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Questions on Excalibur and the Arthurian Legend


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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Dave Hahn

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Posted July 20 2003 - 12:38 PM

Major Spoilers, be warned!

At the very end of the film, Perceval returns after throwing Excalibur into the water. He finds Arthur is gone, he looks to the west and sees King Arthur's body laid in state on the stern of a boat, attended to by three ladies.

In the Director's Commentary, John Boorman refers to these three ladies as "the three queens" and states that the boat is sailing west, towards "Avalon, the land of the apple."

Now, I was able to find the following on Avalon:

Quote:
Avalon, also known as Avallach, the Isle of Apples or the Island of the Mists is the mythical island where Merlin is said to have taken the mortally wounded Arthur after the Battle of Camlan.
Called “Ynisvitrin” or “Isle of Glass” by the Celts, the island was said to have been shrouded in mists which could only be raised by true believers such as Merlin or the High Priestess of the Island, Morgan la Fey.
Although no official record of Arthur’s death has been found, it is believed that he was buried at Glastonbury Abby. Glastonbury Tor (mount) was once an island surrounded by shallow wetlands. In the twelfth century the Cistercian monks uncovered the grave of a tall man, together with a lead cross, inscribed “HIC IACET SEPULTUS INCULYTUS REX ARTURIUS IN INSULA AVALONIA”. “Here in the Isle of Avalon the famous King Arthur lies buried”.
We like the "Island of the Mists" imagery: Legend has it that the as the Druid sects were usurped by the Saxons, no one was left who could raise the mists and so the island disappeared forever.

The latter was found here: http://monet.trident....ct/legend.html

What's bothering me is I can't find anything that refers to "the three queens." Does anyone know who they were or what they symbolized?

Thanks!
Dave
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#2 of 21 OFFLINE   Kenneth_C

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Posted July 20 2003 - 01:29 PM

From Bulfinch's Mythology:
Quote:
...but thus was he led away in a ship, wherein were three queens; the one was King Arthur's sister, Queen Morgane le Fay; the other was Viviane, the Lady of the Lake and the third was the queen of North Galis.
There's been a lot of variations to the King Arthur legend over the centuries, and Boorman basically combined aspects of several female characters (Morgan le Fay, Morgause, and Viviane) into a composite character named Morgana.

#3 of 21 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted July 20 2003 - 05:57 PM

And I have nothing to add other than I love this film.

#4 of 21 OFFLINE   Ben JH

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Posted July 20 2003 - 09:20 PM

Quote:
And I have nothing to add other than I love this film.


What he said. Posted Image

#5 of 21 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted July 21 2003 - 01:07 AM

Me too.

One of my Top10 of all time. I adore it.

#6 of 21 OFFLINE   Jefferson Morris

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Posted July 21 2003 - 06:31 AM

Allow me to turn this thread on its head by saying...

Me too! A wonderful, hypnotic film, far and away the best film about Arthurian legend that I've seen, and the best sword 'n sorcery epic this side of The Lord of the Rings.

--Jefferson Morris

P.S. This film also introduced me to the extraordinary music of Wagner, and for that I'll be eternally grateful. If there's a more rapturous 11-or-so minutes of sound than the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, I haven't heard it.
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#7 of 21 OFFLINE   john doran

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Posted July 21 2003 - 07:14 AM

my favorite version of the arthurian legend is "The Once and Future King", by T.H. White.

interestingly, it is the book that professor X is teaching to the students at the school at the close of X2...

tennyson's idylls of the king is good, too, for a more formalized treatment of the epic.

if you'll forgive the length, here's the last bit of book 11 - "The Passing of Arthur":


Quote:
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran,
And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged
Among the bulrush beds, and clutched the sword,
And strongly wheeled and threw it. The great brand
Made lightnings in the splendour of the moon,
And flashing round and round, and whirled in an arch,
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
By night, with noises of the Northern Sea.
So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur:
But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
And caught him by the hilt, and brandished him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.
And lightly went the other to the King.


Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath:
'Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen?'


And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
'Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Should blind my purpose, for I never saw,
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Not though I live three lives of mortal men,
So great a miracle as yonder hilt.
Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him;
But when I looked again, behold an arm,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandished him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.'


And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard:
'My end draws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone.
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight,
And bear me to the margin; yet I fear
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die.'


So saying, from the pavement he half rose,
Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm,
And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes
As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere
Remorsefully regarded through his tears,
And would have spoken, but he found not words;
Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee,
O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands,
And rising bore him through the place of tombs.


But, as he walked, King Arthur panted hard,
Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed
When all the house is mute. So sighed the King,
Muttering and murmuring at his ear, 'Quick, quick!
I fear it is too late, and I shall die.'


But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walked,
Larger than human on the frozen hills.
He heard the deep behind him, and a cry
Before. His own thought drove him like a goad.
Dry clashed his harness in the icy caves
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clanged round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels--
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.


Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern,
Beneath them; and descending they were ware
That all the decks were dense with stately forms,
Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream--by these
Three Queens with crowns of gold: and from them rose
A cry that shivered to the tingling stars,
And, as it were one voice, an agony
Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
Or hath come, since the making of the world.


