Fans of fantasy films and sweeping historical epics are getting excited about the upcoming release of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
This is a new fantasy film directed by British cult movie favourite, Guy Ritchie.
The movie stars Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur, along with Djimon Housou, Eric Bana, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law and Astrid Berges –Frisbey as supporting characters. These actors were excited to take on the challenge of this famous story – but like many of us, they wondered: just how much of the King Arthur legend is based on true events?
More About the Tales of King Arthur
In medieval British legends, he was said to be the king who led English forces to battle against Saxon invaders in the 6th century CE. These forces included the Knights of the Round Table. The tales of bravery and brotherhood have been passed down for over 1500 years, but are they accurate? Was King Arthur a real man, or is this simply a Celtic morality myth?
Who was the real King Arthur?
Many of us have heard the tales and stories about King Arthur of Camelot. Historians have debated this question for many centuries. In fact, we can’t even confirm that he existed at all! The historical record is unclear. A Celtic monk called Gildas kept a record of a battle that occurred at Mons Badonicus (Badon Hills) in roughly 500 C.E. He doesn’t mention a king named Arthur, something that would seem to be a glaring omission if Arthur was indeed present at the battle.
In fact, Arthur does not appear in writings until a few hundred years later. A Welsh historian called Nennius gave extensive details about 12 battles in which King Arthur fought. That said, these battles are so diverse and took places in such different times and places that one man would not have been able to attend all of them. Nennius seems more like a poet than a true historian!
A European legend
After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, England and France became more interconnected than ever, and tales of King Arthur spread across the continent. Geoffrey of Monmouth published a wildly popular book entitled “The History of the Kings of Britain” in the 12th century. He writes the first full account of King Arthur that sounds a lot like the story we are familiar with today. He writes about the magical sword Excalibur, his trusted knight and friend Lancelot, a wizard called Merlin and his Queen Guinevere.
This story is a beautiful blend of fact and fiction, and it has continued to fascinate and entice readers for a millennium. There is no denying that most elements of the tale are fiction, but that does not mean that they are any less important. As a historical record, this story tells us about the attitudes, ideas and interests of people over the last thousand years. And it looks like we haven’t changed much, as this movie is set to be a massive summer blockbuster. Enjoy!