Essential information for the aspiring author in this minefield of fictional contention.
TEN RULES FOR ‘ARTHURIAN’ HISTORICAL NOVELS
by Vivien Tyler
1. ‘King’ Arthur definitely lived. No question about it. Myths always have something true at their heart, don’t they? Even if that truth has nothing to do with history, and everything to do with romantic or idealistic notions.
2. Arthur must be a noble, or at least charismatic, figure capable of uniting the whole island.
3. There must always be a ‘wise woman’ figure, preferably from Avalon, who will save the hero or shelter the heroine. She will provide amazing mystical advice and have wondrous visions (due to one too many a nip of expensive imported wine again, more like).
4. The Britons must be called ‘Celts’, must be virtuous (see Classical rule 6), and never portrayed as argumentative warmongers who could not present a united front against the invaders.
5. All Anglo-Saxons must be the baddies (see Medieval rule 1), and have seriously underwritten roles.
6. All Anglo-Saxons must have drawn their boat up on the beach and just set foot on the island - never mind that by the late 5th century a fair proportion of them would have been born in Britain. Well blimey, wouldn’t that make them…er, British…?
It’s all just too complicated to contemplate.
7. All inhabitants of Roman Britain must have suddenly reverted back to being ‘Celts’ as soon as the Roman army and administration withdrew from the island.
8. If there are any Romans in the story, they are as per Classical rules 2-4, and must work against ‘King Arthur’.
9. Invaders other than Anglo-Saxons must be ignored. Whatever happened to those marauding Picts and Scotti? Not to mention the British kingdoms that invaded and fought each other (ahem!).
10. Due attention must be paid to the stirrup problem: to stirrup or not to stirrup, that is the question by which the whole fate of Arthurian Britain hangs - didn’t you know?!