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Posts Tagged ‘Lancelot’

The Prince Valiant strip’s subtitle is “In the Days of King Arthur,” but I have to admit the scenes that take place at Camelot are often less inspired than those that take place elsewhere in Foster’s strip, and I felt that was the case with this volume, though there are still notable moments.

This volume opens with Val, Aleta, and their family on their way back to Camelot, and other than a little subplot in which Arn gets kidnapped and is rescued, they arrive there safely.

Prince Valiant, Vol. 14 includes King Arthur’s famous Battle of Mount Badon.

In the two years of work presented in this volume, Foster seems to be wanting to push his storyline closer to the catastrophe that brings about the end of Arthur’s reign, but at the same time, he holds back, making it happen very gradually. Once Valiant is back in Camelot, there are two key Arthurian moments in the book. The first concerns Modred (Foster’s spelling). Modred is complaining about how he and the other knights do all the work but Arthur gets all the glory and money. He has enlisted his four brothers of the Orkney clan, along with several younger knights, in his cause. When Gawain brings Valiant to one of Modred’s meetings, Valiant quickly makes the other knights see the treachery and lack of validity in Modred’s words so that soon all of the knights abandon him other than the Orkney clan. Valiant notes also that none of the established Knights of the Round Table are at the meeting other than those of Orkney.

The Orkney clan still wishes to plot with Modred. Modred wants to catch Lancelot and Guinevere in a trap and include Aleta in it. At this point, Gawain is torn between his friendship for Valiant and Aleta and his loyalty to his brothers. He warns Aleta to be careful, but she doesn’t understand the warning. The plot Modred ends up hatching is to distract and lead Valiant’s twin daughters away from the court just long enough so everyone will go looking for them. Both Aleta and Lancelot go looking in Guinevere’s private garden. The Orkneys lock them in the private garden for the night, thinking in the morning they will be found and it will look like they’ve committed adultery. (This plot doesn’t hurt Guinevere directly, but, of course, she’ll be heartbroken if Lancelot has to leave Camelot, and it will hurt Valiant also. If two of Arthur’s chief knights leave Camelot, Modred will have better opportunity for overthrowing the king.)

Of course, Modred’s plans come to naught. Valiant and Arn realize where Aleta is and climb over the garden wall. When the garden is later unlocked, Modred sees Lancelot and Aleta together and starts to accuse them, only to have Valiant and Arn then step out to show there is no dishonor because the four of them have all been together. Valiant then tells Modred he does not appreciate his insinuations. Modred, fearing Valiant will challenge him to a duel, flees Camelot, planning to continue to plot against King Arthur from a distance.

The other major Arthurian moment in this volume is the Battle of Mount Badon. I admit I found the battle a bit dull, but what is wonderful is the lead-up to it, involving Valiant’s son Arn. We have watched Arn grow up throughout the strip, and now he is old enough to go out as a scout, only to be captured by the Saxons. He gives them information about Arthur’s plans, then fakes his death when he escapes from them so they cannot know that he lives and has returned to Camelot to warn Arthur. The result is that Arthur knows exactly what to expect from the Saxons, so he takes them by surprise and soundly defeats them.

I’m not a fan of battle scenes, though Foster draws them well. What I love is the cleverness that Valiant and Aleta always display in getting out of sticky situations, and now it’s clear they’ve passed that cleverness on to their son.

It’s important to note that, according to most versions of the legend, Mount Badon was Arthur’s last great victory against the Saxons, followed by twenty or so years of peace before Camelot’s fall. One wonders whether Foster was starting to consider moving toward the fall of Camelot in the strip. By this point, Foster was in his early seventies, so he must have realized he could not draw the strip many more years, although it wouldn’t be until 1970 that he started looking for a successor and 1975 before he retired completely from the strip. In the end, I assume he couldn’t bear to see the strip end with his retirement, and so the fall of Camelot was put off indefinitely.

