Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Top 5 Arthurian Works

5.  The Once and Future King

In my opinion, the most comprehensive undertaking of the entire tale of Arthur since Malory (Tennyson's Idylls was a runner-up).

T.H. White writes with great attention to detail and knowledge of the customs and literary sources of Le Morte D'Arthur.

And his portrayal of evil, innocence, and dissolution is striking and intimate.

4.  That Hideous Strength

Influenced by the poetry cycles of is friend Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis's third book in his space-science trilogy builds around Logres, the Pendragon, the druid Merlin, and the prophecy of Arthur's return.

This is one of my favorite books of all time, period.

Lewis's depiction of Merlin demonstrates the not-quite-complete transition from the ancient fallen world to the redeemed one and resonates with the sense of something "passing away" that, in my opinion, characterizes all great tales (The Lord of the Rings, Brideshead Revisited, etc.).

3.  Le Morte D'Arthur

Malory took the time to gather from multiple sources, probably writing from memory since he was imprisoned at the time.   

Le Morte can be likened to the Bible of Arthurian literature.  It's full to the brim with just-beneath-the-surface symbolism and mythological subtleties that keep readers of every new generation coming back to Arthur's legends.
artist unknown, found here

2.  Sir Gawain and the Greene Knight

The quintessential Arthurian quest, with a healthy dose of mystery, honor, and redemption.

The author is unknown, but Tolkien's translation is especially delightful.

1.  The Anathemata

W.H. Auden called this work by David Jones "very probably the finest long poem in English in this century."

I regard it a sequel, an answer, and a successor to T.S. Eliot's Waste Land.

He successfully takes on and gives form to the profound mystery at the heart of every (Arthurian included) legend.

Truly awesome, in the old sense of the word.

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