A scholarly take on the origins of the legendary King Author Nicholas J Higham Publisher Yale University Press Price £25 Released Out now
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For centuries, stories of King Arthur have fascinated those who have heard them. It seems that there are endless theories on exactly where his court of Camelot might be located, in which lake the Excalibur-wielding lady of the legends could be found and on just how grand his fabled round table was.
Yet as the stories have been told and retold and the magical and romantic elements teased to the fore, the possibility of a “real” King Arthur reigning in England has been forgotten.
In his new book, King Arthur: The Making of a Legend, Nicholas J Higham seeks to redress this balance. It is his belief that too many scholars of the period have decided to take an agnostic standpoint on the matter of whether King Arthur actually existed and in this weighty volume, he attempts to discover once and for all whether King Arthur was a monarch of fact or folklore.
Higham’s search for the truth takes him back in time to the earliest mentions of Arthur and searches for the evidence of the king’s origins in fact.
He ably tackles other works on the king and carries out a thorough interrogation of previous attempts to prove the origins of the king, searching for the kernels of truth in the fiction and fable. His investigations take him as far as ancient Rome and Greece as he seeks mentions of the fabled king of the Britons, who is credited with defending his realm against Saxon invaders in the 5th century.
From the theories of a Dalmatian origin to Arthur all the way to the king’s place in the history of Britain, it seems as though Higham has left no stone unturned in his search for the truth behind the legend.
Higham is an authority on Arthur and his passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject is evident on every page of this book.
With so much of Arthur’s story embellished and romanticised over the years, the task of determining exactly when and why his legend took off is a painstaking one, but it makes for a fascinating read. Higham ably navigates the sometimes obscure material that he is working with and demonstrates a laser-guided focus on his subject, following Arthur from text to text across the centuries to paint a fascinating picture of the origins of the fabled monarch.
King Arthur: The Making of a Legend is an intelligent and eminently readable work which takes an unusual approach to the stories of
King Arthur. It is scholarly but never stuffy and Higham’s engaging writing will be sure to keep readers turning the pages as they join him in his search for King Arthur.
For scholars of the king, those with a casual interest in the history of England and its folklore or even just fans of a fascinating story that is wonderfully well told, this is the perfect book to take you back to
King Arthur’s time.
An engaging, interesting and accessible search for the facts behind the legend of King Arthur.
“It seems as though Nicholas Higham has left no stone unturned in his search for the truth behind the legend”