Sunday, 27 October 2019

King Arthur is returning in our time of need



You might have noticed something in the air recently. As populism grips the western world, protests ignite around the globe and political divides become even more deeply entrenched, magic has begun weaving its way back into the world.

The Arthurian narrative has always been popular in the western canon. Chivalry, honour and leadership are the tenets expounded by these stories (though modern readings of texts like Le Morte d'Arthur don't quite stand up to moral scrutiny). After all, Arthur is the once and future king, promised to return when England needs him most.

The above is basically a flowery way of saying there's a bunch of Arthurian stuff out there lately. Venerable game designer Patrick Stuart has funded his Gawain and the Green Knight Kickstarter after the first rat attempt unfortunately fell short. This will be a beautifully illustrated poem and I'm really looking forward to it.

Screenwriter Thomas Wheeler and comics legend Frank Miller this month released their book Cursed (of which I'm two thirds of the way through), which attempts to tie the events of Arthurian legend together into a single cause, telling the story of Nimue and the Sword of Power. It really is an excellent read and Netflix will be putting out a series early next year.

Comic writer and pop culture savant Kieran Gillen and illustrator Dan Mora are in the middle of their run of Once and Future, a modern story that holds quite a different lens on the legend, turning Arthur into an undead leader of a fascist group. It's a fun read and I'm looking forward to seeing where he takes it.

Of course, my own roleplaying game interpretation of the legend, Romance of the Perilous Land, will launch in December. This puts Arthur at the centre of a war with the powers of darkness as Mordred and Morgan Le Fay try to conquer and destroy Camelot respectively.

There's also said to be a new Merlin Disney movie helmed by Ridley Scott waiting in the wings. And a few years back we had the Guy Ritchie adaptation King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which for all its problems (there were many) managed to produce a unique look at the tale. Also, David Beckham was in it for some reason.

Arthurian legend will always find a way to be relevant, even in the far future when everything is holograms and headjacks. It's a malleable tale of human nature, good and evil, and fate.