The Sword and the Grail: Restoring the Forgotten Archetype in Arthurian Myth
This following excerpt has been posted with permission. Read the entire article at johnadcox.com
© Copyright John Adcox
If it were even possible to assemble them in one place, the volumes written on psychological and mythic approaches to the Grail quest in Arthurian myth would bend even the sturdiest, stout oak bookshelves. From Emma Jung and Maria Von Franz’s definitive work, The Grail Legend, to the work of later luminaries ranging from Joseph Campbell to Robert Johnson, the Grail quest has evolved from Celtic lore to become a metaphor of astonishing power that continues to guide generations of seekers on their own journeys to individuation, to use the Jungian term.
The Arthur stories are no longer purely Celtic-they have become universal. It’s not too great a stretch to call the Matter of Britain, the cycles of legends surrounding King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, the definitive myth of Western civilization. Here we find our modern concepts of equality (the Round Table had no “head” and no corners), romantic love, strength protecting the weak, and spiritual growth and enlightenment based on the achievements of the individual expressed in a single source-and arguably expressed with more power and greater resonance than in any other myth cycle. How else can one explain the enduring popularity of the Arthur story? There have certainly been other romantic stories, probably even greater ones. Adventure? Our heritage of myth is full of it. Magic? We’re lousy with it. Fellowship and super human accomplishment? Look no further than the adventure tales of Fionn McCumhail, Jason and the Argonauts, or Robin Hood and his Merry Men. All of these cycles, and thousands of others, have been enormously popular through the ages. Robin Hood and the men of Sherwood, especially, have inspired countless novels, songs, poems, films, and television productions. But none of them have approached the Arthur stories for enduring and significant popularity. It’s more than a subgenre-it’s an industry.
Dreams of lost, golden ages are called “Camelot.” Remember the Kennedy administration? A Google search on the Internet reveals more than 100 different companies and products with Excalibur in the name. Truly special treasures are “Holy Grails.” Remember the “Holy Grail of Christmas presents,” the coveted Red Ryder BB gun, in A Christmas Story? Metro Atlanta boasts at least five different neighborhoods with streets named after Lancelot, Galahad, Guinevere, and King Arthur himself.
When I began thinking about this article last month, I stopped by a tiny mall bookstore, and quickly located no less than 16 different contemporary novels, not counting children’s books, books that use the theme but aren’t specifically or overtly Arthurian (Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, Stephen King’s Dark Tower, or C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, for example), or classics, on the Arthurian legends-in three different categories.
At present, two big-budget King Arthur films and one new television series are in various stages of development. Dan Brown’s current bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code, offers a new take on the Grail quest, but the core elements are the same: a man’s quest through terrible danger for a healing symbol of the Divine feminine. For some reason, the Arthurian legends have struck a chord that is arguably unmatched in Western culture, surpassing even the myths of classical Greece.
The question, again, is why?
Read the entire article, “The Sword and the Grail: Restoring the Forgotten Archetype in Arthurian Myth” at johnadcox.com
- Camelot 3000, Kool-Aid Man, and Cartridges: Videogame Ad Paratext from the ’80s (literaturegeek.com)
- King Arthur…Who the hell was he? (alluringlore.wordpress.com)
- The Real High History of the Holy Grael (ishtarsgate.wordpress.com)
- Here Lies Arthur, Philip Reeve (bookloverssanctuary.wordpress.com)
- The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend by Gareth Knight (skylightpress.wordpress.com)
- The Real Quest for the Holy Grail-on monks and knights pursuing God through the denial of self (supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com)
- Grail Quest is coming to digital devices (trollishdelver.com)
- ‘Merlin’ co-creator Julian Murphy on series’ emotional conclusion (herocomplex.latimes.com)
- Arthurian Shield- Arthurian Shield (valkyrianmusic.com)