Valiant and Aleta’s twin girls are also growing up in this volume—they end up having their first crush on the same boy, and they employ a bit of trickery themselves to try to get him interested in them; however, they’re still too young to succeed, as is their victim, a twelve-year-old king. Nevertheless, I imagine they will be quite able to manipulate men with their feminine wiles just like their mother before too many more volumes have passed.

Two other passages worth noting in this volume are examples of Foster’s postmodern intrusion into the strip. I believe these are the first times he breaks the spell, reminding readers they are reading a story. The first is when he mentions that two characters ride out of the story. The second is when he claims the manuscripts he is basing the story on were damaged at one point, and so he can’t complete a specific episode and has to guess what happened. He then picks up the story with Valiant and Aleta traveling to Thule. The volume ends here with Valiant’s arrival in Thule where he has to trick some raiders to protect his father’s kingdom.

I wouldn’t say this is one of the stronger volumes in the series, but it still has its moments. Of added interest is the introduction by Roger Stern about other cartoon artists who engaged in “swiping” Foster’s work. “Swiping” is a term meaning copying or even plagiarizing. Numerous frames are presented as examples of Foster’s Tarzan and Prince Valiant strips beside frames of other cartoonists who have figures in similar poses—most notably a comparison between Tarzan and Batman’s poses—and also backgrounds that are so similar the artists obviously copied from Foster—one of an interior banquet hall in the Valiant strip is compared to one by Don Rosa for a Clan McDuck strip. Also interesting is the essay at the end of the book about Foster’s desire to be a fine art painter before he became a famous cartoonist. Several of Foster’s landscape paintings are presented—some are not overly impressive but some are quite exquisite. While he never saw his dream realized of being a famous painter, I’m sure Foster delighted far more people with his Tarzan and Prince Valiant strips than he ever would have with landscape paintings.

Volume 15 of the Prince Valiant reprints by Fantagraphics will be released in June. In it, there will be a return to the New World. Watch for the review later this year.

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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. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

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I’ll admit I didn’t have high expectations for this film. After all, it has a 3.8 rating at IMDB and I haven’t been impressed with original Sci Fi films based on the few I’ve seen so I put off seeing it until recently, even though it was released in 2010.

It wasn’t any better than I expected, but it had one pleasant surprise—yes, it creates yet another child for King Arthur.

The story begins apparently several years after Arthur’s fall at Camlann. Sir Galahad is the last of the Knights of the Round Table. He is accompanied by three younger knights, and together they go on a quest to find Merlin to seek his help because a sorcerer called The Arkadian is terrorizing Britain by releasing venomous moths and other creatures from a magical book called The Book of Beasts.

MerlinandtheBookofBeasts_Galahad’s party finds Merlin, but he isn’t willing to help. Then he discovers that one of the knights is not only a girl, but she is Avlynn, the daughter of King Arthur and Guinevere. Avlynn wants Merlin to help her gain the throne that is rightfully hers and also to retrieve Excalibur from the lake where it was hidden after Arthur’s passing to Avalon. Merlin still refuses to help, and the group leaves, downcast.

Soon after the party is attacked by what appear to be zombie soldiers, and at the moment when it seems they will lose, Merlin comes to their aid, having changed his mind about helping.

At this point, Merlin says several things that are difficult to understand because the actor playing Merlin, Jim Callis, talks like he has rocks in his mouth; he also sounds a bit disgruntled and demented. My biggest complaint about the entire film, in fact, was that I couldn’t always understand what Merlin was saying.

Not that the rest of the movie is so spectacular, but I did like that Avlynn and Galahad’s other two companions are Lancelot, son of Galahad, and Tristan, son of Tristan and Isolde. Lancelot, of course, is in love with Avlynn, but she’s not interested in him.

When the showdown with the Arkadian happens, it turns out he’s Mordred and he didn’t die at Camlann after all. He unleashes more creatures from The Book of Beasts. Every creature in the book is actually a real creature residing in the book, including Medusa and her sister Gorgons, who seem badly out of place in this film, but they do manage to cause trouble for the Camelot crew, and ultimately, turn Sir Galahad to stone, a spell Merlin can’t reverse.

