King Arthur of the Arthurian legends is one of the most unique characters in the history of literature. Since he has been depicted by a variety of writers, there is more than a single description of his personality. The Arthur we know is actually a conglomerate of many different interpretations of one character. For this [ ]. Essays and criticism on T. H. White's The Once and Future King - The Once and Future King. Feb 28, · The Once and Future King, or King Arthur, is a legend that is, despite its age, known by all. Everyone has heard of King Arthur and his loyal knights that make up the Round Table, but the rest of the famous legend is less known. Essays for The Once and Future King The Once and Future King literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Once and Future King. The book, once and future king explores the life of Arthur Wart. It gives an outline of his childhood, life into adulthood and even his marriage and leadership roles. He is an adopted son of a magician called Merlyn who is a foreteller.
The once and future king The once and future king 7 July Literature King Arthur of the Arthurian legends is one of the most unique characters in the history of literature. Since he has been depicted by a variety of writers, there is more than a single description of his personality. The Arthur we know is actually a conglomerate of many different interpretations of one character.
We will write a custom essay sample on The once and future king or any similar topic specifically for you Do Not Waste HIRE WRITER The earliest Arthurian Legends which are also some of the earliest medieval works, describe King Arthur as the traditional Anglo-Saxon war hero; but as the time goes by, and the medieval people start to admire different things, he evolves into a different kind of hero, a chivalric one.
Thus, over time, the image of King Arthur has changed from that of an epic hero to one of a symbol of chivalry- this is apparent with the difference in characteristic depiction of King Arthur in the early story of Brut and a later legend, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, here there is a noticeable change in his personality. The earliest depiction of King Arthur was that of a fierce warrior-king, brutal and unforgiving.
The early medieval kings were warlords who surrounded themselves with nobles and knights- called thanes, and protected their lands from foreign invaders through bloody wars and battles. In reality, these early legends were the Anglo-Saxon cultural perspective of King Arthur.
One example of such an Anglo-Saxon view of King Arthur is Brut by Layamon, a British priest; in his poem, he describes Arthur as a savage and fierce warrior, an object of dread to friend and enemy, an epic hero. This is evident in Brut- where in one of his speeches where Arthur curses his enemies, wanting to crush them all: I will slaughter both Colgrim and Baldof, and all their followers shall suffer death. If life might endure in my breast, [… ] never again shall Childric deceive me!
Such is his anger that King Arthur wishes for the death of not only his enemies but also of all his followers; he even voices his regret of not having cut them to pieces, and wishes to kill them with his own sword.
Akin to Beowulf -who with his strength, firmness and pride was the quintessential Anglo-Saxon warrior and champion- King Arthur is the ideal warrior-king. Eventually as literature progressed towards the heart of the Medieval Era, King Arthur evolved from an epic hero to a symbol of chivalric virtues of Camelot.
He was no longer known as the brave and strong defender of the British, but as the virtuous upholder of all chivalric values in the great court at Camelot.
Contradicting the early medieval stories which revolved around King Arthur, these middle Arthurian Legends portray the king as a minor character whose presence is only felt indirectly as a representative of a chivalry and excellency. This is apparent in the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where Arthur is but a role model for all the knights when it comes to courtly behavior. The knights regard him with a reverence for his lordly ways.
When the Green Knight rudely interrupts their feast by barging into their dining hall, all of them remain silent, in anger and in dread, while King Arthur welcomes him graciously as it is seen in the following excerpt from the poem: Even though this intruder has disturbed his celebratory feast, he does not lose his temper, instead he follows the first rule of chivalry — hospitality.
In this way we see how King Arthur has unmatched manners in the court of Camelot- this is the most distinguished factor about him in this story, as the main focus of this legend is on Sir Gawain and his quest. Thus, King Arthur is greatly admired by his Knights because they still thought of him as the fearless king of old and also because of his valiant and courtly behavior.
This fact greatly impacts most stories of this time because Arthur has a great influence over the Knights of Camelot and most of these stories follow their bold and daring quests. Even if the king, in these legends, seems removed from the thick of the plot line, his presence is still felt from afar, as a social force — for it has already been established that the Knights admired and imitated his social manner and his lordly ways.
This remote influence, too, can be observed in the story of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight where King Arthur is neither the the protagonist of the story nor the source of all action, but is the highest authority and the inspiration for Sir Gawain to take up the challenge posed by the Green Knight.
This further establishes the fact that King Arthur is not the main character of the story, as it is Sir Gawain who is the one who actually undertakes the quest. Thus, in this legend, and many others written during this time period, King Arthur turns into a minor character —in sharp contrast to the earlier legends which depicted him as the brave warrior at the head of his armies in every battle—he is no longer the main character but his presence is still felt as a significant influence for Sir Gawain to take up this quest.
However, as discussed before, the Knights of Camelot, including Gawain, greatly admired Arthur for his chivalric ideals and manner.
So it can be said that in the minds of them of the Round Table, King Arthur is simply a personification of all the values of chivalry which they want to uphold as knights. Sir Gawain especially looks to Arthur as a symbol of all knightly or chivalric virtues.
This confirms the fact that Sir Gawain, and all the other knights use King Arthur as a reassurance, feeling that if they had the values of the king, they could do anything; for they has faith in King Arthur and his Round Table, in the chivalric values of Camelot. Therefore, from these examples present in the story if Sir Gawain and The Green Knight we can conclude that the Knights of the Round Table idolized King Arthur not because he was a warrior-king but because he was, to them, the embodiment of all the honorable values of being a knight.
As we can see, there are many subtle differences between the two interpretations of King Arthur in the stories of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and Brut.
In the early legends Arthur is described as the fearless warrior-king, the defender of the Britons whereas the later legends depict him as a virtuous leader and the role model for all the Knights of Camelot.
In the early legend of Brut, King Arthur is an epic hero- he is the protagonist of the story. The legends of that era revolved around Arthur and his battles. As seen in the story Brut, he is unforgiving and blood thirsty; his thoughts are set on winning and bringing down his enemies rather than trying to settle the conflicts peacefully. This is in contrast to the King Arthur of the later legends, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, who welcomes armed strangers into his castle.
In the beginning of this story, when the Green Knight barges into the feast at Camelot on his horse, Arthur welcomes him warmly and invites him to dinner instead of getting insulted and punishing him. He comes across as easygoing and very level headed. Thus, in the later legends, King Arthur-who was a symbol of chivalric virtues and courtly manners- controlled his emotions and remained unruffled when he was challenged.
This characteristic of the chivalric King Arthur is distinctly different from the earlier perspectives of him in such legends as Brut. He smote Borel the earl right through the breast, So that his heart was split. Arthur cried at once: Now the Lord help you! In this way we can see that the characteristic depiction of King Arthur has evolved over time from a fearless battle hero to a chivalric and virtuous ruler.
The once and future king
The early Arthurian legends such as Brut, which were written when poems like Beowulf were popular, described Arthur as an epic hero. But as the time passed by and the virtues of chivalry came into being, the Arthurian legends of that time, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, started to reflect the social focus and began to depict Arthur as an expert in chivalrous values.
The tales of King Arthur have been shaped and reshaped according to the teller of the story. There is not just one perfect depiction of King Arthur, his character is a combination of many perspectives of him.
It can be altered to adapt with the times as it has adapted through the Medieval Era.