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Arthurian Legends - Literature and Medieval Romance

Design Toscano

King Arthur - a legend, a myth, an entire system of faith that will not die. Stories of King Arthur, Merlin, the Knights of the Round Table, Lancelot and Guinevere - we've grown up with them. Arthurian legends have contributed immeasurably to our spiritual growth and cultural identity.

This page provides the stories of King Arthur, his knights, and related works of medieval romance.

Buy Books about the Arthurian Legend and Medieval Romance
Le Morte d'Arthur
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Le Morte D'Arthur
by Sir Thomas Malory, edited by John Matthews,
illustrated by Anna-Marie Ferguson

Late 15th century - the classic collection of King Arthur tales. Malory created our notions of chivalry; it is these stories that live on to the present in popular Arthurian legends. When reading the middle English, try reading out loud at first, to catch the cadence and rhythm of the speech. This edition is highly praised for its beautiful illustrations. Complete and unabridged, new illustrated edition.
Arthurian Romances
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Arthurian Romances
by Chretien de Troyes,
translated by Carlton W. Carroll

12th century - De Troyes was the master of the French romances based on Arthurian legends, including the poem of Lancelot and the story of Perceval and the Holy Grail. Translated from old French into modern English.
Parzival
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Parzival
by Wolfram van Eschenbach,
translated by A. T. Hatto

Written in the early 13th century, Parzival is the most famous book in medieval German literature. Parzival's quest for the Holy Grail leads to amazing and bizarre adventures - an amalgam of medieval knightly mores and lifestyle combined with fantastical creatures and splendid battles. It is from Parzival we get the story of the Fisher King. A classic.
Romance of Tristan and Tale of Tristan's Madness
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The Romance of Tristan and the Tale of Tristan's Madness
by Beroul, translated by Alan S. Fredrick

French, late 12th century - earliest French version of the classic tragedy of forbidden love between Tristan and Iseult (Yseult, Isolde) centering around King Mark's court with appearances by Arthurian knights. This is romance - it doesn't get any better.
Tristan
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Tristan
by Gotfried von Strassburg,
translated by A. T. Hatto

German, early 13th century - The tragic love of Tristan and Isolde is beautifully told in this version of the story, with its emphasis on courtly virtues and an undying love potion, binding them together forever. This story is the one on which Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde is based.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
modern translation by J.R.R. Tolkien

English, 14th century - The original author of this classic poem is lost in the mists of time, but Tolkien does a great job of translating Gawain's tale into modern English, while keeping the cadence and alliteration of the original. Includes two other medieval poems - Pearl and Sir Orfeo.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
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Idylls of the King
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Idylls of the King
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

English - 19th century. Tennyson's epic poem breaths life into the Arthurian legend, transforming the old stories into a cohesive vision of destiny and character. Victorian in outlook, Guinevere fares badly in this rendition, bearing the responsibility for adultery and sin.
The Romance of Arthur
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The Romance of Arthur : An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation
edited by James J. Wilhelm

Modern translations of Arthurian legends spanning almost 1,000 years - from the ancient Welsh Mabinogion to Malory's Morte d'Arthur. A great resource for tracing the evolution of the King Arthur myth through time.
Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
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Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
by John Steinbeck

Who knew Steinbeck was into King Arthur? Not me. Here he retells in great style the stories from Malory, which apparently he loved as a boy. This book is a real treasure by a master storyteller.

For a short, yet capable, article on the development and evolution of Arthurian themes in medieval literature, see The Medieval Development of Arthurian Literature.