13-Century Fragments of King Arthur Legend Discovered!

King Arthur Legend - Geek Impulse

  • 13th-century version of a King Arthur Legend tale featuring Merlin and King Arthur has been discovered
  • Written in Old French, they tell the story of the Battle of Trèbes, in which Merlin inspires Arthur’s forces with a stirring speech and leads a charge using Sir Kay’s special dragon standard, which breathes real fire.
  • The fragments are believed to be a version of the Estoire de Merlin – the story of Merlin – from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or the Lancelot-Grail Cycle.

Until now an unknown 13-century take on the tale of the King Arthur Legend which features Merlin and King Arthur was lost in the sands of time. It was recently discovered in the archives of the Bristol central library located in the United Kingdom. What was discovered were seven handwritten fragments. The parchment was found inside of an unrelated volume of work by a 15th-century French scholar.

The language found on the parchment is that of an Old French language. We find the tale of the King Arthur Legend of battle of Trèbes. In it, Merlin inspires the forces of Arthur with an arousing speech that leads the charge of Sir Kay’s special dragon standard. It’s special because it breathes fires. Researchers believe that this specific version is of the Estoire de Merlin – the story of Merlin – from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or the Lancelot-Grail Cycle. This according to the Guardian.

Dr Leah Tether, the president of the British branch of the International Arthurian Society and an academic based at Bristol University, cautioned that much more work needed to be done but said it was possible that these pages could be part of the version of the Vulgate Cycle that Sir Thomas Malory used as a source for his work Le Morte D’Arthur – which is the inspiration for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend.

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King Arthur Legend - Geek Impulse
A detail showing the name Merlin in a handwritten parchment fragment of a manuscript from the middle ages. Photograph: University of Bristol/PA

Tether said: “These fragments are a wonderfully exciting find, which may have implications for the study not just of this text but also of other related and later texts that have shaped our modern understanding of the Arthurian legend.

“There is a small chance that this could be connected to a version that Malory had access to but we are a long way from proving that.”

“Time and research will reveal what further secrets about the legends of Arthur, Merlin and the Holy Grail these fragments might hold,” Tether said.

“The south-west of England and Wales are, of course, closely bound up with the many locations made famous by the Arthurian legend, so it is all the more special to find an early fragment of the legend – one pre-dating any version written in English – here in Bristol.”

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