they added hardly anything to the plot.)

Arthur continues his ethnic cleansing program. Amhar and Mordred decide to go to Camlann to rally the people to pledge their loyalty to Arthur and show they are true Britons, even though many of them are Saxons, Jutes, or Angles. Arthur accidentally learns of their plans and takes a troop to Camlann to punish them or at least quell their rebellion, as he sees it. Ivorwulf, Merlin, and Morgan accompany him. Ivorwulf is pretending to be on their side, but upon arrival at Camlann, he shows his true colors. Through various spells, Arthur and Mordred end up fighting each other, each thinking the other a Saxon. Of course, they kill each other and regret it when they realize what they have done.

As he is dying, Arthur then gives Excalibur to Amhar, making him king. Meanwhile, Ivorwulf reveals to Merlin and Morgan his plan not to betray the invader kings so he can become Caesar of Britain himself. Merlin and Morgan become prisoner to his spells, but in a last act of strength, they help Amhar defeat Ivorwulf.

Here is the most interesting part of the novel. Amhar is now King of Britain, but rather than stay king, he wants all people to live in freedom in Britain, so he abdicates and goes to live in Galloway. He gives Excalibur to Sir Pellus to return to Matrona, the Lady of the Lake.

The novel’s ending is idealistic, and while I sympathize with its message, I’m afraid it’s not very realistic. I’m left thinking Amhar a bit of a fool. After all, who ever heard of him? By abdicating, he leaves Britain ripe for chaos and the resulting Dark Ages.

I also find the date of the novel strange. Only probably a few months at most pass during the time of this novel. Camlann was fought in 537 or 539 traditionally, certainly not 517, which is a year after the traditional date of 516 for the Battle of Mount Badon.

Overall, AD 517: Arthur the King was a bit over the top for my tastes, but I did like the treatment of Amhar and Mordred and the twist on how Camlann happened. The book is a fast-paced read and never dull, although it has more typos than it should. Arthur is a bit too much of a hot-head, but that’s to be expected in a novel that tries to explain how his sons were not the villains history has made them out to be. Some of the scenes felt a bit pointless, especially Arthur’s showdown with a witch, which did nothing to advance the plot. Even so, it’s a fun read and does make you wonder yet again what really might have happened at Camlann.

Those interested in reading Aenghus Chisholme’s other Arthurian novels can visit his website at www.AenghusChisholme.com.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

Thomas Love Peacock was a writer of the Romantic Age known for his friendship with writers like Percy Bysshe Shelley and for books such as Nightmare Abbey (1818) a parody of Gothic novels. Being a lover of the Gothic, I read Nightmare Abbey many years ago, found its satire tedious, and never read another Peacock book until I heard that The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829) was an Arthurian novel.

An early edition of The Misfortunes of Elphin – note the peacock design – a tribute to the author’s name.

In fact, The Misfortunes of Elphin may be not only the first modern Arthurian novel but the first historical Arthurian novel, a designation that often goes to Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset (1963). Actually, several other authors wrote historical Arthurian novels in between, including William H. Babcock (Clan of the Chariots, 1898), W. Barnard Faraday (Pendragon, 1930), Edward Frankland (The Bear of Britain, 1944), and John Masefield (Badon Parchments, 1947), but it wasn’t until Sutcliff that a real effort to create a historically accurate Arthurian world became popular.

Regardless, Peacock is the first to make the effort, though that is not to say that he uses the same criteria a historical novelist would today, but nor does he set Arthur in a vague medieval period in England. Instead, he goes back to the Welsh legends to create an Arthurian world akin to what we find in the Mabinogion. Not until Nikolai Tolstoy’s The Coming of the King (1988) would another author try to be so loyal to the Welsh legends in his depiction of the Arthurian story. For that reason alone, I find The Misfortunes of Elphin remarkable.

I was also surprised that Peacock does not mock his subject matter but treats it sincerely. The only really flaw in his style is that in a few places he has digressions where he compares the past to the present, thus breaking the fictional spell for the reader. Unfortunately, the story itself is a bit weak and disjointed, but Peacock’s use of the Welsh Triads and other Welsh sources still makes it of interest to the student of Arthurian literature.

