Everybody is familiar with the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. These stories are a huge part of our culture, where there are so many books written and movies made on this age of chivalry. The time where there was always a damsel in distress, a danger to face, a jousting tournament to be won, and honor to be earned. This is where all this obsession started, with a book an “errant knight” wrote while he was imprisoned. Le Morte d’Arthur is full of the epic jousting and damsel saving you’ve been accustomed to over the years. It was interesting to read, though some parts are a little dry. It is also written in the vernacular, though you half expect it to be written in Old English at first.
I recommend this book, but only if you are willing to put effort into understanding this book, and especially if you are not looking for something quick. There are a lot of knights, and some of them have similar names, such as the brothers Sir Gawain, Sir Gaheris, and Sir Gareth. Not sure about the version that’s available through USMAI, but the version I happened to own published through Signet Classics has a list of every major knight and a description of what happened to each knight. No matter what version you read, some kind of accompaniment to the story is necessary, otherwise you will be left saying “What happened to that knight again?” or “When did he die?”
There is also an endless cycle of jousting and fighting. Basically, anytime a knight would meet another knight, they would enter into a jousting and sword fighting battle which would last until one either dies or yields to the other knight. It can get irritating, especially when they enter into an epic battle that lasts hours before they ask each other who they are. Remember, every knight wears full armor, and the only way they can tell who is who is by using the symbol on their shields. There were occasions, though, that a knight would switch shields and armor with another just so they would not be recognized. There were times in the book where two knights, say Sir Tristam and Sir Launcelot, would fight each other for hours, find out the other’s identity, then feel sorrow for even battling together in the first place as they were friends or fellow knights of the Round Table.
So, if you’re interested somewhat in the legends of King Arthur, then give this book a try. Oh, and if you’re like me and have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail more times than you can count, it helps to picture John Cleese as Sir Launcelot and Graham Chapman as King Arthur. It’s more interesting that way.
Review Submitted by: Marissa Parlock