Nearly every boy or girl in America has heard of the Arthurian legend, which "concerns King Arthur of Briton, his realm, and the Knights of his inner circle."ÃÂ(Arthurian Legend) According to legend, King Arthur brought peace and happiness to his realm and was one of the greatest kings the world had ever known. Nonetheless, as great as he was, he was only a man and made a few mistakes. These mistakes eventually led to the downfall of his spectacular kingdom.
The story of King Arthur begins "when King Uther Pendragon falls in love with a married woman, Ygraine."ÃÂ(Arthurian Legend) By using the magic of Merlin, an essential character in the legend, Uther changes his appearance to that of Ygraine's husband. Thus Arthur is born. Later Ygraine's husband dies and the two marry. By Merlin's command Arthur is taken from Ygraine and raised by Sir Hector as a squire to Sir Kay, Hectors son.
Arthur is never told of his royal heritage and when King Uther dies there is no one to succeed to the throne.
Next, "Merlin says that God has placed a great stone in front of a cathedral, with an anvil on top of it, and a sword stuck in it."ÃÂ(Arthurian Legend) On the sword it says that whoever can pull the sword from the stone is the rightful king of England. Many men try to pull out the sword, but fail. One day as Arthur is looking for a sword for Sir Kay, he spots the sword in the stone and yanks it free, having no idea what he's just done.
He takes the sword back to Kay, but is shocked as Kay explains to him the significance of the sword. Although he is made to pull it out many times by nonbelievers, he is later proclaimed King of England.
As King, Arthur rids England of it's enemies and sets up the Round Table. The Round Table is given to Arthur by King Leodegrance of Cameliard, as a wedding gift for Arthur's marriage to his daughter, Guinevere. There are one-hundred-and-fifty seats on the Round Table for the country's greatest knights. Arthur is also advised by Merlin the magician, who receives credit for "the transportation of Stonehenge from Mount Killaraus in Ireland to it's current resting place on Salisbury plain."ÃÂ(The Quest) Arthur is also given the magical sword Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake, which brings him great victories. During this time, "Adventure and quests are important to knights and chivalry."ÃÂ(Arthurian Legend) However, the time of peace and unity are short lived, as Arthur being only human makes a few major mistakes during his reign. One of these mistakes was the conception of Arthur's illegitimate son Mordred, by his half sister, Morgouse. Although some stories say that he never knew it was his sister or that he was under a spell, the point is that Arthur gave into the temptation of Morgouse, a woman he hardly knew. Which later turns to disaster as Mordred, "tries to seize the throne"ÃÂ(Arthurian Legend) Another of Arthur's mistakes was the quest for the Holy Grail. "The Holy Grail is considered, usually, to be the cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper and used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch his blood as he hung from the cross"ÃÂ(Camelot Project) During this quest for the Holy Grail many of Arthur's best knights leave and some are hurt or even killed, leaving Arthur's realm short of honorable defenders. The quest was tried by many knights including Gawain and Lancelot, but because neither was completely pure of heart they were not allowed to find it. Although Sir Percival and Sir Bors accompany him, Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot's illegitimate son, is the only knight that finds it.
However, possibly the greatest of King Arthur's mistakes is allowing the love affair between his queen, Guinevere, and the greatest knight and best friend of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot to grow. "Sir Lancelot is the son of King Ban of Benwick, known as Lancelot of the Lake, because he was raised by the Lady of the Lake. Among his adventures include the rescue of Guinevere from Meleagant, the failed search for the Holy Grail, and rescuing Guinevere, when she is condemned to be burned on the stake for adultery."ÃÂ(The Quest) The Queen and Lancelot are eventually caught in the act, and although Lancelot escapes, Guinevere is caught. Because of Arthur's responsibilities as king, he is forced to burn her at the stake. To Arthur's secret delight, Lancelot returns to save Guinevere, but in the process, accidentally kills two of Sir Gawain's brothers.
Gawain demands that Lancelot be punished for his crimes, and Arthur must wage a war against him splitting the united country in half. During this time, while Arthur is away, Mordred tries to siege the throne and take control. There are few knights left, partly because of the quest for the Holy Grail, who can bring peace to the war within the kingdom, that eventually leads to Arthur's demise.
Although Arthur manages to make peace with Lancelot, and together defeat Mordred, he pays with his life, and "throws the sword Excalibur back into the lake."ÃÂ(Arthurian Legend) This signifies the end of his miraculous reign over England.
This great king who surrounded himself with great men, such as Merlin, Lancelot, and Gawain, could not achieve the perfection he needed to hold together his perfect kingdom.
Through Arthur's legendary tragedy we realize that nothing lasts forever, no matter how great a leader.
Works Cited "Arthurian Legend"ÃÂ Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000.
December 11, 2000 http.//encarta.msn.com "Camelot project"ÃÂ January 2, 2001 www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/cphome.stm "The Quest"ÃÂ January 4, 2001 www.uidaho.edu/student_orgs/arthurian_legend/welcome.html