King Arthur Stories - Knights of the Round Table
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King Arthur

King Arthur
King Arthur hunting, 1300s AD (British Library, London)

October 2016 - Stories about King Arthur may be based on a real man who ruled southern England about 450 AD, just after the Romans left, but nobody knows anything much about this man, or even if he really existed. The stories seem to be a mashup of memories of this man and older stories from Ireland and England that people had always told around the fire. But in the 1200s AD, poets like Thomas of Britain began to write down these stories, and more and more people learned them.

Around the same time, people in China were also telling similar stories about a king, Liu Bei, who lived soon after the Han Dynasty collapsed, and his magical advisor, Zhuge Liang. It's possible that some of these stories are related to stories of King Arthur and Merlin.

Different poets wrote the stories a little differently, so there's no one right King Arthur story. But these are some of the stories people told:

Learn by doing: act out a King Arthur story as a play
Arthur and Morgaine
Knights of the Round Table
Lancelot and Guenivere
Tristan and Isolde
Arthur and Mordred

Bibliography and further reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table:

Arthur and Morgaine
Knights of the Round Table
Lancelot and Guenivere
Tristan and Isolde
Arthur and Mordred
More medieval literature
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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