The Info List - Arthurian Legend

--- Advertisement ---

By century

10th 11th 12th 13th 14th

European Renaissance

15th century

Literature portal

v t e

Part of a series on

Celtic mythology

Polytheism Deities (list) Animism

Gaelic mythology

Irish Scottish

Tuath Dé Fomhoraigh Hebridean mythology and folklore

Mythological Cycle

Ulster Cycle

Fianna Cycle

Brythonic mythology

Welsh Breton Cornish

British Iron Age religion


Matter of Britain

Trioedd Ynys Prydein


Otherworld Champion's portion Geis Imbas forosnai Loathly lady Magic mist Sacred trees Shapeshifting Silver Branch Threefold death Wasteland Well of wisdom

Religious vocations

Druids Bards Vates


Samhain Calan Gaeaf

Imbolc Gŵyl Fair

Beltane Calan Mai

Lughnasadh Calan Awst

Category Mythology

v t e

National Literary "Matters"

The Three Classic Matters

Matter of Rome Matter of France Matter of Britain

Other Matters

Matter of England

Literature portal

v t e

The Matter of Britain
Matter of Britain
is the body of Medieval literature
Medieval literature
and legendary material associated with Great Britain, and sometimes Brittany, and the legendary kings and heroes associated with it, particularly King Arthur. It was one of the three great story cycles recalled repeatedly in medieval literature, together with the Matter of France, which concerned the legends of Charlemagne, and the Matter of Rome, which included material derived from or inspired by classical mythology.


1 History 2 Themes and subjects

2.1 Legendary history of Britain 2.2 Arthurian cycle

3 Characters and subjects

3.1 Legendary kings and founders 3.2 Arthur and his entourage 3.3 Knights of the Round Table 3.4 Other important figures

4 Noteworthy authors

4.1 Medieval 4.2 Anonymous 4.3 Modern

5 See also 6 References

6.1 Footnotes 6.2 Sources

7 External links

History[edit] The three "Matters" were first described in the 12th century
12th century
by French poet Jean Bodel, whose epic La Chanson des Saisnes ("Song of the Saxons") contains the line:

Ne sont que III matières à nul homme atandant, De France
et de Bretaigne, et de Rome la grant.

"Not but with three matters no man should attend: Of France, and of Britain, and of Rome the grand."

