This is a new weekly post where I'll talk about the episodes released that week. I'll discuss my thoughts, talk about sources, and present some corrections and elaborations. This week: we return to the world of King Arthur.
The story of the legendary King Arthur, from just after when he pulled the sword from the stone. Though he's in his late-teens or early-twenties, he is not taken seriously by his barons or petty kings, who revolt almost immediately. Less than one year into his reign, he is hiding behind the walls of a castle waiting for the best moment to escape, all while Merlin stands atop the wall shooting fire at the armies assembled out front.
The creature of the week is the Mahaha, and you'll see yet another reason why you shouldn't trust the blue shirtless man wanting to tickle you.
Back to King Arthur
We have finally come back around to the world of King Arthur. These three episodes will take us from when he pulled the sword out of the stone to when he gets married to Guinevere, inherits the Round Table, and establishes that legendary order of knights.
In all honesty, I was a bit hesitant to do this episode. I really wanted to tell the story of Lancelot now. The original Lancelot comes from the same source as the story of Yvain I told all the way back in the beginning, but it's even better. I figured I couldn't tell the story of Lancelot without mentioning Guinevere first, and to mention Guinevere means I must mention Arthur. To mention Arthur means I should probably address how he got from a kid in his late teens pulling a sword from a stone to the undisputed ruler of England (and in some places the not-at-all-historical ruler of the Western Roman Empire). And...here we are.
Then I really got into the stories. I was always fascinated that when Arthur came to power, no one wanted him there. He fell into by accident (or providence) and suddenly had to deal with barons and petty kings who very much thought they had every right to be high king. There's also the Questing Beast, the tragedy that is the infant Mordred's life, and the story of Balin and Balan. The last involves an invisible knight, (yet another) magical sword, and the Lady of the Lake showing up to make some impossible demands. These three episodes will be fantastic.
Needless to say, there were some dots to connect between the sword in the stone and Lancelot, and I found that I was very excited to do so.
The bones of this story largely come from Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, with some large portions drawn from the French Vulgate Cycle (the battle where Arthur gets badly beaten by Lot, for one). I'm moving away from Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain. While an excellent source for the lives of Vortigern and Uther, that one doesn't really help us much for Arthur's early life. No mention is made of the sword in the stone or any of his early battles. Arthur wasn't given away in that version, but just raised as the son of Uther. His first battles weren't against English barons and kings, but against the Saxons. There are other sources, like Roman de Brut, the Prose Merlin, and more, but the sources mentioned above are the main ones I used for this episode.
Personally, I really liked telling the story of how Arthur went from the fifteen-year-old kid who pulled the sword from the stone to the legendary king that fought Romans and drove the Saxons out of England. I also liked seeing Kay stand by his side. He'll come up again and again, and while he is pretty annoying to everyone, he does stick by his brother. And, of course, we had to talk about Mordred. He's the one who may just bring it all crashing down, and Arthur must make a terrible choice next episode. You'll see him grapple with the true cost of peace and safety for his people.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this week's episode. I was pleasantly surprised by it, even though some small last-minute edits ended up with me re-writing/re-recording nearly 1/3 of the episode the night it came out. Next week's episode tells some of the best stories I've found.
Elaborations and Errata
This is a section where I'll elaborate on things and talk about corrections to the stories.
- I referred to Caerleon as a town, city, and a fort. Remember that Caerleon was the place where Arthur was besieged by Lot and where he spent a month with Lot's wife after the war. The stories mention a keep there, and there is some evidence of a Roman fortress (the name Caerleon is possibly Welsh for "fortress of the legion") as well as an Iron Age hill fort. In the Middle Ages it became an important town for a few kingdoms. Here are some pictures of the Roman remains in Caerleon today, but the circular ones were actually of an amphitheater, not the fort.
- Morgause's sons include none other than Gawain, one of the best soon-to-be knights on King Arthur's court. In addition, another king that was among the rebels was King Urien. We've met his son as well - our very own Yvain, the knight with the lion, from episodes 1A-1C. If you remember, he ended up fighting Gawain by accident.
- I gave the most commonly-accepted description of the Questing Beast, but there are variations to that as well. We'll go more into its sad, sad origins next week.
- See this description on the distinction between petty kings v. high kings.
- Here's one site on the Mahaha, the creature this week. It has some pictures that I can't show here because they are copyrighted.
The music credits:
“Far from Home” by Ketsa | “Floor Shine” by Blue Dot Sessions | “Pl4y1ng” by Rolemusic | “Wounds” by Ketsa | “Denzel Sprak” by Blue Dot Sessions | “Sunset” by Kai Engel | “Springtime” by Poddington Bear | “Forgetfulness” by Ketsa
What did you think of the episode? Have any corrections or addtions? Let me know in the comments!