Was King Arthur Real? King or Giant? The Facts as I See Them

Picture of Arthur looking for the holy grail

‘Arthur’, courtesy of Hartwig HKD under the Creative Commons 2.0 no deriv license available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The Who, What, Where and Why of King Arthur is a convoluted tale but I will attempt to break it down to the basics.

The Who

“King Arthur” is billed as the King of ancient Albion* and Arthur, supposedly, fought the Anglo-Saxon invaders. There are legends of him as a man, leader and fantastical creature which have filtered down to us today. These follow two strands: the man, and the giant.

For those interested in Etymology, the true meaning of ‘Arthur’ is unknown but there have been some estimations:

The Celtic ‘artos’ means ‘bear’, ‘viros’ is ‘man’ and ‘rigos’, ‘king’. There is also an uncommon Roman surname ‘Artorius’ in the running. In addition, the old Welsh ‘gwr’ means ‘hero’, which could be combined with the Celtic ‘Artos’.

Whatever the origins, Arthur is now a reasonably common name. If even some of the predicted origins are correct, it also has an amazing meaning! ‘Bear hero’, ‘bear king’…or he could be a wayward descendent of the Romans (not quite so interesting).

In the Cotswolds, I grew up with tales that Arthur was buried within a hill in the countryside, ready to rise to England’s defence, should we face attack again. The question is, where would that attack be coming from? What species would be coming at Britain, swords out?

The meaning of Arthur which carries most weight with me, lies in the concept of Arthur as a hero, battling ferocious beasts.

Now, why would I say that?

*(the name for England and Scotland before the Romans changed it to Britannia and eventually it became Britain / The United Kingdom).

The What

geometric image of arthur with foreign calligraphy writing

‘Parsifal’, courtesy of Hartwig HKD and used under the CC 2.0 no deriv license available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Arthur: The King?

Is King Arthur really a King? Or, is Arthur a fixture in British folklore? Historians have argued it and said there is no definitive proof he was a King, especially as he was not listed in any known Kings lists of the time and had no direct contemporary mention under his name. In fact, the monk Gildas in The Ruin and Conquest of Britain gave a different person’s name as Briton’s leader: Ambrosius Aurelianus.

This man shares many similarities with the commonly told tale of Arthur, fighting in and winning a big battle against the Anglo-Saxons during the 5th Century. However, it is a quantum leap from Arthur to Ambrosius, even if spelling conventions back then were a little ropey.

There is no mention of Arthur’s court, round table, Merlin or Guinevere in some of the oldest tales. Instead, we have something quite different.

Snippets allude to a soldier with no parallel. For example, in ‘Y Goddin’, Arthur is referred to indirectly, with warriors being described as good but ‘no Arthur’.

It is generally accepted that Geoffrey of Monmouth (in the 12th Century), concocted the tale of King Arthur because the Celts needed a hero (and he was probably bored) but, this is not an end to the folklore and the magic.

unicorn running from stonehenge

‘open your mind, courtesy of danijela dannie under the CC 2.0 generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Arthur: The Giant?

On looking into historical references to Arthur, a representation is found that does not portray him as King. Instead, he is a folkloric, heroic leader. In these descriptions, he’s a figure far more on the edge of society than a regal representative.

He is described as ‘the leader of a band of heroes who live outside society, whose main world is one of magical animals, giants, and other wonderful happenings, located in the wild parts of the landscape’.

(By very definition, I do not think a King – at least, a good one with actual followers – could live outside society).

Or, even more fantastically, as:

‘above all else…a defender of his country against every kind of danger, both internal and external: a slayer of giants and witches, a hunter of monstrous animals — giant boars, a savage cat monster, a winged serpent (or dragon)’

Who wouldn’t want to know this guy? He’d sure as anything be less likely to snub you than a King would.

To me, this is far more interesting than the dry tale of yet another King. Fantasy and legend has had its share of Kings, Queens, bastards of a prince once removed, and so on. History is far more interesting when it has a unique twist.

A suggestion of a world still populated with fantastical, magical animals and creatures, gives me the space to imagine a Britain of the Dark Ages where Science was not yet real and magic and superstition still had their foundations in society. One could even imagine, perhaps, that these things were real, an age ago.

Why

Yes, I’m aware this is out of ‘strict’ order, but it’s more interesting this way, promise.

So, Arthur is on the scene with otherworldly creatures, battling in the defence of Briton. Why?

Well, folklore suggests Arthur and his relatives were themselves giants, or could at least alter their height. So, they’d fit right in! Who better to fight a supernatural hoard than a friendly giant? (Cue B.F.G. anyone? Ah – the memories.)