In the end, Mordred is defeated and killed. The Book of Beasts is destroyed when Excalibur is stabbed into it. Avlynn has been enchanted by Mordred, who wanted to marry her and breed a new Pendragon line, but Lancelot rescues Avlynn by kissing her and breaking the spell. Now, clearly, with a little urging from Merlin, Avlynn will marry Lancelot and they will rule together, with Tristan as head of the army.

While I love that a daughter was created for King Arthur in this film and also the other second generation characters, there’s not much else to recommend this film. Jim Callis, despite being in several other roles in successful films where he did a good job, just isn’t a good Merlin and the story is pretty predictable. Nothing about the sets was attractive or made me feel any awe; the fountain of Brittany which could have been a nice touch in the film isn’t even in Brittany but Britain, and the Gorgons got annoying fast.

I agree with IMDB: 3.8.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy and Melusine’s Gift, and he has written the nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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The following essay is an excerpt from my book King Arthur’s Children, taken from Chapter 4 about the Birth and Origins of Mordred:

Perhaps the most interesting, although far-fetched, of the new theories surrounding the birth of Mordred lies in Norma Lorre Goodrich’s study King Arthur (1986). Here Goodrich suggests that Mordred was actually a twin, and his twin was none other than Sir Lancelot. Goodrich points out that both Lancelot and Mordred have stories of being thrown into a body of water. Furthermore, she states that in the Celtic world, the birth of twins was considered as a sign that the mother had committed adultery with a devil. It was believed that the firstborn twin was the son of the earthly father while the second twin was the son of the Devil; giving birth to twins resulted in the mother being put to death for adultery. Beginning probably with the Lanzelet and carrying into later Lancelot tales, Lancelot is kidnapped by the Lady of the Lake, who then raises him as her own son. This kidnapping usually takes place when the castle of King Ban, Lancelot’s father, is besieged by its enemies. Lancelot’s mother flees the confusion with her child. She either sets her son down for a minute, or else she accidentally drops him into the water. The Lady of the Lake then appears and steals away the child. Goodrich suggests that this kidnapping may have been a late version of an earlier story in which Lancelot’s mother, because Lancelot was the second born twin, threw her son into the lake to drown him. If she could successfully hide the fact that she had twins, she would not be put to death for sleeping with a devil (163).

However, the Lanzelet is the first source for this story and it is a late source. It seems unlikely that this German author would have knowledge of an actual tradition which the English, Welsh, and French writers never mentioned; therefore, it is more probable that Zatzikhoven invented this story from his own imagination than that he found it in a now lost Arthurian source.

Furthermore, the Lanzelet states that Lancelot is a year old when he is thrown into the lake (26). Obviously, if Lancelot were a year old, his mother would not try to drown him so late after his birth when his being a twin would already be known. Perhaps this statement of Lancelot’s age, however, is also a later addition to the story. Originally, Lancelot’s mother may have thrown him into the lake, and the later romancers, not understanding why a mother would so treat her child, may have added the attack upon the castle to try and make the tale understandable (Goodrich, King Arthur, 164-5).

Howard Pyle's illustration of Sir Lancelot - could there be a resemblance to show he is Mordred's brother - compare to the illustration below.

Howard Pyle’s illustration of Sir Lancelot – could there be a resemblance to show he is Mordred’s brother – compare to the illustration below.

Is it possible then that Lancelot was Mordred’s brother and twin, and therefore, even the son of King Arthur? If so, then Lancelot’s true mother was not King Ban’s wife, commonly named Clarine or Helen, but Morgause or Morgan le Fay. In the Lanzelet, a mermaid messenger declares that Lancelot “is now proved a relative of the most generous man whom the world ever saw:  King Arthur of Cardigan was beyond doubt his uncle…Thus Lanzelet discovered he was Arthur’s sister’s child” (92-3). If tradition says Lancelot was Arthur’s nephew as Mordred is referred to as being, then is it not just as possible that he was Arthur’s son born of an incestuous relationship?

