When I was thirteen, I was scanning the Barnes and Noble bookshelves looking for a book to read for the “fantasy” unit of my book report for English class. I’d already burned through Tamora Pierce’s work at this point, and the year before had read The Lord of The Rings in order to pacify my mother’s “no movies until you read the book” rule. (By the way, I’m pretty sure I would have been allowed to see The Fellowship of The Ring without reading the book.) There were also no new Harry Potters on the horizon at that point and my mom always had this ability to pick books for me that were just on the edge of my reading level and would challenge me.
So she grabbed, The Once And Future King, and smiled, “you like all of this stuff, you should know Camelot inside and out. You’ll love this.”
I did love it. I wrote that book report about how Lancelot was the real protagonist of the story and Arthur more like a plot device. My teacher was thrilled with my analysis, but she also pointed out that I didn’t exactly follow the assignment, which was more about recapping plot that analyzing the point of view TH White had chosen to tell the Camelot legend through.
Like a lot of nerd, I feel the call of Camelot every couple of years, and I try to find a new way in each time. Meg Cabot’s Avalon High has always been a favorite of mine, but Nancy McKenzie’s Queen of Camelot held my attention, and now has a place in my honored “books I refuse to throw out ever,” box.
In college I read Le Mort D’Arthur and Sir Gawain And The Green Knight and a few other “original” Camelot stories, and of course Monty Python And The Holy Grail and it’s adapted Broadway musical Spamalot! became funnier to me as I more deeply explored Arthurian Legend.
Right now I’m working through The Mists of Avalon as a new version of King Arthur gets ready to go on film starring Charlie Hunnam as Arthur. (I can get behind any movie that gives Charlie Hunnam intrigue to navigate, seriously. He does it well, and looks good doing it.) I’m determined to reconnect to my nerd roots this year, and I felt like touching base in Camelot was the way to do it.
It’s also pathetic that as a feminism minded fantasy fan, I never read this book. I know it is. It’s one of those foundational works, and I’m really enjoying it. But mostly I’m enjoying seeing yet another twist on this story that I know so perfectly well, and I particularly love seeing Morgaine as a protagonist. And Guinivere of Gwenyfhar as she’s know here as completely freaking batshit crazy. Seriously, love making that choice for her. She’s portrayed here as repressed, agoraphobic and socially anxious, which is much more interesting, than “raging bitch,” as she is often shown.
I’m happy to be back in Camelot for a bit of the summer and I may even visit through some of my favorite doors once I finish with Avalon.
And by that I mean, I might watch the mini series Merlin starring Sam Neil again. Because it’s really, really good.