Arthuriana -- all things King Arthur ! discussion

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message 1: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Just about to start the Tristram book of Le Morte D'Arthur The Winchester Manuscript...and watched the recent Hulk film last night (the one with Ed Norton).
Is the Hulk a knight errant? Is Blonsky/The Abomination a knight from the same mould as Tarquin?
There's the whole damsel in distress thing going on and the battles have the same preludes to them (ie none).
OK maybe I'm reading too much into things or maybe the myths and archetypes have just soaked into Western culture to such an extent that comic heroes are the new knighthood.
But I'm rambling.
The thought this highlighted for me was that the violence/jousts/duels, as formal as they are, have very little introduction. Not like in the sagas and some of the old celtic stuff where lineage and deeds are recited prior the battle, where the fame of the combatants need to be established. If anything Malory's knights don't care who they go up against, they continually attack folk that they don't recognise or purposefully go in disguise. It is the medieval equivalent of the pub fight: "What you looking at?" BANG!
Also the violence in Malory (and most old tales) has that over the top quality that bards tend to add...or appears in the Hulk. You know, the whole fought for 2 hours/blood soaked grass/armour hacked off/killed hundreds with one blow type of thing.
I'm now going to find it difficult to continue Malory without wishing for Jack Kirby stylee woodcuts. Was Malory the Stan Lee of his day?
Nuff said...


message 2: by Robert (new)

Robert (flagon_dragon) | 28 comments I believe the Caxton printing was very popular. Most legends have their origins in the oral tradition which served the purpose of entertaining the listeners, amongst others.


message 3: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments The descriptions of the combatants as boars (or other animals) crashing together is fairly traditional.
The combats seem to be for the joy of battle though, with any prestige gained being secondary...I actually think the threat of the loss of reputation drives the knights more than the potential gain...it is just assumed by all that when a challenge is made, even by a friend that doesn't recognise you, it must be accepted.
From what I can gather Malory was writing for folk that would have been huge fans of the tournaments that were happening all over Europe at the time, so the rules of engagement are probably more influenced by them than old Welsh/Brit tales.


message 4: by Robert (new)

Robert (flagon_dragon) | 28 comments I wasn't suggesting that tournaments specifically derived from any specific oral tradition, but rather that what we today call "fiction" drives from oral tradition and that one of the purposes of both is to entertain the reader/listener.


message 5: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments I agree, sorry, my post might have appeared a bit ranty...rubbish day at work and too much coffee.
The point I was trying to make was that, at times, it's almost like "fan fiction" for joust geeks.


message 6: by Robert (new)

Robert (flagon_dragon) | 28 comments "Fan fiction" for joust geeks is a pretty funny description! About the only thing I remember from the Book of Tristram is how many lances "shivered to pieces". T.H. White suggested something along the lines of Malory giving tournament results like newspapers report sports stats, I think - and that he wasn't gonna bother!


message 7: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited May 26, 2009 01:10AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Just finished a bit where Tris beats an oponent over the head so severely that a bit of his sword is left in his skull. This is after fighting for most of the day. When the knight staggers away, Tris gives him some abuse for leaving the field.
But he has a bit of sword stuck in his head! Come on Tris, cut him some slack.
It's the Python Back Knight that sums it all up though.


message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark Adderley (markadderley) | 54 comments Malory's flaw is that he's not much good at writing fight scenes--well, not at making them interesting, anyway. It's kind of tough. Even Homer's battle scenes get boring after a while. I think Malory's scenes might work better if you heard them out loud. I don't think you'd mind the cliches about wood boards and flying cantles and blood drenching the grass so much then.


message 9: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited May 26, 2009 07:42AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying things, but I did also like the aforementioned Hulk film and recently enjoyed The Ultimates Vol. 1 Super-Human...but maybe I was a joust geek in a previous life.
On that note, does anyone know any good books on the Hx side of tournaments?
Fair point about Homer. I think this holds true of many works with large amounts of combat though, and that may be the point. As horrifying as war is there is a dreadful monotony to the killing, look at Homer's continual use of agricultural or fishing metaphors...it becomes work for some. But others (Achilles or Tristram or the Hulk) find a joy in battle.


message 10: by Mark (new)

Mark Adderley (markadderley) | 54 comments Bernard Cornwell does a nice job with describing battles--"Sharpe's Triumph" is not a great book, the the 100-page description of the Battle of Assaye is nail-biting. And for violence in general, I think Brian Jacques is superb--a children's author who handles violence appropriately is unusual.

On the historical side of tournaments, I'd recommend Richard Barber's "The Knight and Chivalry" or Maurice Keen's "Chivalry."


message 11: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Thanks for the info on the Hx books Mark.
Recently enjoyed Cornwell's Arthur books, some nasty moments in the shieldwall.


message 12: by Mark (new)

Mark Adderley (markadderley) | 54 comments I'll have to read those; I've heard some good things about them.


message 13: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited May 26, 2009 08:40AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Reviews of them via the bookshelf on this group, and some comments on this group's threads. Good rusty, mead fueled, dark ages stuff.


message 14: by Ron (new)

Ron Arthurian legend so resounds with us because, at some deep level, it communicates archetypes of our culture. The modern superhero--and anti-hero--may well be an update of knight errantry. In that regard, the actual battles are less important to folks like Malory and his readers than the message that someone in his time (or the "time" of Arthur) took on quests and the defense of the defenseless out of duty rather than for personal gain. For his readers (then and now) the historicity of the legend was less important than the encouragement provided by that ideal (and, conversely, the warning that some people and things were just evil).