This theory leaves some confusion since it doesn’t seem necessary that if twins were born, the mother would have thrown both into the sea to hide her guilt. Perhaps Lancelot was the second born, believed to be the devil’s son, and therefore tossed into the sea to prevent his mother’s death; following this event, Arthur’s edict was made, which resulted in Mordred also being tossed into the sea. Mordred was probably the first born child since in some sources his mother wished to prevent his death by casting him out in a floating cradle that allowed him to be washed ashore (Goodrich, King Arthur, 164). However, the cradle suggests that the writer may have merely been borrowing from other sources such as the biblical tales of Moses and the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod, or the classical tales of Perseus and Oedipus. In these tales, children are ordered to be murdered by a king because that king fears a child overthrowing him when the child becomes an adult. Similarly, Arthur is afraid of Merlin’s prophecy that Mordred is the child who will result in his downfall so he orders all the children of Mordred’s age to be killed. Therefore, the tale of Mordred’s nearly drowning may have its origins in either biblical or classical sources, or it could be a universal motif that the Celtic people also frequently used.

If Goodrich’s theory is correct, then Lancelot was King Arthur’s son, since it is doubtful he would have been the son of a devil. Something else Goodrich doesn’t mention that could help back up her theory from a mythological point of view is the tale of Dylan’s birth. Arianrhod is said to have given birth to two children, Dylan and another son named Llew Llaw Gyffes. Llew was a solar god who grew so rapidly that when he was four, he was as big as if he were eight, and he was the comeliest youth ever seen (Rolleston 381). If Dylan and Llew were twins, then could Mordred and Lancelot also be twins? Loomis suggests that Lancelot may have mythological connections to Llew, and his name might even be derived from Llew (Lanzelet 15). This connection is disputed by most present day scholars, but we will return to it in Chapter 7.

Howard Pyle's depiction of Mordred - perhaps Lancelot's twin?

Howard Pyle’s depiction of Mordred – perhaps Lancelot’s twin?

If Lancelot is Arthur’s son, there is a good possibility that he is connected to Arthur’s earlier son, Llacheu, since both may have connections to solar gods. Rhys has claimed that Llacheu wore a circle of gold, and although this seems unlikely as we saw in Chapter 3, Lancelot is credited with similarly possessing a ring by the Lady of the Lake. Norma Goodrich says this ring may have been able to clear Lancelot’s head since he was subject to delusions and madness (King Arthur 164). Although Llacheu’s circle of gold does not protect or heal his head since it is chopped off, perhaps Lancelot’s need for something to protect his head is a borrowed motif from Llacheu’s losing his head. Goodrich also points out that Lohengrin’s mother put golden chains around her babies’ necks as she surrendered them to be thrown into the lake (King Arthur 164). This ring may then have a connection to the Lady of the Lake. If Llacheu is in some way a source for Mordred, who was also thrown into the sea, then it is not so surprising that Llacheu would have had such a ring.

Whether or not Lancelot is Mordred’s brother and Arthur’s son, it is an interesting theory that has some support in Mordred’s own mythological background. This background suggests that Mordred may have traditionally been Arthur’s son from the beginning, a son born through incest rather than originating as a nephew who was then twisted into the child of incest by the romancers.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about the Children of Arthur. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Prince Valiant Vol. 5 continues the long-drawn out tale of Prince Valiant’s love for and frustration over Aleta, Queen of the Misty Isles. At the end of Volume 4, Aleta and Val had fled the Misty Isles and they were wandering through the desert, with Aleta as Val’s prisoner, since he is convinced she is a sorceress who has enchanted him, and he is angry at her for the death of his servant.

Aleta dances on the cover of “Prince Valiant, Vol. 5”

Aleta, however, is not the slave or prisoner type; nor is she vindictive, for through various ruses, she manages to save Prince Valiant’s life, trick his enemies, and even rescue herself when needed. In fact, Aleta proves herself worthy of her queen status and to be the love of Valiant, who really is quite foolish and irrational as a youth of only about twenty in this volume. After Val manages to rescue Aleta from a sultan who ends up capturing her and taking her to his harem—although Aleta was capable of taking care of herself all along as she proves—Val tells Aleta he will marry her, but she doesn’t want to be told; she wants him to woo her properly. It takes some doing and consternation for Val before he figures out how to convince her to marry him, culminating in his tossing her into a fountain and kissing her passionately—and then comes Aleta’s long awaited “YES!”

