The Return of King Arthur

August 26, 2018

 

Since King Arthur died at the Battle of Camlan sometime around 505, he has been depicted as asleep, not dead. It was not unusual for artists and writers to portray great folk heroes such as Arthur and Merlin in a deep slumber, and these works seem to suggest that these heroes will awaken one day to rescue their people from oppression. Heroes, like Arthur, don’t tend to exist in the same space as us mere mortals, they live somewhere between the historical and the legendary worlds were time obeys different laws. I have tried to inhabit this space in my next novel The Curse of the Dragon Kings in which fifteen days in one world can be fifteen years in another. 

The British Cleric, Geoffrey of Monmouth (c1095-c1155) maintains that after his wounding Arthur relaxed in the spacious green fields and fruitful orchards of Avalon, where Arthur's sword Caliborn was forged. There, without grief or sorrow, he could rest in a bounteous place where there was plenty of food.

The belief that Arthur still lived was so firm in Cornwall that in 1113 fights broke out between visiting Bretons attending a Mass and the Cornish. A crowd of Cornish parishioners rushed into the church and attacked the Bretons who argued that Arthur was dead. 

Arthur has occupied the imaginations of Britons for over a millennium as a shapeshifter, subtly and slowly changing his form to suit the needs of each new age. Except in Cornwall. Not surprisingly, in January 2002, the county that claims Arthur's birthplace, his hunting lodge and the resting place of his sword suddenly got excited. Why? Well, the red-legged, red-billed chough (rhymes with rough), an endangered member of the crow family, returned to its ancient nesting place - something that had not happened in a half century. Fifty years prior choughs had died out in the county. When they returned, their nesting place became a secret. You may wonder why the choughs caused so much fuss. Well according to legend, the chough bears the spirit of King Arthur and its red feet, and red beak signifies the king’s bloody end. Could it be a sign of the return of the King? 

"But if he has come back," I asked my innkeeper in Fowey, Cornwall in May 2018, “where is his famous dad? Where is the red-haired Uther Pendragon?”

“Look no further than Windsor Castle,” he explained, “he got married there last week.”

Keeping a straight face, I asked: “And do you think he will call his son, Arthur?” I asked.

“No, I do not. He’ll call him something cool like ‘Jude.’

Fingers crossed, he might be right!

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