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Re: [mythsoc] The Fall of Arthur

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  • John Rateliff
    ... Hi Jeanette Actually, the Arthurian legend starts out as Welsh. Then it gets picked up in two separate strands by the French (Chretien) and English
    Message 1 of 25 , May 24 12:03 PM
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      On May 24, 2013, at 7:55 AM, Jeanette Rost wrote:
      Didn't Tolkien say that one of the reasons he wrote "The Lord of the Rings" was that England had been overrun so many times by so many enemies that her myths and legends had been lost, and so he wrote a new legend for England?  Of course, the first thing that would spring to most people's minds after reading that would be,  "But what about King Arthur?"  Although I have not researched it, I have read in several places that the Arthurian legend originated with "Le Morte d'Arthur" and is actually French, not English, which would explain why Tolkien apparently did not consider it to be the one English legend that was not lost.

      Hi Jeanette

      Actually, the Arthurian legend starts out as Welsh. Then it gets picked up in two separate strands by the French (Chretien) and English (Layamon). Tolkien is bringing both together here into a fused tradition of his own, similar to what Malory had done. So Malory's LE MORTE D'ARTHUR (1485) actually comes at the end of a long tradition, and pretty much everything in English written after it follows its lead to some extent.

      Re. Arthur and 'the Mythology for England', Tolkien was pointing out (in the Letter to Waldman) that it's hard to make Arthur an English hero since it's the English (Angles, +Saxons, + Jutes) who Arthur's fighting in the earliest versions of the story. It'd be like the English destroying the Iroquis confederation and then making Hiawatha the great American hero. And yet that's pretty much exactly what happened with the King Arthur legend: the people who embrace it are by and large descendents of Arthur's enemies. Weird, huh?


      There are definite similarities in Tolkien and the Arthurian legend - perhaps they could be reduced to "decency does matter" - but I am surprised to read that Tolkien linked his work to the Arthurian story.

      I think the take-away from THE FALL OF ARTHUR might be 'don't let pride blind you to your true loyalties'



      On May 24, 2013, at 8:43 AM, Alana Joli Abbott wrote:
      John, regarding Williams's work on Arthur, where are those poems currently in print, do you know? A quick Amazon search showed only out-of-print editions, but I may not be going about the search the right way.

      It will be interesting to compare!


      As Travis says, the Eerdmans edition is probably your best bet, via bookfinder.com or abebooks.com. This reprints the second and third of Williams' Arthurian books, TALIESSIN THROUGH LOGRES (1938) and THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS (1944), as well as the unfinished prose history/summary of the Arthurian legend (THE FIGURE OF ARTHUR) Wms was working on when he died and CSL's extensive commentary on Wms' cycle (WILLIAMS AND THE ARTHURIAD), both of which had been published under the title ARTHURIAN TORSO (1948).

      The first in the cycle, HEROES AND KINGS (1930), is more or less impossible to get (I only have a partial photocopy myself). Be warned that it includes a bondage poem (illustrated!); Wms' religiosity cd sometimes take him into strange places (cf. Lois Lang-Sims' little memoir). 

      All these, and more, are collected by David Llewellyn Dodds in a volume in the series ARTHURIAN POETS simplely called CHARLES WILLIAMS (Boydell & Brewer, 1991). Unfortunately this is fairly hard to find, but you may be able to get it through Interlibrary Loan and the like.

      By the way, if you do find the Eerdmans volume, feel free to ignore Lewis's advice about his recommended order to read the poems in, which suggests mixing them together from both books. Far better, I found, to just read each book through in its entirety; the order in which the poems were written instead of their correlation to the external chronology of the Arthurian cycle. Whatever works best for you.

      Hope this helps.

      --JDR







    • Jeanette Rost
      So whichever authors I read who said that the Arthurian legend was originally French were wrong about that. And frankly, I thought at the time that it sounded
      Message 2 of 25 , May 24 3:59 PM
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        So whichever authors I read who said that the Arthurian legend was originally French were wrong about that.  And frankly, I thought at the time that it sounded odd, but I've just never gotten around to hunting down the story's "pedigree."

        "I think the take-away from THE FALL OF ARTHUR might be 'don't let pride blind you to your true loyalties' " might be a sub-category under the more general category of "decency does matter."  Although "decency matters most" might be a better phrase.

        Jeanette





        On 5/24/2013 2:03 PM, John Rateliff wrote:
         


        On May 24, 2013, at 7:55 AM, Jeanette Rost wrote:
        Didn't Tolkien say that one of the reasons he wrote "The Lord of the Rings" was that England had been overrun so many times by so many enemies that her myths and legends had been lost, and so he wrote a new legend for England?  Of course, the first thing that would spring to most people's minds after reading that would be,  "But what about King Arthur?"  Although I have not researched it, I have read in several places that the Arthurian legend originated with "Le Morte d'Arthur" and is actually French, not English, which would explain why Tolkien apparently did not consider it to be the one English legend that was not lost.

