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King Arthur is one of, if not the, most legendary icons of medieval Britain.His popularity has lasted centuries, mostly thanks to the numerous incarnations of his story that pop up time and time again.
Indeed, his is one of the most enduring stories of all time.
Though his tale is rooted in the fifth and sixth centuries, it has continued to captivate audiences to this very day.
They offer the reassurance that doing the morally right thing is valuable, even if it may bring about temporary defeat.
In the end, virtues and values prevail and it is these enduring features of the legends that have kept them alive in the hearts and minds of so many through the centuries.
The Arthurian revival of the late 19th century, for example, helped put him back on the international cultural map by removing the historical aura, and emphasising the values he stood for – a far cry from the medieval attempts to utilise him as a national figure from whom medieval kings could derive their right to rule.
This paved the way to the fantasy worlds created, most famously, by T. White in The Once and Future King, published in 1958.
He emerges in the sixth century in the work of the Welsh monk Gildas, where his victory at Mount Badon is celebrated, but he is not named.
It is only in the ninth century Historia Brittonum, composed by another monk, Nennius, that Arthur is named as a “dux bellorum”, a military commander, and his 12 battles are listed.
With Bangor University’s new Centre for Arthurian Studies just launched a fortnight ago, and Guy Ritchie’s new movie, King Arthur: the Legend of the Sword, due to be released in late spring, there is no doubt both the scholarly search for Arthur and the impact of his legends on modern culture are continuing to flourish.
Arthur’s life story is one that has become almost a standard for knightly heroes to aspire to.