The Legends of King Arthur and his Knights

Book 18 of the Books 2010 Initiative is yet another out-of-copyright Kindle book. Did you ever wonder what happens when you take one of the most famous stories of deception, lust and betrayal and sterilize it for a Victorian mindset? You get Sir James Knowles version of the Arthurian legends.

This was a bit of a tough read, and not just because of the archaic phrasing. There’s plenty of action – you can’t go two pages without someone jousting, or having a scene with a dozen people flailing around at each other with swords for hours until the whole place is saturated with blood. The problem is that the core of the story just can’t be fit into the “proper” Victorian worldview. In essence, you’ve got someone who was conceived by sorcerous adultery, whose wife winds up sleeping with his best friend. If you try to ignore that, you lose everything.

Still, that’s just what Sir James Knowles does. The story of Merlin’s enchantment of Uther and Igraine to arrange Arthur’s conception is a one sentence aside (“When Uther, therefore, was at length happily wedded” – that’s the whole story); Sir Tristram is apparently completely chaste with Iseult (King Mark just doesn’t like him for some reason) and when Lancelot is finally caught in Guinevere’s bedroom and the author finally has to acknowledge adultery, he still has Gawain suggest that “it may well be that Lancelot was in her chamber for no evil.” Oh, and the blatantly pagan story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? It’s not in here at all.

Just as a side note, this page count is from the hardcover print version.

Page Count: 284

Total page count: 5561

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