The story begins with Gwythno, King of Caredigion, who has working for him Seithenyn, Lord of the Embankment. Seithenyn is not good about maintaining the embankment and eventually it fails and causes the land to flood, leading to the destruction of Gwythno’s kingdom. Gwythno’s son, Elphin, tries to prevent this from happening, but he is too late. Nevertheless, he falls in love with Seithenyn’s daughter, Angrahad, when he goes to speak with her father. Both Gwythno and Seithenyn feature in Welsh tradition (although Jenifer Westwood in Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain suggests that Gwythno is really Edward I “Longshanks”).

“She gave him a supper” an illustration from the novel. The scene shows a trick played by Angrahad to deceive Maelgon’s man into thinking she is not as virtuous as Elphin claims.

Living in new quarters because Gwythno’s castle has basically been destroyed—Elphin and Angrahad marry and Gwythno goes to live with them. After the destruction of the kingdom by the flooding, Elphin is reduced to fishing for a livelihood to feed his family. One day he rescues from the water the baby Taliesin, who will grow up to become a great bard. Elphin regrets rescuing the child because now there will be another mouth to feed, but Taliesin, who can talk as a baby, tells him someday he will rejoice for having done it. The rest of the novel shows why Taliesin is of value to the family.

One day, Maelgon, a neighboring king, raids the land but pretends to be a guest to Elphin. He then invites Elphin to his castle, but when Elphin returns the visit, trouble ensues when they argue over whose wife is better. In the end, Maelgon imprisons Elphin. By now, Taliesin is grown up. He goes to King Arthur, who is overlord of Britain, to ask for help to rescue Elphin, but Arthur has troubles of his own—Gwenyvar has been captured by Melvas. Taliesin aids Arthur in helping to negotiate Gwenyvar’s release. In exchange, Arthur then helps to free Elphin. All ends well, of course, and even Taliesin finds love to add to the happy ending.

For me, one of the most fascinating parts of the book is that Gwenvach is a character in the novel. She is Gwenyvar’s half-sister and Mordred’s wife in the novel. She makes a remark after Gwenyvar is rescued that suggests Gwenyvar was not virtuous while Melvas’ captive. As a result, Gwenyvar slaps her, which Peacock says is one of the Three Fatal Slaps that caused the battle of Camlann since it increased the enmity between Arthur and Mordred. I love this inclusion of Gwenvach because in my own Children of Arthur series, Gwenvach is the primary villain, also based on this statement from the Welsh Triads, although I spell her name Gwenhwyvach. Peacock is digging for legitimate legends here and not just making up his storyline like too many modern Arthurian novelists. Another scene refers to one of the Three Chaste Kisses of Britain, a kiss given by Taliesin.

It’s also noteworthy that Peacock intersperses a lot of poetry throughout the novel. It is not great poetry, and most of it is sung by Taliesin, including a song of Ceridwen’s Cauldron. The poetry takes up a huge portion of the book and acts like filler for the undeveloped plot. It largely reminded me of opera, with a little plot, and then a bunch of songs that don’t really advance the plot, but it is an interesting mix of poetry and storyline anyway, and also a bit reminiscent of Mrs. Radcliffe’s use of poetry in her novels. Peacock was just as well known for his poetry as his novels, and he had already published a longer Arthurian poem, “The Round Table, or King Arthur’s Feast” (1817) in which King Arthur is in Avalon and Merlin allows him to view all the monarchs who have sat on his throne up to the time of George III. The poem can be read online at: http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/peacock-round-table.

Thomas Love Peacock, known today chiefly as a satirist and friend to Percy Shelley.

Ultimately, Peacock ends up being a mediocre poet and a mediocre novelist, but his writing is not completely without interest. The Misfortunes of Elphin is not a masterly novel, even though some critics have said it is Peacock’s best. I can’t say it has made me eager to read more of Peacock, but I think it a remarkable novel nonetheless for its early treatment of Welsh legends. It may seem surprising to us that it gives such a historical treatment to the Arthurian legend, considering no other writer will do so for another 130 years; however, it really isn’t that surprising given that Peacock was writing in the age of Sir Walter Scott, the great antiquary who not only wrote some of the first and most popular historical novels but collected ballads and legend and folklore, and so Peacock is following in his footsteps. It also predates the popular translations of the Mabinogion by Lady Charlotte Guest (1838-1845), which shows Peacock likely read the early Pughe translations of 1795 and 1821 and early translations of the Welsh Triads by Iolo Morganwg published in 1801-1807. The Misfortunes of Elphin, then, is very much an Arthurian novel ahead of its time and yet of its time as ancient Welsh literature was being rediscovered in the early nineteenth century.

(Note, I am indebted to Howard Wiseman for providing me with the list of early writers of historical Arthurian novels between Peacock and Sutcliff.)

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

Donna Hosie’s novel Quest of the Artisan (2015) is the second installment in the Children of Camelot series, following The Ring of Morgana previously reviewed on this blog.

King Arthur’s modern-day daughter and her boyfriend have adventures in this second volume of the Children of Camelot series.

At the end of The Ring of Morgana, Rustin had returned to medieval Logres where he wanted to become an artisan and build a cathedral. Meanwhile, his best friend, Mila, the daughter of King Arthur, had remained in the twenty-first century, but in the final pages, Melehan, the son of Mordred, had found her in Wales to tell her of the recent happenings in Camelot. Little did Mila know Melehan was tricking her into captivity.

Quest of the Artisan opens with Rustin and the rest of the court at Camelot awaiting the Round Table to announce who the next Knight of the Round Table will be. Of course, they are shocked when Melehan is named. They are more shocked when not long after they are attacked by the Undead, raised up by a necromancer, who ultimately turns out to be Melehan. (Spoiler alert coming.)

Melehan, however, is intent on destroying the Round Table. Rustin, Mila, and several other knights, including Galahad, and the modern-day James set out to stop him. However, when they are attacked by his army of the Undead, Rustin is wounded and becomes ill from the Undead’s poison having gotten into him. The only way he can be rescued is if he drinks from a healing cup.

That cup turns out to belong to the Fisher King and be the Holy Grail. The catch is that if Rustin drinks from the cup, he must take the Fisher King’s place. He will also never be able to have children. (The Fisher King is traditionally wounded and impotent.) However, life is better than death so Rustin and his companions set out to achieve the Grail, which includes seven tests they must face. During this process, they enter a cave and Mila falls off a cliff. Melehan is manipulating events and manages to capture Mila and now holds her hostage. Eventually, Rustin confronts Melehan, who refuses to tell him where Mila is, and explains his evil plan—he will kill King Arthur, marry Mila, and become King of Logres.

Rustin refuses to let Melehan succeed. Eventually, Rustin and his friends achieve the Grail (although they realize in achieving it they have also been manipulated by Galahad who has his own reasons for wanting to achieve it—so he can become a Knight of the Round Table.) Once Rustin achieves the Grail, he is crowned as the new Fisher King. (There’s a line here “You have chosen wisely” when he achieves the cup that is an obvious nod to the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which Indiana Jones seeks the Holy Grail.) Rustin will now also end up living in the Fisher King’s castle, and he realizes from looking at maps that belonged to Pelles, his predecessor, that the castle exists in Wales on the same land where in the twenty-first century his village will exist. His role as artisan (woodworker) is now finally revealed also because he decides to build a temple that will one day be the foundation for the twenty-first century church.

But before Rustin can build his temple, he still has to defeat Melehan and save Mila. Of course, this is achieved, but I won’t describe how. However, once Melehan is defeated, everyone recalls how he was the son of the evil Mordred, who was Gareth’s half-brother and “illegitimate or something” (which I suspect means Mordred’s father is not Gareth’s. Who Mordred’s father is does not get revealed here, and I haven’t read Hosie’s The Return to Camelot trilogy that preceded this series, so I’m not sure if Mordred was Arthur’s son in Hosie’s works or not, but if so, Melehan was Arthur’s grandson and technically Mila’s nephew, which would mean incest anyway if they had married.)

A definite love interest exists between Mila and Rustin in this novel, but at the end, Rustin will live in the Fisher King’s castle while Mila will live at Camelot. We are left wondering whether they will ever end up together.

One additional item of interest in this novel is that a modern-day character, James, also has traveled back in time to Camelot, and he develops a crush on Sir Galahad. Galahad seems to encourage his advances as a way to get what he wants, although ultimately James’ love for him is unrequited. James can now be added to what is becoming quite a lengthy list of gay characters in Arthurian literature. (See my previous blog on The Gay Arthurian Tradition.) It will be interesting to see whether James finds love in a future novel in the series. It is also interesting that this series is for young adults yet includes a gay character, something that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago. Kudos to Hosie for not shying away from what is human nature.

