Arthurian Legend is a group of stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The legends originated as a collection of folk tales passed down by oral tradition. As the stories spread through Europe different scenes as well as different versions appear in different countries. Consequently some of the stories have minor contradictions with each other. However, even though the story has been modified on several occasions, the same basic stories of adventure, romance, combat, betrayal, and chivalry remain the same. Stories of the rise and the fall of heroes are still very much at their core.
One interesting part of the Arthur legend is that a real Arthur may have existed. A sixth century record of the Saxon invasion of Briton tells of a General Arthuriur who during the invasion led his troops to many victories over the invaders. During the reign of Henry II, excavators uncovered a tomb baring the inscription ?Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur in the Isle of Avalon? (Malory, 576). It contained the skeletal remains of a tall man who apparently died of a head wound.
The real Arthur, whoever he was, was eventually transformed into the epic hero and king of the Britons we know him as today. In these epics he is given almost superhuman powers and even immorality in some stories by saying that one day he will come back in a time when his people need him the most. The tales eventually found their way into scholarly writings like Neniu's History of the Britons (800, Latin) and Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Briton (1136, Latin) in which it is believed the order of knighthood was introduced to the legend.
During the War of the Roses in 1485, Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur became the first English version of the Arthur Legend printed in the English language. In this version of the story, Malory added to the knightly code and made Arthur more of a national hero. This was especially important during the time of civil war. Another later English version of the story was Idyllss of the Kings, written in 1888 by Alfred Lord Tennyson and focused on the founding of Camelot and the imperfect people who did not live up to its ideals. Throughout these newer versions in English and other common languages more people began to read them and make comparisons. Backgrounds, children, relationships, how well they did their jobs, and lived up to the code of chivalry are common areas of comparison. In fact, two of the more famous characters, Arthur and Lancelot have many differences and similarities in these areas.
In comparing the backgrounds of the two men, people find that they were both raised in fosterage. Arthur was the illegitimate son of Uther Pendragon and Lady Igraine of Cornwall. Shortly after his birth he was given to Merlin to give to Sir Ector (sometimes called Ectorius) to raise as his own child. After the Death of Uther, and no one but Merlin knowing who Arthur was, a good many competitors went after the throne. To settle the dispute a bishop asked them all to pray for a sign. Then miraculously a sword appeared driven into a stone in the courtyard. The sword bore an inscription on it declaring that whoever could pull it out of the stone would be king. All the nobles present and several famous knights attempted to remove the sword but none were successful. The sword stayed in the stone for several months.
It came time for the annual tournament for the Pentecost. Young Arthur was serving as squire to his recently knighted foster brother Sir Kay. When he realized he forgot his sword, he sent Arthur back to the inn to get it. When he returned to the inn he found that it was locked up and everyone was at the tournament so he could not get in. Not wanting to disappoint his brother he remembered seeing a sword in the churchyard and gave it to his master who recognized it instantly. To prove that Arthur was the one who pulled the sword they took him back to the stone and replaced the sword. Kay tried to pull the sword from the stone first but could not do so. Finally, Arthur pulled