Synopsis of the Arthurian Legend

The Death of King Arthur: An Anglo-Saxon 
legend embodying the archetypes.  Recorded 
in writing by Sir Thomas Mallory as Le Morte 
de Arthur.  The story takes place about 
400 ad and is passed on by minstrels and 
storytellers until finally written down 
about 1000 ad.

Uther, Arthurís father, had a daughter by 
another mother, and this daughter's name is 
Morgan.  She studies the black arts and 
resents the fame of her half brother while she 
is unknown.  His son, Morgan Le Fays half 
brother is taken by Merlin.

Merlin hides the young Arthur with foster 
parents and sees to his upbringing, finally 
showing him the sword in the stone.  King 
Arthur pulls the sword from the Stone and 
becomes the King of Camelot.  

The sword in the stone is not Excalibur.  
It has been confused as the same in some 
movies.

Excalibur is a different sword, given to Arthur 
by the Lady of the Lake during a meeting 
between Arthur and her arranged by Merlin.

Camelot is a small kingdom on the Island of 
Britain.  The threat of Roman invasion is very 
great, so King Arthur rallies the many little 
Kingdoms of Britain to his side and goes to 
Gaul.  There, with the Lord of Joyous Gard, 
he leads the Brits and Gauls who drive the 
Romans out of Gaul.

Upon returning to Camelot he is a great hero 
as well as a King, and the other Kingdoms of 
Britain swear allegiance to Arthur, and 
Camelot becomes the center for Britain.  
Britain is unified under one King.

He is engaged to Guenevere, and is given a 
Round Table as a dowry.  The Round Table 
comes to symbolize a new form of rule, where 
there is no head, but many leaders who act by 
consensus: everyone has equal status at the 
Round Table.

The Island of Britain is united in an 
egalitarian rule by law under King 
Arthur.  One central theme of the 
legend is the perplexities Arthur must 
deal with subjecting himself to the 
same rules as all other people.

The Golden Age of Camelot ensues.  Knights 
are defenders of the weak and of justice.  
Lancelot, who is a very spiritual Knight (as are 
Tristram and Percival) who practices celibacy.  
He is always the gentleman and never has any 
relationship with Guenevere.

Morgan Le Fay uses a magic spell to 
enchant Lancelot.  This incident is 
a bane to Lancelot who believes his 
lack of spiritual clarity stems from 
his encounter with Morgan Le Fay.

She meets Lancelot and using her magic 
appears to him as Guenevere, gets him 
drunk, and seduces him.  Lancelot and her 
have a son named Galahad.  She also has a 
son by another man, and this son is named 
Mordred.  Merlin removes Galahad to 
an adopted family, while Morgan raises
Mordred. 

The son born to Lancelot by Mordred, becomes 
the embodiment of purity and truth, known as 
the White Bull.

Gareth was very special.  Gareth was one of 
Sir Gawaineís younger brothers.  Gawaine was the 
closest thing Arthur had to a brother growing 
up.  Gareth would not allow his connections to 
high and mighty people to be the cause for his 
fame, so he poses as a servant for a year and 
wins the love and respect in that time of the 
King and all the Knights of the Round Table.

Upon being knighted, he reveals who he truly 
is and explains that he concealed his identity 
so that he would not receive favoritism.  Here 
again we see the basis of an egalitarian 
philosophy where all people are equal under 
the law.  We also see the individuals to whom 
such a system is more important than their own 
self gain.

Now Galahad fully grown also becomes one
of the Knights sitting at the Round Table. 
 
One day he is at the round table with Lancelot, 
Arthur, Percival, Tristram, Gawaine and others 
when an apparition of the Holy Grail appears 
before them.  This is taken as a omen, and the 
Knights of the Round Table vow to go on the 
search for the Holy Grail.  The omen however 
marks the end of the Round Table.

King Arthur and Guenevere are very sad to 
see the Knights of the Round Table break up 
and leave on quests for over a decade.  No 
one has any fear for Camelot, for Camelot is 
safe at this time.  Arthur spends most of his 
time in Camelot, but the Round Table is not 
the same with all of his knights gone.

Many years pass.

Many Knights never return, others straggle in.  
Lancelot is sorely wounded in a jousting 
tournament and nearly dies.  Elaine, a 
princess, nurses Lancelot back to health and 
falls in love with him.  Elaine falls deeply 
in love with Lancelot, but he does not love 
her.  

She cannot accept his refection of her love 
and she refuses to drink or eat until she 
dies.  Lancelot had left to Camelot but once 
there is greeted by her funeral procession 
as a boat with her body and flowers in it 
sails past Camelot into the sea.

To many he is a hero, but the body of Elaine 
floating on a boat down the river with the 
proclamation of her death as a result of 
Lancelotís failure to return her love casts a 
shadow over his return.  Many wonder at 
how Lancelot could have rejected this 
beautiful princess and his charisma and 
fame become tainted among the populus.

Tristram and Percival also return with news 
that Galahad found the Grail and was taken 
from the earthly world unto the heavens and 
disappeared from the face of the Earth.

Things look grim for all Camelot with the 
death of so many Knights during the quest, 
the death of Elaine and the disappearance 
of Galahad.  