I can only guess what a third novel in the series will be like since Hosie has not published one yet. When Quest of the Artisan was published in 2015, Hosie had only published the first of her The Devil’s series and now the fourth book in that series is out, so one has to wonder whether she’s abandoned interest in writing a third Children of Camelot book to write other books, but if so, I hope she’ll reconsider. I want to see Rustin and Mila get married and give King Arthur grandchildren before the series ends. Of course, Rustin cannot have children now that he is the Fisher King, but I imagine Hosie, if she writes a sequel, will find a way to get around that problem. Long live King Arthur’s descendants!

For more information about Donna Hosie and her Arthurian books, visit http://donnahosie.wixsite.com/website

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

At last, Cheryl Carpinello has published her long-awaited Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend—Book Two, and it ends with a cliffhanger, suggesting yet another book will follow.

The first book in the series was charming, complete with a unicorn and Merlyn, but this second book shows us just how much Guinevere is growing up quickly due to the situations surrounding her. When the first book ended, Guinevere was affianced to King Arthur, though still just a girl. Arthur is himself new to the throne and seeking to make alliances, hence his desire to wed Guinevere, but Guinevere has more important concerns.

As this second novel opens, Guinevere and her best friend, the almost-eleven-year-old boy, Cedwyn, decide to leave their home at Cadbury Castle on their own and go visit the Wizards’ Stones. While they know the adults wouldn’t want them to leave, they are anxious to see the stones that Merlyn had told them about. It sounds like a fun afternoon adventure, but it quickly turns into more when an ancient goddess appears and utters a prophecy about the two young friends’ futures.

The prophecy has barely ended before Cedwyn and Guinevere hear strange sounds, and spooked, they ride to a nearby monastery to seek shelter. There they learn some renegades are out to kidnap Guinevere, and fearing the monastery will be attacked, they flee again, but once they feel it is safe, they return, only to discover the monastery destroyed. By the time they return home to the castle, it has also been sacked. The renegades were searching for Guinevere, but since they couldn’t capture her, they decided not to leave empty-handed, so they kidnapped several children.

I don’t want to say more and spoil all the fun of reading this book. I’ll just say there is plenty more adventure, but what I most appreciate are the story’s pacing and the care Carpinello takes with her two main characters. They are children, they are having adventures, but they feel like real people, frightened, trying to do what is right in the face of danger, and they are also headstrong, not always believing that the adults know what is the right thing to do so sometimes they have to act on their own. They are heroic children with all the idealism and foolhardiness that come with first adventures.

Anyone who enjoyed the first book in this series will equally enjoy the second and look forward to the third. The characters are well-drawn and realistic, the events plausible, and the story well-plotted. I’m eager to read the next book and see Guinevere grow up a little more and mature into a queen worthy to sit at King Arthur’s side.

Cheryl Carpinello is also the author of a non-related young adult Arthurian novel, The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table), as well as Sons of the Sphinx and Tutankhamen Speaks. To learn more about her and her books, visit www.beyondtodayeducator.com.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

Today I was privileged to be interviewed about my Children of Arthur series by my fellow Arthurian author Nicole Evelina.

Award-Winning Author Nicole Evelina

Some of you may remember my friend, author and fellow Arthurian nut Tyler Tichelaar, from his 2012 guest post where he talked about a trip he took to Turkey and the Arthurian connections he found there. Well, now he’s back, talking about the fifth and final book in his Children of Arthur series about King Arthur and his descendants.

Tyler is an author of Arthurian nonfiction and historical fantasy and an enthusiast for, if not expert on, modern Arthurian fiction. His nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, which I reviewed here, was published by Modern History Press in 2011. It explores various traditions concerning King Arthur’s children in Welsh and medieval sources, the possible historical descendants of King Arthur, and more recent creations of descendants for King Arthur in modern fiction. (It’s a great book, one that has been a resource for more than one of…

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For Immediate Release

King Arthur Returns in Final Novel of The Children of Arthur Series

Marquette, MI, May 31, 2017—Ever since Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, people have fantasized about time-traveling back to the time of King Arthur. But in Arthur’s Bosom, when a cataclysmic event sends Lance Delaney back in time, he’s more concerned about getting back to the twenty-first century than taking a tour of Camelot.

Arthur’s Bosom – the cover image is Sir Frank Dicksee’s The Two Crowns – the first crown is on the head of the king on the horse – the second crown is Christ’s crown of thorns – the crucified Christ is on the back cover of the novel. This painting largely inspired the novel since the True Cross plays a key role in the plot.

