The Story of King Arthur and His Knights
The Story of the Champions of the Round Table
By: Howard Pyle
Blood. Love. Chivalry. Battle. Treachery. Madness.
Important note: My copy of this book – the one linked to and shown above – has both The Story of King Arthur and His Knights and The Story of the Champions of the Round Table, which are two separate, though connected, compilations. Both are included under the title of the former; I am not sure why and this is NOT true for all copies of the book.
Together, these two books are a whopping 657 pages. Ay carumba.
This book took me forever to read. At first, I loved it. Pyle’s a bit long winded and repeats facts several times, in the tradition of epic tales. Every knight is the greatest knight in all the world; every woman thought to be the most beautiful; every battle the most fierce.
But at first it was so fun it didn’t matter. And then it just got l.o.n.g.
But it’s thorough for sure. Everyone you’ve ever heard of from Arthurian fiction is in here – Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Tristan, Isolde, Lancelot, Gawain, Pellinore, Galahad. Except Pyle spells everything differently. Launcelot. Isoult. Lamorack. Tristram (who hilariously goes by an alias – Tramtris – for part of the book. Oh yeah. No one’s gonna get that one.). I could go on.
What’s Arthurian fiction, you ask? Ever heard of King Arthur? Arthur, King of the Britons. Or Camelot? Or the Knights of the Round Table?
Arthurian fiction is the massive body of work that surrounds the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table. No worries if you’re not an Arthur buff. My complete set of Arthurian knowledge comes primarily from excessive screenings of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Oh and this book I read last year. At some point in school, I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but I understood so little of it that I didn’t even realize it was part of the Arthurian canon.
In fact, this book is probably a great starting point for anyone who is remotely interested in this stuff. As I mentioned, it’s quite thorough. You’re going to get at least a taste of everything Arthur’s got to offer.
But be warned, it is written in a weird, hodgepodge archaic English. The spelling and syntax is all modern, but Pyle uses “an” for “if” and “maugre” for “notwithstanding”, etc. Anyone who has read even just a bit of old English will have no problem, but otherwise, you might need to look a few words up.
But if you like it? Good news: Pyle’s quite prolific! And even better news: there are SO MANY more Arthurian works. You can’t read them all in a lifetime, so you’ll never run out of material!
If you enjoy Howard Pyle, here are some suggestions:
(for more Arthurian fiction)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Once and Future King by T. H. White
(for more by Pyle)
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Men of Iron by Howard Pyle
Book of Pirates by Howard Pyle
(for other epic or just epically long tales)
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
The Iliad by Homer
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Ground Rules by Renee Swann
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett