Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Eldest Gel called to chat with ol’ Robbo yesterday. She’s taking a medieval history course called something like “Myths and Legends” in which the class compares the popular notions of various historickal figures with what is actually known about them. Among said figures, I believe the Gel mentioned Charlemagne, St. Joan of Arc, El Cid, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Genghis Khan and Saladin. The prof, apparently, has already made clear that the last of this group is her favorite, so I warned the Gel to stand by for mischief. (I also already know exactly what is going to be said about El Cid – that he was nothing more than a blood-thirsty hooligan terrorizing Spain while the Moors studied the higher philosophies and maths in their lovely civilization at Cordoba. Bank on it.)
Anyhoo, they’re apparently starting out with King Arthur and what the Gel wanted to know is if I thought he was a real person. I told her that I like to believe he did indeed exist. Not the Grail Quest or the knights-errant-slaying-ogres Arthur, which was obviously a Middle Ages invention, but something more like a 5th or 6th Century warlord, probably Romanized, possibly Christian, who united the Britons and drove back the Saxon invasion for a brief period. I’ve no idea what the Scholarship says these days, but I’ve always loved this notion of the last brief holdout of Civilization before the Dark Ages set in. I also have a very hard time believing that with all the myths and legends that were piled on him over the centuries, there wasn’t actually a historickal Arthur underneath.
I’ll be interested to hear the class’s take on this.