Friday, July 16, 2010

The Hunt Begins

First, a litle housekeeping for anyone following me: I can see what people say about blogging taking over your life! Hopefully now that I've got my site set up I can settle back to my writing. I'm planning to post on Tuesdays and Fridays, New Zealand Time (so that's Mondays and Thursdays for most of you in the rest of the world.)

When I decided to research the times of the “real” King Arthur, so that I could create an “authentic” background for my novel (in case my editor didn’t like my alternative 12th century), the first issue was sources. Not an easy task when you live in a somewhat remote coastal town in New Zealand where the price of an ordinary paperback is a whopping $29.95.

I did already in my library have John Burke’s Roman England, a pictorial guide to the main features of Roman-British culture. Plus heaps of novels, a few books on general medieval culture, mostly by the Gies’s, a lot of books on medieval art, and some dictionaries of the medieval versions of modern tongues (remember, I did my grad work in Medieval Studies). Most of the resource materials I’d had from grad school, though, had slowly been culled as I moved from Cornell to Nova Scotia to Florida to Arizona to China to New Zealand. Sigh.

I picked up Mike Ashley’s The Mammoth Book of King Arthur because it promised to be just that: mammoth. Lots of info (I hoped) for a single financial outlay. It didn’t disappoint. Ashley’s work is an in-depth look at all the popular research on Arthur, post-Roman Britain, and the development of the Arthurian legend, right down to modern movies and novels.

That’s where I discovered that there was not one, but about twenty candidates for the historical figure who became the legendary king. They range in time period from second century Lucius Artoris Castor to tenth century Athelstan, grandson of King Alfred. Over half lived in the rough time period (fourth through sixth centuries) that Arthur was supposed to have lived. The exploits of the others reverberate with enough elements of the legend to make some scholars think they may have given rise to it. For every candidate at least one modern scholar has put forth a convincing argument.

Already my idea of an “accurate” cultural background was on shaky grounds. Pick any one of these candidates and you’ve got a different period in history, with a totally different cultural background.

My alternative twelfth century becomes more appealing by the minute…

No comments:

Post a Comment