Who was the king in Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sir Thomas Malory wrote the book Le Morte d' Arthur in 1470.  It is considered to be the first novel written in the English language. The author told the story of a great king who lived toward the end of the fifth or sixth centuries who became a king as a boy.  His name was Arthur.  This is the great legend of the English people.

Historians believe there may have been an Arturus who was king of the Saxons toward the end of the medieval period.  Nothing definitive has been proven. 

This version of the story is based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's thirteenth century account of a great Saxon  King named Arthur.  Malory added many interesting details to the story: the sword Excalibur, The Round Table, the adulterous affair between Lancelot and Guenevere and the search for the Holy Grail.  Malory wrote his story in the form of eight books or tales.

Arthur lived as all men should live.  He worked for God, his realm, his people, and his family.  He taught his knights to be chivalrous and to treat others as they would want to be treated.  His round table spoke to the idea that no one was better than the other and no one should sit above another. 

The elements of the supernatural played a role in the legends.  From Arthur's birth, to his guardian Merlin, the wizard, and then to his death--Arthur's life was wrapped in mystery.  Merlin taught Arthur many lessons, including one that stands today: Might does not make Right.  Just because a person or a country has the power, does not make it okay to use it.

King Arthur fought many battles but was ultimately betrayed by those closest to him: his sister, son, wife, and friend, all caused his inevitable downfall at his last great battle. In addition, an interesting tale was spun that Arthur was taken after his great wound in battle to an Island called Avalon.  There he awaits the time when England needs him;  then, he will return to bring back the glory to his country.

In the midst of the lake, Arthur was ware of an arm clothed in white samite, that held a fair sword in that hand. ”
Thomas Malory, Le Morte D' Arthur

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Le Morte d'Arthur

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