My Library of the Legends

One shelf in my ‘Library’ – The Originals plus some other favourites
Now my shelves don’t quite rival the Arthurian Collection at Mold but they are mine and I love them.  Well, I love most of them – a couple have made me spit feathers but I suppose that’s par for the course when you get obsessed by something.

I’ve split them into categories but not using a cataloguing system officially recognised by any librarian on the planet!  No, what you see below is probably more of an insight into my mind than you really want. Please feel free to tell me if you agree, disagree or are completely confused by how I’ve grouped them.  Oh and within the grouping they are simply listed in the order they are on the shelves, which goes according to size.  And there’s no need to look at me like that – it’s as good a system as any and makes the shelf filled walls look as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
 
If you are passionate about an Arthurian book that isn’t on the list below PLEASE leave a comment and tell me what it is so I can get hold of a copy. If you haven’t already realised, books are a huge part of my life and there is nothing I like better than a good recommendation.
 
Right, on with the lists …
 
The “Original” Versions of the Legends:
 
The History of the Kings of Britain – Geoffrey of Monmouth (Penguin)
 
Le Morte D’Arthur  – Thomas Mallory (100 yr old copy – in two volumes – The MacMillan & Co reprint of the version Caxton originally published)
 
Le Morte Darthur – Thomas Mallory (modern English translation of the MacMillan version mentioned above, published by Wordsworth Modern Classics)
 
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – Unknown (Penguin)
 
The Mabinogion – Translated and Introduced by Sioned Davies (OUP)
 
The Gododdin Poems – William F. Skene (Forgotten Books)
 
The Four Ancient Books of Wales – William F. Skene (Forgotten Books)
 
History of Britain – Nennius (Kindle Digital Version)
 
Arthurian Romances – Chrétien de Troyes (Pengiun)
 
The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths & Legends – Peter Berresford Ellis
 
Modern retellings of the originals:
 
Not to be confused with novels which use the outline of the Arthurian legends to create new versions of them.  These do not seek to change the premises of the stories or unravel the contradictions; they just
adapt the stories for the times their authors lived in, in an attempt to make them more readable and accessible.
 
The Death of King Arthur – Peter Ackroyd (Penguin)
 
Discovering King Arthur – Beryl Bearne (Quantum)
 
Arthurian Legends – Marie Trevelyan (Sienna)
 
Arthurian Legends – Rosalind Kerven (National Trust)
 
Legends of King Arthur – selected and presented by Richard Barber (Boydell Press)
 
The acts of King Arthur and his noble Knights – John Steinbeck (Book Club Associates London)
 
King Arthur & his Knights – Maude Radford Warren (Kindle Digital Version)
 
The World of Camelot: King Arthur and the Kinghts of the Round Table – Michael Foss (Michael O’Mara Books)
 
Arthur of Albion – John Matthews, Pavel Taarnikov (Barefoot Books)
 
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table – Linda Yeatman (Guild Publishing)
 
The Arthurian Tradition – John Matthews (Aeon) (2011)

The Song of Arthur – John Matthews (Quest Books)
 
Chronicles of King Arthur – Andrea Hopkins (BCA)
 
King Arthur’s Raid on the Under World: The Oldest Grail Quest –Caitlin & John Matthews (Gothic Image Publications)
 
The Arthurian Book of Days: The greatest legend in the world retold throughout the year – Caitlin & John Matthews (Macmillan)
 
Tales of the Round Table – Edited by Mike Ashley (Past Times) I’m pushing my own distinction with this one!



Arthurian source books:

Comprising of encyclopaedias, academic works and other books that either:

a) discuss the legends and their writers or
b) try to identify a ‘real’ Arthur or site for Camelot/The Summerlands.

It’s mostly quite obvious which ones are which!