        Hi Jeanette

        Actually, the Arthurian legend starts out as Welsh. Then it gets picked up in two separate strands by the French (Chretien) and English (Layamon). Tolkien is bringing both together here into a fused tradition of his own, similar to what Malory had done. So Malory's LE MORTE D'ARTHUR (1485) actually comes at the end of a long tradition, and pretty much everything in English written after it follows its lead to some extent.

        Re. Arthur and 'the Mythology for England', Tolkien was pointing out (in the Letter to Waldman) that it's hard to make Arthur an English hero since it's the English (Angles, +Saxons, + Jutes) who Arthur's fighting in the earliest versions of the story. It'd be like the English destroying the Iroquis confederation and then making Hiawatha the great American hero. And yet that's pretty much exactly what happened with the King Arthur legend: the people who embrace it are by and large descendents of Arthur's enemies. Weird, huh?


        There are definite similarities in Tolkien and the Arthurian legend - perhaps they could be reduced to "decency does matter" - but I am surprised to read that Tolkien linked his work to the Arthurian story.

        I think the take-away from THE FALL OF ARTHUR might be 'don't let pride blind you to your true loyalties'



        On May 24, 2013, at 8:43 AM, Alana Joli Abbott wrote:
        John, regarding Williams's work on Arthur, where are those poems currently in print, do you know? A quick Amazon search showed only out-of-print editions, but I may not be going about the search the right way.

        It will be interesting to compare!


        As Travis says, the Eerdmans edition is probably your best bet, via bookfinder.com or abebooks.com. This reprints the second and third of Williams' Arthurian books, TALIESSIN THROUGH LOGRES (1938) and THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS (1944), as well as the unfinished prose history/summary of the Arthurian legend (THE FIGURE OF ARTHUR) Wms was working on when he died and CSL's extensive commentary on Wms' cycle (WILLIAMS AND THE ARTHURIAD), both of which had been published under the title ARTHURIAN TORSO (1948).

        The first in the cycle, HEROES AND KINGS (1930), is more or less impossible to get (I only have a partial photocopy myself). Be warned that it includes a bondage poem (illustrated!); Wms' religiosity cd sometimes take him into strange places (cf. Lois Lang-Sims' little memoir). 

        All these, and more, are collected by David Llewellyn Dodds in a volume in the series ARTHURIAN POETS simplely called CHARLES WILLIAMS (Boydell & Brewer, 1991). Unfortunately this is fairly hard to find, but you may be able to get it through Interlibrary Loan and the like.

        By the way, if you do find the Eerdmans volume, feel free to ignore Lewis's advice about his recommended order to read the poems in, which suggests mixing them together from both books. Far better, I found, to just read each book through in its entirety; the order in which the poems were written instead of their correlation to the external chronology of the Arthurian cycle. Whatever works best for you.

        Hope this helps.

        --JDR








      • Jeanette Rost
        Sorry, I forgot to address this post to John: So whichever authors I read who said that the Arthurian legend was originally French were wrong about that. And
        Message 3 of 25 , May 24 4:01 PM
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          Sorry, I forgot to address this post to John:

          So whichever authors I read who said that the Arthurian legend was originally French were wrong about that.  And frankly, I thought at the time that it sounded odd, but I've just never gotten around to hunting down the story's "pedigree."

          "I think the take-away from THE FALL OF ARTHUR might be 'don't let pride blind you to your true loyalties' " might be a sub-category under the more general category of "decency does matter."  Although "decency matters most" might be a better phrase.

          Jeanette


          On 5/24/2013 2:03 PM, John Rateliff wrote:
           


          On May 24, 2013, at 7:55 AM, Jeanette Rost wrote:
          Didn't Tolkien say that one of the reasons he wrote "The Lord of the Rings" was that England had been overrun so many times by so many enemies that her myths and legends had been lost, and so he wrote a new legend for England?  Of course, the first thing that would spring to most people's minds after reading that would be,  "But what about King Arthur?"  Although I have not researched it, I have read in several places that the Arthurian legend originated with "Le Morte d'Arthur" and is actually French, not English, which would explain why Tolkien apparently did not consider it to be the one English legend that was not lost.

