Marie de France in her narrative poems called lais. In any case, the later stories told by these two writers and by many, many others, appear to be independent of what Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote.
In these versions, which gained popularity beginning in the 12th century, Arthur gathered the Knights of the Round Table (Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad, and others). At his court, most often held at Camelot in the later prose romances, could sometimes be found the wizard Merlin. Arthur's knights engaged in fabulous quests as for example the Holy Grail. Other stories from the Celtic world came to be associated with Arthur, such as the tale of Tristan and Isolde. In the late prose romances the love affair between Arthur's champion, Lancelot, and the Queen, Guinevere, becomes the central reason for the fall of the Arthurian world.
In Robert de Boron's Merlin, later followed by Thomas Malory, Arthur obtained the throne by pulling a sword from a stone and anvil. In this account, this act could not be performed except by "the true king," meaning the divinely appointed king or true heir of Uther Pendragon. This sword was presumably the famous Excalibur and the identity is made explicit in the later so-called Vulgate Merlin Continuation. However in what is sometimes called the Post-Vulgate Merlin Excalibur was taken from a hand rising from a lake and given to Arthur sometime after he began to reign by a sorcerous damsel (confused by post-medieval writers with The Lady of the Lake). In this Post-Vulgate version the sword's blade could slice through anything and its sheath made the wearer invincible.
Arthur was a casualty in his last battle, the Battle of Camlann, which he fought against the forces of Mordred. The Prose Lancelot and the later prose cyclic romances state that Mordred was also a Knight of the Round Table and the child of an incestuous union between Arthur and his sister Morgause. In almost all accounts Arthur was said to be mortally wounded, but after the battle he was taken away to Avalon (sometimes identified with Glastonbury in Somerset, England), where his wounds were healed or his body was buried in a chapel. Some texts refer to return of Arthur in the future.
The Arthurian mythos spread far across the continent. An image of Arthur and his Knights attacking a castle was carved into an archivolt over the north doorway of Modena Cathedral in Italy sometime between 1099 and 1120. A mosaic pavement in the cathedral of Otranto, near Bari also in Italy was made in 1165 with the puzzling depiction of Arturus Rex bearing a sceptre and riding a goat. 15th century merchants set up an Arthurian hall in his honour in Danzig, Poland.
Retellings of the Arthurian cycle include the works of Gottfried von Strassburg, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur.
Arthur in Modern Literature, Film, and Television
There are many number of books written about King Arthur and the court of Camelot.
A number of popular films have been made as well. Some of the more notable include:
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson's The Idylls of the King
- Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
- Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Mists of Avalon
- T.H. White: The Once and Future King cycle, the first volume of which is The Sword in the Stone, well-known for the Disney adaptation.
- Bryher set her historical novel Ruan in Britain immediately after Arthur's death.
- The several books by Norma Lorre Goodrich are very popular, but are only loosely based in Arthurian legend and medieval history.
- The Merlin books of Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave sets up the background for the Arthurian legend. The Hollow Hills encompasses most of Arthur's lifespan, including his childhood with Merlin as his tutor.
- Helen Hollick
- Persia Woolley
- Kevin Crossley-Holland's The Seeing-Stone and At the Crossing-Places.
- Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles, a trilogy with a completely different take on Arthur. "There is a sword and there is a stone, but one is not in the other", is Cornwell's own summary.
The late 1960s Australian animated cartoon series Arthur! and the Square Knights of the Round Table was a typically wacky take on Arthurian legend.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail is an irreverent, comical interpretation of the legend of King Arthur and his famous quest.
- Camelot is the film adaptation of the popular stage musical, based on The Once and Future King.
- Lancelot du Lac
- First Knight
- Disney's The Sword in the Stone is a very loose adaptation of the first book of The Once and Future King.
The 1970's British television series, Arthur of the Britons, starring Oliver Tobias, sought to create a more "realistic" portrait of the period and to explain the origins of some of the myths about the Celtic leader.
In 1937, a newspaper comic strip by Hal Foster, Prince Valiant was first published, with the byline "In the Days of King Arthur". Since the death of Foster in 1982, John Cullen Murphy has continued producing this comic strip.
The Arthurian myth makes an appearance in many stories, including Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence.
Jerry Bruckheimer is creating a "demystified" movie version of this legend called simply King Arthur. In this version, Arthur is a Roman, Lancelot one of the Samaritan soldiers that make up Arthur's troops. Merlin and Guinevere are Woad warriors who fight against Arthur.
See also: Sites and places associated with Arthurian legend