Saturday, July 30, 2005

Historical Arthur

Stephen, in his comment on my previous post, says what appeals about the Arthur Legend is all that that chivalry, romance and 'magic.' Perhaps so, to some people. But then I'm not interested in the Arthur Legend at all :-) I don't find Malory interesting - it's high medieval, outside my range of study, and I would use the same words that Stephen uses with regard to Whyte: dull, dull, dull. It's obviously horses for courses. Neither am I fussed about a historical Arthur. I am, however, extremely interested in Britain during the 5th-6th century. In deep turmoil, with the major (and relevant to today) themes of conflict and migration, this is the cauldron in which modern-day England/Scotland/Wales were mixed.

As someone writing about the period, whether it be fiction on non-fiction, I'd have to 'go there' regarding Arthur, as he is now completely embedded in the period, for good or ill. If I left him out, I would be criticised, and it looks like putting him in would draw criticism too! In both my stories so far, I've nodded in that direction, but he is not a major or influential character, and nor is he any sort of a hero. He's just one of a number of petty warlords, doing what petty warlords do in that period. There are other, far more interesting, stories to be told, in my opinion. However, I have my doubts whether I could sell the stories, even if they were well written, super and lovely. Because the focus isn't Arthur!


At 7:14 pm BST, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Well, I would read them. I like some of the Arthurian fiction, but I don't need him there in order to enjoy the mayhem of a messy historical period. I'd even like to see a Saxon POV for a change. :)

At 7:31 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

A well, my first novel, SOD, had a half Saxon/half Romano-Brit, and an Anglian as as the main characters :-)

At 8:02 pm BST, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Half Saxon/half Romano-Brit, now that makes for some fine interior conflict, divided loyalties and not belonging anywhere stuff. Could have been one of my characters. *grin*

At 7:33 pm BST, Blogger Stephen said...

But how much actual conflict and migration was there in the 5th and 6th Centuries? As usual I can't put my hands on the right book when I need it but much of the case that Simon James makes (in The Atlantic Celts) against a "Celtic Migration" to Britain can be applied to the Germanic migrations of the 5th and 6th Centuries. There is, for instance, archaeological evidence (isotope analysis in teeth, iirc) that suggests that many "Saxon" cemeteries are actually full of locals. Are we looking at mass migration or a version of cultural imperialism? It would be wrong, for instance, to interpret the spread of Starbucks and hip-hop across our green and pleasant land as evidence for a mass migration of Americans into England in the current century, so why do we make such an assumption about the spread of Anglo-Saxon cultural artefacts?

Apart from the sensationalist writings of a few monks in isolated and obscure corners of the British Isles, what is the real (archaeological?) evidence for "deep turmoil"?


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