Valiant wants to go to Rome for the wedding and be married by the pope—after all, he’s a prince and Aleta a queen, but Genseric of the Vandals is planning to sack the city. When Valiant tells Genseric he wishes to be married in Rome, Genseric invites Valiant and Aleta to accompany him, and he’ll let them be married before he sacks the city. Things don’t quite work out as planned, and instead a former cardinal turned woodland hermit marries them in one of Foster’s most beautiful drawings.

But married life does not mean “happily ever after”—Valiant’s story is just beginning and the comic strip will continue another seventy-six and counting years. The Medieval Castle is not so lucky. This smaller strip Foster appended to the bottom of the Valiant strip ends in 1945, soon after World War II is over (see my earlier blog on Vol. 4 about The Medieval Castle) and the removal (no loss, it was boring like a medieval documentary) of this lesser strip allows for more space for Prince Valiant—more space for intrigue and obstacles for Valiant to deal with, including Aleta’s handmaid falling in love with him, resulting in tragic results.

Eventually, however, Valiant and Aleta make it back to England, in time for Mordred (here, I believe for the first time, named as Arthur’s half-brother) to catch Lancelot and Guinevere together and accuse them of adultery. Aleta, however, to save Camelot, claims it was she and not Guinevere, whom Lancelot was kissing. Of course, Valiant is enraged and more marriage troubles ensue, but not at the Round Table’s expense.

If readers want to know more of Valiant and Aleta’s adventures in this volume, they will just have to read them for themselves. I have to admit that for me, this volume dragged a little bit for reasons I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps it dragged for Foster a little too because Volume 6 will take a dramatic turn in bringing Valiant and Aleta to North America—long before Columbus or even the Vikings! Unfortunately, Vol. 6 won’t be released until January 2013 so we’ll just have to wait.

One final benefit of this volume is a discussion of Foster’s drawing sizes, which were actually a full page for each frame and then shrunk down to fit the strip. Some additional illustrations are included that Foster did as magazine covers.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can also visit him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Knights of the Round Table – movie poster

I remember seeing advertisements for Knights of the Round Table being shown on TV when I was a kid, but I never got the chance to watch it. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get the chance because it’s surprisingly a rather distorted version of the Arthurian legend in many ways. Still, when I stumbled across it the other day, I watched it with interest.

First, let me say I’m a sucker for these old movies. Just that it is shot in Technicolor makes it beautiful in many places. There is a lot of color and pageantry, and I give it credit for being, to the best of my knowledge, the first film to try to tell the entire Arthurian story. Previously, King Arthur in Hollywood had been mostly limited to remakes of A Connecticut Yankee.

But in telling the full story, the studio must have felt they had to clean up the story. I mean, even if 1950s audiences, not to mention the movie censors, could get past Guinevere and Lancelot’s adultery, they certainly couldn’t accept Mordred being a child of incest and killing his father.

So some rather big changes had to be made. First of all, Mordred replaces King Lot of Orkney as Morgan le Fay’s ally. I was never quite clear in the film if he is her husband or just her lover, but they are obviously a couple and King Arthur’s primary enemies. The film begins with Morgan, Mordred, Arthur, and Merlin meeting to determine who will rule Britain upon Uther Pendragon’s death. Morgan believes she deserves the throne as Uther’s only legitimate child, but Merlin has Arthur draw the sword from the stone, thus leading to his being proclaimed king. Mordred and Morgan aren’t too happy about this decision and cause plenty of trouble before they finally agree to Arthur’s rule, which he achieves largely through battle and the help of Sir Lancelot, making Lancelot and Mordred enemies.

