Current Essays

Arthur Mo' On:2004-06-28 19:26:28

I'm sure you'll be overjoyed to know that, in an overwhelming show of support for the writers of the Book of Ecclesiastes, this summer Hollywood will be continuing its massive campaign to prove there is nothing new under the sun. A significant part of of this proof will be the release of yet another Arthurian movie

(Oh!---and in a personal show of support for chronological accuracy I'd like you to mentally change the tense of that from "will be" to "has been" if by the time this is aired the movie has actually been released or at least has escaped.) In keeping with the spirit of the campaign they have imaginatively named the film 'King Arthur'.

In spite of the tenor of what I just said, I may well actually go to see this one, since I obviously can have no objection to it on the grounds of unfaithfulness to the story line since the essence of the story line has, since at least the middle ages, always been to be as inconsistent with itself as possible, nor can I pooh-pooh it on a-historical grounds since the history (if any) of the period has itself been problematical at least since the time of Gildas Sapiens. In fact I wouldn't even be writing the movie into this essay if it weren't for the fact that as an unfortunate consequence of buying something from BestBuy my 10-year-old daughter, Rowena Hrothwyn, has been getting free Entertainment Weekly Mags from which she has just shown me a picture of Guinnaver from this movie. G (as we like to call her) has a golden torc, some sort of kinky leather sub-Roman sports bra and nothing much else on and is holding several of what could possibly be spathae or Roman cavalry swords or indeed almost any weapon other than an ouzi, all of which, I suppose, explains the mediaeval Welsh reference to Gwenhwyfar as:
ferch Gogyrvan Gawr/Drwg bychan, gwaethaf mawr
For those of you with rusty mediaeval Welsh she was bad when little, worse when great.

GuenAnyway... One of these swords she holds out proudly so that we can see the RUNES engraved on the blade. Now these runes are a correctly formed, clearly written rune-stave and they clearly say, "Arthur once and future king" which, if you think about it, is a somewhat depressing message for him while he is still the "now king", and (if you can read runes) you quickly notice that they say it in modern English too.

And ...Oh! Dear!1... there's another thing! It's the disappointment of suddenly realizing that it is Germanic runes (rather than say the equivalent, though quite different Celtic Ogham writing or even more appropriate Latin uncials) that you are seeing on Guinavere's sword! It more than makes up for the excitement of seeing her kinky leather sub-Roman sports bra---you see, you see, Guenaver having a runic inscription on her sword, actually means she has an inscription in the more-or-less sacred or at least magical writing of her enemies the emerging Anglo-Saxons: it's like an American soldier whilst fighting Sadam Hussein going to all the trouble of having something in Arabic engraved on his gun. So, all in all, not a terribly likely thing.
As part of my research for this essay I looked on the web at the arthurnet mailing list where a group of amazingly knowledgeable scholars fight to the death about whether Arthur lived or not and if he did happen to exist, if he were a Briton from the North or the West or perhaps a Sarmatian or a Breton or (admittedly very, very occasionally) a little green man from the planet Zztizxx. Amazingly the filmmakers, I discovered, had consulted with some of the scholars on the list and one of them mentioned the fact that they had had Hadrian's Wall rebuilt in part (a one and a half kilometer part to be precise) but, and this is probably the key to the whole ethos of the movie and to the very soul of whatsisname who made it: they had apparently built their Hadrian's Wall to just a bit bigger scale than the original one

Cheerio for now
from Richard Howland-Bolton.


The title would be more accurate as Arf'a'mo' representing the Esturine pronounciation of 'half a moment', a request to pause (often for reflection).

The picture is from Entertainment Weekly, #762/763 April 30, 2004 Page 7.

And a general Note (16 Dec 04) from the arthurnet list's Goddess and Mom, Judy Shoaf:
The problem of the runic inscription on the sword was apparently dealt with by the experts once they arrived on set, and a sword with proper Ogham inscription reading "Defender of the Land" was used.
See the short article by John Matthews in Arthuriana 14.3 p. 114


1 Oh Dear! (King Arthur Movie)
"... Oh! Dear!... there's another thing! It's the disappointment" Lest you think that I'm holding this high budget movie to standards that are even higher and of a ridiculous nature, consider this from the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This screen shot is from a dream sequence in which a lesbian is painting on her girl friend's back. Someone must have put in the effort to make sure that she has written out, in Greek uncials, the beginning of the hymn to Aphrodite attributed to Sappho of Lesbos, as a remarkably appropriate and historically informed decoration.
Though, of course, some of us might question the Atticising tendency of the script (rather than Aeolic), I suspect that she can be forgiven for merely following Dionysos of Halicarnassos.

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