Wednesday 2 November 2011

Arthur Overload

I'm a big fan of the legends of King Arthur - when I was at school I never really liked history much, and gave it up as soon as I could. In the last year that I had to do it (aged 13), part of the year's work was to do a "research project" on some event in history, and I chose to weigh up the truth in the legends. Having never really managed any better than the bare minimum of necessary homework, I'm not sure the teacher entirely believed it was my own work when I got one of the highest marks in the school. I still have the report I wrote - maybe one day I'll type it up for posterity.
At the moment, though, I seem to be suffering what could almost be said to be a bit of overload...
First there was Mary Stewart's Crystal Cave trilogy, which I read on and off over about 3 months last year. The story is the life story of Merlin, rather than Arthur. It's a good trilogy, with quite a believable mixture of magical legend and what can easily be believed as the hardships that people living in the first millennium A.D. might have had to put up with.
Next, there's the BBC's Merlin, now in its fourth season on BBC1. A more light-hearted take on the stories would be hard to find, and yet the main characters of Uther, Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, Guinevere (or Gwen) and others are familiar, as are some of the storylines for each of them.
Then after being given a Kindle 3 for Christmas last year, I downloaded Bernard Cornwell's Winter King - the first in a trilogy about Arthur, which I'm about 90% through, and I'm certainly enjoying his portrayal of Arthur as a successful warlord at a time of many Briton tribes fighting off attacks from the invading Saxons.
If those three different versions of the same stories weren't enough, Channel 4 brought out a new Arthur TV series, Camelot - which I mostly missed when it was first aired, and is now being repeated on More 4, and I've got set on Series-Link record - hopefully the stories will be good, and Channel 4 "Drama" won't have relied too much on the raunchy scenes featuring Morgan and Guinevere - not that they're bad scenes, it's just nice to think you're watching something better than a tabloid newspaper.
If you're a fan of historical fiction, I heartily recommend the Mary Stewart trilogy, and if the first book is anything to go by you wouldn't do badly from the Bernard Cornwell books either, although if you've read other books by him the formula will be familiar!
Right, I'm off to go and catch up on Merlin!

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