Tuesday 8 August 2017

What Mary Anne Yarde Learnt about the folklore of King Arthur when writing The Du Lac Chronicles

It is my pleasure to welcome to my blog Mary Anne Yarde, award-winning author of the International Bestselling series, The Du Lac Chronicles.

Mary Anne grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury, the fabled Isle of Avalon, was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

What Mary Anne Yarde Learnt about the folklore of King Arthur when writing The Du Lac Chronicles

I have always been passionate about history. One Christmas, I must have been around three-years-old, my Grandmother bought us a set of encyclopaedia — I know that does not sound particularly exciting, but I loved those books. I would often take one of these massive books off the shelf. I would then lie on my stomach, on the floor, flick through the pages and look at the pictures. I don’t know how I knew which one was the history encyclopaedia, but that was the one I always got down. History fascinated me, and it still does.

Growing up near Glastonbury meant that I knew, from a very early age, all about the stories of King Arthur and his Knights. What I didn’t know was that this love for history and King Arthur was not only going to inspire me to write an award winning book series, The Du Lac Chronicles, but also I was going to become a lover of folklore.

Researching the life and times of King Arthur is incredibly challenging. I am not going to say I have discovered who Arthur was because I haven't. There are so many possible Arthurs, so many theses as to who he was. But one thing where Arthur is prevalent, and you are sure to find him, is in folklore.

Folklore isn’t an exact science. It evolves. It is constantly changing. It is added to. Digging up folklore, I found, is not the same as extracting relics!

Arthur, as I said, lends himself to folklore, but it isn’t just Arthur the man I found myself looking for. I wanted to discover what influence he has had on Britain over the centuries, and what I found, surprised me.

The Dark Ages, where the majority of Arthurian stories are set, is notoriously difficult to research because of the lack of primary written sources. Of course, there are the works of Gildas, Nennius and Bede as well as The Annals of Wales, that we can turn to, but again, they are not what I would consider reliable sources, even the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which were compiled in the late 9th Century, have to be treated with caution. Archaeologists have had more luck, but even they have not found Arthur, and they did try — they spent four years trying to locate his body at Glastonbury Abbey and came up with nothing. Which begs the question...

Why did the monks claim that they had found Arthur's body in the first place?

I have learnt of three reasons.

Firstly the Welsh were revolting and Arthur had become their figurehead. The English needed a body to prove that this Welsh figurehead was dead. Secondly, there was a new interest in Arthur thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s newly released, History of the Kings Of Briton and thirdly, there had been a fire at the abbey and it was in desperate needs of funds. The monks of Glastonbury were nothing if not pragmatic and they knew that Arthur would bring in the coins.

Glastonbury Abbey
Geoffrey of Monmouth's book is now considered a ‘national myth,’ but for centuries his book was considered to be factually correct. Can you imagine that?  A work of fiction that was believed to be a true account of Arthur's life! Monmouth did have his critics, but they were mostly brushed aside and ignored. Monmouth made Britain glorious, and he gave us not Arthur the general, but Arthur the English Christian King. And what a king he was.

Let’s take a quick look at Edward III (1312-1377). Edward wanted his reign to be as wondrous as Arthur's. Edward believed in the stories of Arthur and his Knights. He had even started to have his very own Round Table built at Windsor Castle. He also founded The Order of the Garter— which is still the highest order of chivalry that the Queen can bestow. Arthur, whether fictional or not, influenced kings, and I find that fascinating.

Edward III

In have discovered that there is always a little ring of truth in Folklore, and I love that. I guess all stories have to start somewhere. I never thought I would be a champion of folklore, but now I have discovered that I am.

Folklore can tell us a lot about a nation and I have learnt not to overlook it. I am just sorry that it took me so long to understand what a priceless treasure it really is.

In my series, The Du Lac Chronicles, I decided to weave history and folklore together and I am so glad I did because I get to embrace two of my favourite things at the same time — history and the stories of King Arthur!


Image attribution

Edward III as he was depicted in the late 16th century ~ Wikipedia
Picture of the Knight ~ Pixabay
All other photographs are copyright Mary Anne Yarde.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog! I hope you are having a lovely week!!