What does Tolkien and King Arthur have in common?
By Mary Anne
"Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know..."
J.J.R.Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
Imagine you have been mysteriously transported to Tolkien's Middle-earth. What do you see? Hobbits, elves, dwarfs... a ring? Rolling valleys, a tiny borough, huge impossible mountains, an all-seeing eye? Whatever you see it is foreign to what you know. It is an imagined kingdom, sweet in the telling, but it has no substance. It is a world apart. So impossibly brilliant that it could never be true.
But I know of a place that has rolling valleys, tiny boroughs and huge impossible mountains. A places where the rivers hide secrets and the caves do not give up their treasures. There is no Gondor, but there is a Camelot. There is no Aragorn, but there is an Arthur. There is no Gandalf, but there is a Merlin.
There is not ring, but there is a grail. There is not Middle-earth...
Or is there...?
Did Tolkien know something that we did not? You see the island of Britain has an inner story. A story you will not find in a history book. And yet, this story is so compelling that for over a thousand years we have been telling it in one form or another.
This story has sparked pilgrimages. It has encouraged fearful soldiers to be brave. And it has convinced a nation that she will never fall to an aggressor. It is, of course, the story of Arthur and his Knights.
In folklore, we find Arthur, not in some dusty old history book. It is at the hearth where his name was first heard, spoken in whispered tones of awe and then later as someone to imitate. Now we read his story in books or watch it on the big screen. Arthur is everything that is good. A worthy hero. The perfect Knights. A Just King. But who was he really?
It is a simple question, but one that is so difficult to answer. Could he be a shadowy Celtic deity? Or perhaps a Roman general? Maybe he is not one man, but several — for there have been many possible Arthur's. Perhaps he is nothing but an invention of a bard's overactive imagination. Is there any truth to him at all?
Over the next couple of posts, I am going to be exploring the possible Arthur's and the land in which he ruled over...
In the meantime ~ why not head over to the 6th Century and find out what happened after the death of King Arthur.
War is coming...