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K - another tricksy letter. I tried and tried to think of books that started with "K," and couldn't come up with any I wanted to write about. I scrolled through over 500 titles on Goodreads. Nothing. Then I remembered how much I love reading about King Arthur! Everyone should read about King Arthur at some point.
My first foray into Arthurian fiction was my discovery of Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle. You will be hearing more about Mr. Lawhead tomorrow. Long about 20 years ago or so, I found Arthur in a bookstore in Lansing, Michigan, and went on to read the rest of the books. I love them all. The first book, Taliesin, begins with–wait for it–Atlantis. That was the first and only time I have read about Atlantis in conjunction with the King Arthur story. I confess, Taliesin was probably my least favorite read, but once I read the other books and saw how it fit into the story line, I had a greater appreciation for it. The story is told from a Christian perspective throughout the books - the spread of Christianity through Britain is woven throughout the books. These are definitely my favorite Arthur stories. They are appropriate for high schoolers and adults. Lawhead's writing is not particularly graphic, but he doesn't gloss over things, either. Life in the Middle Ages was bloody and difficult.
After discovering Lawhead's books, I kept my eye out for any fantasy books that talked about King Arthur. I read Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Trilogy, which was interesting. Arthur is, in these stories, a Duke, and the uncle of Mordred, who is Uther's heir to the throne. It's told from a pagan perspective, and Christians are given quite a bad rap. I enjoyed the stories, but I didn't end up keeping the books. I tried reading some of Cornwell's other books and didn't care for them.
When we studied the Middle Ages, we tried reading Roger Lancelyn Green's King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. I didn't like it, because it made King Arthur sound like an idiot. Here's an example:
Arthur: "Oh, look! My sister, who hates me, has sent me a cloak and says it's a gift. I will try it on!"
Everyone Else: "NO! Don't do that! Make the messenger girl try it on first!"
The messenger girl tried it on, died a horrible death, and Arthur realized his sister had meant to kill him. Imagine that! There were other instances of things like this, and it just made me crazy. I don't like reading about King Arthur as a dolt. Since then, I've learned that Green's version is the closest to Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, the original story of King Arthur, as it were. So, if you're looking for an un-romanticized version of the King Arthur legends, this is a good option.
From there, we read Howard Pyle's Arthur stories, and I liked those much better. I love Howard Pyle anyway. Dover has reprinted Pyle's books about King Arthur, and they are nice paperbacks, with his original illustrations. They're wonderful read-alouds. We all enjoyed these books, from my teens down to my 8 year old. *I* liked that King Arthur and his knights were heroic and chivalrous. It's high school reading level if they're going to read on their own.
I could go on, and on, and on about Arthur books. There are TONS of them. Really. I have books for elementary kids on up through high school in my house. Another time, perhaps I will write a post with more of a homeschooling focus and list more of them, but this is it for now! (I realize I haven't mentioned The Once and Future King, but that's because I haven't read it yet.)
Do you like King Arthur legends too? What's your favorite?