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Imagining King Arthur

cr_death_king_arthur.jpg

Death of King Arthur by James Archer (1823-1904)

Defender of his people. King of the Knights of the Round Table and seekers after the Holy Grail. Betrayed by wife and friend. Death, and the promise of return.

Does the legend still live?

Comments (9)

jlh:

Arthur is a wonderful ideal who has outgrown his Celtic origins to stand for any people's independence. I don't see him anywhere at the moment, For the pure tragedy of defending cultural independence against eventually insuperable odds, perhaps Geert Wilders.

I have always resented the fascination with the latecomer, Lancelot. I much prefer Wolfram von Eschenbach;s concept, featuring Gawain as the most "parfit, gentil" knight on an earthly quest and Percival on his quest to become Keeper of the Grail. Chivalry lives on every page of an epic written by a fellow who lived the life of a medieval, itinerant knight. There are other noble characters, but no Lancelots or Guineveres.

Cat:

jlh wrote -I don't see him anywhere at the moment. . .I have always resented the fascination with the latecomer, Lancelot.

Still, perhaps these intense human stories deepen the legend -

A boy initiated into maturity by a magician. . .he alone able to draw the sword from the stone. . .unhappy in love, betrayed by a friend. . .defender of his people, King of the knights of the Round Table & seekers of the Holy Grail. . .founder of a perfect kingdom that fails. . .dying in battle at the hands of his son. And at his going, the promise that he will return. . .

No, we do not see him yet. Will we know him when we see him?

While John Boorman's Excalibur is yearly required viewing - a veritable plethora of images from Jung's collective unconscious - it is important to acknowledge both the pagan and Christian sources of the Arthurian torso.

When one examines closely enough these sources, and one's own longings for such a figure whom René Girard would call an "external mediator," one will come to the sole source of transcendence in today's secularly arid, sordid, and cynical age. This is usually accompanied by an unhappy, "Oh, hang!" because that sole source of Romance is what Chesterton, Belloc, and others knew; namely, the Catholic Church.

I fear that the only other alternative is a nihilistic despair, a stoic curmudgeonism, or a Holly Go-lightly Twitter existence. Best/cheers

Cat:

Re: the "sole source of Romance"

When I saw this painting, the first thought that flashed through my mind was Aslan, which is to say, Christ.

jlh:

It's nice to get the your reaction, either way.

My problem with Lancelot is not so much with him and Guinevere per se. For one thing, the affair makes Arthur look a bit helpless, and this theme is so powerful that it is imitated in other venues, such as Song of the Nibelungs, where Atttila is portrayed as ineffectual. The other problem is that Gawain grows out of the Celtic essence of the story, and his relationship with Guinevere is knight to queen. Lancelot seems to be a latter-day French import whose love for Guinevere is carried to distasteful extremes by modern enthusiasts of their passion.

One of the results is a film which demeans one of my favorite actors, Richard Gere. I tend to get carried away on the subject of the original versus the evolved mythical figure. . .

Then your question in your posting is a vital one, Cat.

Interestingly, Lewis's secretary, Walter Hooper, says that with what has transpired in Anglicanism, he believes CSL wd convert to Catholicism if alive today. . .

Cat:

I find myself agreeing with you both. . .

And feeling grateful that God knows the truth.

Arthur's helplessness - in one aspect of his life - do we understand this deep in our hearts having suffered in love ourselves? And could this lead, perhaps, to a greater identification with Arthur's strength?

My problem with Lancelot and Guinevere is that I think the writers may have traduced the historical Guinevere.

One last thing, Cat. From a biblical perspective, the obvious parallel to Arthur is King David. When a fellow tagged along with David, berating him, David's captain asked if he should kill the man. David, showing his great humanity, said no; the fellow was probably correct. (Compare that to our egoist politicians today.)

In the 'all-too-human' affaire de coeur with Bathsheba - and his murder of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, King David encapsulates both Arthur's pride of place and Lancelot's cuckoldry, AND something worse in killing a faithful soldier who simply stood in the way to Bathsheba.

The last image of King David is in his feeble last days, given a beautiful young woman to lend comfort, probably more than amorous advances by that time. Now again, all-too-human.

Still, David's transgressions were more than compensated by his enormous self-knowledge, repentance (when Nathan confronts him w/his crime toward Uriah and adultery). We should, IMO, appreciate greatly these magnificent portraits in salvation history. Cheers/best

Cat:

Jeff: From a biblical perspective, the obvious parallel to Arthur is King David.

Though surely Arthur is more sinned against than sinning?

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