Warriors and Wilderness in Medieval Britain

From Arthur and Beowulf to Sir Gawain and Robin Hood


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About the Book

Tracing the development of the King Arthur story in the late Middle Ages, this book explores Arthur’s depiction as a wilderness figure, the descendant of the northern Romano-British hunter/warrior god. The earliest Arthur was a warrior but in the 11th century Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen, he is less a warrior and more a leader of a band of rogue heroes. The story of Arthur was popularized by Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his Latin History of the Kings of Britain, and was translated into Middle English in Layamon’s Brut and the later alliterative Alliterative Morte Arthure. Both owed much to the epic poem “Beowulf,” which draws on the Anglo-Saxon fascination with the wilderness. The most famous Arthurian tale is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in which the wilderness and themes from Beowulf play a leading role. Three Arthurian tales set in Inglewood Forest place Arthur and Gawain in a wilderness setting, and link Arthur to medieval Robin Hood tales.

About the Author(s)

Robin Melrose is a retired senior lecturer in English and linguistics at England’s University of Portsmouth. He lives on the Isle of Wight in southern England.

Bibliographic Details

Robin Melrose
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6826-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2758-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1. Resistance to Roman Rule in Northern Britain and the Hunter/Warrior God 7
2. The Kingdom of Northumbria: Resistance to ­Anglo-Saxon Rule in Northern Britain 16
3. Arthur and His Retinue in the Earliest Arthurian Texts 32
4. Arthur and His Retinue in the Welsh Arthurian Tale Culhwch and Olwen: Warriors in the Wilderness 43
5. ­Anglo-Saxon England: Warriors, Saints, Exile and Wilderness 57
6. Beowulf, an ­Anglo-Saxon Mythical Hero 83
7. The Arthur of the Normans: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain 103
8. King Arthur in Medieval England: Layamon’s Brut and the Alliterative Morte Arthure 122
9. An Arthurian Hero in the Wilderness: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 141
10. Three Late Medieval Arthurian Romances: Arthur and Gawain in Inglewood Forest, Cumbria 164
11. The Wilderness Hero: Robin Hood in the Late Middle Ages (Part I) 185
12. The Wilderness Hero: Robin Hood in the Late Middle Ages (Part II) 208
Chapter Notes 233
Bibliography 243
Index 251