Then murmured Arthur, 'Place me in the barge.'
So to the barge they came. There those three Queens
Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.
But she, that rose the tallest of them all
And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,
And loosed the shattered casque, and chafed his hands,
And called him by his name, complaining loud,
And dropping bitter tears against a brow
Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white
And colourless, and like the withered moon
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east;
And all his greaves and cuisses dashed with drops
Of onset; and the light and lustrous curls--
That made his forehead like a rising sun
High from the dais-throne--were parched with dust;
Or, clotted into points and hanging loose,
Mixed with the knightly growth that fringed his lips.
So like a shattered column lay the King;
Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest,
From spur to plume a star of tournament,
Shot through the lists at Camelot, and charged
Before the eyes of ladies and of kings.


Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
'Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds.'


And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
'The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest--if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)--
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.'


So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Looked one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.


But when that moan had past for evermore,
The stillness of the dead world's winter dawn
Amazed him, and he groaned, 'The King is gone.'
And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme,
'From the great deep to the great deep he goes.'


Whereat he slowly turned and slowly clomb
The last hard footstep of that iron crag;
Thence marked the black hull moving yet, and cried,
'He passes to be King among the dead,
And after healing of his grievous wound
He comes again; but--if he come no more--
O me, be yon dark Queens in yon black boat,
Who shrieked and wailed, the three whereat we gazed
On that high day, when, clothed with living light,
They stood before his throne in silence, friends
Of Arthur, who should help him at his need?'


Then from the dawn it seemed there came, but faint
As from beyond the limit of the world,
Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Around a king returning from his wars.


Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb
Even to the highest he could climb, and saw,
Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King,
Down that long water opening on the deep
Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
From less to less and vanish into light.
And the new sun rose bringing the new year.

 fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

#8 of 21 OFFLINE   john doran

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Posted July 21 2003 - 07:20 AM

here's a good site with information on the arthurian legend:

http://www.pantheon...../articles.html

oh - and the three queens were King Arthur's sister, Queen Morgane le Fay; the other was Viviane, the Lady of the Lake and the third was the queen of North Galis.

seehere, about halfway down....
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#9 of 21 OFFLINE   Richard_D_Ramirez

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Posted July 21 2003 - 08:11 AM

I want a better version DVD! Posted Image

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#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Kenneth_C

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Posted July 21 2003 - 11:17 AM

Quote:
oh - and the three queens were King Arthur's sister, Queen Morgane le Fay; the other was Viviane, the Lady of the Lake and the third was the queen of North Galis.
see here, about halfway down....

Or you could just see my post at the top of this thread. Posted Image

#11 of 21 OFFLINE   Guy_K

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Posted July 21 2003 - 11:41 AM

I hear Jerry Bruckheimer is producing an updated version of King Arthur starring Sean Connery with the director of Training Day.Posted Image

#12 of 21 OFFLINE   Steven Simon

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Posted July 21 2003 - 01:01 PM

Great thread..... This was one movie I can never forget... I was around 9 when it first appeared, and can remember back to the days when they showed it on Home Box..... Great memories.... Posted Image Posted Image
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#13 of 21 OFFLINE   Henry Gale

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Posted July 21 2003 - 02:20 PM

Yes, the continuing adventures of John Boorman's naked children. Posted Image
One of my favorites also. My brother-in-law, an Arthurian freak, always praises its accuracy.

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#14 of 21 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted July 21 2003 - 06:07 PM

I love John Boorman's moody, atmospheric, and very personal work. Ever see Hope and Glory? The man's very British.

#15 of 21 OFFLINE   john doran

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Posted July 22 2003 - 02:00 AM

Quote:
Or you could just see my post at the top of this thread.

yes. yes, you could...

sigh. i was too excited to see that....

sorry. :b
 fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

#16 of 21 OFFLINE   TheLongshot

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Posted July 22 2003 - 03:53 AM

Quote:
I hear Jerry Bruckheimer is producing an updated version of King Arthur starring Sean Connery with the director of Training Day.


Actually, it is Clive Nolan that's playing Arthur. Sean Connery has nothing to do with this. (Probably a good thing, after First Knight... Posted Image )

Jason

#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Ray H

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Posted July 22 2003 - 06:16 AM

Actually, it's Clive Owen. Posted Image
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#18 of 21 OFFLINE   TheLongshot

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Posted July 22 2003 - 06:42 AM

Damnit! I did it again! Why do I have such a mental block against his name...

Jason

#19 of 21 OFFLINE   Arthur MR

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Posted July 22 2003 - 06:44 AM

@Dave Hahn

Best would be to read the old Arthus Version by Chretien de Troyes, but as I remember these three queens are always nameless and they could be identified as threefold godesses or the three Madonnas (I hope it's the right english word Posted Image )

Arthur


#20 of 21 OFFLINE   Dave Hahn

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Posted July 22 2003 - 12:36 PM

Kenneth_C, thanks for your quick and precise answer. I looked up Bulfinch's Mythology on-line and found a couple cool sites. Very informative.

Thank you john doran! I've never read The Once and Future King, by T.H. White but I guess I'll have to pick it up now. I have read Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy many times. The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment give an interesting interpretation of the Arthur Legend. These three books are great and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in the Arthurian Legend. I think I once saw an English(?) mini-series that seemed to follow the first book, The Crystal Cave rather closely. I didn't see the beginning and don't remember the name, but I'd love to see it again if anyone knows what I'm talking about.

I've also read Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle but didn't find him nearly as entertaining as Stewart.

I've never read Malory but John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights comes close. It's a good read and reminds me of the stories my dad used to read me about King Arthur from a book that was his when he was a kid, (don't know where that went to Posted Image).

Lastly, heres another cool site that deals with this subject: http://legends.dm.ne...thur/index.html
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