The name distinguishes and relates the Matter of Britain
Matter of Britain
from the mythological themes taken from classical antiquity, the "Matter of Rome", and the tales of the paladins of Charlemagne
and their wars with the Moors
and Saracens, which constituted the "Matter of France". Arthur is the chief subject of the Matter of Britain, along with stories related to the legendary kings of the British, as well as lesser-known topics related to the history of Great Britain
Great Britain
and Brittany, such as the stories of Brutus of Troy, Coel Hen, Leir of Britain (King Lear), and Gogmagog.[citation needed] Themes and subjects[edit] Legendary history of Britain[edit] It could be said that the legendary history of Britain was created partly to form a body of patriotic myth for the country. Several agendas thus can be seen in this body of literature. The Historia Brittonum, the earliest known source of the story of Brutus of Troy, may have been devised to create a distinguished genealogy for a number of Welsh princes in the 9th century. Traditionally attributed to Nennius, its actual compiler is unknown; it exists in several recensions. This tale went on to achieve greater currency because its inventor linked Brutus to the diaspora of heroes that followed the Trojan War, and thus provided raw material which later mythographers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, Michael Drayton, and John Milton
John Milton
could draw upon, linking the settlement of Britain to the heroic age of Greek literature, for their several and diverse literary purposes. As such, this material could be used for patriotic mythmaking just as Virgil
linked the founding of Rome to the Trojan War in The Æneid. Geoffrey of Monmouth also introduced the fanciful claim that the Trinovantes, reported by Tacitus
as dwelling in the area of London, had a name he interpreted as Troi-novant, "New Troy". More speculative claims link Welsh mythology
Welsh mythology
with several of the rulers and incidents compiled by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniæ. It has been suggested, for instance, that Leir of Britain, who later became Shakespeare's King Lear, was originally the Welsh sea-god Llŷr
(see also the Irish sea-god Ler). Various Celtic deities have been identified with characters from Arthurian literature as well: Morgan le Fay
Morgan le Fay
was often thought to have originally been the Welsh goddess Modron (cf. the Morrígan). Many of these identifications come from the speculative comparative religion of the late 19th century, and have been questioned in more recent years. William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
was interested in the legendary history of Britain, and was familiar with some of its more obscure byways. Shakespeare's plays contain several tales relating to these legendary kings, such as King Lear
King Lear
and Cymbeline. It has been suggested that Shakespeare's Welsh schoolmaster Thomas Jenkins introduced him to this material, and perhaps directed him to read Geoffrey of Monmouth[citation needed]. These tales also figure in Raphael Holinshed's The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which also appears in Shakespeare's sources for Macbeth. Other early authors also drew from the early Arthurian and pseudo-historical sources of the Matter of Britain. The Scots, for instance, formulated a mythical history in the Picts and the Dál Riata royal lines. While they do eventually become factual lines, unlike those of Geoffrey, their origins are vague and often incorporate both aspects of mythical British history and mythical Irish history. The story of Gabrán mac Domangairt especially incorporates elements of both those histories. Arthurian cycle[edit] The Arthurian literary cycle is the best known part of the Matter of Britain. It has succeeded largely because it tells two interlocking stories that have intrigued many later authors. One concerns Camelot, usually envisioned as a doomed utopia of chivalric virtue, undone by the fatal flaws of Arthur and Sir Lancelot. The other concerns the quests of the various knights to achieve the Holy Grail; some succeed (Galahad, Percival), and others fail (Lancelot). The medieval tale of Arthur and his knights is full of Christian themes; those themes involve the destruction of human plans for virtue by the moral failures of their characters, and the quest for an important Christian
relic. Finally, the relationships between the characters invited treatment in the tradition of courtly love, such as Lancelot
and Guinevere, or Tristan
and Iseult. In more recent years, the trend has been to attempt to link the tales of King Arthur
King Arthur
and his knights with Celtic mythology, usually in highly romanticized, early 20th century reconstructed versions. The work of Jessie Weston, in particular From Ritual to Romance, traced Arthurian imagery through Christianity to roots in early nature worship and vegetation rites, though this interpretation is no longer fashionable.[1] Additionally, it is possible to read the Arthurian literature in general, and that concerned with the Grail tradition in particular, as an allegory of human development and spiritual growth (a theme explored by mythologist Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
amongst others). Characters and subjects[edit] Legendary kings and founders[edit]

Brutus of Troy Corineus Coel Hen Cymbeline

Leir of Britain
Leir of Britain
(Shakespeare's King Lear) Cassivellaunus Caradocus

Ambrosius Aurelianus Uther Pendragon Cadwaladr

Arthur and his entourage[edit]

King Arthur the Round Table Guinevere, wife of Arthur

Excalibur, Arthur's magic sword Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur Camelot, Arthur's capital

Mordred, Arthur's heir and enemy Avalon, Arthur's resting place

Knights of the Round Table[edit] Main article: Round Table

Gawain Lancelot Galahad Tristan Galehaut Percival Bors Lucan

Geraint Gareth Kay Lamorak Gaheris Bedivere Agravain Caradoc

Sagramore Calogrenant Ywain Erec Pelleas Palamedes Dinadan Pellinore

Other important figures[edit]

Merlin Morgan le Fay

Sir Ector Lady of the Lake

Noteworthy authors[edit] Medieval[edit]

Author Century Œuvres

Béroul 12th Tristan

Chrétien de Troyes 12th Erec and Enide, Cligès, Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, Perceval, the Story of the Grail

Geoffrey Chaucer 14th The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey of Monmouth 12th Historia Regum Britanniae

Gottfried von Strassburg 13th Tristan

Hartmann von Aue 12th Erec, Ywain

Layamon 13th Brut

Thomas Malory 15th Le Morte d'Arthur

Marie de France 12th The Lais of Marie de France: Lai de Yonec, Lai de Frêne, Lai de Lanval (...)

