Saturday, August 8, 2015

Story Saturday: Arthurian re-tellings I actually like

Because of my storyteller hissy fit earlier this week about the latest King Arthur remake in the works, several people asked me if there are any re-tellings of Arthurian legends that I actually like. Believe it or not, there are some. My problem is not with the idea of re-tellings; my problem is with re-tellings done wrong.
And yes, I realize this is an entirely subjective judgment.

So, just to prove that I am not some anti-adaptation storyteller grump, here is a list of My Favorite Arthurian Things:

The Once and Future King by T.H. White
This was my point of entry and fandom of origin, my introduction to Arthurian legends. I don't even remember when I read it first, but I could not have been more than thirteen years old. I still love this book. It is a great re-telling, both epic and very, very human. And I love what he did with Merlin.

The Squire's Tales series by Gerald Morris
Talk about human. Morris treats Arthurian legends with empathy, great humor, and very deep understanding. He leaves the magic in, but does not shy away from making fun of certain characters, or calling out the inconsistencies in Arthurian lore. His protagonists are lovable, and he portrays Arthur exactly as I imagined him to be. Also, he does justice both to Gawain and to Kay, which is always a bonus in my eyes.
If you only read one thing from this list, read this. If you only read one book from this series, read The Quest for the Fair Unknown. Or The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf.

Excalibur (1981)
The prefect Arthurian movie has already been made, and it is called Excalibur. It is a classic. It is strange, and sometimes surreal, and very close to the original, and all-around awesome.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
What? It's the kind of humor I like. And the Hungarian dub is hilarious. Also, it's a very, very quotable movie.

The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Okay, so I only read the first of these three books so far, but I really liked his take on the story. Also, the stories embedded inside the story. And the idea of seeing Arthur as a child of the crossing places.

Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead
The first book in a series, and only marginally Arthur-related, but I have a soft spot for this book anyway. Partly, because I loved seeing Taliesin's legend re-told, and partly because it also features some Minoan culture, which was a strange mix that somehow worked.

So, there you have it. I am sure there are more good re-tellings out there, I just have not found them yet. Also, there are a good many that are more popular than these... But as I have mentioned earlier, I am very picky.


  1. Hey, I kno wnearly every story you mention... although I haven't read all of them yet.
    Years ago, I also like Ian McDonald's retellings. Very dark and unusual, but I liked them :-)

  2. I'm re-reading Mary Stewart's trilogy. I think it's the best. I've read all the Lawhead books in the Merlin trilogy and like them a lot, too. (I love Lawhead!) I've only read Savage Damsel of that series, but I really liked it.
    I know Sword at Sunset is supposed to be a classic, but I didn't like it. I want a bit of magic in my Arthur stories.

  3. I love Gerald Morris' books. They're so well researched and yet so hilarious.

  4. I love Excalibur! Even though I was exposed to it at probably too young an age... I didn't understand half of the concepts going on, but I love it, still. That Merlin! He was awesome. And the Lady of the Lake will always be a classic. :)

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto

  5. Two Arthurian books I have and love are "Sword of the Rightful King" by Jane Yolen, and "Song of the Sparrow" by Lisa Ann Sandell. Have you read either of them?

    1. Nope, but I do like Jane Yolen :) I'll put them on my TBR!

  6. Excalibur is one of my favourite films :)