Howdy, folks! As you know, King Arthur is our January Book of the Month, and I’m loving every minute of working on it. I didn’t pick one specific book version of the Arthurian legends, partially because there are so many…and also partially because I don’t know which is my favorite! I love that there are so many versions of the story. To me, our continued cultural draw to these legends is proof of just how timelessly awesome they are. But which modern versions are the best? In no particular order, here is my completely subjective list of favorite King Arthur retellings:
- Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell. I loved this book as a kid and reread it as part of my Goodreads reading challenge last year. It’s a beautiful, lyrical interpretation of the Arthurian legends, retold from the POV of a young Elaine (the Lady of Shallot). It’s a great stepping stone for middle grade readers who like the Arthur stories but who aren’t quite ready for the reading difficulty of the older versions like Le Morte D’Arthur.
- Merlin, 2008 BBC TV Series. No Arthurian retelling list is complete without it. At the request of a friend, I started watching it this month as a way to keep me in the Arthur mindset, and I’m loving it so far. Some of the special effects and scenery aren’t great (it’s clear they were on a budget), but I love the engaging plot and the actors’ interpretations of the characters. I also really like that many of the classic characters are re-cast in new roles. I’m not sure I’d like that in a book, but I think it works in a TV show, since surprises are a little more necessary to keep people watching.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the classics. Plus, Mark Twain is brilliant. SPOILER (can you have a spoiler for a book published 126 years ago?): I love how Hank is a modern man in an ancient time, but his role is reversed by the end of the book.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975 Film (also Spamalot). If I’ve made a menu for it here on the site, you can bet I love it, and my Monty Python menu is one of my favorites. In fact, I was just pointing out to the Mister the other day that Monty Python includes more faithful references to the authentic Arthur legends (the Battle of Badon Hill, a cowardly knight being scared off by a three-headed giant, etc.) than some of the more serious interpretations I’ve seen.