Nennius 09th Historia Brittonum

Robert de Boron 12th Estoire dou Graal

Taliesin 06th Book of Taliesin

Thomas of Britain 12th Tristan
and Iseult

Wace 12th Roman de Brut, Roman de Rou

Wolfram von Eschenbach 12th Parzival

Raoul de Houdenc 12th Méraugis de Portlesguez

Païen de Maisières 13th La Demoiselle à la Mule (also called La Mule sans Frein)

Rustichello da Pisa 13th Roman de Roi Artus, Gyron le courtois, Meliadus de Leonnoys (Meliadus)

Ulrich von Zatzikhoven 13th Lanzelet


Œuvres Century

L'Âtre Périlleux (on Gawain) 13th century

Blandin de Cornouaille 14th century

Le Chevalier à l'Épée

Le Chevalier au Papegau

La Demoiselle à la Mule 12th century

Folie Tristan
d'Oxford 12th century

Gliglois (hero who enters the service of Gawain)


Life of Caradoc

The Lancelot-Grail Cycle 13th century

The Mabinogion
(medieval Welsh)

The Post-Vulgate Cycle 13th century

Les Merveilles de Rigomer (Lancelot, Gawain
and 58 knights) 13th century

Perlesvaus ou le Haut Livre du Graal 13th century

Le Roman de Jaufré

Sir Gawain
and the Green Knight 14th century

Prose Tristan

Stanzaic Morte Arthur 14th century

Alliterative Morte Arthur 14th–15th century


Lloyd Alexander Alexandre Astier René Barjavel T. A. Barron Marion Zimmer Bradley Gillian Bradshaw Bernard Cornwell Sara Douglass Michael Drayton Hal Foster Parke Godwin

Raphael Holinshed Eric Idle David Jones Debra A. Kemp Stephen Lawhead Rosalind Miles Howard Pyle Michel Rio William Shakespeare Edmund Spenser John Steinbeck

Mary Stewart Rosemary Sutcliff Alfred, Lord Tennyson John Ronald Reuel Tolkien Mark Twain Richard Wagner Charles White T. H. White Jack Whyte Charles Williams Elizabeth Wein

See also[edit]

Chivalry Corineus English historians in the Middle Ages Glastonbury Historical basis for King Arthur Holy Grail Knights of the Round Table List of Arthurian characters Mons Badonicus Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Holy Grail
(film) Pendragon (fiction series) Sites and places associated with Arthurian legend The Faerie Queene
The Faerie Queene
(poem) The Mists of Avalon

References[edit] Footnotes[edit]

^ Surette, Leon (Summer 1988). "The Waste Land and Jessie Weston: A Reassessment". Twentieth Century Literature. 34 (2): 223–244. 


Pearsall, Derek (2005). Arthurian Romance: a short introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.  ISBN 9780631233206 Green, D.H. (2005). The Beginnings of Medieval Romance: Fact and fiction, 1150–1220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 9780521049566 Dover, Carol, ed. (2005). A Companion to the Lancelot-Grail Cycle. Boydell & Brewer.  ISBN 9781843842453

External links[edit]

Historia Britonum (Latin) at The Latin Library Historia Britonum (English) Brut by Layamon (Middle English) The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland
by Raphael Holinshed (partial) The History of Britain by John Milton The Camelot
Project contains a large selection of Arthurian etexts from the sixth to the early 20th centuries International Arthurian Society

v t e

King Arthur
King Arthur
and the Matter of Britain

Key people

King Arthur Constantine Galahad Gawain Queen Guinevere Igraine Lady of the Lake Lancelot Merlin Mordred Morgan le Fay Morgause Percival Tristan Uther Pendragon

Knights of the Round Table

Aglovale Agravain Bagdemagus Bedivere Bors Breunor Calogrenant Caradoc Dagonet Dinadan Elyan the White Erec Gaheris Gareth Geraint Griflet Hector de Maris Hoel Kay Lamorak Leodegrance Lionel Lucan Morholt Palamedes Pelleas Pellinore Safir Sagramore Segwarides Tor Urien Ywain Ywain
the Bastard

Other characters

Balin Balan King Ban Claudas Culhwch Dindrane Ector Elaine of Astolat Elaine of Corbenic Fisher King Galehaut Gorlois Gwenhwyfach Hellawes Iseult Black Knight Green Knight Red Knight Lohengrin King Lot Maleagant King Mark Emperor Lucius Olwen Questing Beast Rience Tom Thumb