Arthur is soon pushed to the side of the story in favor of Lancelot. Although the movie is called Knights of the Round Table, the other knights get very little attention, except for Percival, who is on a quest for the Holy Grail. He meets Lancelot early in the film and tells Lancelot of his quest. In the same scene, Percival’s sister, Elaine, meets Lancelot and falls in love with him, and eventually, she is married to Lancelot, after Merlin realizes Lancelot and Guinevere have begun to have feelings for one another so it would be best to have him away from court.

I won’t give away all of the plot, and there’s not much to give away if you know the Arthurian legend, but I do need to discuss the end a bit. I do give the film some points for a stab at historical accuracy since it sets the film at the time soon after the Romans have left. That said, I think John Wayne had a stab in writing the script since upon first meeting, Lancelot says to Percival, “Declare thyself, Cowboy.” I think he should have changed “Cowboy” to “Pilgrim”—it would have been funnier.

The Holy Grail legend has always been an oddball part of the Arthurian story in my opinion, and it definitely is here. At one point, Percival comes to Lancelot’s castle to tell him the Holy Grail appeared at court, which I thought a shame, since the filmgoers never get to see the Holy Grail’s appearance in that scene, but it does lead to the knights going off to seek the Grail. At about this time, Elaine also has a dream about their son. Elaine dies soon after Galahad is born. Later the child Galahad is sent to be raised at Camelot.

And then Camelot begins to fall. After Elaine’s death, Lancelot becomes interested in Lady Vivian. Guinevere accuses him of trying to humiliate her in front of the court by making eyes at Vivian. While they are arguing alone, their enemies find them and accuse them of adultery. They manage to escape without any dramatic attempts at burning at the stake (a disappointment)—no dramatic “Guinevere” song for this movie like in “Camelot.” Things go as expected, leading to Arthur being slain by Mordred. Then Lancelot fights and kills Mordred.

The magic at the end of throwing the sword into the lake is missing because no hand rises up to catch it, but we are left with Lancelot and Percival going together to Camelot to see the Round Table in ruins. The film ends with a vision of the Grail, and Lancelot finding comfort in hearing that someday Galahad will achieve it. (A strange twist since Galahad usually achieves the Grail before Camelot falls.)

I certainly don’t think this film as entertaining as Prince Valiant or Lancelot and Guinevere (Sword of Lancelot) which followed in the next decade, although it does have its moments. People familiar with the legend will perhaps find it mostly entertaining for the fun of picking apart the changes made in the film from the usual legend and try to guess why such changes were made. (The opening credits claim the film is based on Malory, but it’s very loosely based.)

The cast has some big names—Robert Taylor as Lancelot and Ava Gardner as Guinevere, among others, but I have never felt very impressed by Robert Taylor. For me, Franco Nero is the best Lancelot. Ava Gardner is beautiful as always, but she just doesn’t have the role to make her acting skills stand out in this film.

If you’re an Arthurian enthusiast, you’ll want to watch the film, although on a scale of 1-5, I probably wouldn’t give it more than a 3. You can still catch it in reruns on TV or buy the video, or watch online at Amazon Instant Video. For more information on the film, check out IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045966/ or Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_the_Round_Table_%28film%29

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can also visit him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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The following article I had published last winter in Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. It is reprinted with permission from the magazine owner, Roslyn McGrath:

Why King Arthur Matters Today

As the winter solstice approaches, I always think of King Arthur. Arthur was a light in the darkness of his times, and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King equates Arthur with the rising of a new sun. Arthur is aligned with the light, with creating the “brief, shining moment” as the musical Camelot proclaims.

My love for King Arthur stems back to age fourteen when I first read Sidney Lanier’s The Boy’s King Arthur with N.C. Wyeth’s fabulous illustrations. The story of Arthur’s building a great society like Camelot and the tragedy of how it was brought down by Lancelot and Guinevere’s adultery and Mordred’s treachery was a pivotal moment in my love of great literature. Years later, I discovered Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, which told the tale from the women’s point of view and made me realize how rich the legend was, how full of possibilities, and how it was ever adaptable to today’s concerns.

I soon decided to write my own King Arthur novel. In the process, I did a great deal of research that resulted in my recently published nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition—my novel is still in the works.

