Monday, September 26, 2011

The Legendary Birthplace of King Arthur

I do have pictures to share today, so if that's what you're here for you can skip all the typey stuff at the top of this post.  For those of you who want to do more than look at the pretty pictures, I thought I'd start with a retelling of the start of King Arthur's story because I think it'll be fun.  Here goes.

It was a dark time for the people of Britain.  Rome had withdrawn her legions over a century before, and the desperate King Vortigern had, a generation or two previously, invited the Saxons into Britain by granting them a small bit of land in exchange for their help in fighting off the Picts, Irish, and Scots, all of whom were harrying the borders of Britain.  Once they had a toe-hold in Britain, the Saxons gradually increased their numbers and soon became a greater threat to the native British population than ever the Picts had been.

Uther, a fierce warrior, was at this time a powerful British king who had spent his life fighting the Saxons.  At a conference of British leaders, Uther met and fell in love with the Lady Igraine, who was already married to Gorlois, the lord of Cornwall.  Gorlois could not help but notice Uther's love for his wife, and so in anger he attacked Uther and his armies, but he was no match for the younger man and Gorlois was killed in battle.  Uther's adviser Merlin, a great enchanter, bespelled Uther to give him the face of Gorlois and Uther then went to Gorlois' stronghold, the castle of Tintagel on the wild Cornish coast, and he impregnated the Lady Igraine.

When news arrived of Gorlois' death in battle, Uther dropped the enchantment and revealed his true identity.  He promptly married Lady Igraine, and in due course they welcomed their son Arthur into the world.  Though Uther was a great king, Merlin had foreseen that his son Arthur would be greater yet, and he convinced Uther and Igraine to give him the child for training; thus did Arthur disappear for a number of years while Uther grew old and eventually died.

Upon Uther's death, the other British kings began to fight between themselves trying to determine which of them was strong enough to succeed Uther as leader of all the Britons.  Therefore Merlin cast a great enchantment, placing a sword into a stone and anvil which was inscribed "Whoso pulleth out the sword from this stone and anvil is the true-born king of all Britain."  Many men, from king to knight to lowliest servant, tried to remove the sword from the stone, but it would not budge.  Several more years passed with the leadership of the Britons still unsettled, until at last the kings decided to hold a great tournament with the winner acceding to Uther's mantle of High King.

One of the competitors in the tournament was Sir Kay, a young knight.  This was Sir Kay's first tournament and in all the excitement, he accidentally left his sword at the inn where he was staying with his family.  Sir Kay's father, the elderly knight Sir Ector, sent Kay's squire to retrieve the sword, but upon returning to the inn, the squire discovered that it was locked up and that everyone had left to watch or participate in the tournament.  Desperate not to disappoint Kay, the young squire happened to see a sword stuck into an stone, and thinking to himself that the sword was doing no good there, he slipped it out of its rocky sheath and ran back to the tournament.

When he saw the sword that the squire had retrieved, Sir Ector recognized it immediately as the famous Sword in the Stone, which caused a great commotion at the tournament.  He did not believe at first that the squire had taken the sword from the stone himself, and so they along with all the competitors at the tournament went back to the stone and replaced the sword in it.  The squire was told to take it out again, and this he did easily, though everyone else who tried to remove it was unable to do so.  Still, the men were unwilling to acclaim the young man their king until the enchanter Merlin reappeared and revealed to all that the young squire was in fact Arthur, the son of Uther, and therefore the King of the Britons.

When I was a freshman in high school, my English class spent an entire term studying the King Arthur stories.  We read excerpts from Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur as well as the script to the musical Camelot.  (I still listen to the soundtrack to Camelot on a regular basis; Julie Andrews is Queen Guenevere and it's *awesome*!  Vanessa Redgrave played Guenevere in the movie adaptation.)  So you can imagine my excitement at having the opportunity to visit Tintagel, where Arthur's story began.  Giddiness, even.  So how 'bout some pictures!

Tintagel is on the cliffs of Cornwall, and the nearest parking lot is at least a half mile away, so we walked from the town to the castle of the same name.  This is a view from the path leading to the visitor center, which you can't see from this angle; the white building sits across from the visitor center and houses the cafe.  You can see some of the castle ruins up on the headland on the left.  The castle doesn't date back to Arthurian times, but to the 13th century.  It was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, probably because of the legends connected with the place because otherwise it doesn't make much sense to build way out here.  There are some Dark Age ruins up on the cliffs though.

Half of the castle was situated on the headland which juts out into the sea and is connected to the mainland by a thin piece of land and a bridge; this photo is of the castle ruins on the mainland side.  And a really cool sky, the clouds were very cooperative when we were there taking pictures.

The headland piece again, and you can see Merlin's Cave.  When the tide went out, we climbed down there and went in the cave (picture of that later).

And there's a wider shot of the headland, once again with the cave but in the lower left of the photo this time.

There is where the headland connects to the mainland, and the bridge between.  I think this place had more stairs than the rest of England combined! And we went up and down the stairs and walked everywhere.  It was like being back on the Great Wall of China, only English instead of Chinese.

I forget which section of ruins this is.  I took a LOT of photos here.

This was taken facing away from the castle ruins; that bit and the headland where the castle ruins are together form a small cove called The Haven.

Just because I'm proud of this picture : )  Lee and I both totally loved Cornwall, it is gorgeous and not just the cliffs here.  The whole area we drove through on the way to Tintagel is stunningly beautiful as well.

Ruins of the great hall on the headland.

And there's my sweet husband, who happily drove me to Cornwall to see a ruined castle 'cause he's that awesome.

More of the ruins on the headland.  The great peril at Tintagel is erosion; there used to be more castle ruins but the ocean eroded the cliffs and part of the castle collapsed into the sea.  This of course reminds me irresistibly of King Haggard's castle in The Last Unicorn

Very proud of this shot!!  I had to wait to get a picture with no tourists in it but I think it was worth it to get this picture.  This is part of the curtain wall.

This is a shot of the other side of The Haven taken from the top of the headland.

Self-portrait!  Lee set the camera down on the ground and got this shot, and then we found another tourist who took one for us:

That's all the pictures for today, which is about half of the ones I'm going to share from Tintagel.  Hope you enjoyed both the story and the photos.  Sadie and I are going to go spend some time in my craft room now : )


Giffysk8s said...

Thanks for the cool history lesson. Keep 'em coming!

You have really gotten good with your camera! Whatever tutorials Lee has given you, he needs to share with me. :) There are three photos that I LOVE: the one of Merlin's cave so incredibly cool ); the one of the curtain wall (everything about it is perfect); and your self portrait (the clouds are wicked, which is Boston speak for awesome). Can't wait to see how you scrapbook these!

Hope you're being crafty!

BTW, I researched and found some Blogger apps for my iPad so that I can create posts instead of delete them, LOL! Now I just need to decide which one to get.

Sew Sweet said...

beautiful photography, these shots are lovely
emma x