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Arthurian Legend , group of tales that developed in the Dark Ages concerning Arthur , semihistorical king of the Britons , and his knights . The legend is a complex weaving of ancient Celtic mythology with later tradiditions around a core of possible historical authenticity .The earliest references to Arthur found in Welsh sources the poem , Y Gododdin ( c. 600 ) , histories written in Latin , in the 9th and 10th centuries , and tales in the Welsh story collection The Mabinogion (c. 1100 ) . In one of these tales Arthur's wife , Guinevere , and his knights Kay , Bedivere and Gawain make their appearance .

The earliestcontinuous Arthurian narrative is given in the Historia Regum Britanniae (c . 1139 ) by the English writer Geoffrey of Monmouth . Here Arthur is identified as the son of the British king Uther Pentragon and his counsellor Merlin is introduced . The Historia mentions the isle of Avalon , where Arthur went to recover from wounds after his last batlle , and it tells of Guinevere’s infidelity and the rebellion instigated by Arthur’s nepheww Mordred .

All later developments of the Arthurian legend are based on Geoffrey’s work . Thus , the first English Arthuurian story , in the poet Layamon’s Roman de Brut (1205 ) is an English version of Geoffrey’s Historia . Arthur os depictedas a warrion on an epic scale ; and the story of his magic sword Excalibur , which only he could extract from a rock , is incluted for the first time .

An Arthurian tradition also developed in Europe , probably based on stories handeddown from the Celts , who migrated to Brittany in the 5th and 6th centuries . By 1100Arthurian romances were known as far away as Italy . Inspirated by chivalry and courtly love , they are more concerned with the exploits of Arthur’s knights than with Arthur himself .

The oldest of the French Arthurian romances is a series of 12th – century poems by Chetien de Troyes . One introduces Lancelot , Arthur’s chief knight and his rival for Guinevere’s love ; another poem about Percival (see beloww ) is the search for the Holy Grail , which from then on was incorporated into the legend . Chretien’s work had great influence on later Arthurian romance , particulary early German versions , such as Erec and Lwein , by the 12th - century poet Hartmann von Aue and the epic Parzifal (c . 1210 0 ), by Wolfram von Eschenbach . By the early 13th century the story of Tristan and Iseult ( or Tristan and Isolde ) , from another Celtic tradition , was added to the Arthurian legend .

English Arthurian romances , datingfrom the 13th and 14th centuries , concerned individual knights – Percival and Galahad , the Grail knights , and especially Gawain . The culminating masterpiece of these was anonymously written Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ( c. 1370 ) . A number of these were retold , in English prose , by Thomas Malory in his Morte d’Arthur ( 1485 ) . On this book the poet Alfred , Lord Tennyson based his Idylls of the King ( 1859 – 1885 ) , an allegorical treatment of Victorian society .

Many other writers have adapted the stories of Arthur and his knights and their great court at Camelot to contemporary tastes and themes . The poet Edmund Spenser used Arthur , as the perfect knight in his epic allegory of Elizabethan society , The Faerie Queene ( 1590 – 1599 ) . Mark Twain contrasted New England progressivism with medieval society in his A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’sCours (1880 ) . The Once and Future king (4 vols . , 1939 _ 1958 ) , by the English author T . H . White , remains a widely read modern version of the legend . Music , too , shows the abiding interest in Arthurian stories – from Parsifal by Richard Wagner ( 1882 ) to the Broadwway musical Camelot ( 1960 ) , by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe .

Arthur ( fl . 6th century ) , semi – legendary King of the Britons who fought against the invading Anglo – Saxons . Although some historias consider him a mythical figure , there is reason to believe that a historicsl Arthur may have led the long resistance of the Britons against the invaders ; some 7th – century texts refer to a great warrior named Arthur . According to legend , Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon , King of Britain . Kept in obscurity during childhood , he was suddenly presented to the people as their king , and valiant ruler . He cathered a great company of knights in his court ; promblems of precedence were avoided by the use of a round table at gatherings .

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