The stories of King Arthur are more than a thousand years old. They are stories; they are not history. But, history records the name of a war leader Artorius who lived around the year 500 AD. Perhaps the name 'Artorius' became 'Arthur' in the stories of King Arthur.
The Romans ruled Britain between 43 AD and 410 AD. Then, after the Romans left, there was no longer one government in the country. For centuries, there were many small kingdoms in Britain. The rulers of these kingdoms were warriors or war leaders. These British leaders fought invaders who came from the countries across the North Sea and the first stories of King Arthur date from about this time. But the most famous stories came from a later period.
Warrior:(Click to See Picture)
Invader:(Click to See Picture)
The Roman Empire became weak after the year 400 AD. During the next century, many different people moved across Europe from east to west. People from northern Germany and Scandinavia, invaded Britain and drove the British people into the western and northern lands of Britain. These Anglo- Saxon invaders named the country Angleland, or England. Many years later, they became the English people and their language became English.
Empire:(Click to See Picture)
For two hundred years after this, Vikings from Scandinavia attacked the coast of Britain. They also invaded France and mixed with Celts and Bretons. In France, the Vikings were called Normans - north men. Soon, these people no longer spoke German or Scandinavian. They spoke French and in 1066 AD, the Normans invaded Britain.
Attacked:(Click to See Picture)
Over a century later, French poets and storytellers told the stories of King Arthur. They told the stories in the French language. Then, in the 14th century, poets and storytellers began to tell the stories in English. In these stories, a young man called Arthur became King of Britain. Arthur called the best warriors to his court at Castle Camelot. The warriors, or knights, sat at a round table in the hall of the castle.
Court:(Click to See Picture)
A magician named Merlin helped Arthur to rule the land. These stories are about the Knights of the Round Table and their adventures. The stories describe how a good knight must behave. A good knight was chivalrous and polite. He was a warrior and a powerful member of society. A knight supported his king and fought for honour, truth and justice. He also went on quests. He might have to kill an enemy or a dragon. Perhaps he had to save a young woman. Or he might have to find something that was holy or valuable. When he had done these things, his quest was completed.
Magician:(Click to See Picture)
Chivalrous:(Click to See Picture)
Justice:(Click to See Picture)
Quest:(Click to See Picture)
Stories about Arthur have been retold many times. They are the subject of books, plays, films, operas and poems. In The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Gandalf the Wizard is based on Merlin the Magician. In the Star Wars films, the Jedi Knights are based on the Knights of the Round Table.
The most important story about King Arthur is The Quest for the Holy Grail. The Grail was the cup which was used at the Last Supper in Jerusalem, before the prophet Jesus died. The modern novel, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, is also about the Holy Grail.