Arthurian Fantasy

July 11, 2009 at 1:21 am | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

The story of King Arthur, Merlin, his knights and every other aspect of the legend has fascinated and resonated with people for centuries. After Epic Fantasy, Arthurian Fantasy is a large subgenre of Fantasy fiction. Books and stories in this area have some aspect of the legend of King Arthur in them. These books and stories can be retellings of the legend, focused on different characters or elements that appear in the modern day. Many authors have mined the King Arthur myth for stories. Some with great success and some have failed. Arthurian literature stretches back to the time of the Medieval romance. There have been many books in the last fifty years using this material. It seems almost every modern Fantasy author must write an Arthurian novel or story. (I’m no exception, working on a novel now.)

Some of the books tell the story from the viewpoints of different characters or are about different characters. Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley tells the story from the point of view of the women. In this story we get the story from Morgaine and Guinivere with a pagan versus Christian clash of beliefs. This is a complex novel that remains with readers for a long time. Mary Stewart’s The Wicked Day gives us Mordred’s story through his eyes. The book follows him through his life until the final battle portraying a sympathetic character that had little choice with his life.

We have other books where Arthurian elements and charactrers appear in contemporary times. Excalibur by Sanders Anne Laubenthal takes place in Mobile, Alabama with the quest for Excalibur. Arthur and Gawain are reborn in our world to fight for the possession of the Grail in The Forever Knight by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy. Tim Powers wrote a book, The Drawing of the Dark, which brings humor to a fantasy with Arthurian elements.

One of the most prevalent characters in Arthurian Fantasy is Merlin. The mysterious, powerful magician, prophet and mentor of King Arthur has permeated many books; there is even a TV miniseries about him titled “Merlin” that was made several years ago. Merlin’s story is told well in the trilogy: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart. He appears in many other works such as Kingdom of the Grail by Judith Tarr that includes his as part of the story of Roland.

Arthurian Fantasy also appears in other works. There are collections of short stories in anthhologies like Excalibur and Camelot Fantastic. Young Adult novels also use the King Arthur story. T.A. Barron writes about the teenage years of Merlin in a series of books beginning with The Lost Years of Merlin. A new British TV series called “Merlin” has the characters meeting in their teen years and provides a different story of the legend.

As can be seen, there are many books using the story of King Arthur. An exhaustive list would take pages to talk about so here is a list of a few other book to check out:

The Forest House by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Broken Sword by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy

Merlin’s Bones by Fred Saberhagen

King Arthur by Mike Ashley: This is a very good source book with almost everything about King Arthur.

The Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt

Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw
Kingdom of Summer by “
In Winter’s Shadow by “

The Green Knight by Vera Chapman
The King’s Damosel by “
King Arthur’s Daughter by “

Arthurian Fantasy is large subgenre of Fantasy that continues to grow every year with new books, movies and TV series. King Arthur and the Matter of Britain will continue to live on as long as Fantasy exists as a genre, enriching the story with new views from talented authors. Readers will continue to explore the legend of King Arthur and be entertained by the story for ages to come.

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