Arthur (was Re: Help wanted: arthurian novels)
mechagodscylla at hotmail.com
Sat Sep 27 14:33:39 EDT 2003
Pardon the delay in replying - my family was visiting this week and it was
Minnow wrote (snip):
Drabble's (1985) *Oxford Companion to English Literature* you will find "He
is a relatively late development in the English Arthurian tradition, not
appearing at length before the 14th cent., although the story of his love
for Guinevere is the subject of Chretien de Troyes' "Lancelot" (c 1170s)"
-- perhaps Drabble thinks Chretien de Troyes wasn't really an *English*
writer? (Thinks: maybe Drabble has a point. Troyes, Suffolk? Troyes, nr.
Birmingham? Nah; not in my gazeteer...) Harvey's earlier edition (1937
second edition) of the same work starts the entry "Launcelot of the Lake,
appears only late in the series of English Arthurian romances, though he is
the subject of a great French prose-work..." So one can see why Elise
might get the idea that "late" and "Launcelot" are linked, if she consulted
the standard sources for information on English (as opposed to French)
Just so! But my concern did not have to do with my own feelings or
preferences regarding canon or folklore, but with my willingness to go along
with what the author of whatever fiction work I am reading, in this case
Cornwells Arthur retelling, seems to be setting out to do.
In this instance, it seemed to me that Cornwells jumping off point for his
retelling was the question, What if Arthur was a real figure in post-Roman
Britain, a warlord/or dux bellorum who fought the Saxons? And then he was
off from the starting gate telling this story, envisioning this what if,
at a ripping pace.
Half way through, along comes Lancelot.
What his *he* doing here? I asked myself. I didnt think it was that
kind of story at all.
Actually, its lucky this question came up. It was my husband who gave me
these books, and I dont think I ever mentioned to him why I left off
reading. I was explaining my curious notions to him the other day, and it
led to a renewal of my interest in re-reading and finishing the books.
Its not that I dont like a story that, for example, sets out to ask,
What if they had steam power and railroads in Ancient Rome? Thats fine.
Im all for the asking and answering of that question and any number of
others. But if the what if question is, What was it like to be
Claudius, then I am irked if, half way through, it is revealed that there
are steam engines and railroads in this story. I feel as if the author is
switching horses in midstream.
But Cornwell addressed this very question of Lancelot being in his story in
his Afterword, said my husband.
Theres an Afterword?
Yes, he wrestled with that very thing and explained his reasons for
including Lancelot. And besides, he has Lancelot as a Bad Guy. Hes a
Really? Darling! How long have we foolishly misunderstood each other? If
only I had confided sooner!
And here I draw the veil across this scene of domestic amity, renewed and
refreshed, and all thanks to Robyns students.
It is my personal opinion that Elise has some justification for her view.
I do not say, as she does not, that this view must be shared by everyone
I wouldnt think of suggesting it. Nor am I even suggesting that an author
should not switch horses in midstream, only that this reader might not
finish the book.
obDWJ, she doesn't use Lancelot in *Hexwood*. She has Bedevere, Bors,
Arthur, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, a good selection of the Old Gang, but not
Lancelot. He simply wouldn't fit, would he?
Hes not part of her What if, is he?
I don't: that would be for DWJ to do -- she says, Wulf is Wotan/Odin, and
why shouldn't she put him in if she wants to, since he seemed to fit like
pounds shillings and ounces? (I forgot to ask about Fitela because they
came and demanded blood from me at that point and we got distracted.)
Thats just it its just a question of fit. If the author knows it fits,
whether by intuition or through reason or some mixture of the two, then it
will come through in the work, and thats enough for me to enjoy the story.
And since my days of studying literature are behind me, enjoyment is my
P.s. hope your thrombosis is sorted, Minnow.
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