by Mary Anne Yarde
In 1846 William John Thoms, a British writer, penned a letter to The Athenaeum, a British Magazine. In this letter, he talked about “popular antiquities.” But instead of calling it by its common name, he used a new term — folklore.
What did Thoms mean by this new word? Well, let's break it down. The word folk referred to the rural poor who were for the most part illiterate. Lore means instruction. So folklore means to instruct the poor. But we understand it as verbal storytelling. Forget the wheel ~ I think storytelling is what sets us apart. We need stories, we always have and we always will.
Historically, Arthur is difficult to pin down. There are so many theories about who he was and where he came from that it is like chasing a phantom. Some experts have their feet firmly planted in the 2nd Century when they talk of Arthur. Others believe him to be a Scottish Dark Age warlord or an English Christian King. Of course, the Welsh and the Breton's also have candidates that fit the role. For a person whose very existence screams folklore—screams myth—there seems to be an awful lot of interest in him. And that interest has never gone away. We love the stories of Arthur and his knights, there is no getting away from that, and these stories have helped shape a nation. Look how obsessed Edward III was with Arthurian Legend. Edward was determined that his reign was going to be as spectacular as Arthur's was. He believed in the stories of Arthur and his Knights. He had even started to have his very own Round Table built at Windsor Castle. He also founded The Order of the Garter— which is still the highest order of chivalry that the Queen can bestow. Arthur, whether fictional or not, influenced kings.
|The Sculpture at Tintagel Castle by Rubin Eynon|
In our search for Arthur, we are digging up folklore, and that is not the same as excavating relics. We have the same problem now as Geoffrey of Monmouth did back in the 12th Century when he compiled The History of the Kings of Briton. His book is now considered a ‘national myth,’ but for centuries his book was considered to be factually correct. So where did Monmouth get these facts? He borrowed from the works of Gildas, Nennuis, Bede and The Annals of Wales. There was also that mysterious ancient manuscript that he borrowed from Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, but let’s not get into that today! Monmouth then borrowed from the bardic oral tradition. In other words, he listened to the stories of the bards. Add to the mix his own imagination and Monmouth was onto a winner. Those who were critical of his work were brushed aside and ignored. Monmouth made Britain glorious, and he gave us not Arthur the general, but Arthur the King. And what a king he was.
All photographs are my own, apart from the portrait of Edward III which can be found on Wikipedia.
Set in the 5th and 6th Century, The Du Lac Chronicles follows the fortunes and misfortunes of Lancelot du Lac’s sons as they try to navigate their way through an ever-changing Saxon world.