          Hi Jeanette

          Actually, the Arthurian legend starts out as Welsh. Then it gets picked up in two separate strands by the French (Chretien) and English (Layamon). Tolkien is bringing both together here into a fused tradition of his own, similar to what Malory had done. So Malory's LE MORTE D'ARTHUR (1485) actually comes at the end of a long tradition, and pretty much everything in English written after it follows its lead to some extent.

          Re. Arthur and 'the Mythology for England', Tolkien was pointing out (in the Letter to Waldman) that it's hard to make Arthur an English hero since it's the English (Angles, +Saxons, + Jutes) who Arthur's fighting in the earliest versions of the story. It'd be like the English destroying the Iroquis confederation and then making Hiawatha the great American hero. And yet that's pretty much exactly what happened with the King Arthur legend: the people who embrace it are by and large descendents of Arthur's enemies. Weird, huh?


          There are definite similarities in Tolkien and the Arthurian legend - perhaps they could be reduced to "decency does matter" - but I am surprised to read that Tolkien linked his work to the Arthurian story.

          I think the take-away from THE FALL OF ARTHUR might be 'don't let pride blind you to your true loyalties'



          On May 24, 2013, at 8:43 AM, Alana Joli Abbott wrote:
          John, regarding Williams's work on Arthur, where are those poems currently in print, do you know? A quick Amazon search showed only out-of-print editions, but I may not be going about the search the right way.

          It will be interesting to compare!


          As Travis says, the Eerdmans edition is probably your best bet, via bookfinder.com or abebooks.com. This reprints the second and third of Williams' Arthurian books, TALIESSIN THROUGH LOGRES (1938) and THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS (1944), as well as the unfinished prose history/summary of the Arthurian legend (THE FIGURE OF ARTHUR) Wms was working on when he died and CSL's extensive commentary on Wms' cycle (WILLIAMS AND THE ARTHURIAD), both of which had been published under the title ARTHURIAN TORSO (1948).

          The first in the cycle, HEROES AND KINGS (1930), is more or less impossible to get (I only have a partial photocopy myself). Be warned that it includes a bondage poem (illustrated!); Wms' religiosity cd sometimes take him into strange places (cf. Lois Lang-Sims' little memoir). 

          All these, and more, are collected by David Llewellyn Dodds in a volume in the series ARTHURIAN POETS simplely called CHARLES WILLIAMS (Boydell & Brewer, 1991). Unfortunately this is fairly hard to find, but you may be able to get it through Interlibrary Loan and the like.

          By the way, if you do find the Eerdmans volume, feel free to ignore Lewis's advice about his recommended order to read the poems in, which suggests mixing them together from both books. Far better, I found, to just read each book through in its entirety; the order in which the poems were written instead of their correlation to the external chronology of the Arthurian cycle. Whatever works best for you.

          Hope this helps.

          --JDR










        • Alana Joli Abbott
          ... John, thanks for this and the further detailed comments! Very informative, and I ll definitely give a try to hunting them down. (After I ve finished doing
          Message 4 of 25 , May 24 6:07 PM
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            As Travis says, the Eerdmans edition is probably your best bet, via bookfinder.com or abebooks.com. This reprints the second and third of Williams' Arthurian books, TALIESSIN THROUGH LOGRES (1938) and THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS (1944), as well as the unfinished prose history/summary of the Arthurian legend (THE FIGURE OF ARTHUR) Wms was working on when he died and CSL's extensive commentary on Wms' cycle (WILLIAMS AND THE ARTHURIAD), both of which had been published under the title ARTHURIAN TORSO (1948).

            John, thanks for this and the further detailed comments! Very informative, and I'll definitely give a try to hunting them down. (After I've finished doing the jury reading for the MFAs of course!)

            Best,
            Alana


            --
            Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
            Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
            Regaining Home is Kickstarted! http://tinyurl.com/kickstartregaininghome
            Author of interactive novel Choice of Kung Fu http://tinyurl.com/aja-cog 
            Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
            --
            For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans
          • Mike Foster
            John Rateliff is (as usual) right. This work will be honored as one of Tolkien’s finest; it begs to be read aloud, loud aloud. In some of the best passages,
            Message 5 of 25 , May 25 6:15 PM
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              John Rateliff is (as usual) right.  This work will be honored as one of Tolkien’s finest; it begs to be read aloud, loud aloud. 
               
              In some of the best passages, one hears JRRT reading “The Ride of the Rohirrim” in George Sayer’s recordings.
               
              Because of the death of a longtime (since 1961) friend, visits of commiseration, writings eulogics, hosting visitors &c., I am only as far as canto 5.  I’m eschewing all the notes and commentary so far.
               
              Moreover, Far Westfarthing smial is reading Charles Williams’ The Place of the Lion for our May 31 meeting.  I’m up to Ch. 5.
               
