High king of Great Britain, son of Uther Pendragon and Igraine. Arthur stands as one of the greatest mythical heroes that the world has ever known. So great was the influence of Arthur, that stories of the high king traveled far beyond the realm of Britain into France, the rest of Europe, the Middle East, and even into parts of Asia.
The coming of Arthur was prophesied years before he was born. Arthur was born into a world of chaos and disorder where wars between different Celtic tribes were prevalent, different Saxon raids charged through the countryside brining fear and terror, and bandits and other criminals ran free all over the British isles, spreading crime like a disease. When Arthur took the throne however, this chaos dissolved within a matter of years and Britain became an ideal place of chivalry, honor, and justice. It is truly amazing how much of an influence that one man could have. With his advisor Merlin at his side and with the fellowship of the courageous knights of the Round Table, Arthur transformed a chaotic land of villainy and danger into a realm of peace, tranquility, and adventure. All of Britain looked up to Arthur and spoke of him with awe and admiration.
The real Arthur was most likely a Celtic general that lived sometime in the 6th century. He advised various kings to unite together to fight the raiding Saxons. He was most likely a military genius. In those dark days, true heroes were very scarce and the people looked for someone like Arthur to tell stories of to their children around night fires. Through the legends, Arthur spread throughout the land. Minstrels and storytellers journeyed from village to village telling tales of Arthur and his prowess deeds. Soon, stories of the hero had reached over the British Channel into different lands such as France and Spain. Different storytellers such as Geoffrey of Monomouth and Sir Thomas Malory added elements to the stories such as Merlin, Guinivere, the Round Table, and the Holy Grail. Each storyteller interpruted the legends in their own way according to what was dearest to their heart. As wonderful as Arthur's reign was, the high king's life was far from perfect. It was filled with failure, sorrow, despair, and betrayal. As one reads through the pages of Arthurian books, they cannot but help feel for the king who tried so hard to live a noble life but again and again saw different failures.
Arthur himself was the result of his father's lusts for Igraine and the murder of her husband, the Duke Gorlois. To fulfill the prophecies of Arthur, the high king, Merlin needed to take Arthur away from his rash father, Uther, and place him into the hands of a noble knight, Hector. With Hector as his foster father, Arthur learned to live nor as a rich, spoiled prince, but as a brave, humble, and hardworking knight who always wanted to please his father. Soon, Uther died and it was time for Arthur to claim his destiny as high king of Britain. With Merlin's wise advise Arthur proved to be the greatest king that Britain had ever known. The main focus of the early years of Arthur's reign is on Arthur himself, not only on Arthur the king, but Arthur the knight. Adventures passed by of Arthur fighting a war against other war chiefs of Britain to prove that he was the worth king of Britain. Arthur then went on to obtain Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, and we also see Arthur in brave combat against creatures such as giants and dragons.
Arthur was not afraid to put his crown aside to fight for what is righteous. Arthur also forms the legendary Round Table and has all of the knights who sit at it to take an oath to always help others, and always show courtesy, mercy, and justice. Arthur also later on became known as the "Christian King" and Christianity became a very important way of life for many of the knights. Arthur's life would not stay perfect after all of these deeds, however. One of the first misfortunes of Arthur's life was the incestial relationship between himself and his half-sister, Morgause. Arthur at the time did not know who Morgause was and at the time he was unmarried. Morgause was very attractive and as a result, Arthur seduced her thus conceiving Mordred, his son and nemesis who would eventually bring the downfall of Arthur's kingdom. As a result, Arthur passed a Herod like degree to assure Mordred's death. Mordred escaped and survived, however and would return one day to Camelot to become a knight of the Round Table and bring Arthur's eventual doom. Another tragedy in Arthur's life was the loss of his friend and advisor, Merlin when Merlin left Camelot forever for his fatal love for the fairy Viviane. This was very hard for Arthur since Merlin had always guided him and brought him to where he was. Soon it was time for Arthur to marry. He disobeyed Merlin's warning, and took the fair Guinivere, daughter of King Leodagrance of Camiliard to be his wife.
