King Arthur is one of the great mythic figures of English literature. Dozens of legends and romantic images have grown up around him: the knights of the Round Table, Merlin the wizard, and the Holy Grail, to name a few. According to the main Arthurian legends, King Arthur wielded a magical sword, Excalibur; lived in a glorious kingdom called Camelot; was helped by the wizard Merlin; and was married to the beautiful Queen Guinevere (who in many legends has a doomed romance with Arthur's knight Sir Lancelot). Many of the modern-day stories of King Arthur are based on Le Morte d'Arthur
("The Death of Arthur"), the collection of Arthurian tales published by Sir Thomas Malory in 1485. Another popular source for modern Arthur stories is The Once and Future King
, a 1958 novel by T.H. White that borrowed from Malory's legends. King Arthur is a figure of legend, not a true historic ruler of England in the manner of Henry VIII
or Queen Elizabeth II
. The first recorded mention of King Arthur is in the 'History of the Britons', written in 830 and attributed to a writer or historian called Nennius, but even this first mention doesn't really match up with known historical facts. Scholars can't decide whether anyone like Arthur ever existed, though most now accept that the legend is very
loosely based on a real historical figure; he may have been a 5th or 6th century ruler name Arturus or Riothamus.