Excalibur Holy Grail Round Table Siege Perilous


Astolat Avalon Brocéliande
(Paimpont) Caerleon Camelot Celliwig Corbenic Glastonbury Logres Lyonesse Sarras Tintagel

In media

Books Films Various media


Battle of Badon Battle of Camlann Dolorous Stroke King Arthur's family Historicity of King Arthur King Arthur's messianic return

v t e

Geoffrey of Monmouth


Prophetiae Merlini
Prophetiae Merlini
(c. 1135) Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae
(c. 1136) Vita Merlini (c. 1150)


Roman de Brut Layamon's Brut Brut y Brenhinedd


Aeneas Saint Alban Albanactus Alhfrith of Deira Allectus Ambrosius Aurelianus Amphibalus Andragius Archgallo Archmail King Arthur Arvirargus Ascanius Augustine of Canterbury Aurelius Conanus Bedivere Beldgabred Beli Mawr Belinus Bladud Bledric ap Custennin Bledudo Brennius Brutus Greenshield Brutus of Troy Budic II of Brittany Cadfan ap Iago Cadoc Cador Cadwaladr Cadwallon ap Cadfan Camber (legendary king) Cap of Britain Capetus Silvius Capoir Caracalla Caradocus Carausius Cassivellaunus Catellus Catigern Cherin Claudius Cledaucus Clotenus Coel Hen Coilus Conan Meriadoc Constans II (usurper) Constantine the Great Constantine III (Western Roman Emperor) Constantine (Briton) Constantius Chlorus Cordelia of Britain Corineus Cunedagius Cunobeline Danius Saint David Digueillus Diocletian Dionotus Dunvallo Molmutius Ebraucus Edadus Edern ap Nudd Edwin of Northumbria Eldol Eldol, Consul of Gloucester Elidurus Eliud Enniaunus Estrildis Eudaf Hen Ferrex Fulgenius Gawain Gerennus Goffar the Pict Gogmagog (folklore) Goneril Gorboduc Gorbonianus Gorlois Gracianus Municeps Guiderius Guinevere Guithelin Gurgintius Gurguit Barbtruc Gurgustius Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio Queen Gwendolen Helena (empress) Helenus Hengist and Horsa Hoel Humber the Hun Iago ap Beli Idvallo Igraine Ingenius of Britain Jago of Britain Julius and Aaron Julius Asclepiodotus Julius Caesar Sir Kay Keredic Kimarcus Kinarius Latinus Lavinia Leil Leir of Britain Locrinus King Lot Lucius of Britain Lucius Tiberius Lud son of Heli Maddan Maelgwn Gwynedd Magnus Maximus Mandubracius Queen Marcia Marganus Marganus II Marius of Britain Mempricius Merianus Merlin Millus Mordred Morgause Morvidus Myrddin Wyllt Nennius of Britain Octa of Kent Oenus Oswald of Northumbria Oswiu of Northumbria Owain mab Urien Penda of Mercia Peredur Peredurus Pir of the Britons Porrex I Porrex II Publius Septimius Geta Quintus Laberius Durus Redechius Redon of Britain Regan (King Lear) Rhydderch Hael Rience Rivallo Rud Hud Hudibras Runo Sawyl Penuchel Septimius Severus Silvius (mythology) Sisillius I Sisillius II Sisillius III Son of Gorbonianus Taliesin Tasciovanus Trahern Turnus Urianus Uther Pendragon Venissa Vespasian Vortigern Vortimer Vortiporius Wulfhere of Mercia Ywain Æthelberht of Kent Æthelfrith of Northumbria Œthelwald of Deira


Avalon Battle of Arfderydd Battle of Badon Battle of Camlann Battle of Guoloph Brut y Tywysogion Crocea Mors Excalibur Lailoken List of legendary kings of Britain List of legendary rulers of Cornwall Logres Matter of Britain Molmutine Laws Nennius Riothamus River Malvam Siege of Exeter (c. 630) Locations associated with Arthurian legend Treachery of the Long Knives Trinovantum Trojan genealogy of Nennius Walter of Oxford

Wikiquote Wikisource texts

Authority control