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Mythology and Folklore

Arthurian Legend

Mordred, Guinevere, Arthurian Legend, Saxons, Britons

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Arthurian Legend, group of tales in several languages that concern the legendary King Arthur of the Britons, his realm, and the knights of his inner circle. The legend is one of the most enduring tales in recorded history. It first appeared in the 5th or 6th century ad and took its basic form between the 12th and 15th centuries. It continues as a popular subject in modern times.

The legend presents Arthur as a leader in ancient times who defeats the Saxons and other enemies. He thereby unites the people of Britain in peace and harmony. Eventually his kingdom weakens from within—in part because of the illicit love between Arthur’s queen, Guinevere, and the knight Lancelot—and Arthur himself is struck down by his own illegitimate son, Mordred. Many stories then say that Arthur is taken to the island of Avalon for his wounds to be healed. The legend tells that he will return in the hour of Britain's greatest need.


Lacy, Norris J., A.B., M.A., Ph.D.

Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of French, The Pennsylvania State University. Editor of "The New Arthurian Encyclopedia". Honorary President, International Arthurian Society.

Article key phrases:

Mordred, Guinevere, Arthurian Legend, Saxons, Britons, illegitimate son, inner circle, modern times, recorded history, ancient times, realm, wounds, queen, harmony, Arthur, legend, peace, knights, centuries, leader, kingdom, enemies, stories, languages

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