East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

And talking about King Arthur…

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arthurIn his comment to my Robin Hood post, Keith Taylor said…

Just put me down as a fan of Robin Hood from way back, and of King Arthur too.

Which came just at the right time as I had been walking down memory lane with a few friends, here, these days, reminiscing about Arthur of the Britons, a 24 episodes British series that first aired in 1972 and I caught the next year when it was distributed in Italy.
And boy I liked it!

arthur-of-the-britons-the-complete-seriesThe series was developed by Welsh production company HTV1 as a strictly historical series of adventures, 24 thirty-minutes episodes, some of which you can find on Youtube.
What was absolutely wonderful for a kid of seven in early ’70s suburban Italy was not the rock’n’roll hero look of the leading guys, but rather the grit and the historical flavor of the show.
No magic, no Guinevere, no Lancelot2, no Merlin the magician.
Nothing from Mallory or Cretien de Troyes, no Grail, no Mordred.

So what is this show all about?
Well, it’s basically about a Celtic chieftain, Arthur, that tries to manage as the Saxons progressively encroach on the lands of the Celts.
He can count on courage, fighting skills and a solid dose of common sense, plus two sidekicks – the Saxon Kai and middle-aged veteran Llud of the Silver Hand (the original hand was chopped off in combat).
And his main adversary is Brian Blessed… I mean, Mark of Cornwall.

The main plot revolves around the attempts by Arthur and his people to unite the Celt clans and make a common stand against the Saxons. Possibly without being killed in the process.

Now, as a kid I greatly enjoyed this show, and now that I am the same age of Llud of the Silver Hand I am surprised and baffled.
Really did somebody, back in 1972, decide to do a swashbucklers kid’s show (this series audience was decidedly juvenile) about post-Roman politics, ethnic conflict, religion and tradition?
In which the heroes strive to find some common ground with their enemies instead of just cracking skulls?
Well they did, and it worked – and if you always wanted to watch an adventure story in which one of the characters is a Mithraist, well, this is it.

The only bad side effect this series had on my young mind was to spoil me for all later Arthurian dramas, with very few exceptions. I still love Mary Stewart’s Merlin saga, and had a ball with John Boorman’s Excalibur, of course, but I tend to get insufferably critical when Arthur is concerned.
I start going “Oh, but there was a show, when I was a kid…”

  1. the same that would later develop Children of the Stones, one of the creepiest kid’s shows ever and the already mentioned, often, Robin of Sherwood. In other words, these guys knew their job. Or my tastes. 
  2. always found him insufferable 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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