The Arthurian Legend – Margaret Reid (Oliver & Boyd)

King Arthur in Legend and History – Edited by Richard White (Dent)

King Arthur and his Grail Quest – John Matthews (Blandford)

Warriors of Arthur – John Matthews & Bob Stewart (Guild Publishing)

The Arthurian Legends: An Illustrated Anthology – Richard Barber (Littlefield Adams & Company)


The Arthurian Tradition – John Matthews (Element)


King Arthur: Dark Age Warrior and Mythic Hero – John Matthews (Gramercy)


The Reign of Arthur – Christopher Gidlow (The History Press)


A Brief History of King Arthur – Mike Ashley (Robinsons)

The Discover of King Arthur – Geoffrey Ashe (The History Press)

Arthur and the Fall of Roman Britain – Edwin Pace (Invermark Books)


Arthur – Daniel Mersey (Summersdale Popular History)


Revealing King Arthur: Swords, Stones and Digging for Camelot 
– Christopher Gidlow (The History Press)


Arthur: The Dragon King – Howard Reid (Headline)


Exploring the World of King Arthur – Christopher Snyder (Thames & Hudson)


Camelot and the Vision of Albion – Geoffrey Ashe (Panther)


Arthur’s Britain – Leslie Alcock (Penguin)


Cadbury|Camelot – Leslie Alcock (BCA)

The Quest for Arthur’s Britain – Geoffrey Ashe (Pall Mall)

Isle of Avalon – Nicholas R Mann (Green Magic)


King Arthur’s Avalon – Geoffrey Ashe (Sutton)


Glastonbury: Maker of Myths – Francis Howard-Gordon (Gothic Image Publications)


Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend – Alan Lupack (OUP)


The Arthurian Handbook – ed. Lacy, Ashe & Mancoff (Routledge)


The New Arthurian Encyclopaedia – ed. Norris Lacy (Garland)


A Companion to Arthurian and Celtic Myths & Legends – Dixon Kennedy (Sutton)


In Search of Merlin and Magic


Either all about Merlin or the magical side of the legends. 

Vitae Merlini – Geoffrey of Monmouth (Translated by John Jay Parry, Forgotten Books)

The Mammouth Book of Merlin – ed Mike Ashley (Robinson)

Merlin: The Prophet and his History – Geoffrey Ashe (Sutton)

Merlin: Master of Magick – Gordon Strong (Llewellyn)

Merlin Through the Ages – R.J. Stewart & J Matthews (Blandford)


Merlin: Knowledge and Power through the Ages – Stephen Knight (Cornell
University Press)

Merlin: Shaman, Prophet, Magician – John Matthews (Mitchell Beezley)

King Arthur’s Enchantresses: Morgan and her Sisters in Arthurian Tradition – Carolyne Larrington (I.B. Tauris)

King Arthur and the Goddess of the Land – Caitlin Matthews (Inner Traditions)

These two are about the type of magic that might have been present although not actually Arthurian (and more Norse than Celtic in some ways):

The Way of Wyrd – Brian Bates (Hay House) in story form

The Real Middle Earth – Brian Bates (Pan)


The History Behind the Legends:


These really aren’t Arthurian at all but I bought them to get a picture of the world Arthur would have been living in if he existed and gain an understanding of the political and cultural climate of the fifth and sixth centuries.  Thus I count them as part of the library:


The Celts, First Masters of Europe – Christiane Eluére (Thames & Hudson)


The Green Roads of England – R Hippisley Cox (The Lost Library)


In Search of the Dark Ages – Michael Wood (BBC Books)


Britain A.D. – Francis Pryor (Harper Perennial)


Celtic Britain – Nora K. Chadwick (Thames & Hudson)


The Celts – Gerhard Herm (BCA)


Roman Britain – Richard Hobbs & Ralph Jackson (The British Museum Press)


Daily Life of the Pagan Celts – Joan P. Alcock (Greenwoood World Publishing)


Battles of the Dark Ages – Peter Marren (Pen & Sword)


Warlords: The Struggle for Power in Post-Roman Britain
– Stuart Laycock (The History Press)


Britannia: The Failed State – Stuart Laycock (The History Press)


Britain after Rome – Robin Fleming (Allen Lane)


Bloodline
– Miles Russell (Amberley)


The Archaeology of Celtic Britain and Ireland c. AD 400-1200 – Llyod Laing (Cambridge  University Press)


Stonehenge Complete: Third Edition – Christopher Chippindale (Thames & Hudson)


The Towns of Roman Britain – John Wacher (BCA)


Arthurian novels


I think this is self explanatory!


The Crystal Cave – Mary Stewart 

The Hollow Hills – Mary Stewart
The Last Enchantment – Mary Stewart 

I can’t type these titles without saying something about them.  I love these books with every fibre of my being.  She makes Merlin human for me in a way no other Arthurian novel has managed, (although Steven Lawhead doesn’t do a bad job) and her angle on the “trapped in the crystal cave” part of the legend cannot be surpassed as far as I am concerned.  Her writing style is effortless and fits beautifully with both the period she sets them in and the way she portrays Merlin.  They  were the first books that made me feel about Merlin anywhere close to the way I feel about Arthur and they were also were the first books to make me think “I want to do that”.  They will always hold a special place in my heart and I cannot praise them enough, if you hadn’t already guessed that.

