Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

Only the little boy Arthur seems able to draw the sword from the stone. But he is the humble Sir Hector's son, everybody knows that.

King Utherpendragon has died and a new king must be chosen. On the advice of Merlin, the knights of the realm are summoned to London to witness a divine selection process. All are in attendance; after all, the next king might prove to be one of them.

When they have all gathered together in church on Christmas Day, a strange thing happens. A stone appears, a stone upon which an anvil is set. Stuck into this anvil and down into the stone is a great sword and in letters of gold it is written that the next king will be the man who can draw this sword from the anvil and the stone.

All the knights in attendance try their hand at it, but they all fail. And to buy time, a tournament is organised for New Year’s Day. Whilst the jousting is taking place, a young boy enters the church where the sword and anvil lie unattended and this little boy draws the sword easily. He is Uther Pendragon's son, whom Merlin secretly fostered with Sir Hector. This little boy takes the naked weapon to his father Sir Hector and to his brother Sir Kay to use in the jousting. This feat is soon made known – Wherfor ther were many lords wroth, and saide it was grete shame unto them all and the reame to be overgovernyd with a boye of no highe blood borne. Many were angry that the land should be ruled by the son of such a humble knight.

So the sword is returned into the stone, Easter comes, then the feast of Pentecost and every suitable nobleman in the country has by now had a chance to try to draw the sword from the anvil and all have failed. Only the little boy Arthur can do it.

We wille have Arthur unto our kyng! cry the people.

Only Merlin knows that Arthur is really the son of the late King Utherpendragon.

Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Tale of King Arthur. I. Merlin, pp 7–10.

See for yourself

Sir Thomas Malory – Wikipedia

Le Morte d'Arthur – Wikipedia

Sir Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte Darthur' – British Library, online exhibition

King Arthur – Wikipedia

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