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Veracity of Arthur

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  • David S Bratman
    An expectation that Arthurian stories should have some historical veracity seems to me a vain hope. Arthur as we know him is fictional: there s nothing for
    Message 1 of 31 , Jan 1, 2003
      An expectation that Arthurian stories should have some historical veracity
      seems to me a vain hope. Arthur as we know him is fictional: there's
      nothing for him to be veracious to.

      The classic image of Arthur, the one held e.g. by most Victorian depictions
      of him, was based on Malory. Malory wrote in the 15th century, had no
      concept of Arthurian times being culturally different from his own, and
      depicted idealized 15th-century knights. That remained the model for most
      Arthurian depictions down to a couple decades ago, though in practice the
      image of the high classic Arthurian court is more 14th-century. T.H.
      White's _Once and Future King_ is straightforwardly set in an alternate
      universe high late Middle Ages.

      As the tiny historical core of Arthur - there are bare records of the
      existence of a British war-leader of that name - is post-Roman, 5th
      century, there's been a fad in the last couple decades for Arthurian novels
      set in post-Roman times. But since these authors have to make up most of
      it too, Arthur is still fictional. To set Arthur in the 5th century is not
      veracity, it's an artistic choice. Arthur is not located in a particular
      time except by preference of the author; nor is he necessarily set in a
      particular place, as possible Camelots and other Arthurian sites
      proliferate all over Britain, some in direct conflict with one another
      (e.g. birthplaces, Camelots, Badon Hills, etc.), and Geoffrey of Monmouth -
      the first fiction-writer to deal with Arthur at length - had him conducting
      a major military campaign on the European continent.

      As the legendary Arthur is said to be sleeping and will return, it's
      possible to write Arthurian stories set in the present or future, and this
      has been done too: many of the best humorous Arthurian novels use this
      premise, as do serious ones.

      - David Bratman
    • John Davis
      Thanks everyone! John ... From: Darrell A. Martin To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Friday, March 25, 2011 10:45 PM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Shelob ... Hi:
      Message 31 of 31 , Mar 28, 2011
        Thanks everyone!
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Friday, March 25, 2011 10:45 PM
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Shelob


        On 3/25/2011 9:25 AM, Troels Forchhammer wrote:
        > On 25 March 2011 14:51, <aveeris523@... <mailto:aveeris523@...>>
        > wrote:
        > In a message dated 3/25/11 6:09:24 AM, john@...
        > <mailto:john@...> writes:
        > Did any of the Free Peoples know about Shelob before Sam and
        > Frodo encountered her? Gandalf, perhaps, or Faramir since he
        > spent much time in Ithilien?
        > That's an interesting question John; the orcs certainly did! I'll
        > check _LOTR: A Reader's Companion_, Hammond & Scull.
        > My impression is that people had certainly known /about/ Shelob (hence
        > the name of the pass, the Pass of the Spider) but the specifics had been
        > forgotten, leaving it to simply 'have a bad name'. Unless I misremember,
        > there is somewhere a hint that Gandalf might have told Frodo more about
        > the pass and its name.
        > /Troels


        Faramir told Frodo that when the name Cirith Ungol was brought up to the
        old loremasters, they were frightened by it and refused to discuss it.
        In the same conversation he mentioned that the young men of Gondor no
        longer ventured east of the Ithilien road.

        Clearly, among the old and learned the meaning of Cirith Ungol was still
        known, at the time of the War of the Ring. But the details were not
        discussed, and none of Faramir's generation had any experience of the pass.

        I think it is a bit of a stretch to think Frodo would have automatically
        translated "Cirith Ungol" to "mountain pass where one or more giant
        spiders currently live". Yes, he *could* have thought that, or suspected
        it (and perhaps he did). Regardless, however, Gollum was right when he
        said that if Master wanted to enter Mordor, he had to go some way, and
        that no way was safe; and Frodo was right when he rejected the idea of
        going back to the Black Gate and surrendering on the spot. Damn the
        spiders, full speed ahead.


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