References to King Arthur in Popular Culture and Film

The legend of King Arthur and his knights is one of the best known stories in Western culture. Regardless of the actual historicity of Arthur, the various stories associated with the figure have become a touch stone of lost causes and golden ages cut short.

The first full account of Arthur’s life was written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his semi-historical “History of the Kings of Britain” was finished in 1138. The French and English minstrels and poets of the later 12th Century added many of the more familiar elements of the Arthurian milieu, such as characters of Lancelot, Percival and Galahad and stories such as the Quest for the Holy Grail and Green Knight.

There are literally hundreds of references to various elements of the story in popular culture, it would beimpossible to list them all in this space.

In recent books:

“The Once and Future King” series by T. H. White which include “The Sword and the Stone” published in 1938.

“The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights” by John Steinbeck is a retelling of the Arthur story. Published in 1972.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” published in 1982 tells the Arthur legend from a feminist point of view with Morgan le Fay becoming the heroine of the tale.

“The Warlord Chronicles” written by Bernard Cornwell is a trilogy of books that mixes historical fiction with the legendary elements.

Helen Hollick’s “The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy” published between 2007 and 2009, retells the story but jettisons all the mythic elements for a straight historical fiction telling.

In Movies:

The 1953 film “Knights of the Round Table” stars Robert Taylor as Lancelot, Ava Gardner as Guinevere and Mel Ferrer as Arthur.

1981’s “Excalibur” directed by John Boorman is arguably the best of the serious Arthur films; it is dark, brooding and lyrical.

The same cannot be said for 1995’s “First Knight” starring Richard Gere and Sean Connery, which received at best a mixed reaction.

“King Arthur” released in 2004 had no magical or mythical elements, instead was a telling of one of the theorized sources of the Arthur legend; a Roman commander named Artorius that stays behind when the Roman Legions leave Britain in the 500s AD.

“The Last Legion” also tells the same basic story of “King Arthur” with a Roman commander fleeing to Britain with the last Roman Emperor and establishing a Romano-British dynasty.

Of course “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is a comic retelling of the legend featuring the British comedy troop “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Others of note:

“Camelot 3000” is a graphic novel where the Knights of the Round Table are reincarnated to battle an alien invasion of Earth.


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