message 15: by Paul (new)

Paul Plus, in that time, most people were familiar with the sight of disembowelled bodies, and most had probably loosed arrows, swung swords or thrust spears at bandits, intruders, footpads, vagabonds and the like. There is no need to describe things the audience is intimately familiar with.


message 16: by Ron (new)

Ron And it was before the Romantic focus on how do you feel when disemboweling ones foe, or bedding ones lover, or paying ones taxes, or . . .


message 17: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Ron wrote: "Arthurian legend so resounds with us because, at some deep level, it communicates archetypes of our culture. The modern superhero--and anti-hero--may well be an update of knight errantry. In that r..."

The thing that's standing out in Malory's take of the Arthur story is the very lack of good vs evil as a plot device. The knights errant tend to fight each other rather than an evil other with few exeptions. Many of the fights being between folk that would be on the same side from our modern view, but due to a disguise, or lack of recognition due to someone with a new helm, or loosing renown, or socialy binding oath they just have to fight.
I think the folks got most of the good/evil thing through the religion of the time and folk wisdom...also I think that historically the idea of good and evil as we know it didn't exist outside the religious version...the Manichean dualism thing.



message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

But Malory annoys me! He talks for pages about 'lusty May' but he never informs me that daffodils are yellow! They were then, right?


message 19: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Morgen wrote: "But Malory annoys me! He talks for pages about 'lusty May' but he never informs me that daffodils are yellow! They were then, right? "

Normal daffs are...those from Tir Nan Og aren't.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Tir Nan Og...something of youth?


message 21: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Land Of The Young...look across the water to the West and you'll see it if you're lucky.


message 22: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Jun 16, 2009 02:25AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments OK, back to the violence in Malory...

***Potential spoilers coming folks***

As I near the end of Morte, Lancelot is throwing his weight around. The idea of trial by combat is being cynically exploited by him, or cynically commented on by Malory.
Everyone knows about him and Gwen, but he basically says nothing happened and I'll kill anyone that says otherwise. Therefore in his eyes might = right. I don't get how he has become a romantic figure when Malory sets him up as a thug. More sympathy for Tris even thought the stories are very similar.
I know it doesn't happen, but Gawain should get medieval on his arse*.
*Arse is used often enough in Morte for me to feel that we can use it here without censorship. If I have offended anyone I offer no apology but merely recommend that you don't read Malory.


message 23: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 188 comments Mod
Oh, I didn't mean to repeat your answer Anna, I just switched over here from the other thread and we're talking about the same thing. I agree with you Anna.


message 24: by Michele (new)

Michele Everyone knows about him and Gwen, but he basically says nothing happened and I'll kill anyone that says otherwise. Therefore in his eyes might = right.

Something to keep in mind is that in those days people saw a causal link between God's favor and victory. By winning you proved that God was on your side, therefore your side WAS right by definition. Not because you were physically stronger, but because by winning you proved God's support for your cause. After all, God couldn't be on the side of evil, could he? We tend to simply see it as bullying, but for earlier minds more steeped in Christianity of that era, I think it may have had a different flavor.




message 25: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Michele wrote: "Everyone knows about him and Gwen, but he basically says nothing happened and I'll kill anyone that says otherwise. Therefore in his eyes might = right.

Something to keep in mind is that in those ..."

Point taken. And his healing of Sir Urry is seen as a miracle, therefore god is on his "side".




message 26: by Ron (new)

Ron Similar to St. Germanus' famous--and historical--"Hallelujah victory" over the Picts and Saxons in the Fifth Century. The Britons prevailed and the Germans were unnerved not by the numbers or the shouting of the enemy, but by the presumed supernatural involvement.


message 27: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Ron wrote: "Similar to St. Germanus' famous--and historical--"Hallelujah victory" over the Picts and Saxons in the Fifth Century. The Britons prevailed and the Germans were unnerved not by the numbers or the s..."

We Picts were merely the hired help at that wee rammy.
Now Nechtansmere, that was a proper battle...


message 28: by Ron (new)

Ron Proper battles being the ones "we" win, right?


message 29: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Obviously...Hx is written by the victors.
Seriously though, the "Hallelujah victory" was over raiders. Nechtansmere decided teritorial dominance by one group over another, so politically a "proper battle"...if you buy into von Clausewitz.


message 30: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Getting back to the "god on his side" thing and also linking with my rambling above, the Scots Saltire (a white St Andrews cross on a blue field) is said to have come from a cloud formation prior to a battle between Scots and Picts on one side and Angles on the other. A variation on the whole In Hoc Signo Vinces thing.


message 31: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Folks, regarding jousting: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/topst...
Also, reading Malory The Life and Times of King Arthur's Chronicler and it mentions a lot about the tourney circuits etc. At one point Christina Hardyment mentions a 2 day event where "12 men were employed to run in and pick up the broken spears and shields during the jousts and melees, a terrifying job, akin to being a ballboy at Wimbledon trying to dodge Grand National riders rather than histrionic tennis stars".


message 32: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments I feel the urge to re-read the lance shattering Book Of Tris...why?
I have discovered the guilty pleasure of watching "Full Metal Jousting" on the Hx channel. I now understand how this could have been huge in ye olden dayes...


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