              I read Tolkien, then I read Williams.
               
              Tolkien is better.
               
              Mike
               
               
               
              Sent: Friday, May 24, 2013 9:06 AM
              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Fall of Arthur
               
              John

              Yesterday thanks to a train ride to and from Cardiff to meet my Postgraduate Research supervior (Dr. Dimitra Fimi) on the progress of my Tolkien thesis I had the chance to do a complete first read of The Fall of Arthur as I travelled through 'the walls of Wales.'

              Like you John I was completly blown away by Tolkien's plans (sadly not completed) to link the poem to his mythology and the Lost Literature of Faerie.  The idea of linking Arthur (and Lancelot!) to Earende/Wingelotl and going into the West is quite interesting (love how Tolkien completely dismisses the Glastonbery element). I kept thinking of the hermit they visit before going to the west as Cirdan the Shipwright at the Grey Havens!  Also the occurance of the name Avallone in the mythology as an alternative name for Tol-Eressea around the time Tolkien was working on Fall of Arthur is quite interesting and needs more investigation (I also wonder if and how this might link to the older names Arvalin (a later name for Habbanan) as in 'the wide plains of Arvalin (Lost Tales 1, p.70) also listed in the Qenya Lexicon and if this was also an Arthurian inspired early idea - more grist for the thesis!

              The actual poem is brilliant and I find it interesting that Tolkien focuses so much on the character of Mordred (who has always been a very shadowy character - except  in the musical Camelot where he gets to sing 'The Seven Deadly Virtues.  Tolkien's Mordred seems to have a lot of the dark lord about him - he watches from towers and he goes to the East to lead an army against Arthur.  On my second read I will pay more attention to this.

              A book that was worth the wait and the commentary Christopher gives linking the poem to both the Arthurian tradition and the the ermeging mythology is invaluable.

              Second read to come this weekend!

              Best, Andy

               



              On May 24, 2013, at 07:39 AM, John Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:

               

              So, anybody else read THE FALL OF ARTHUR yet?

              Biggest surprise for me was the revelation that in it Tolkien linked up the Arthurian story to his legendarium.

              That, and his giving us in Guinevere what I think is his most negative portrayal of a female character.

              Not to mention that now we'll have to qualify statements about his depiction of the Angles and Saxons in his work by taking into account their treatment here -- at one point he has King Arthur playing pretty much the role the Romans play in Wm Morris's HOUSE OF THE WOLFINGS, wh. I wdn't have expected.

              Plus, of course, the fact that just judged as poetry there are some memorable lines (the best of which, describing Guinevere, was quoted long ago by Carpenter: "fair as fay-woman and fell-minded, in the world walking for the woe of men").

              I think this one's going to take a while for people to absorb, but once they do that it'll be judged a major work. Guess we'll see. I know I'm already looking forward to leisurely re-reading it, more slowly this time.

              --John R.

            • Travis Buchanan
              I agree about John R. also--eminently sane critic. I ve not yet received my copy of *Fall of Arthur* yet, but I ve read the heroic alliterative verse of his
              Message 6 of 25 , May 26 3:17 AM
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                I agree about John R. also--eminently sane critic. I've not yet received my copy of Fall of Arthur yet, but I've read the heroic alliterative verse of his reimagined lays for Sigurd and Gudrun. Comparing them to Williams's Arthurian poetry is almost like comparing apples and oranges, they're such different colors and tastes. But of course, literary palates often prefer one to the other.


                ​Cheers,​

                Travis


                On Sun, May 26, 2013 at 2:15 AM, Mike Foster <mafoster@...> wrote:
                 

                John Rateliff is (as usual) right.  This work will be honored as one of Tolkien’s finest; it begs to be read aloud, loud aloud. 
                 
                In some of the best passages, one hears JRRT
                ​​
                reading “The Ride of the Rohirrim” in George Sayer’s recordings.
                 
                Because of the death of a longtime (since 1961) friend, visits of commiseration, writings eulogics, hosting visitors &c., I am only as far as canto 5.  I’m eschewing all the notes and commentary so far.
                 
                Moreover, Far Westfarthing smial is reading Charles Williams’ The Place of the Lion for our May 31 meeting.  I’m up to Ch. 5.
                 
                I read Tolkien, then I read Williams.
                 
                Tolkien is better.
                 
                Mike
                 
                 
                 
                Sent: Friday, May 24, 2013 9:06 AM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Fall of Arthur
                 
                John

                Yesterday thanks to a train ride to and from Cardiff to meet my Postgraduate Research supervior (Dr. Dimitra Fimi) on the progress of my Tolkien thesis I had the chance to do a complete first read of The Fall of Arthur as I travelled through 'the walls of Wales.'

