Sacrificing Fiction and the Quest for the Real King Arthur
Part of the pre-release publicity blitz accompanying the 2004 film King Arthur1 was The Quest for King Arthur2, an independently produced documentary aired by the History Channel in the weeks preceding the release of the Hollywood film. This version of the documentary (unlike the original version, available for purchase on the History Channel website) includes supplemental narration provided by Ioan Gruffudd, the actor who plays Lancelot in the film. The documentary, in turn, was promoted by a supplement included in The New York Times. This composite text—the film (and its promotional trailers), the documentary, and the ad for the documentary—reflects a shared vision of the truth: Arthur the (historical and real) Man must be rediscovered, to replace Arthur the (fictional and unreal) Myth. This tension is revealed as the two inner pages of the four-page newspaper insert present a series of short blurbs to describe the legends of King Arthur and their transformations over the centuries. The ad notes that “[e]ach generation of Britons, from the fall of Rome onward[,] had need for an Arthur. And each generation, for several centuries, got the Arthur it needed.”3 The ad further explains that the versions of the story written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century and Sir Thomas Malory in the fifteenth had the greatest impact on their respective generations and those to come, seen for instance in Victorian England’s regular adoption of Arthurian tropes for its literature and in the Kennedy administration being referred to as the new Camelot in the White House.
KeywordsHistorical Narrative Twelfth Century Trailer State Historical Truth True Story
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