We can surmise, that for a story to become so popular, it must have had a very good beginning.
Just take a look at some of the great bards who, through the centuries, have retold the tale. Nennius, Bede, Monmouth, Malory - to name but a small handful - have in their way, shaped the stories of Arthur and his Knights. And we love them for it.
Have you ever heard of the Victorian poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892)?
Yes. No. Maybe...
Well, lets just check out one of his most famous poems...take a gander at this..
Charge of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr
Recognize him now? Good. Tennyson also wrote the Idylls of the King (first published in 1859) and that is what I am interested in. It is said that Tennyson was under a great amount of pressure to compose a poem of epic proportions. It is hardly surprising that Tennyson turned to the greatest British hero who ever lived, to draw inspiration from. And on the plus side...everyone loves a good King Arthur story. It was bound to be a hit!
Tennyson drew from the works of Malroy and the Mabinogion. The Idylls is actually split into parts - each dealing with a different aspect of the Arthurian tale - but with a slight Victorian twist on the story!
I am not going to go into too much detail of the Idyllas as a whole, for it would take too long and this post would go from being a few minutes read to an hour - and I am sure you have something you really should be doing, so I will keep it as short as I can. Needless to say, Tennyson drew on the usual cast-list - Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin.. they are all there. What I am going to do is just take a quick look at a few of my favourites.
The Coming of Arthur
Surprisingly, Arthur isn't in every episode of the Idyll, but his influence / or presence, what ever you want to call it, most certainly is!
Guinevere has a tantrum when Lancelot presents her with the diamonds. She throws them out the window - one of the diamonds falls on to Elaine's funeral barge - the diamond then slips into the water- thus fulfilling Elaine's strange dream.
Lancelot fears he has made the most monstrous mistake. He should have returned Elaine's love. He fears that Guinevere's love has turned bitter with jealousy. He wishes himself dead. Pleasant..isn't it??!
I think, even by these brief extracts of Tennyson's work, we can see the influence it has had on modern interpretations of the Arthurian story. I am going to leave it there for today, but no doubt I will come back at a later date and talk more about this very interesting 'epic' poem!