I became interested in King Arthur’s children because I was surprised by many obscure references to Arthur having children other than the well-known Mordred, son of incest, who slew his father. Welsh legends referred to other sons, and modern novelists were creating new children for the storyline. Who were these forgotten children, and why this recent trend to create new children for Arthur?

I came to the conclusion that the legend eventually deleted earlier references to Arthur’s children to enhance the tragic ending. However, modern readers wanted a more hopeful conclusion so novelists were creating new children for Arthur to connect the legendary king to our own times. For example, Arthur might have had a daughter, ignored by history because she was female, whose descendants live today.

My fascination with genealogy and DNA reinforced for me the significance of this possibility. Scientists have shown through mathematical calculations that everyone alive today of European descent would be descended from anyone in Europe born before 1200 A.D. who had children. Since King Arthur lived about 500 A.D., if he had children, then most likely all Europeans—as well as a good number of Africans and Asians—are his descendants. Arthur may physically be in our genes.

Scholars will debate for centuries to come whether Arthur ever lived, but either way, Arthur is in our genes—if not in our actual DNA, then in our human nature to dream of a better world. Arthur is remembered because he strove to create an idyllic world, a Round Table—an early form of democracy where justice prevailed—and for a short time, he succeeded. In the end, we might fail like he ultimately did, but we cannot aspire to anything grander ourselves, and so we carry on Arthur’s legacy of hope.

At the holidays, it’s good to be reminded of King Arthur’s final request in Camelot: “each evening from December to December…ask every person if he’s heard the story, and tell it strong and clear if he has not, that once there was a fleeting wisp of glory called Camelot.”

Tyler Tichelaar is the author of King Arthur’s Children and My Marquette. Visit him at www.MarquetteFiction.com and www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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Prince Valiant Vol. 1 hal Foster

Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 by Hal Foster

Because it’s the 75th anniversary of the Prince Valiant comic strip this month, I thought I would summarize and review the first volume of the series, now reprinted by Fantagraphics Book, which covers the first two years of the series in print. Fantagraphics is planning to reprint hopefully the entire series, but so far the first five have been released (the 5th is coming in March actually).

The Prince Valiant strip is subtitled “In the Days of King Arthur” and consequently some people have been skeptical about whether it really belongs in the Arthurian canon. In truth, it is often marginal as Valiant goes off on adventures on the Continent, far from King Arthur’s court, but Camelot remains home base throughout the series. Following is a summary of what occurs in this first volume. I usually don’t like to give away full plots, but since this volume is the beginning of the story, it’s important to clarify just how much of the strip is relevant to King Arthur.

The story begins with the King of Thule and his family being forced to flee from their country. They go to Britain, fighting the locals to land on the shore. At this time, Prince Valiant is just a boy. He looks to be between about ages six and eight in the strip. King Arthur, to keep the peace, allows the King and his faithful followers to settle in the Fens, a marshy area where the people live on islands in a swamp and make their way through the swamps on boats and rafts. Lizard type monsters are also hiding in the Fens.

Valiant grows up in this environment until he approaches manhood. One day, after fighting one of the monster lizards, Valiant sees a mysterious light far off in the Fens and is determined to find its source. In the process Valiant is attacked by a monster who turns out to be a “huge misshapen man, horrible in his deformities.” Valiant wounds the man but then cares for him and takes him home to his mother, who turns out to be the witch Horrit (the first time she is mentioned her name is Horrid, but Hal Foster must have decided to change the spelling in subsequent strips). This meeting is significant because Horrit makes a prophecy that will haunt Valiant for the rest of his life.

As the witch makes her prophecy, Val gazes into the fire and becomes dreamy until he has visions of castles and armies, knights in armor, and then a king and queen, whom the witch says is “Stupid Arthur and his flighty wench, Guinevere.” She goes on to prophesy, “And you will confront the unicorn, the dragon and the griffon, black men and yellow. You will have high adventure, but nowhere do I see happiness and contentment,” and she tells him already his greatest sorrow awaits him.