                Like you John I was completly blown away by Tolkien's plans (sadly not completed) to link the poem to his mythology and the Lost Literature of Faerie.  The idea of linking Arthur (and Lancelot!) to Earende/Wingelotl and going into the West is quite interesting (love how Tolkien completely dismisses the Glastonbery element). I kept thinking of the hermit they visit before going to the west as Cirdan the Shipwright at the Grey Havens!  Also the occurance of the name Avallone in the mythology as an alternative name for Tol-Eressea around the time Tolkien was working on Fall of Arthur is quite interesting and needs more investigation (I also wonder if and how this might link to the older names Arvalin (a later name for Habbanan) as in 'the wide plains of Arvalin (Lost Tales 1, p.70) also listed in the Qenya Lexicon and if this was also an Arthurian inspired early idea - more grist for the thesis!

                The actual poem is brilliant and I find it interesting that Tolkien focuses so much on the character of Mordred (who has always been a very shadowy character - except  in the musical Camelot where he gets to sing 'The Seven Deadly Virtues.  Tolkien's Mordred seems to have a lot of the dark lord about him - he watches from towers and he goes to the East to lead an army against Arthur.  On my second read I will pay more attention to this.

                A book that was worth the wait and the commentary Christopher gives linking the poem to both the Arthurian tradition and the the ermeging mythology is invaluable.

                Second read to come this weekend!

                Best, Andy

                 



                On May 24, 2013, at 07:39 AM, John Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:

                 

                So, anybody else read THE FALL OF ARTHUR yet?

                Biggest surprise for me was the revelation that in it Tolkien linked up the Arthurian story to his legendarium.

                That, and his giving us in Guinevere what I think is his most negative portrayal of a female character.

                Not to mention that now we'll have to qualify statements about his depiction of the Angles and Saxons in his work by taking into account their treatment here -- at one point he has King Arthur playing pretty much the role the Romans play in Wm Morris's HOUSE OF THE WOLFINGS, wh. I wdn't have expected.

                Plus, of course, the fact that just judged as poetry there are some memorable lines (the best of which, describing Guinevere, was quoted long ago by Carpenter: "fair as fay-woman and fell-minded, in the world walking for the woe of men").

                I think this one's going to take a while for people to absorb, but once they do that it'll be judged a major work. Guess we'll see. I know I'm already looking forward to leisurely re-reading it, more slowly this time.

                --John R.


              • Damien
                Hello, The comments here make me hope my own copy of the book will arrive soon. However, I ve just come across a small piece of information. As pointed out by
                Message 7 of 25 , May 30 1:05 PM
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                  Hello,

                  The comments here make me hope my own copy of the book will arrive soon.

                  However, I've just come across a small piece of information. As pointed out by Julien Mansencal, it seems the book cover of _The Fall of Arthur_ is inspired by the 13th century grave of a knight of Palays (from South-West France), now located in the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse, my hometown.

                  See: http://forum.tolkiendil.com/thread-6650-post-133433.html#pid133433

                  Of course, I'm planning to have a look — it's been a long time I haven't visited this museum. Any visiting Tolkiendil is free to join!

                  Best regards,
                  Damien


                  --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Alana Joli Abbott <alanajoli@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > As Travis says, the Eerdmans edition is probably your best bet, via
                  > > bookfinder.com or abebooks.com. This reprints the second and third of
                  > > Williams' Arthurian books, TALIESSIN THROUGH LOGRES (1938) and THE REGION
                  > > OF THE SUMMER STARS (1944), as well as the unfinished prose history/summary
                  > > of the Arthurian legend (THE FIGURE OF ARTHUR) Wms was working on when he
                  > > died and CSL's extensive commentary on Wms' cycle (WILLIAMS AND THE
                  > > ARTHURIAD), both of which had been published under the title ARTHURIAN
                  > > TORSO (1948).
                  > >
                  >
                  > John, thanks for this and the further detailed comments! Very informative,
                  > and I'll definitely give a try to hunting them down. (After I've finished
                  > doing the jury reading for the MFAs of course!)
                  >
                  > Best,
                  > Alana
                  >
                  >
                  > --
                  > Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (
                  > http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
                  > Author of *Into the Reach* and *Departure *http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
                  > *Regaining Home *is Kickstarted!* *http://tinyurl.com/kickstartregaininghome
                  > Author of interactive novel *Choice of Kung Fu* http://tinyurl.com/aja-cog
                  > Contributor to *Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror*
                  > http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
                  > --
                  > For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at
                  > http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans
                  >
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