I have always wanted to include King Arthur in this collection. My first plan was to take all the stories of Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, Guenevere, Lancelot, Mordred, Uther, Merlin, and so on and write them up as a multi-installment, all-inclusive “fairy tale-style” retelling.
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory (1470) The first real book published to chronicle the history of King Arthur and still the closest thing to a “definitive” work that exists.
- The Once and Future King by T.H. White (1958) White’s interpretation is considered lighter, more accessible, with more wit and emotion than its predecesor. The first book in this volume details Arthur’s youth and education at the hands of Merlin leading up to his acquisition of Excalibur, the Sword in the Stone.
- The Sword in the Stone (1963) Walt Disney’s animated adaptation of White’s book is noted for being the first Disney animatd feature to have songs written by the Sherman Brothers. Though considered one of Disney’s best, Arthurian purists have shunned it for its portrayal of Merlin as a comic bungler (purportedly inspired by Walt himself) rather than the austere wiseman he is more commonly seen as.
- Camelot (Broadway/Movie) Actually, the team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe originally wanted this musical to tell the story of “The Sword in the Stone,” but when the rights proved hard to secure, they instead wrote this slightly more grownup story which, nevertheless, does chronicle the events of “The Sword in the Stone” briefly as a kind of back story.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Graham Chapman plays the pompous and mathematically-impaired king in this satirical version of Arthurian Legend which is, sadly, where most people nowadays get their information about these stories. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the ten funniest movies ever made, but it’s funnier if you know who Arthur really is…well, I say really, but it’s not like he…well, never mind.
- King Arthur (2004) Clive Owen and Keira Knightley star in this big screen adventure depicting Arthur as a war chief who fought just before the fall of the Roman Empire, which, while it does have more physical evidence backing it up, is less magical than the story we all know.
- Merlin (TV) This acclaimed BBC drama depicts Merlin as a serving boy to Arthur, who lives in Camelot under the rule of his magic-hating father, Uther. Though not exactly reliable to the source material, it is, nevertheless, an exciting and enchanting series for those who love swords and sorcery. I have often described this show as “Arthurian ‘Smallville’.”
NEXT WEEK: "The True Bride"