Even the equivalent of Guinevere in the older tales, Gwenhwyfar, has magical leanings. There was a popular folk tune in Wales:

Gwenhwyfar ferch Ogrfan Gawr

Drwg yn fechan, gwaeth yn fawr.

“Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Ogrfan Gawr,

Bad when little, worse when great.”

(Now, this one reminds me of the hulk!)

Where

broken cliff face with open hole to sea

‘Not so square view to sea’, courtesy of francois schnell under the CC 2.0 generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Arthur’s resting place is a tricky subject. He was here, then there, then somewhere else again. Some claims were likely for monetary gain, others had false information and some, admittedly, have a certain Romance. The TLDR version is that no one can agree. So, until he pops up out the ground, he’ll keep us guessing!

Summing Up

I love history, especially when there is an aspect of the unknown and the paranormal, two of my very favourite subjects. I love to think we as a race don’t know everything and that there is a possibility the magical still exists, somewhere we’ve not found/seen it yet. I, for one, refuse to kill a fairy. It is, after all, impossible to disprove a negative and there is still so much to be discovered.

Research

I did a lot of research on this topic a while back, when laying the foundations for my fantasy-crime novel While I Slept, which has since turned into ‘The Riftkeeper Series’, based around what would happen if Arthur (a fantasy soldier rather than a King) awoke in the modern day and all the supernatural creatures of his time re-entered our lives simultaneously. In short: few good things.

Sources, Sites and Further Reading

Early Mentions in History

http://www.britannia.com/history/docs/stanzas.html

The Man-giant and Gwenhwyfar

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_g/gwenhwyfar.html

http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/n&q/figures.htm

http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_four_arthur.html

http://www.history.co.uk/shows/king-arthurs-round-table-revealed/articles/the-real-king-Arthur

http://www.caerleon.net/history/arthur/page2.htm

http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/was-king-arthur-a-real-person

http://www.britainexpress.com/History/King_Arthur.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/anglo_saxons/arthur_01.shtml

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/top-10-clues-to-the-real-king-arthur-2024729.html

Etymology of the name

http://www.behindthename.com/name/Arthur

http://mons-graupius.co.uk/index.php/linguistic/96-etymology-of-the-name-Arthur

http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Arthur

New Site, Updates Here will be Slowing Down

Holly Ice new website

Holly Ice’s new website logo

This is a short post to let you all know that my wordpress updates will be slowing down. I’ve ventured out on my own and have set up a website and address under my name for which I’ve paid a hosting charge.

There will still be the occasional update here for topics which will be off topic for the main site – things such as writing exercises, thoughts on life and writing inspiration. For news about my newest publications, more information will be available on the new site but I will be updating here after the new releases go live, as well.

I hope no one is too disappointed and please do follow me over to the new site or stick around here if you’d rather not split your attention.

Best,

Holly Ice

Stocking Up and NaNoWriMo

DSCN6225 by pippalou on morguefile

It’s been a busy month.

I’ve found some good sites and a few useless ones (always the way to find the good among the bad) and I’ve been stocking up on writing inspiration and good ebooks.

#NaNoWriMo

It’s the month of NaNoWriMo (or national november writing month) for the uninitiated. I decided last minute (at around 7pm on the 1st November) that I was going to join in. This is my profile if you’re interested: Bellalullaby.

The fun of the activity and the support of the writer community drew me in. Plus, I like a challenge. I’d wanted to write Book Two of The Otherworld Series – the book that comes after While I Slept – for around a year now and had been putting it off due to other writing activities I was waiting on. I decided I’d waited long enough.

For those who don’t know, the series is fantasy/crime with a strong sub-plot of romance and takes place in a world where the Fae (all manner of supernatural creatures including but not limited to Giants, Piskies, Donestre and Succubi) Otherworld has reconnected to our own. As their society is one which values violence and power rather than mercy and order, murderers tend to trip over the border into our own modern world. My protagonists Annie and Arthur do their best to deal with these.

I’m currently over 22,000 words in to book two. I had originally decided on the name Salt The Windows but this may well change. I’m not feeling it fits the plot as it’s coming together. I’m hoping for a gem of a title to come up in the writing process.

#StockingUp

In addition to NaNoWriMo, I’ve been stocking up on some good ebooks. This has stemmed from me finding a great site: Bookbub. You can search their site or give them your email address and get lists of discounted ebooks and free ones. You can specify what genres you like and even get a selection sent daily to your inbox.

