Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Arthurian Literature Reading Challenge 2014

The legends and stories of King Arthur and his knights have been popular for over a thousand years, and during that time the stories have changed and developed into a tangle of related tales with wild offshoots all over the place.    Arthur himself may or may not have really existed, but if he did, he wouldn't have been anything like the king in the stories we know now.  Instead, Arthur has served as a figure to which we can pin our ideas about loyalty, love, and duty; the total lack of historical fact lets us embroider as we please and remake him in whatever guise we prefer.

I'd like to spend some time in 2014 reading the old Arthurian material and seeing how it developed over the years into different stories.  I need company, so I hope some of you will join me in an Arthurian reading challenge!




The rules:
  1. Challenge will run from January 1 -- December 31, 2014.
  2. Sign-ups are open until November 30, 2014. 
  3. To sign up, grab the button, write a post, and comment ON THE PAGE.  Include the link to your sign-up post for it to count.   Keep track of your reading and write a wrap-up post when you're done, which you will submit at the end of the year.  I'll follow your blog, and you follow mine, and we can discuss as we read!
  4. Books chosen for this challenge can overlap with other challenges.
  5. Books can be translated into the language of your choice, though if you are game for trying out some Middle English or Old French, go for it!
  6. Arthurian "cousins" count.  If you wish to read up on Tristan and Iseult or Parzival, or go haring off after the Fisher King, feel free. 
  7. It is OK to read something pretty tangential that still deals with the Arthurian tradition, such as Charles Williams' War in Heaven.  If you can make a reasonable case for it, go ahead.  Still, I'd like to keep the main focus on the medieval works.
  8. I have categorized works by date into Old (pre-1800),  Modern (1800-1950), and Recent (1950+).  If you wish to read Recent works, that's fine, but you must read more Old and Modern works than Recent.  No reading all of Mary Stewart (great as she is) and nothing else! Don't worry, quite a few works are short and/or not difficult to read.
  9. Levels will consist of:
Page:  read 2 works, one of which may be Recent.
Squire: read 3 - 4 works.  One may be Recent and one must be Old.
Knight: read 5 - 6 works.  Two may be Recent and one must be Old.
Paladin: read more than 6 works.  Two may be Recent and two must be Old, unless you include a non-fiction work (see Bonus).

Bonus achievement: read a non-fiction work analyzing Arthurian literature.


I cannot write an exhaustive list of Arthurian literature!  Pretty well anything on Wikipedia's list will do.  You will find that some works have rather technical titles to distinguish between the avalanche of near-identical titles (the alliterative Morte Arthure is different than the stanzaic Morte Arthur, and don't forget that extra E!).  Here are some great choices:

The Old category includes--

Culhwch and Olwen
The History of the Kings of Britain, by Geoffrey of Monmouth,    .
Roman de Brut, by Wace.  Mostly the same story as Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote, but now in verse!
Tristan, by Beroul
Lais of Marie de France (Lanval and Chevrefoil)
Works of Chretien de Troyes -- in English, you can usually find these collected under the title Arthurian Romances
Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach
Brut, by La╚Łamon.  Reworking of Geoffrey, but in English.
The Black Book of Carmarthen
Alliterative Morte Arthure 
The Quest for the Holy Grail or any other book in the Lancelot-Grail/Vulgate Cycle
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by the Pearl poet (Tolkien did a wonderful translation of this poem)
Tales from the Mabinogion
Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (it's not too hard to read this in the original!)
The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser

In the Modern category, you might like--

Idylls of the King or "The Lady of Shallott" by Tennyson
The Boy's King Arthur by Sidney Lanier (illustrations by N. C. Wyeth!)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, by Howard Pyle, plus three other volumes
King Arthur, by Andrew Lang (author of the Blue Fairy Book, etc.)
War in Heaven or poetry by Charles Williams
The Once and Future King, by T. H. White (or just The Sword in the Stone)
The Fall of Arthur, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Recent works include--

Storybooks by Roger Lancelyn Green, John Steinbeck, and Rosemary Sutcliff
The Merlin series by Mary Stewart
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
...and uncounted numbers more!





14 comments:

Monika said...

What a great idea for a challenge! Have fun!

Ekaterina Egorova said...

Hurray! Sounds fantastic! I'm in! I'll write a sign-up post some time soon, I first need to figure out what I want to read :)

Ruth said...

I'm in!

Ekaterina Egorova said...

My sign-up with the list is here: http://irrelevant-scribble.blogspot.cz/2013/11/the-arthurian-literature-reading.html
I'm so eager to start!

Ruth said...

Here's my link:
http://greatbookstudy.blogspot.com/2013/11/arthurian-lit-challenge-2014.html

Jean said...

Hooray! I'm so glad to have company. :)

Deseree said...

Here is my sign-up list:
http://www.duskyliterati.com/challenges-2/2013-challenges/current-challenges-k/arthurian/

Jean said...

Hi Deseree! Thanks for joining up. :)

cleopatra said...

That's odd …… I posted a comment and it doesn't appear to have shown up so let's try again!

I'm so excited to start! Thanks for setting up the challenge, Jean. Here is my link: http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2013/11/the-arthurian-literature-reading_28.html

Lemon Tree said...

I didn't know this. Is it too late to sign up?

Jean said...

Goodness no! Please join us!

Lemon Tree said...

Here's my link. Can't wait to start very soon!

http://half-filledattic.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-arthurian-literature-reading.html

Jane said...

I love the idea! I'm in.
http://janesbookshelf.blogspot.com/2013/12/arthurian-literature-reading-challenge.html

Sophia said...

Oh I am so excited to join this challenge!
Here's my intro post:
http://ravens-and-writingdesks.blogspot.com/2013/12/arthurian-literature-challenge.html

~Sophia