Forum Posts

Jennifer Kingsley
Dec 30, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Response #10 These modern antique versions of Arthur are so interesting in what they reveal about the time they were written. Both Mark Twain and Naomi Mitchinson appear to belong to a similar world of bright prospects, brash irreverent characters, and a kind of cynicism that must have come with the invention of mass advertising. Every generation retells the tales of Camelot in a way that lets them grapple with the dramas and struggles of their own time. Mitchinson belongs to a brave new world of global governments and news organizations. Her journalists are no idealists. They understand that the victor writes the history books. They report the news, according to an agenda. They write what they write fully knowing that it will be taken apart and put back together in ways they didn't intend and that only that which is approved by the powers that be makes it to the public eye. Mitchinson's “Siege Perilous” makes me wonder if she knew Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. She has a way of making her characters come up against moral dilemmas with a shrug that is reminiscent of other authors writing around World War II. I do find the story a little hard to follow. I’m interested in who Lord Horny is, but don’t feel like I’ve got a good grasp on him. The same goes for the hermit. It’s hard to tell who is supposed to be the good guys in the story. Elaine is fairly unsympathetic, and Lancelot seems to have remained a hero in this telling, but I don’t know about Igraine, or Merlin, or a number of others involved in the production of Arthurian news. Maybe it's how Mitchinson tells the story. Maybe in her time journalists are inherently amoral, and that's a part of the point. Despite the difficulty in following the writing style, I am enjoying this story much more than the Twain version. Her Guinevere is delightful and human and Queenly all at once. Lienors, with her crush on Lancelot and her working relationship with Dalyn is a wonderful character. I also enjoy how the magic mirrors work as telephones and how nixies help the news cross the English channel. It is a delightful rendition.
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Jennifer Kingsley
Dec 30, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Response 9 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the most unique telling of the Arthurian legend that I have encountered. In its own time as a time traveling story, it must have been unusual. Today, it’s even more so, because its hero, who imagines himself so modern, is as old-fashioned to us as the chivalry is to him. I am enjoying the glimpse into Twain’s time even as I wonder at the way he envisions the people of Camelot. Hank Morgan carries within himself the most amazing hypocrisy, and he is utterly unaware of it. He lambasts the people of Arthur’s time as animals, and simpletons, as the most foolish, easily duped morons, then revels in his god-like powers of gunpowder, electricity, and modern scientific knowledge to fool them. He can spend pages denouncing the monarchy, then turn around and discuss his own absolute power with the glee of a kid given the candy store. He bemoans the state of the commoner, as an abomination to the healthy air a free man must breath; then bemoans the lack in middle ages England of tobacco, sugar, tea, and coffee, which were all the direct products of slavery. His blindness to his own ignorance and arrogance makes it hard to sympathize with him and makes me wonder if this is how Europe developed the idea of “The Ugly American” that’s spoken of so often in film. Were all the white semi-successful men in Twain’s time this self-satisfied and obnoxious? I very much enjoyed the brash young independence of the book, even if Hank is not my cup of tea. His off-the-cuff remarks about unions, and patent offices, and how a nation must have a newspaper if it is to get anywhere at all gives me a look into what was valued in my country when she was yet newly minted. All in all, I enjoy the satire of the book and the unintentional old-fashioned nature of it. I do hope Sagramor smacks Hank a good one though, as soon as he is done with the “Grailing”.
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Jennifer Kingsley
Dec 30, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Response 8 It’s wonderful to come across parts of the Arthur legend I had never heard. Somehow I had missed the story of Mordred and Guinevere and the tower of London, and it's my new favorite part. Mordred was conceived not very long before Arthur married Guinevere. He is presumably young enough to be her son. He is one of her most consistent enemies, using any chance he can get to accuse her and Lancelot of infidelity. He and his brother Agravain were responsible for trapping the lovers, which led to her being tied to a pyre to be burned. Despite all this, he decides that the best way for him to seal his claim on the throne is to marry her. He decides to marry her, and then he Believes her when she agrees that despite the decades of enmity between them, and his sure blame in the current war between her husband and her lover, she would love nothing more than to marry him. His lack of awareness about women, and about Guinevere, in particular, is astonishing. She has been married to the greatest King England will ever know for her entire adult life, and she has been loved by the greatest knight the world has ever known for most of that life. She has watched flames rise around her. She has watched as her Husband King and Her lover Hero knight have been set upon each other, by this sneaky, gossiping, coward, who now lays claim to the throne and wants to marry her. Mordred is so out of his league with Queen Guinevere it is Awesome. She lowers her lashes and asks him if she may go to London to prepare for their joyful union, and he doesn’t think twice. Maybe he’s too vain to see it? Maybe he really just does not know who he is dealing with? Perhaps his story of women is such that he feels she has no options left, and will just take up with the most powerful man around. Whatever it is, I can’t say how much I enjoyed watching Guinevere setting herself up in style on Mordred’s dime in the Tower of London. It’s defensible, it’s so very very public, it is the perfect place for a queen besieged. Mordred is so mad he’s apoplectic. He comes at her with siege weapons and sweet words and none of it budges her. She lets it be known far and wide that he’s the worst, and she’d rather be dead than marry him. It’s excellent. It’s one of the few moments where sneaky snaky Mordred gets tricked himself and gets publicly shamed. I finished that little episode and sat back and applauded Her Majesty. Well Played Guinevere, Well Played.
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Jennifer Kingsley
Dec 30, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Response#5 I just don’t love this version of the Grail. The story of Sir Percival is such a beautiful myth. His Bel Inconnu story flows perfectly into the tale of a desolate land and a wounded king, a mysterious castle and a mysterious ceremony, the right question, and a questioner who has to grow up to be ready to ask it. Its ending is so satisfying, with his discovery, that the grail is his inheritance, as is the kingdom, and he has finally become worthy of both. Galahad’s story just feels so untethered to anything that matters. I can’t bring myself to care, and it feels as though Arthur and his knights only care because they feel they Have to. They marvel at Galahad, at his name on the siege Perilous, but he isn’t a real part of their story. His quest feels like it’s being told by people who want it to mean something but haven’t quite figured out how to make it do so. I dislike how his quest has nothing to do with the well-being of the land, or of the people who inhabit it. His quest has nothing to do with chivalry. The grail in this story is just a holy object, it isn’t the source of healing for the world. It’s a weird story. The grail is this holy thing, and Galahad is born to find it. The End. His finding it doesn’t DO anything for anyone, except maybe his own soul. His birth requires a rape. His quest leads most of the knights to their deaths. Then, upon finding it, he dies, and both he and the grail are taken away to heaven. It’s a wildly unsatisfying version of a story that has held the public imagination for a thousand years.
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Jennifer Kingsley
Dec 30, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Response #1 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.
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Jennifer Kingsley
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