Arthur loved Guinivere dearly and she was very special to him. Arthur's Round Table attracted knights from all over including the greatest knight in the world, Sir Launcelot of the Lake. There became a very close relationship between Arthur and Launcelot and the two regarded each other as best friends. Life would not always remain so simple as Launcelot and Guinivere felt a deep, unstoppable love for each other that would not die. The two had to hide their love from Arthur and this hurt them both terribly because they both loved Arthur very much. It is very sad to see how happy Arthur was in those years and how he felt for Launcelot and Guinivere and yet did not know of their betraying love.
Soon Arthur grew older and knights such as Gawaine, Gareth, Lamorak, and Tristan came to the Round Table. The focus of the story gradually shifts from Arthur to different stories of his knights. The image of Arthur is transformed from the younger, heroic king to the older, dignified king who everyone honored and adored. When Arthur was young it was quite possible that he was the greatest knight in the world but when knights such as Launcelot and Tristan entered his company, this was seen to certainly not be true. Even though he was a bit older, Arthur never stopped jousting and when an enemy would attack, Arthur would always be on the battlefield with his knights. After awhile instead of being the rescuer, Arthur many times took the role of the rescued as different knights helped save Arthur from different enemies. Arthur took great pride in his great kingdom and his noble knights. So generous was Arthur, that he would grant almost any boon to those that came to his kingdom and asked for one.
As the years went by, more and more knights came to the Round Table until finally, Sir Galahad, Launcelot's son came to the Round Table and too the seat of the Siege Perlious. This was one of Arthur's greatest moments to see all 150 seats of the Round Table filled. Unfortunately, this moment was very short lived as Sir Gawaine, Arthur's nephew declared that he would quest for a year and a day until he had found the Holy Grail. Soon, all of the other knights set upon the same quest and Arthur and Camelot were stripped of all their legendary knights. This was a very hard moment for Arthur to see all of his loyal and beloved knights abandon him to seek out their destinies. Arthur then knew that not all of them would return and the Round Table would never return to its former state of glory. Deep inside, Arthur probably wished to join his knights on their quest. The next year Arthur spent in loneliness and lamentation for the absence of his knights. As the year progressed, many of the knights returned, tired and wary, with tales of failure and despair. Out of 150 knights that sought the grail, only 3 achieved it. The Round Table was never the same after only half of the knights returned and Galahad and Percival whom had achieved the grail died, after fulfilling their destinies. Arthur was in great sorrow for the departed knights but was none the less, very happy to see many of his knights return.
After the grail quest, Camelot knew a few more years of happiness. During this time however, Launcelot's and Guinivere's lover grew stronger than ever and Mordred secretly plotted on revolting against the king to become king himself. Another sad example of Arthur not being the greatest knight in the world came when Sir Urre of Hungary came to Arthur's court with wounds that could only be healed by the greatest knight in the world. Arthur was the first to volunteer to attempt to heal Urre. Arthur knew that he was not the greatest knight in the world but had small hopes that he possibly was. When Arthur failed, he sadly admitted, "It is not I," and watched as all of the others knights failed as well until finally Launcelot succeeded and was declared the greatest knight in the world. Arthur wanted to be much more than a king, he wanted to be the greatest knight that he could be.
In a few years to come, Launcelot's and Guinivere's love was finally discovered and thus began the saddest moment in Arthur's life which eventually unraveled into the end of his glorious kingdom. It was Mordred and Agravaine who discovered the affair and told Arthur of it. Arthur was silent in disbelief that such a thing could have happened. Launcelot fled from Arthur's kingdom and Arthur faced the greatest decision in his life. Arthur had to betray his love for Guinivere in order to carry out justice and save the reputation of his kingdom. At the advice of Mordred, Arthur reluctantly sentenced Guinivere to be burned at the stake. With Launcelot, many other knights had left Camelot and Arthur felt devastated to see their loyalties to Launcelot be more valuable than loyalties to himself. Before Guinivere was to be burned, Launcelot and his knights led siege on Camelot and freed the queen. In this struggle, Launcelot had accidentally slayed two of Arthur's nephews, Gareth and Gaheris. This was another tragedy and infuriated Gareth's and Gaheris's brother, Gawaine who had once had a great love for Launcelot. Gawaine pleaded for Arthur to make war against Launcelot and Arthur finally gave in to his wishes and led siege against Launcelot's forces. This was very hard for both Arthur and Launcelot because both of them still loved each other dearly and did not want to harm each other. In this battle, Arthur was unhorsed and about to be slain until Launcelot ordered for him to live and kindly returned Arthur to his horse. This kind gesture made Arthur have no desire to fight anymore but Gawaine persisted to avenge his brothers. Launcelot and Gawaine soon met in single combat and Arthur watched with tears in his eyes as he saw the two men that he loved most in this world fight each other. Twice, Launcelot defeated Gawaine and sparred his life.
