Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thrice-Told Tales: Rex quondam, Rexque futurus.

Here lies Arthur; King who was, King who will be.
--The Once and Future King

One of my favorite takes on the Arthurian legend is  Gerald Morris's Squire's Tales series. Over the course of ten books, readers are introduced to a new perspective on characters ranging from Gawain and Lancelot to side characters like Enid, Sir Kai, Culwich, and Gaheris. In fact, when I took classic literature in college, I recognized several of the more obscure legends from these books. The author has also created several  memorable and realistic side characters, ranging from Gawain's squire Terrance to orphaned Sarah. The last book, Legend of the King, is a tearjerker of the highest degree, because I know all the characters.

Another interesting series is Mary Stewart's Arthurian quartet. It attempts to take a more historically accurate stance on history--the first novel opens with twelve-year-old Merlin, a bastard, living in Roman ruins and eventually traveling to join Ambrose's army.  Some of the sexual scenes are too detailed for young readers, though it doesn't go far beyond saying two characters are naked in a bed, if I remember correctly.

Finally, the Dark is Rising series brings the Arthurian legends full circle, when the once and future king returns to lead the ancient forces of Light to victory over the Dark. The first two books focus more on the modern day, but the Arthurian element strengthens in latter books with the introduction of Bran.

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