Valiant leaves the witch to discover his greatest sorrow—that his mother has died. After grieving, Valiant decides it’s time to set off to seek his fortune. Soon after, he meets Sir Lancelot and his squire, and when the squire is rude to him, Valiant pulls him off his horse and beats him to give him a lesson. Lancelot is good natured but stops the fight and then rides off with his squire. The incident makes Valiant determined to become a knight. Eventually, Valiant finds a horse, learns to ride, and then saves Sir Gawain from another knight who attacks Gawain. Soon Valiant and Gawain have formed a lasting friendship.

Gawain takes Valiant to Camelot where two conspirators soon after decide to kidnap Gawain and hold him for ransom. They trick Valiant and Gawain to visiting the Castle of Ereiwold where Gawain is captured and becomes a prisoner. Of course, Valiant eventually rescues him. After the rescue, however, Gawain gets wounded in a fight with another knight, and Val has to take his place to go on his first quest to rescue the fair maid Ilene’s parents, who are being held prisoner in their castle by an ogre.

Once he sneaks into the castle, Val soon realizes the ogre is a fake with makeup to make him look frightening. Val decides to use fear, the same weapon, to conquer the ogre, disguising himself and appearing like a flying demon in the castle’s hall. In time, Val defeats the ogre and his men, and he rescues Ilene’s parents.

Val is in love with Ilene by this point, but she is already betrothed to the King of Ord. Val wants to stay and fight for Ilene, but Gawain has gotten in trouble again, kidnapped by Morgan le Fey, half-sister of King Arthur. Val goes off to rescue his friend, making the mistake of confronting Morgan le Fey, who puts him under a spell, but in time, he realizes his food is drugged and he quits eating so he’s in his right mind. Then he is able to escape from the castle. Val goes to Merlin, who works his own spell to scare Morgan le Fey into freeing Gawain.

Gawain is freed in time for Val to be invited to a tournament to celebrate the marriage of Prince Arn of Ord and Ilene. Val is determined to challenge Arn, but the challenge occurs on a bridge, resulting in Arn falling and nearly drowning and Val saving him. They plan to fight again nevertheless, but when they begin, a Viking raid occurs and instead, they become allies against their enemies. Before the battle with the Vikings, Arn gives Val the famous Singing Sword, which bears a charm and of course helps him to defeat his enemies. Despite his success, Val is captured by his enemies and he and Ilene are taken over the sea, while hoping Arn will rescue them. In time, Val and Ilene are separated and Ilene ends up on a ship that sinks, leaving Val and Arn heartbroken.

Once Val and Arn return to Camelot, Lancelot tells them they are fortunate Ilene drowned because now they are friends whereas otherwise there always would have been strife between them and Ilene would have blamed herself as the cause of it all.

To deal with his grief, Val returns home to the Fens. As this first volume ends, Val overcomes his grief and decides it’s time he lead his father’s people to return and re-conquer Thule, but before they can act on their plan, a major Saxon invasion threatens England. Val returns to Camelot to fight beside the Knights of the Round Table.

In addition to the strip itself, which is in its brightest glorious color because it’s reprinted directly from Foster’s colored plates, there is an essay in the back by Kim Thompson about the reproduction of Prince Valiant and the various plates, which is quite interesting to read, and even mentions a few of the more gruesome scenes in the story that were censored out. The book also contains a biographical essay about Hal Foster and an interesting interview with Foster.

The plot of Prince Valiant is more like a soap opera in terms of its cliffhangers at the end of most strips and its constant continuation with no end in mind. Foster reputedly was usually ahead in creating the strip by several weeks, but one wonders if he ever imagined when it began that the strip could run not only for many years but many decades and encompass all of Prince Valiant’s life basically. He had no need to plot it in a specific direction, yet there are still certain arching points to the story, including the prophecy that Valiant can never know happiness and the basics of the King Arthur story as well.

For people still uncertain whether they would enjoy Prince Valiant, I recommend getting a copy of this first volume and trying it out; then you can determine whether you want to continue to read the successive volumes, which would be quite a time commitment, but there are far worse ways to spend your time than with Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur.

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