At this time, Mordred was left in charge of Britain and told the country that Arthur was dead in order to become king himself. Mordred also tried to wed Guinivere. Soon, words of this reached Arthur and thus began the final betrayal of Arthur's life. On word of this, Arthur and his forces returned immediately to do battle against Mordred's forces. When Arthur reached Britain, his forces were besieged by Mordred and his traitorous knights. The battle was very hard and many were killed. Mordred's forces eventually retreated. In the course of the battle, Arthur's last and most loyal nephew, Gawaine was killed. Gawaine pleaded for Launcelot's forgiveness and spent his final hours with Arthur and then died. Arthur grieved vigorously at this moment. That night, Gawaine's ghost came to Arthur in a dream and warned Arthur not to fight Mordred until Launcelot had returned to help Arthur. Arthur then set out to make a truce with Mordred. On the morning of this day Arthur visited his wife Guinivere who had betrayed him who was now living as a nun at a convent. Arthur did not come to her with words of anger and bitterness, but of love and forgiveness. This is a very powerful moment and shows Arthur's true nature. This is also the final time that Arthur and Guinivere are together. Later on in the day, all of Morded's men and all of Arthur's men were present and ready to fight if even one sword was drawn. Right when the truce was to be signed, a viper bit one of the knights in the foot and the knight drew his sword to kill it. At this moment, every knight drew their sword and thus began the final battle. "Oh dreadful moment!," cried Arthur, "I no longer have any happiness left within me and all of which I once had is now lost." The battle raged on for hours and was very fierce. Many of Arthur's greatest knights died on that day. In the end, there was only Arthur with his two knights Bedivere and Luncan, and Mordred. Arthur took a spear, determined to finish what Mordred had started. Arthur stabbed the spear right through Mordred but at the same time, Mordred mortally wounded Arthur with a stroke to the helm. Knowing that he was dying, Arthur asked Bedivere and Luncan to help him up. Luncan who himself was severely wounded fell down and died once he attempted to lift up Arthur. As a final request, Arthur asked Bedivere to take his sword Excalibur and throw it into the lake. At first, Bedivere could not bring himself to throw the beautiful sword into the water. Arthur was very upset at this and ordered Bedivere to toss the sword into the lake. As Bedivere tossed the sword, a hand reached up out of the water and took the sword. When Bedivere returned, a barge came from the watery mists of the lake with 4 queens, one of which was Arthur's sister, Morgan le Fay.
The weak and dying Arthur was placed in to the barge and told that he would be taken to the mystical island of Avalon to be healed and rest until one day he was needed.
The barge with Arthur slowly glided into the mist and disappeared forever.
There are many legends what happened from there. Some believe that Arthur died and was buried at Glastonbury. Soon after Arthur passed away, so did Guinivere and Launcelot, and soon the entire kingdom of Arthur. But the Arthurian dream never died. It continues to live on in the hearts of many who today dream of being knights of the Round Table. Arthur left this world with a very sad tone. Perhaps he thought that he had failed. He did not fail, however. Arthur will always be remembered as a great hero and one of the greatest kings that this world has ever known. Some even say that Arthur never died. There are legends that speak of Arthur sleeping in Avalon until one day a hero will come and awaken him when he is needed. In some stories, Arthur has returned. In the brilliant television program "Gargoyles," Arthur has returned.
In "Gargoyles" Arthur has awakened and travels the world to seek justice. He has even reclaimed his sword Excalibur and chosen a gargoyle named Gryph to be his first knight. In this tale, there is no doubt that Arthur is once again the greatest knight in the world. As long as the Arthurian dream stays alive, there is always hope for a better world.