Importance of King Arthur
is much disagreement among scholars whether or not King Arthur
actually existed. There is only the scantest source material suggesting
that he had. Some say that the name had to refer to an actual person,
because his memory is so engrained in the place names and culture
of Britain. I agree with this opinion. Others say that he was not
really a single man, but a legendary compilation for several, including
Lucius Artorius Castus, Ambrosius Aureleanus, Riothamus and
Magnus Maximus. Graham Phillips makes a convincing argument
that Arthur was the title of a powerful British king named Owain
Ddantgwyn. Still others say he was just a fictional character
that somehow sprang from Celtic mythology.
Even if we accept his historical existence, however,
scholars agree that the man called Arthur had little or anything
to do with the image carried down to us from the French romances.
The fictional character reflected the ideal king of the High Middle
Ages when these romances were written, not the sixth century warlord
who managed to keep the Saxons at bay.
It would be nice if this chivalric leader really
lived, and actually performed the deeds that so inspired future
generations. He gave us ideals to believe in.
How should we face the possibility that he might
not be the man we imagine? In fact, we know very little about him
at all. Arthur may have been his title, and not even his name. That
this inspiring leader might not have existed as we imagined could
be very disappointing.
There is another way to look at this however,
and it is significant to think about.
Arthur, whoever he might have been, was only
one man. His achievements, while inspiring, belong to him and not
to those who followed after. There is little we can derive from
him except a good and perhaps inspiring tale.
That future generations turned him into legend
says more about the needs of the human psyche than anything else.
That is the real significance of King Arthur. We invented him because
we have an inherent need for what he represents. He symbolizes our
ideals, which makes the most authentic part of us invested in his
legacy. In this sense, King Arthur lives inside us all. We respond
to what he represents because something inside us aspires to propagate
Culture is the vehicle designed to transmit this
message from one generation to the next. To really fulfill this
obligation, culture should also explain its meaning so that every
generation can properly respond to it. When culture fails to do
this, the stories might be remembered, but they are unable to function
properly. They cannot perform as we need them to.
How do we repair this? I think that the fictional
King Arthur gave us a clue. At the end of the musical Camelot, he
charges a young boy to remember the stories of the Round Table
Knights and tell everyone who would listen about their adventures.
The boy's name was Tom. King Arthur knighted the lad, the
inference being that he grew up to be Sir Thomas Mallory,
author of Le Morte d'Arthur, from which much of our cultural
appreciation of the Round Table comes from.
We have to become the new Sir Thomas Mallorys.
We have to bring the legend to life in our own lives, propagate
it into our surroundings, and protect it for future generations.
We have to relay the message of our ideals, updated for modern times.
Culture is a living phenomenon, and we are the ones who give it
conclusion, the historical nature of the Arthurian legends remains
unknown, and their plurality proves that they are certainly augmented
by fiction. As far as Chivalry-Now is concerned, this does
not matter so much as the cultural value of the stories to the development
and stability of the male psyche. Here we find literary examples
of Western chivalry and manhood, and the central foundation of Chivalry-Now.