10 Best Books About King Arthur Update 05/2022

The figure of King Arthur has been a source of inspiration for many writers for more than a thousand years. Books about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table aren’t the only thing that’s good. You can find ten of the best books about King Arthur here. They’re either fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain.

This chronicle, which was written in Latin by a Welsh monk in the 12th century, made the story of King Arthur more well known. It was a best-seller before there were any books like that. It is one of the most exciting and important medieval English books ever written. History and fiction were mixed together in the same way that popular “histories” of the time, like “Vinland sagas,” were mixed together in a way that was hard to tell.

Geoffrey’s account of the legendary king includes the first appearance of many of the things that make up the Arthurian legend, like the wizard Merlin. Gaston Paris, a nineteenth-century French scholar, thinks Geoffrey changed the Welsh word Myrddin to Merlin so that it didn’t sound like the Latin word for “faeces.”

Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot.

In fact, Geoffrey of Monmouth doesn’t even mention Lancelot. It wasn’t until Chrétien de Troyes wrote Lancelot and came up with the idea of Guinevere and Lancelot having an affair that Arthurian legend really became romantic.

Anonymous, The Mabinogion.

Even though we can’t be sure when these eleven medieval legends were first written down, we think they were first written around 1060 to 1120. Even though this would make them the oldest book on this list, they were changed over time. The Red Book of Hergest, which was written in the 14th century, was important in the development of the Mabinogion.

We don’t usually get a good look at Arthur in the Mabinogion. In “The Dream of Rhonabwy,” a story about a man who dreams he’s been back in time to King Arthur’s time, we get a closer look at the warrior-king as he plays gwyddbwyll (a Welsh board game that looks a lot like chess) with one of his followers just before the Battle of the Five Armies. So if you’re a fan of early stories about King Arthur, you should read this.

Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur.

It was one of the first books to be printed in England, by William Caxton in 1485. Le Morte d’Arthur tells the story of King Arthur and the Round Table in a lot of words. There is no way to be sure who “Sir Thomas Malory” was. The most likely candidate is the Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire, who was a career criminal and ended up in prison many times, most recently during the Wars of the Roses. He is thought to have written his classic and hugely influential work of Arthurian literature while he was in Newgate Prison, where he was imprisoned.

Malory’s work should be seen as less of a “novel” in the modern sense and more of a collection of different Arthurian legends and stories. The style can be a little repetitive and the pacing can be a little slow at times, but Malory’s work should be seen as more of a collection of different Arthurian legends and stories. And his book would have a big impact on other writers. The recommended edition below is based on the Winchester Manchester, recovered in the twentieth century.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King.

It was called “Chaucer retold for children” by T. S. Eliot, which isn’t true. Tennyson’s epic collection of verse stories about the people who appear in Arthurian myth is a Victorian classic, though it isn’t always good. Here we find the stories of Lancelot and Elaine, Geraint and Enid, Merlin and Vivien, and many more, told in Tennyson’s skilful blank verse.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Time-travel books were all the rage at the close of the nineteenth century, as H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine and William Morris’s News from Nowhere, among numerous others, suggest. For this comic novel, Twain transports an American engineer, Hank Morgan, back to the England of King Arthur, after Morgan receives a blow to the head. Big fun, it shows Twain’s humor at its best. It’s also said to have been made up by Twain himself, who dreamed of being a knight in armour that was too big for him.

T. H. White, The Once and Future King.

Beginning with The Sword in the Stone in 1938, a year after J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit came out, this series grew into a tetralogy (or a pentalogy if we include the posthumously published The Book of Merlyn). White’s books take place in “Gramarye,” which is the name he gave to his fantasy version of medieval Britain. Unlike Stewart’s series, which takes place in the immediate post-Roman world of Arthur, White’s books take place in a version of 14th-century England.

One of the other distinctive aspects of White’s series – which might be viewed as one single book like The Lord of the Rings (which it can easily stand alongside as a comparable achievement) – is his characterisation. The people who are knights don’t like Lancelot because he is ugly, and Galahad is annoying because he is too good. He is also getting older over time. That’s the opposite of how Arthur went from “the Wart” to a great king over time.

Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave.

Stewart put Arthur back in the world of Roman Britain rather than in a land of knightly chivalry and medieval pomp. This combination of fantasy and history is both memorable and winning. The Crystal Cave, which was made into a now-forgotten BBC miniseries in 1991, was written in 1970. It was made into a TV show in 1991. Stewart shows us not the old enchanter, but the boy and young man who will become a great wizard.

Alan Lupack, The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend.

A reference book rather than a work of fiction or poetry, this fat volume brings together all of the characters, stories, and storytellers under one cover. It gives the King Arthur fan useful information as they embark on a journey of discovery through Arthuriana. There’s also a long introduction to the history of “Arthur” and how Arthurian literature has changed over time.

David Day, The Search for King Arthur.

Besides Lupack’s work, this might be the best non-fiction book about King Arthur’s possible life (if he ever lived) and how he has been used in literature for centuries. It’s clear that Day knows what he’s talking about. He’s a good guide through Arthuriana, which has a lot of different twists and turns.

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