postheadericon Is the Story of King Arthur Real?


The story of King Arthur is not a true story. It was shaped by a myriad of different storytellers, each of whom wove their own contributions into the legend over the course of a thousand years. While various attempts have been made at pinpointing an historical figure on whom the legends were based, even if such a figure did exist, the legends ascribed to him would not really have occurred.

However, what is not in dispute is the reality of the “Arthurian Fact.” That is, the earliest material to reference an Arthur records that he fought a number of battles driving off the Saxon invaders from Britain during the late fifth century. Archaeological evidence confirms that there was a decline in Saxon settlements during this time and an expansion of the British population, and several reputable documents from this time, including ones which do not mention Arthur, record that the Britons gained a strong foothold over their invaders during this time. Whether this was the result of a single person’s military ability is unknown, but it is mostly undisputed that the Britons gained a significant foothold during the time Arthur is recorded to have lived.

For centuries, Arthur was remembered by the Welsh for the events that were ascribed to him. Over the years, different writers picked up the tale, adding their own stories to the mix. Among other things, King Arthur was given a magical birth, a powerful wizard to shape him into a mighty king, a mighty sword bestowed upon him by a water nymph, and a tragic half death with the promise of his one-day return. His warriors, too, were given gallant adventures of their own, quests on which they sought out great treasure and encountered beautiful damsels possessing items of magic. People during the Middle Ages came to view Arthur’s legends more as we view fables today: not as recordings of history, but as stories meant to entertain and to teach a moral principle. As more storytellers retold the legend, Arthur came to be associated with jousting and holding a royal court – activities which did not exist in fifth-century Britain.

Throughout the ages, King Arthur has represented a remembrance of a golden age of Britain, the symbol of a people struggling to find hope in the face of extreme hopelessness. The endurance of his legend exemplifies the truth in the saying, the pen is mightier than the sword: it is in the strength of his legend that the strength of the people of fifth-century Britain lives on.

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