Elisabeth M's Reviews > King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
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Jun 25, 2008

it was ok
Recommended to Elisabeth by: Powell's Bookstore
Recommended for: Either a serious student of Arthurian Legend, or someone who likes to laugh at bad jokes.
Read in November, 2008

I would have expected more from one of the Inklings. For instance, a substantive love for the good would have been nice. Instead we have knights swearing by their peanut butter sandwiches that they will slay the churl whom they have just met; and only when that churl is bleeding the green fields red do they pause to say, "Hey, you're pretty cool. What's your name?"

The book is filled with damsels arbitrarily asking knights to kill people for them on the shaky grounds that these human beings are "false." Robbers are dispatched without any moral trembling, then their dispatchers - supposedly true knights all - go on to take the horses and armor that those robbers had called their own. Merlin is a creepy, semi-senile soothsayer who seems to have lost his wits when he got Christianized. Arthur doesn't do anything except delay feasts until someone volunteers to go out and find some random people to slay.

Now, I won't deny that there's violence in Arthurian legend - but next to the work of, say, T. H. White, Mr. Green falls desperately short in his interpretation. Worse than silly, he's often sickening in his ability to embrace the brutality of the power-over system.

Where were Lewis, Tolkien, and Sayers when he wrote this? Friends don't let friends write bad mythology.

That said - I give this book two stars for the fact that Mr. Green did his research. He delved into every available primary source, from the Malory to the Middle English poems to the French romances. For a student of Arthurian tales, he's a respectable resource simply for uniting these disparate episodes into one continuous narrative. By my sandwich, let him be thanked for that - but please don't let your middle-school boy read this book until he's developed a value system that can guard him from its awful exploitative groundwork.
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