Gawaine is very unhappy.  Raised as King 
Arthurís brother, he has never received the 
recognition that Lancelot received.  Many have 
misgivings that the Round Table will never be 
the same.  Many people fault Lancelot for 
much of this and rumors of him and Queen 
Guenevere abound.

With all this and the tragic impact of Elaineís 
death, Lancelot leaves the Round Table 
and goes to Joyous Gard.  The book often 
deals with Lancelot's meditations, his 
psychedelic experiences while hallucinating 
during recovery from serious injuries.  
Lancelot is in his own world pursuing 
spiritual growth and cannot be bothered 
by being the center of gossip for people 
who have nothing better to do with their 
life.

The law says that an adulterous queen must 
be put to death by being burned at the stake.
With Lancelot gone, the rumors become more 
inflamed rather than dying away.  Gawaine 
convinces Arthur that he must set an example 
and abide by the law as do his subjects.
Gawaine insiste there be a trial to try 
the queen and determine if she was unfaithful.

Gawaine tells the King that suspicions will 
destroy Camelot if they are not resolved.

It is unclear who instigated these slanders 
against Guenevere, or with what agendaís, 
although it is suspected that Morgan Le Fay, 
the evil half sister to King Arthur might have 
been behind this.

The trial is held and Guenevere is judged by a 
jury to be guilty.  King Arthur fears that to 
set-aside her sentence of death by fire would 
undermine the principles of equal justice 
embodied by Camelot, so, to his incredible 
anguish, he orders her burned at the stake.

A messenger is sent to Joyous Gard telling of 
the evils going on, and Lancelot returns as the 
pyre is being prepared to burn Guenevere 
alive.  Two knights try to stop him as he 
approaches the condemned queen, and he 
knocks one down and smites the other dead.  
The two knights are Sir Gawainís brother, and 
the knight killed is Sir Gareth, beloved by all 
including the Queen and Sir Lancelot.  Sir 
Lancelot does not realize that the two knights 
he killed are Sir Gawaine's brothers and his 
dear friends.  All his is concerned with is 
rescuing the queen, unfairly condemned because 
of his love for her.

Sir Lancelot rescues the queen and removes 
her to Joyous Gard, preventing her unjust 
execution.  There they abide.  

Sir Gawaine, outraged by now, insists to King 
Arthur that he go to war with Joyous Gard.  
Sir Gawaine is bent on vengeance against 
Lancelot for the death of his brothers and 
tirelessly rabble rouses for a consensus to 
go to war against Joyous Gard in Gaul.
  
The King is glad Guenevere was saved and 
does not want to go to war.  Pressure from 
the remaining knights however forces the 
King to give in.  Again we see the principle 
of consensus win out over despotism, but 
the victory is hollow and bitter.  
Camelot musters all remaining knights who take 
to their ships and sail to war against 
Joyous Gard.

The war is fruitless and many die.  King Arthur, 
Sir Lancelot, and Sir Gawain do not.  To 
prevent further deaths of good men, King 
Arthur and Sir Lancelot agree to fight each 
other alone.

For three days King Arthur and Sir Lancelot 
fight alone while their armies watch, and each 
time Sir Lancelot spares the life of King Arthur 
after long duels lasting the entire day.  
Lancelot tells the King each day that he has 
sworn allegiance to him and cannot kill him.
Here we see Lancelots contempt for war and 
needless deaths as he willingly makes his 
life the one on the line.  King Arthur is 
also unwilling to see his subjects die killing 
those who have fought by their side and been 
their friends for so long, so, too, King 
Arthur is willing to die rather than suffer 
seeing the slaughter of his friends.

Then, while King Arthur and his armies are 
camped outside Joyous Gard, in the evening 
of the third day of their personal battles, a 
messenger from Camelot informs the King and 
his Knights that Mordred, the Kingís Sisterís 
son, has invaded and taken over Camelot.

King Arthur and his army leave Joyous Gard 
that night to return to Britain.  As they set 
ground on the shores, they are met by the 
armies of Mordred.  Already exhausted, 
dwindled and wounded, the knights of the 
Round Table fight valiantly.

King Arthur and his army are anihilated, but 
the evil Mordred and his minions fare no 
better.

Sir Lancelot hearing what has happened, and 
despite the recent war waged on him by the 
Knights of the Round Table, takes his armies 
and departs Joyous Gard for Camelot to 
defend the King. 

When Lancelot arrives there is little left.  
Mordred is dead at the hand of King Arthur, 
and King Arthur is wounded and about to die.  
Camelot is secured and Mordredís remaining 
legions driven off.  The remaining Knights 
return to their own castles and the Order of the 
Knights of the Round Table is disbanded.

Dying, King Arthur charges Lancelot to take 
Excalibur and return the sword to the lady 
of the Lake.  King Arthur then dies and 
Sir Lancelot fulfills his dying request.

Sir Lancelot returns to Joyous Gard and 
tells Queen Guenevere of the evils befallen 
Camelot.  Queen Guenevere leaves Joyous 
Gard and lives out the rest of her life 
in a nunnery.  Sir Lancelot lays down his 
sword forever and moves into a monastary 
where he lives out his life as a monk.

Such is the Legend.  Known as "Le Morte de 
Arthur", meaning the Death of Arthur.  This 
legend was passed down by word of mouth 
until finally written down in French by Sir 
Thomas Mallory, and later translated into 
English.

4/28/1998


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California
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