Tempest & Jay

The Legend of King Arthur

Before I go on to sound like I know anything…I know nothing.

In fact, this last week has left me with a profound sense of awe. I had no idea that the tale of King Arthur had so much history! And yet, it did solidify one of reasons I love this legend.

What captures you about the Legend of King Arthur?

Is it the honor and comradery defined by the Knights of the Round Table?

Is it the story of betrayal and romance between Lancelot and Guinevere?

Or is it the tale of an underdog rising to defy expectations?

I’m sure everyone has a favorite rendition, a favorite movie, or a favorite retelling – and there in a nutshell is what makes Arthurian lore so attractive: it’s versatility.

The earliest mention of Arthur was in a seventh century poem written by a bard called Aneirin, and that boasted the battle of 300 warriors against the Angles (Saxons) at the Battle of Cattaeth.

A more detailed account of the victories of King Arthur, was recorded by a Welsh monk named Nennius from the 9th century. His compilation (which was made up from multiple and unknown sources) of the Historia Brittonum was meant to contain a history of Briton up until then. But frankly, it straddled the line of history, geography and myth rather well. Therefore, it’s historical accuracy and even full authorship is contested.

But what it did do, was inspire other writers and poets with new ideas revolving around this strong and valiant warrior.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, a Welsh cleric composed the story of Arthur while adding unique details about his family, Mordred, Morgan and the relationship between Arthur and some of his Knights. His story also included the kidnapping of Guinevere by Mordred so that he could claim the throne.

Probably taking this good example, his friend Caradoc of Llancarfan, composed the life of a historic British monk called Gildes, that lived in the sixth century, and entwined his life with that of Arthur, weaving in the storyline where Guinevere was kidnapped and Gilde helps Arthur make peace with his enemy.

Chretien de Troyes, a French Poet, soon followed with his own poems about what had been up until them, a Celtic hero. Though he wrote with a more…romantic nature. In the twelfth century, Chretien wrote poems introducing Lancelot, and the likes of Percival and the Holy Grail, Yvain, and Erec and Enide. Some of his poems went unfinished, and were added to by at least three other men, each writing new aspects of the poem over the course of a century. One even added something of a Prologue.

This is what baffles me. The earliest tales of King Arthur were recorded, though not necessarily created, and the earliest creations were probably told orally. If you harken back to such a time, each storyteller would add their own flare, creating their own take on the man they knew as King Arthur.

But the legend of King Arthur didn’t stop growing once his exploits were written down. From a warrior that united the Britons against the Saxons, to a wise King who held sway over the Knights of the Round Table, to the romantic betrayed by the love of his life, King Arthur, can claim no one author, and belongs to no one artist. His story and legend was built from multiple people and has allowed for further growth.

This is what makes King Arthur such an indulgence for artists.

Being as it was built on multiple stories, and created from both myth and history, there are gaps that authors can find and fill in; characters whose actions may be told, but whose motivations remain a mystery; different angles within the ancient history to examine and use creatively.

All of these can lead to a fresh take on the legend, letting it be told in a way as never before.

Now let’s just be clear: it’s a dangerous thing to misuse a masterpiece.

Too many today take a fleshed-out character or a detailed and intriguing plot, and spin it into something different; all to appease today’s audience.

Let’s not go overboard – especially where a single author or artist is concerned. It is never okay to change the essence of a story, and then claim it was done to honor that author/ artist. (Ahem…I’ll not mention any titles or names, but I’m sure we’ve all seen it.)

But the wonderful thing where Arthur is concerned, is that it was made up as it went. It’s already been added to, altered and retold, and it still leaves a lot open for interpretation.

Interpretation just happens to be an artists playground.

While one should stick to the essence of this timeless legend, many have been able to take pieces of it and tell them anew.

Tempest & Jay’s debut author, J.J Sutherland, has created just such a story.

Her first novel, “The Once and Forgotten Thing,” is told within the shadows of the old King Arthur legend, but from the point-of-view of a Saxon spy that could have brought the famous leader to defeat.

Her series provides a unique twist on this ancient tale, and provides new characters that mingle with those from lore.

If you are a fan of Arthurian tales, this is an adventure you won’t want to miss!

Keep posted on our website or social media for news! The Release Date is set for June 2nd, 2023.

Do you have a favorite Arthur retelling? Book, movie, or series? What’s your favorite rendition of the tale? I’d share mine, but this publisher’s biased…I’m keen on The Once And Forgotten Thing. 😉

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