Arthur’s Bosom is the fifth and final volume in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s The Children of Arthur series. The series began with Arthur’s Legacy, in which modern-day Adam Delaney met Merlin, learned he was descended from King Arthur, and was shown what really happened at Camelot. The sequels, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, and Lilith’s Love, followed Arthur’s descendants over the centuries, depicting them at various historical events, including the Battle of Roncesvaux in 778, the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and World War I.

Now in Arthur’s Bosom, Adam Delaney’s adult twin sons, Lance and Tristan Delaney, find themselves sent back in time when an apocalyptic comet strikes off the coast of Cornwall while they are out sailing. Tristan, wounded by the comet’s debris, is unconscious, so Lance goes ashore to seek help, not realizing he is now in the sixth century, or suspecting that the sailboat will carry his helpless brother off to sea before he can return. Desperate to learn whether Tristan is dead or alive, Lance embarks on a journey through Arthurian Britain to locate his brother and find someone who can help him return to the twenty-first century.

Along the way, Lance will befriend Sir Palomides, the only Knight of the Round Table of Middle Eastern descent. Unfortunately, Sir Palomides is more intent on slaying a strange creature he calls the Questing Beast—which appears to be an amalgamation of a lion, a deer, and a snake—than in helping Lance find his brother. Other characters Lance meets and seeks help from include the Lady of the Lake, a knight turned hermit, and Morgan le Fay, but each one has his or her own agenda for Lance to fulfill. Could it be, however, that they know something Lance doesn’t know—that to achieve his goal, he must undertake a quest to make him worthy of that for which his heart most longs?

Arthur’s Bosom, like its predecessors, blends myth and history to create a new imagining of mankind’s past and the possibilities for its future. Most significantly, it depicts the return of King Arthur and the reestablishment of Camelot in an innovative way that will leave readers both stunned and optimistic for mankind’s future. The title is taken from a line in Shakespeare’s play Henry V. It is a wordplay on the biblical phrase “Abraham’s Bosom” and refers to an Arthurian version of heaven.

Each volume of The Children of Arthur series has delighted fellow Arthurian authors and fans. Rowena Portch, award-winning author of the Spirian Saga series, proclaims that The Children of Arthur series is for those who “love the mystical magic of Camelot but thrive on the excitement and tribulations of Game of Thrones.” Cheryl Carpinello, author of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, declares, “With Arthur’s Bosom, Tyler R. Tichelaar’s enlightening tour through medieval legend comes to a striking and satisfying end…. In fact, it’s a true tour-de-force that can change minds and change the world. Put this one on your shelf between Malory and Marion Zimmer Bradley as a genre-changer.”

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of numerous historical novels, including The Marquette Trilogy, The Best Place, and the award-winning Narrow Lives, and of the scholarly books The Gothic Wanderer and King Arthur’s Children, the latter of which served as research and inspiration for The Devon Players’ upcoming independent film Mordred.

Arthur’s Bosom: The Children of Arthur, Book Five (ISBN 978-0-9962400-4-8, Marquette Fiction, 2017) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Review copies available upon request.

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First, let me warn my readers of two things: 1) This blog may contain some spoiler alerts if you have not seen the film, and 2) I seriously thought about titling this blog “Why Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur Sucks” so be forewarned I have little good to say about it. That said, there were a few good surprises. Also note, I may have forgotten some of the bad and ugly points since I only saw the film once, but I am not inclined to view it again.

So here are the good, the bad, and the ugly points about why Guy Ritchie’s new film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a terrible rendition of the Arthurian legend.

The Good

  1. The Starring Actors: Four of them deserve mention. Eric Bana and Jude Law are both great actors and I have enjoyed their performances in almost every film I’ve ever seen them in, even if I haven’t always liked the films. That said, they could do little with the script and characters they had to play. Eric Bana’s part is far too small to give him room to do much of anything as an actor. Jude Law’s role is that of a stereotypical villain, but he’s convincing and does what he can with it. Also worth mentioning is Charlie Hunnam. Apparently he’s already quite a star though I don’t believe I ever saw him in anything before. And I could tell he is a good actor. He had a crappy script to work with, but he still comes off as likeable and brave in the film, if not as your typical King Arthur. One last actor worth mentioning is Katie McGrath—she’s only on screen for a minute, but because she played Morgana in the BBC Merlin series, which I loved, it was nice to include her as a nod to past Arthurian shows.
  2. The Scenery: The film was shot in Wales—one of the few things it got right.
  3. The Sets: Camelot was over the top but not completely unattractive. Both the throne room and the subterranean chamber were visually attractive. What I was most impressed by, however, was the depiction of London, complete with a coliseum falling into ruin—it showed that the filmmakers at least new the Arthurian legend takes place in the period right after the Romans left.