I must have downloaded 20-30 so far. Course, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet but they should provide good fodder for reviews on here after the madness of NaNoWriMo.

#GoodEditingSite

As the tag would suggest, I’ve also found a great editing site through searching through the sponsors for NaNoWriMo. I would highly recommend Scribophile. The name is a little weird but they do great stuff.

Making an account is free and members can post chapters or short stories up for critique. You post by using up points called karma and you gain these points by critiquing others’ work. In short, it’s a matter of what goes around comes around and, so far, I’ve had some quality comments.

#AllinAll

A good couple of weeks to start out November. I currently have a beautiful Midnight Jasmine Yankee candle burning, an evening of writing behind me and a promising series ahead of me. Any questions or comments, chuck them my way on here or via my twitter (link in my name below) and I’ll get back to you.

Holly Ice

While I Slept – My Novel and Superstition

while i slept novel otherworld fantasy

1383461209nfki7 by archbob on morguefile

I found a book in a local charity shop over the weekend. It was quite a treasure for a writer: “A Pocket Guide to Superstitions” by Steve Roud. It made me think about how I could develop the social culture of the Otherworld in my novel’s final edit.

 

I had been thinking about how to develop and resolve a few issues with the Otherworld because the creatures there can live a very long time and yet have lost all knowledge of where the entrances to our human world are. Perhaps it has been so long they have forgotten the exact location and, as a colleague at work suggested, these portals have become more of a myth, lost to time? After all, most the creatures in this book are not the scholarly, writing type. Most of them tend to die early in power plays, too.

 

Roud’s book, since I started reading it yesterday, has given me a few ideas. He describes superstition being a result of believing luck to be a very real influence on one’s life – both bad and good. I was thinking the creatures in my Otherworld of While I Slept could have superstitions, much more like the old ways of our culture in the UK – refusing to walk under ladders and salting the windows, leaving food out for the fairies…

 
 

Here’s a peek into the Otherworld of While I Slept currently…

 
 

All manner of Fae creatures, from Piskies and Giants to Succubi and cat spirits, live in a world connected to our own (thus, the Otherworld). This world has towns villages and cities just like our own. One of their major trading posts connects to the Cotswolds, UK. The creatures live within a walled city which is full of large, bedouin style tents.

 

They have many strange and magical crafts. They can create fabric which has moving, life-like designs. Fabric which spits like fire when you get close but isn’t hot to touch or fabric which sparkles like a jewel but is soft. They also have a black market after dark where they sell, buy and trade the humans that were left in their world when the rifts to our world closed long ago…

 

These creatures do not have the same morals we do. They have no problems coupling up cross gender or cross species. Their whole culture revolves around power and dominance. Whoever is most violent or scary, generally wins the riches. It is somewhat similar to the courts of Shakespeare, only much more medieval and violence is much closer to the surface, as is sexuality.

 

Half breeds are looked down upon but not by everyone. Only those who feel the need to feel superior and elite. After all, if those half breeds are as strong as their counterparts, they deserve just as much respect. In a weird way the Otherworld is both more and less equal than our own.

 

It is an incredibly fun world to write about. Flinging out the mainstays of our morals and culture has been a blast and I think, after this content edit has been handed over, I’m going to enjoy threading in even more new cultural values and superstitions.

 

It stands to reason, after all, that creatures who live in a world where magical things are real, would have more superstitions and mystical cures (some of which I’m sure would work!) than the rest of us, out here in the bland human world where science is king.

Editing out the Chaff – While I Slept

14108984543z07r by hotblack on morguefile

 

A few days ago I had that magical moment I was looking for.

I found an editor for my fantasy novel While I Slept that’s good at what I’m bad at spotting: plot holes, character inconsistencies, unrealistic reactions…

 

That’s what I always view as a good editor-writer relationship – something complementary rather than complimentary, needlessly critical or hacking.

 

Every writer knows what they want for their manuscript and their style of writing. I didn’t want an editor that would slash away my voice and implant their own style, or someone who would make “improvements” that I viewed as deteriorations. A writer has to be careful whose advice to take with their writing. It is true what is said: not all suggestions are going to improve what you already have.

 

For now, I’m grinning like an idiot and really looking forward to finding out what my editor has got to say about the book as it stands. As someone on the other side of the planet (the USA), she has no reason to say my book is good if it isn’t and has no reason to be scared away from saying something critical.

 

In effect, she will be my first reader who is a complete stranger to myself and that’s exciting. I haven’t experimented in showing my writing to strangers since my early, early attempts at writing on www.fictionpress.com (I was on the site before it split into fan fiction and fiction).

