Le Morte d'Arthur

by Thomas Malory

Start Free Trial

How does Arthur's birth fit the common elements of the romance hero?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The general characteristics of a medieval romantic hero include several conditions. First, the hero's birth is shrouded in mystery. Second, the hero is raised away from his true parents and far from his original home, unaware of his true identity. Third, he undergoes a childhood initiation of magical significance. Fourth, the hero claims his birthright after an extraordinary challenge. Finally, his triumph benefits a nation or group.

These conditions all apply to King Arthur's story. He is conceived via magic and deception, and Uther's secret meeting with Igraine where Arthur is conceived is literally shrouded in mist. He is raised by Merlin in the woods and taught the ways of magic and nature, and later fostered by Sir Ector. His parentage is kept secret and he is considered of ignoble birth, but his true heritage is discovered when he pulls the sword Excalibur from the stone, and in doing so proves he is the rightful king of Britain. His reign as king pulls England out of the Dark Ages, benefitting the entire nation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team