    Jude Law is a convincing villain, whatever the faults of his character role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad

  1. England: Continually, England was referenced. It should be Britain. There was no England until the Anglo-Saxons conquered the island. At this point, it was still Britain.
  2. Vortigern: Vortigern’s story and place in the legend was messed up. He was not Uther’s brother, nor did he kill him. In truth, Vortigern killed Arthur’s uncle Constans. Constans’s brothers, Ambrosius, and Uther then fled to the continent but later returned and killed Vortigern. Vortigern was dead long before Arthur was even born.
  3. The Mage: Who the heck was she? We are never even told her name. She’s the only female character in the film who is even recognizable as a character and yet she’s nameless. I kept waiting to hear that she was Morgana or Nimue or Viviane or someone recognizable. Nor did she have much of a role other than to make weird googly eye faces. Maybe her identity was kept secret so it could be revealed in a sequel, but fat chance there’ll be a sequel.
  4. The Sword in the Stone: Seriously, the sword flies up in the air, lodges in Uther’s back, and then he sinks into the water and turns to stone. Stupid.
  5. Mordred: This one really irritated me. The film begins with Mordred, the evil mage, waging war on Camelot and Uther. Traditionally, Mordred is Arthur’s son or nephew. He has no magic powers. He did not live before Arthur. Couldn’t they have come up with some other villain? Rumor has it that Guy Ritchie is talking about a three or six film series (which won’t happen since the film has flopped at the box office), but if it were going to happen, wouldn’t you want to save Mordred for the end of the series? Poor planning.
  6. Interracial Casting: Now I know some will disagree with me on this one. I am absolutely all for letting actors who are not white have more roles in films, but not at the expense of historical accuracy. There were way too many people in the film who looked like they were of Asian or African descent to make this a believable circa 500 A.D. Britain story.
  7. Minor Characters: I think this includes everyone but the three main characters I mentioned above. None of the men with Arthur are distinguishable. I didn’t even know their names, other than Bedivere (who is the Lancelot equivalent of the Welsh legends; who no way in hell was African), until the final scene when they were knighted. Worse, there are several female characters in the film who are just there—no clue who they are. I didn’t even realize Vortigern had a daughter until he decided to kill her. The cast list even has Merlin included. I don’t remember seeing him at all. And why do we need characters with names like Goosefat Bill and Backlack? And what’s up with an Asian character named George. Speaking of which….
  8. Kung Fu: There were no Asians in Arthurian Britain with who were teaching people martial arts, and King Arthur certainly didn’t know Kung Fu. Please.

    King Arthur learns kung fu fighting.

  9. Vikings: Technically, the Vikings lived in a later period. These people should have been called Saxons. The Saxons were the enemies of King Arthur. It’s true Vortigern did make deals with them and let them into Britain. So why not stick with a more accurate story here if they are to be included?
  10. The Boredom: Frankly, most of the middle of the film was boring. At one point, after a battle scene, we’re subjected to a full minute of just listening to Arthur breathe hard while everyone else stands around looking like they haven’t broken a sweat. The pacing in the middle was slow. The action scenes at the end just made me want the movie to end.
  11. Other Movie Feels: Historically, Vortigern had a tower but it wasn’t like this one—this tower reminded me too much of Lord of the Rings, as did the giant elephants and other creatures. And in one scene there’s a bunch of hooded/masked warriors with glowing eyes who look like Jawas from Star Wars. And yes, a lot of it reminds me of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films (see the Ugly section).
  12. No Merlin: He’s mentioned, but he has no role to play. Poor baby Arthur has to be set adrift in a boat like he was Moses. He should have been rescued by Merlin and taken into hiding. Why would you write Merlin right out of the movie?
  13. Bad Background Music: At one point someone is singing but the song can’t seem to decide whether it’s a Scottish ballad or hip hop. I just don’t get the music used in modern films. Ever since A Knight’s Tale we have been subjected to music that doesn’t fit a film’s period and ruins the suspension of disbelief. Medieval movies shouldn’t have rock ‘n roll in them any more than The Great Gatsby needed hip hop. Some nice Celtic background music would have been more appropriate.
  14. Vortigern as Skeletor: Or whatever he’s supposed to be. Do we really need Vortigern to turn into some sort of demon from hell to battle Arthur? Couldn’t he have just been given a magic sword too? Just more over-the-top unnecessary nonsense.

