Explorations in Arthurian History and
sixth-century monk wrote De Excidio Britannia, On the Ruin
of Britain, which is basically a tirade against the destructive
Saxons who were overrunning his beloved land. Gildas is believed
to be a contemporary of the historical Arthur, and Gildas's work
names Badon Hill as a great British triumph over the Saxons. For
more on Gildas, click here
for an excerpt from Gildas's work, click here
and for the full text, click here.
- Bede: the famous
eighth-century monk who gave us the Ecclesiastical History of the
English People names Badon Hill but not Arthur. His book is a
fascinating account of British history. For more on Bede, click
and especially here.
- Nennius: the
self-styled 9th-century "historiographer of the Britons,"
published the Historia Brittonum, or The History of the
Britons, in the ninth century. In this work, he mentions Arthur's
famous 12 battles again the Saxons. Nennius is generally believed
to be a credible source, especially for his chronicling of life in
his time and of the genealogies of various kings. However, he does
say that Arthur by himself killed 940 Saxons at the Battle of
Badon Hill. For more on Nennius, click here
Cambriae: Annals of Wales (10th century) mention both Arthur,
Mordred (here Medraut), and Camlann (the first known reference to
the latter two). In some editions, this work is partnered with
Nennius, though it is not known exactly who wrote it. For more,
of Malmesbury: 12th-century monk wrote Gesta Regnum
Anglorum, Chronicles of the Kings of England, which mentions
Arthur and Badon Hill by name. For more on William, click
of Monmouth: the one who started all the legends. It is from
Geoffrey that we first hear of Merlin. Indeed, in Geoffrey's
Historia Regnum Britannie, History of the Kings of Britain,
Merlin gets most of the attention. Indeed, it is Merlin (called
Myrddin by Geoffrey) who induces Arthur's mystical birth by
trickery and who moves the Giants' Dance to its present location
at Stonehenge. Geoffrey introduces to all sorts of interesting
characters and places, among them Vortigern, Uther, Ygerne,
Tintagel, Avalon, Camlann and the like. But Geoffrey is also given
to great flights of fancy and historical inaccuracy. Still, his
12th-century work stands as a kind of official introduction to the
search for the historical Arthur. For more on Geoffrey, click
- Wace: the Anglo-Norman
author of the Roman de Brut (1155), which is a romanticized
account of Geoffrey of Monmouth, with some helpful additions
(including the Round Table).
- Layamon: the
12th-century poet wrote a 16,000-line alliterative work called
Brut, after Wace's Roman de Brut. In Layamon, the
focus is on war and its grit and glory. We also have mention of
Merlin and the Round Table. This is the first mention of the
Arthurian story in English. For the text, click here.
- Robert de
Boron: a 13-century French poet who wrote three poems
(Joseph d'Arimathe, Merlin, Perceval) telling the early
history of the Holy Grail. The use of Merlin in the story linked
the Grail legend to the story of Arthur. It is also in Robert that
we see the introduction of the Sword in the Stone, although Robert
places the Sword in an anvil on top of the Stone.
- Mabinogion: the
famous 13th- and 14th-century issuance of earlier Welsh tales
include Gwydion, Pwyll, and other characters familiar to readers
of other Celtic tales of the time. For more about these tales,
- Chretien de
Troyes: the finest romantic Frenchman of them all. He wrote in
the 12th century and gave us much of the saga as we have it today,
including the introduction of Camelot and Lancelot. Chretien also
first attached special significance to the Grail as a cup. Before,
it was thought to be a dish or platter. For a glimpse of the
writings of Chretien, click here.
- Sir Thomas Malory:
the first epic English translation and compilation of the
disparate elements of the saga. Popularized by William Caxton, his
15th-century work, now referred to as Le Morte D'Arthur,
set the foundation for all that was to follow. For the text of
Malory's complete works, click here.
For more on Malory and his life and times, click here.
- Tennyson, Alfred Lord: wrote Idylls
of the King, an epic collection of poems that emphasizes the
sickening and wasting away of the spirit, as seen in Arthur's
refusal to deal of the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere.
for more and here
to read the text.
Mythology: Thomas Bulfinch has compiled traditional and
sensational tales alike. For the online edition, click
For more about the author, click here.
Explorations in Arthurian History and
© 2000-2009 David White