TravelA walk through the geography of the legend of...

A walk through the geography of the legend of King Arthur


Perhaps the expression matter of Brittany does not say anything to most readers. However, if we are talking about King Arthur, then probably everyone knows them.

The matter of Britain is the name with which, in literature, all the works that were written that dealt with the Arthurian theme (and others located in the British Isles) are included.

And it is that, although for us King Arthur is a story, an ancient legend about which books have been written, movies filmed and comics drawn, a student of literature and almost any branch of Western culture and art cannot leave aside the importance that this myth has had, has and will have.

Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Camelot, Excalibur, the round table… it seems difficult that these names, their role in history and what they represent will one day be forgotten, because they represent values ​​that an ancient world considered universal and that only now, after centuries, some of them, not even all, are beginning to change (and this is not bad at all, we do not live in the Middle Ages).

The legend of Arthur: between myth and reality

The story of King Arthur mixes Celtic, Germanic, Christian cultural influences… and made all of Europe have common ethical ideals. And if this fusion of cultural elements makes it interesting, being on the border between history and mythology, and constantly crossing it, makes the mystery and the consequent attraction that the occult awakens surround it.

Did Arthur exist? Was he a Celtic chieftain? Was he a Roman citizen who stayed in Britain and formed a resistance against the invading Angles? Is it a mixture of both characters taken to the myth? It seems that euhemerization (the process by which a poorly remembered historical figure enters the legend) is a theory that cannot be ruled out.

The places where the adventures of King Arthur take place

Precisely because they are between history and myth, many of the locations where the adventures of the great king and his famous knights take place are real and are known today. Some places appear in the works, others have simply been included in the legend by local popular culture.

Glastonbury Abbey: The Holy Grail

This English abbey is located in the county of Somerset, in the southwest of England. The abbey is already attractive regardless of its relationship to Arthurian myth. It is one of the oldest that exists, since it was founded in the 7th century by British monks. It burned down and was rebuilt in the 12th century.

Its importance for the Arthurian myth lies in the fact that the abbey received Jose de Arimathea, who brought the Holy Grail with him. This cup occupies a central place in the legend, since Arthur’s knights, the epitome of the ideal of chivalry, go out in search of it. In fact, the character of Arthur is what is considered a passive king: the weight of the story does not fall most of the time on him, but on the exploits of his men.

It is popularly said that both Arthur and Queen Guinevere are buried here, although the most widespread version of the myth clarifies that Arthur is not buried, but is recovering from his wounds in Avalon.

Related to the burials, in the small town of Malborough, in the county of Wiltshire, it is said that what is perhaps the most famous character in the work after Arthur is buried: the wizard Merlin. The popular etymology indicates that the name of the town comes from Merlin’s barrow , the mound of Merlin.

El castillo de Cadbury: Camelot

Also located in Somerset County, Cadbury Castle is presented as an ancient defensive construction dating from what could be the time of the historical Arthur. Today hardly anything remains of the old castle, but its perimeter is recognizable on a mound that stands in the middle of an esplanade to the south of the small town of South Cadbury.

Still, Cadbury isn’t the only claimant to the title of Camelot’s heir. The second most famous option is Caerleon, a small town in South Wales. Both Geoffry of Monmouth and Thomas Malory, two heavyweights of Arthurian literature, place Caerleon in a relevant place within the legend.

Dozmary Pool: la muerte de Arturo

This small lake in Cornwall has the honor of being where Sir Bedevere, one of the knights who assisted Arthur in his last moments, threw the sword Excalibur at the request of his king, and from where the hand of the lady of the lake He came out to pick her up and take her away forever.

Winchester Castle: The Round Table

In it survives a large round table that has been identified with the one used by Arturo to surround himself with the best gentlemen of his time. However, his creation is dated to the 13th century and his paintings are from the 16th century.

Round tables, in fact, became fashionable throughout Europe thanks to the Arthurian legend. England, curiously, was a place where this fashion came late.

Tintagel Castle: The Beginning of the Story

Probably the most famous enclave of the Arthurian tradition for tourists. The ruins of the imposing castle are in the county of Cornwall.

The place is fundamental in the story, since everything starts here. Uther Pendragon, the king, was at war with one of his vassals, Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. Uther fell in love with the woman of her vassal, and the wizard Merlin gave him the appearance of the duke so that he could sleep with her for one night in exchange for the child they would produce from her. Thus, Uther managed to rape Ygrayne, who she thought was sleeping with her husband. When the duke dies during the war, she and the king are married, but Merlin demands that the deal be fulfilled when the child is born, who is none other than the future King Arthur.

The Broceliande forest: where magic reigns

The only place on this list that is not in Great Britain, but in French Brittany, and with it the article closes. It is the place where the wizard Merlin lived.

It was also the place where another fundamental character of the work resided: the lady of the lake. This character can change a lot depending on the story we read: she can be a sorceress who learned the magical arts from Merlin, her lover and her murderer, or she can be a purely magical being, a fairy who lives in a lagoon. This second conception has a marked pre-Christian component, clearly Celtic.

This character was the one who gave Arthur the sword excalibur after the king broke his in the fight against a knight. The king approached a lake from where a hand came out that grasped a sword. This hand was that of the lady of the lake, and the sword, Excalibur (in most accounts, the sword of the stone that serves to identify the king does not have a name).

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