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Grimm, Top 10

Top 10: Revisioning and Retelling Arthur

30.04.10 | Comment?

King Arthur Christian Heroes TapestryWhen I was a child I loved the Merlin books by Mary Stewart, The Sword in the Stone by T H White…  the whole King Arthur, Round Table, Excalibur thing. Arthurian legends are a rich source of material for heaps of fiction, from books that focus on gritty realism to mystical, magical tomes; there’s a selection of Arthur-inspired books just below down here:

  1. Here Lies Arthur, Philip Reeve – Myrrdin is a travelling bard who spins tales of Arthur’s greatness, but in reality Arthur is really a not particularly bright bully. Myrrdin takes Gwyna under his wing and introduces her to the court where she takes on his role of storyteller.
  2. The Seeing Stone, Kevin Crossley-Holland – It’s 12th Century England, and 13 year old Arthur is given a seeing stone by Merlin that allows him to view images of King Arthur. He notes there are similarities between himself and the legendary king. The first in a trilogy.
  3. The Stone Crown, Malcolm Walker – This time it’s 21st Century Scotland, and Emlyn and Maxine uncover some carvings that contain the spirits of Arthur and his knights. Drawn into a world of myth and magic, Emlyn and Maxine must destroy the carvings before Arthur and co are unleashed on an unwitting present day Scotland, but then there are the Keepers of the carvings, the McCrossans who kind of don’t want them destroyed.
  4. Sword at Sunset, Rosemary Sutcliff – A classic Arthur novel. Artos the Bear here is a warlord, the leader of Britain’s High King’s army.
  5. T A Barron Collection, T A Barron – contains The lost years of Merlin,  The seven songs of Merlin, The fires of Merlin, being the first three books in the Lost Years of Merlin epic, which is an imagined telling of the story of Merlin’s youth.
  6. The Dark is Rising sequence, Susan Cooper – one of the great children’s fantasy series that I still haven’t read, the Dark is Rising books are based on the Arthurian legends (for example, in The Grey King Will meets King Arthur’s son), and the first book in the sequence is actually Over Sea, Under Stone.
  7. The Song of Arthur, Robert Leeson – Taliesin, the bard, is the narrator here, with this retelling attempting to portray the reality of the time when Arthur would have been pounding around England (5th Century AD).
  8. Taliesin, Stephen Lawhead – book one of the Pendragon Cycle. Prince Taliesin and Princess Charis fall in love and marry and produce a child, Merlin.
  9. Merlin Dreams, Peter Dickinson – ten stories set in a world resembling Merlin’s England, but containing non-hero type characters with twists that make them seem both everyday and memorable.
  10. Shalott, Felicity Pulman – if you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan, or you’re into Tennyson then Shalott will bring to mind the Lady of Shalott, who floats down the river to Camelot, dying on the way. In Shalott, Callie accidentally transports herself and four other teenagers (who she doesn’t know) back in time to Arthur’s Camelot where each of them must undertake a personal challenge (and also find their way back home).

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