Appropriating the Legend: Arthurian Literature on Film

Ho, Lianne
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
The legend ofKing Arthur is one ofthe most enduring and prolific stories in Western literature. The earliest surviving mention of Arthur appears in "The Gododdin," a poem attributed to the Welshbard Aneirin written around 600A.D. In the centuries that have followed, the Arthurian legend has been retold and reshaped by authors with various motives, each seeking to use the familiar stories in order to impart a specific system ofvalues and/or beliefs to the reader. What makes the story of King Arthur so enduring? Perhaps it is because the legend lends itself so easily to reinterpretation-"its essential versatility and 'movability"' (Lacy,,Handbook272). Asstated in The Arthurian Handbook, "we can, and often do, mold [the Arthurian legend] to our own preferences fantasies, or ideological concerns" (Lacy, et. al.272). Modem adaptations are no exception to the principle-contemporary retellings, like their medieval counterparts, recast the stories of Arthur in ways that further the author's agenda. It is these modem versions ofthe Arthurian legend that I examine in this project-specifically, modem Arthurian literature that has been adapted into film.
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