 

I am also getting a brilliant editor at a fraction of the cost a lot of established websites will charge and this way I can ensure I am not getting a package deal but an individual deal, catering to my specific needs. I’m sure there are benefits to the larger companies and they will have a lot of experience but for a book of my length (around 97K words), I’d be looking at £500-£700 which, to me, feels like robbery.

 

I’m happy with my editor and the price we settled for, a fraction of the cost of larger companies but still a decent remuneration for the task at hand. I loved her sample edit and the suggestions she made were very insightful so I only see good things ahead for the edit, and the future of my novel.

 

My next blog post will be focusing a little more on my novel, letting you know a little more about what it’s all about as it has been a long time since I last did a sneak preview. Until then!

 

Holly Ice

1404341641ezt58 by ttronslien on morguefile

The Cliff of “Oh god, I’m not good enough”

SONY DSC

picture by deegolden on morguefile

 

I’d not realised until last night how close I’d been to stepping off the writerly cliff of “but I can’t”.

I have a confession to make: the novel that I finished, While I Slept, the one that I am trying to get an editor to bid on currently, has had a literary outing of sorts. I submitted it to two different agents back in June. Neither of them were mean. One I’d even met beforehand. She quite politely declined the book but it just puts a downer on the whole thing. It makes you think: but if they don’t like it, maybe no one will?

 

I was very quiet about these submissions because I didn’t want people checking back every few weeks and offering me dreaded pity. I wanted to deal with any rejection on my own and without others keeping tabs on response times and helping me get revved up about something which might not work out. Perhaps that was a bad idea, I don’t know.

 

Then last night I read this article. It made me remember what I’ve known all along; writers don’t get lucky overnight. We have to slog and send out dozens if not hundreds of submissions until we find an agent or publisher that wants to take our project on as their own. Professional and even best-selling authors have faced the same problem and had just as many pitfalls as me, if not more. I knew that, but almost forgot it when faced with rejection.

 

I suppose it’s a normal reaction but I realised I need to buck up. I’m going to get this novel edited and get my book sent out to more than two agents. I’ve got a list of eight at the moment that have said they like my genre and I have a similar number of publishers that don’t need an agent to be submitted to.

 

I’m still looking into self-pub options as well – especially into cover artists I really like the look of – but that’s a little ways off for action-ability yet, especially as I’m going to pay out for some objective editing from a stranger who will truly bring fresh, unbiased eyes on my work.

 

 

Here’s hoping it all works out!

Feel free to share your own stories with me on here or on twitter.

 

Holly Ice

Finding an Editor Worth Having

sw_Editing_N10_20130809_230442 Jppi on morguefile

by jppi from morguefile

I made another big step for me this week. I put the first 10 pages of my novel on a freelancing site – Elance – and asked for bids to edit the work. I’m after quality and reasonable pricing for content suggestions – character flaws, pacing, flow, plot holes etc and an accompanying list of commonly made mistakes would be nice.

It’s hard to find an editor that completely suits a writer and understands what is style and what needs fixing. It is also hard to find someone who doesn’t overprice editing. Writers don’t have that much money and an edit is a needed expense but not one that’s worth 2000$!! Even if you do have lots of experience, that’s internet robbery.

So far, it’s looking good. There have been a couple of good bids and at least one editor I have a really good feeling about. I just hope they’ll be – for me – that magical editor that works well with the author and is the trusted confidante they keep coming back to. Maybe that’s a dream but here’s hoping!

Let me know your editor horror stories and amazing matches. Give me an idea what to look out for – to avoid or go after. I have a few of my own ideas…

One of the editors bidding on my project ADDED IN adverbs and changed my style so the flow did not work anywhere near as well. Not someone I want working on my book.

A number of the bidders failed to read what I wanted and suggested a proofread or grammar and typo check when that is not the sole focus of what I’m looking for. Others endlessly quoted their “recommendations” and didn’t personalise their bid to me.

One prospective editor even suggested they have been a “prolific writer since they could hold a pen” and yet they have no job history on the site and no shown publishing credits.

If the public or your prospective audience (in this case, me) has never heard of you, it’s probably better not to call yourself prolific.

This leaves me with about four promising editors, including the one I have a good feeling about. My plan is to wait a little longer, see if anyone else bids, and make sure I have a firm idea of who to go with. A novel is a writer’s baby, after all.

Sally Bosco

Author of Dark Fiction

Damaris Young

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