June 30, 2004
Expert says new King Arthur movie adds more twists to legend
Hollywood is promoting its latest King Arthur production as the truth behind the legend, but a Purdue University medieval literature expert says the story is still heavy in myth.
"This movie claims to be the true story of King Arthur," says Dorsey Armstrong, an assistant professor of English who studies Sir Thomas Malory, one of the medieval authors who wrote about the King Arthur legend. "But it's really just a different fictional take on the legend. I am always happy to see strong women on screen, but in this film Guinevere is a warrior queen, and she never was a warrior queen in any of the legends, nor was the real woman on whom the legendary character was based."
"King Arthur," a Touchstone picture, opens nationwide on July 7. Armstrong, an expert in gender issues in the Arthurian legend, recently attended a New York event to view the movie's trailers and select clips for a History Channel program, "History vs. Hollywood: King Arthur," which will air July 6 at 11 p.m./10 p.m. Central.
This version of the King Arthur story is set in the 5th century, which is the time the real King Arthur is thought to have lived. Most King Arthur movies are set in the 12th through 15th centuries because that is when most of the Arthur legends were written.
Another common historical inaccuracy in many of the Arthur stories is the inclusion of two of the legend's most beloved characters, Lancelot and Merlin.
"Neither has any real ties to the historical Arthur," Armstrong says. "Lancelot is a figure from the 12th century, and Merlin was a bard from the 6th century who was added to the Arthurian legend in the 12th century. They were late additions to the legend, but if we excluded them from the storyline people will be upset."
Armstrong is the author of "Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory's Morte d'Arthur," the first book to look at gender issues in Malory's version of the Arthurian legends.
CONTACT: Armstrong, (765) 464-3695, DArmstrong@sla.purdue.edu