The Wicked Day – Mary Stewart


Mordred, Morgana and Stewart’s take on Arthur’s end.  As brilliantly written as the Crystal Cave Trilogy so I needn’t say any more.


Winter King – Bernard Cornwall 

The Enemy of God – Bernard Cornwall
Excalibur – Bernard Cornwall


Sixth century realism combined with Cornwall’s eminent readability makes for books you can’t put down, although if I was him I wouldn’t have bothered with Lancelot.  The story is told by Derfel, one of Arthur’s soldiers, who, after Arthur’s death is living out his last days as a monk. The Christianity bashing and the Isis worship can get a little wearisome but I suspect only if you re-read them as
often as I have.


The Sword at Sunset – Rosemary Sutcliffe

One of my favourite Arthurian novels – Dark Age Arthur at his best.  Just go and read the book, I promise you won’t be dissapointed.

The Sword and the Circle
– Rosemary Sutcliffe
The Light Beyond the Forest – Rosemary Sutcliffe
The Road to Camlann – Rosemary Sutcliffe

Aimed at children but that matters not a jot.  She makes them her own and yet they are still true to the legends.  She is one of my favourite authors and I cannot praise these enough.

The Pendragon Cycle: Taliesin – Stephen Lawhead

The Pendragon Cycle: Merlin – Stephen Lawhead
The Pendragon Cycle: Arthur – Stephen Lawhead
The Pendragon Cycle: Pendragon – Stephen Lawhead
The Pendragon Cycle: Grail – Stephen Lawhead


The first book starts in Atlantis and I don’t think I really need to say more.  Stepehen Lawhead weaves legends together with consummate ease.  I am, however, more attached to the first three of the cycle than the last two.


Hawk of May – Gillian Bradshaw


All about Gwalchmai (Gawain to the rest of us).  An enchanting, dark and shadowy book that resisted all my efforts to be read in less than one sitting. I especially loved the references to the Irish mythology.


Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

Lady of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Forests of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley


Iconic and yet not to my tastes. Too much girl power and not enough sense for my liking, although some of the descriptions and rituals are fabulous.


Kingmaker – Helen Hollick

The Shadow of the King – Helen Hollick
Pendragon’s Banner – Helen Hollick


Gritty realism and evocative images takes you straight into the set for a “dark age” Arthur.  Be warned, you won’t find Lancelot, Merlin or magic in these – they are historical fiction setting Arthur firmly in the late fifth/early sixth century – and I think they are all the better for it.  This is
Helen’s idea of what Arthur might have been like as a real man, with nothing but his brain and his sword to rely on, and it is powerful stuff.  

The Once and Future King – T. H. White

Yup, this is the collection that starts with the story Disney used for “The Sword in the Stone”


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twaine


Damosel – Stephanie Spinner


Isolde – Rosalind Miles


The Forest of Adventures – Katie M. John

Immortal Beloved – Katie M. John

These are the first two of a YA trilogy, set in Cornwall in the modern day.  The ‘Twilight’ effect is strong in these books – although I don’t want to kill the female lead in the way I wanted to kill Bella – and they are very strong on the whole ‘Christian’ element of the legends.  The basic legends are subverted quite a long way past comfortable as far as my personal taste is concerned but I admire what Katie is trying to do.


The Complete Lyonesse – Jack Vance


Dragon Queen – Alice Borchardt

Raven Warrior – Alice Borchardt

Heavy on the magic, with shape shifting and Celtic symbology galore, these may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Especially not the sex rite in the first one!


Arthur, High King of Britain –Michael Morpurgo

The Sleeping Sword – Michael Morpurgo

Written for children but that doesn’t matter when it is Michael doing the writing.


Arthur: The Seeing Stone – Kevin Crossley-Holland

Arthur: At the Crossing Place – Kevin Crossley-Holland
Arthur: King of the Middle March – Kevin Crossley-Holland


Again these are children’s books but they are lovely all the same, mixing life on the Welsh borders in the Middle Ages with the legends in a very compelling way.