kingshearte's Reviews > Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table

Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory
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Dec 11, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction
Read in May, 2008

"The legend of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table is one of the most enduring and influential stories in world literature. Its themes - love, war, religion, treachery, and family loyalty - are timeless, as are the reputations of its major characters, Arthur, Merlin, Guenevere, and Lancelot.

Malory's Le Morte Darthur is a story of noble knights, colourful tournaments and fateful love, set in a courtly society which is outwardly secure and successful, but in reality torn by dissent and, ultimately, treachery.

Originally published in 1485, Malory's Le Morte Darthur is here presented in modern spelling and is accompanied by an Introduction and helpful Glossary."

This was a slog and a half. I have a certain fondness or fascination for the Arthur story, and have read/watched it in numerous incarnations. This was by far the most tedious. I realize that it's the original (in English at least. I believe before that, it comes from either a book or a set of stories in French.), but I'm not sure that makes it the best. At least a good half of it is simply describing various jousts, and frankly, there's only so many times one can read about how Sir So-and-So smote Sir Such-and-Such mightily and caused him grievous hurt before it becomes exceedingly dull. It's particularly maddening because half the time, they're not even jousting for any good reason. Sir A sets out on an adventure and encounters Sir B, who insists that they fight. Why? Just because. What's even more ridiculous is when such a thing happens, and Sir A wins, and then Sir B's relatives decide to avenge him. But dude. Sir A didn't go out of his way to massacre your brother. Sir B insisted, and, it turns out, isn't as good at it as he figured he was. It's just all very ridiculous.

As for the rest of the story, I just didn't find that there was much or any actual character development, so even the various relationships and love stories weren't enormously compelling, because you don't really know these people, so you don't really care about them. Even the Lancelot and Guenevere saga wasn't very interesting. It was never remotely comprehensible why a guy like Lancelot would risk his own life to put up with the whims and flightiness of Guenevere. Sure, she was putting out, but seriously? He really wouldn't have had any trouble finding someone else who would and that he could actually marry and father children with, and have a very satisfying family life. At least with Tristan and Isoud (and by the way, have to admit that I did not know that Wagner took this story directly out of the Arthur stories. Makes me want to learn more about Tristan und Isolde now.), we actually did get to know them a little better, and understood more why they wanted to be together. Theirs was actually just about the only story that ended up interesting me in the whole damn book.

Oh, and the reason I included the last paragraph in the blurb up there is because, "modern spellings"? As of when? This particular edition was published in 1996, and I am quite sure that "descrive" is not a current acceptable spelling of "describe," for example. This book is full of spellings and words that are not remotely modern. Which is fine, but don't tell me it's modern when it's clearly not. And as for that "helpful Glossary," well, helpful is rather generous, if you ask me. It only contained about half of the unfamiliar words I encountered when reading this book. Most of them you can get at least a vague idea of what it's supposed to mean based on the context, but there were a few that I truly had no idea. And for a word that unfamiliar to not be in a glossary? Clearly somebody dropped the ball, and if you're not going to make a glossary like that complete, why even bother.

Ultimately, I know it's a classic, and for that reason, I am glad I slogged through it, but seriously? Unless you really just want to be able to say you've read this, I'd advise sticking with TH White's The Once and Future King. It's almost like an actually modernly-spelled and abridged version of this, and it's a way better read.
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