The Alliterative Morte Arthure
The King in this version of the Arthur story is a unique version of himself. The world he inhabits feels older than the others I have read, and Arthur himself seems more heroic. He is a Christian King, but his Christianity also seems older and more mystical than in later versions of the story. In the beginning, Arthur is a Holy Warrior King, setting out to do single combat with a monster who slays and eats children and kidnaps innocent women. Before he enters the fray, he calls to God and St Michael for Victory. His foe is as evil and ugly and grotesque as Arthur is good and beautiful and gorgeously armored. The battle is a fierce one, described in detail, with moments where Arthur might fail, even as he smites the beast again and again.
I appreciate Kay and Bedivere in this version. Kay as Arthur’s cupbearer is so much more bold and merry. There is something about the three of them as the best of friends that rings true to me. I also appreciate the results of the giant's battle, where Arthur wants only the weapon of his enemy as spoil and gives the rest of the monster's treasures away to the people who had been tormented by it.
In the second portion of the reading, where Arthur is fighting Emperor Lucian, I was thoroughly amused to find a Sir Valiant in the writings. I’ve been a reader of the comic since I was little, but had never seen the name in any of the original literature before. It’s a fierce battle, and the writer is not afraid to describe it in gore and blood. There is a moment where Arthur speaks to an enemy, saying “Come down, you are two high by half” and promptly cuts him off at the knee. It’s a brutal scene. I was not expecting the death of Sir Kay. I appreciated his death speech introducing the women we know are in the story, but whom we are unlikely to meet.
At the end of that battle, Arthur sends his enemy home in coffins, offering their deaths as the tribute that had been requested of him. I thought that was very Beowulf of him.