Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

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Sir Gawain's sword

Summary

Arthur and his knights of the Round Table were the epitome of justice and chivalry in Middle Age legends. One of their most famous ventures was the search for Holy Grail (Sangreal).

Mythological References

The Knights of the Round Table were the noblemen that swore allegiance to King Arthur. King Arthur had the table of his court made round so that no one knight was considered of higher status than another. All were equal, including himself. The sons of kings and noblemen across Europe sent their sons to be part of Arthur's court at Camelot. According to legend, the court was the paragon of virtue and justice, and the knights the epitome of chivalry.

One seat at the Round Table was known as the "Siege Perilous". It was said that whoever sat in this place would achieve the quest of the Holy Grail. No knight dared placed himself in the chair, until Sir Galahad arrived and sat there, ignorant of the prophecy. Several knights take on the holy quest to search for the Sangreal, and many of their adventures and exploits were written by various authors over the years.

Notable Knights

Although the legends of Arthur include many knights from various traditions, below are some of the more notable ones and ones specifically included in the quest for the Holy Grail (the Sangreal).

  • Bedivere/Bedwyr — first of Arthur's knights, Sir Bedivere is often noted for his loyalty to the king. After the battle of Camlann, it is Bedivere who follows the king's dying wish and launches Excalibur into the lake, where the Lady of the Lake catches it. One of the earliest knights in the legend, Bedivere may actually have roots in a real historical person.
  • Bors — Sir Bors is one of Arthur's knights who makes searching for the Holy Grail his top priority. Loyal to Arthur, and later to Lancelot. Bors is known for his fierce fighting skills and pure heart. He and Percival witness Galahad's achievement of reaching the Sangreal. He is the only one of the three to return to Arthur's court after the quest and later dies on a Crusade.
  • Galahad — Sir Galahad was the son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine the daughter of the Fisher King (not to be confused with Elaine of Astolat), Galahad is the purest of Arthur's knights, sinless and chaste. Sitting in the Siege Perilous at the Round Table, Galahad succeeds where his father fails in the quest for the Grail. Before then he is undefeated in battle and even pulls a sword from the stone as a test of worthiness.
  • Gawain/Gwalchmei — nephew of Arthur, Sir Gawain is the son of King Lot and Morgause. In earlier legends he has the role Lancelot later takes of being the favorite of the Arthur. Gawain is one of the knights who searches for the Sangreal. Though he does not find it, his adventures in the quest fill many a bard's tale, most notably his battle with the "Green Knight". He is also often the eldest brother of Mordred, though usually takes Arthur's side in the final battle between them.
  • Lancelot du Lac — arguably the most famous of Arthur's knights, Sir Lancelot is often considered a later addition from the French traditions of Arthurian legend, though more recent scholars suggest he may be a mistranslation of Llwch Lleminawc/Llenlleawc. He accidentally falls in love with Arthur's wife. Depending on the legend, their forbidden love sometimes is acted upon, sometimes rejected due to their respect for Arthur. However the insinuations of such by Mordred often lead to the fall of Camelot. Lancelot's love of the queen makes him forswear a maiden's advances, Elaine of Astolat (the Lady of Shallott), who dies of heartbreak at his rejection. Her body floats down river past Camelot. Although Lancelot goes on the quest of the Grail, his conflicted nature prevents him from being pure enough to ever find it.
  • Mordred/Modred/Medraud/Medraut — sometimes a rival king who kidnaps Guinevere, more often Mordred is seen as Gawain's youngest brother/half-brother and Arthur's nephew or illegitimate son. In any event, Mordred is often villainous, destroying Camelot either externally or from within. He meets his death at Arthur's hand in the battle of Camlann, but deals Arthur a mortal wound, leading to the king's "burial" in Avalon.
  • Percival/Perceval/Parsifal — Sir Percival is known for a variety of adventures where he rescues maidens, kings, and fights dragons, but is most noted for his quest for the Grail. He sees the Grail in a vision, and vows to make it his life quest. Early legends have him achieve his goal. Later ones have he and Sir Bors witness Sir Galahad finding the Grail.

Stargate References

Most of the knights of the round table are referred to by group as travelling with King Arthur in the search for the Sangreal (9.20 "Camelot"). They searched together, travelling to Vagonbrei, Castiana, and Sahal. Villagers on the planets wrote of their visits (10.02 "Morpheus", 10.10 "The Quest Part 1"). Morgan Le Fay explained to Daniel Jackson, Vala Mal Doran, and Elizabeth Weir that Merlin entrusted Arthur and his knights with the secret of his origin, that he was an Ascended Being that came back to Earth (10.03 "The Pegasus Project"). The boys of the village of Camelot dreamed of becoming knights of Arthur's court when he returned (9.20 "Camelot").

One knight mentioned by name is Sir Gawain. Daniel Jackson is able to find the planet of Vagonbrei by reading the old Gwachmei Celtic legends and cross referencing them with Merlin's Library on PX1-767 (Camelot) (10.02 "Morpheus"). Gawain's sword is etched with the Stargate address for Vagonbrei.

After Merlin is reawakened by SG-1, he first believes the group to be some of Arthur's knights (10.11 "The Quest Part 2"). As Daniel later confirms, Lt. Col. Mitchell bears a remarkable resemblence to Sir Percival. Merlin further named Carter as Queen Guinevere, Daniel Jackson as Sir Galahad, and Ba'al as Mordred. After Daniel downloaded some of Merlin's knowledge and memories, he had memories "we" spent a lot of time in the Ancient chamber/Merlin's lab. Due to Daniel's addled state, it is unclear if he was referring to Merlin and the knights, or speaking a royal "we" in blending the memories of two people.

Related Episodes

Related Characters

Related Articles

Further Reading

  • Arthurian Romances, Chretien de Troyes, Penguin Books, 1991.
  • Idylls of the King, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Signet Classic, 1961.
  • Illustrated Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends, Ronan Coghlan, Barnes and Noble, 1995.
  • Malory Works, edited by Eugene Vinaver, Oxford University Press, 1971.
  • Parsifal,
  • The Once and Future King, T.H. White, (1958)
  • Wikipedia Knights of the Round Table entry
  • Timeless Myths Round Table entry

--Aurora 09:30, 19 October 2006 (PDT)