 

The Ugly

  1. Giant Elephants: No one would have brought elephants to Britain, and not these monster-sized elephants that can carry giant house-like structures on their backs. Granted, these are the mage Mordred’s elephants so maybe they are magical, but to see them in the opening scene of the film just made it clear right from the start that the whole film was going to suck.
  2. The Cinematography and Landscape: I apologize if I don’t know the proper terminology but the desolate landscape around Camelot was also over the top and the whole film had that nasty gray look that has become so common in so many films to give a stark depressing view of the film. I’ve seen it in Immortals, Prince of Persia, etc. It’s ugly, Hollywood. Quit using this look.
  3. The Giant Snake: I think the giant snake is thrown in just to balance off the giant elephants so the film could come full circle with over-the-top unbelievable animals. Why do we need a giant magical snake the size of Camelot’s front gate to come slithering through the castle? Let King Arthur do something instead to show he’s the man. Granted, later he gets to kill Vortigern, but this scene was just over the top stupid and unnecessary.
  4. The One–or Was It Three–Creepy Octupussy Women: Just ick. Just make me puke. Ick. Ick. Ick. I don’t care what kind of evil deal with the devil type scenario you need, don’t ever put something that disgusting on the screen again—these women made Jabba the Hut look like a piece of chocolate. Honestly, the way women were treated and depicted in this film, one wonders what kind of misogynist wrote this crap.
  5. The Nod to Detective Shows: We are stuck in the middle of the film with a detective interrogation of King Arthur that feels completely irrelevant and boring. It has a purpose, but the flashing camera angles and everything else made me feel like I was watching Sherlock Holmes, not King Arthur. Guy Ritchie, did you forget which movie you were making at this point?
  6. The Lack of All Things King Arthur: Half of the film I sat there thinking, “What does this have to do with King Arthur?” Basically nothing. This film had about as many true Arthurian elements in it as the TV Show Riverdale has from the original Archie Comic books. The difference is Riverdale is entertaining. This film is not. It’s basically a ridiculous plot with a few Arthurian names and a sword tossed in to pass it off as Arthurian to try to sell tickets. This is what is most disgusting about it. Ritchie is trying to capitalize on a time-honored, much-loved legend that has so much power over us—that is beautiful, heart-wrenching, inspiring, exciting, and magical—none of that comes across in this film. That’s why it is a flop more than anything else. The film doesn’t have the slightest concept of what its source material is.

    Filming in Wales is one of the few things Guy Ritchie did right with this film. Here is King Arthur and the unnamed mage in a pleasant Welsh setting.

 

I’m sure there’s a lot more I could complain about, but it’s not worth wasting more of my time. Bottom line, don’t waste your money on this film. If you’re a huge King Arthur fan like me, you’ll see it anyway, but wait for the DVD/video release. If you’re not very familiar with the Arthurian legend and want to see a good Arthurian film, watch:

  1. Camelot
  2. Excalibur
  3. Knights of the Round Table
  4. The Sword in the Stone
  5. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  6. A Kid in King Arthur’s Court
  7. Sword of Lancelot
  8. King Arthur (2004)

They’re all much better. If books are your thing, read the novels of:

  1. Tyler Tichelaar (have to give myself a plug of course)
  2. Nicole Evelina
  3. Marion Zimmer Bradley
  4. Mary Stewart
  5. Nancy Mackenzie
  6. Helen Hollick
  7. Sharan Newman
  8. Jack Whyte
  9. Stephen Lawhead
  10. Bernard Cornwell
  11. T.H. White
  12. Mark Twain
  13. Parke Godwin
  14. Joan Wolf
  15. Vera Chapman
  16. Susan Cooper
  17. Rosemary Sutcliff
  18. And many more including the wonderful medieval works by Sir Thomas Malory and so many others—they’re all better.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.