A Rainy Sunday, and King Arthur

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I ordered this book last week, and have been devouring it. Just can’t put it down.

All right, I’m a King Arthur buff. It’s my mother’s fault for telling me stories of Sir Lancelot. She could’ve had no idea how intently I was listening–what was I, three years old? When I was a few years older, I read my King Arthur picture book over and over again until it fell apart.

Two things make Mr. Saklatvala’s 1967 book stand out from the crowd.

First, it’s really cool! He delves into the messy, jumbled records of Dark Age Britain and the Middle Ages and ties things together that I never saw tied together before. The fragmentary records left of the last gasps of the Western Roman Empire are especially illuminating. True, the confused state of the record makes it impossible to prove any definite conclusions about Arthur. But Beram Saklatvala makes me nod my head and say to myself, “Hmm! Y’know, it really might’ve been that way!” Anyhow, who doesn’t love an enduring historical mystery?

The other thing is the mystery of Saklatvala himself. He’s almost as shadowy a figure as King Arthur. All I’ve been able to find out about him is a) he wrote some two dozen books, mostly on English history, and b) he sometimes used the pseudonym, “Henry Marsh.” Oh–and his middle name was Shapurji–is that Indian, Parsee, or Iranian? But his writing style is a comfortable read. It makes me wish his book were longer.

So it’s raining really hard today, but I’ve got a door into the year 500 A.D. and I can easily escape before the Saxons get me, just by closing the book.

I am amazed by the number of primary or close-to-primary sources Mr. Saklatvala brings to bear, some of which I’ve seen no other writer use.

This has got to be the coolest book I’ve read this year.

12 comments on “A Rainy Sunday, and King Arthur

    1. That’s the truth, UnKnowable! That’s why I appreciate The Book of Jasher, which fills in many of the blanks we are left with in the ‘canonized’ text, and the works of Josephus.

    2. According to what I read when looked it up just now, the Book of Jasher mentioned in the Scriptures is lost, and what remains is called an 18th century forgery. I don’t have enough information to decide what to believe about it. There are a number of books mentioned in the Bible–quite a few of them, in fact–that we don’t have anymore.

      In studying King Arthur, for instance, you run into many sources that contain both material that is probably true and material that almost certainly isn’t–plus true history that’s been so garbled and stirred around, over the years, that you hardly know what to make of it.

      History isn’t as easy a study as some people think.

    3. I hope and pray that the true history of the earth becomes revealed for all to see. A few key archaeological finds could do the trick. There are researchers whom claim to have found the rock of Horeb, which Moses was commanded to split. It is located in the area of the huge city which is being planned in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps this is part of God’s vindication of His name.

    4. Thucydides wrote “The Peloponnesian War” after participating in it as a general and a victim of the plague in Athens, which he survived. He traveled all around Greece, interviewing others who’d played a role in the war. And at the end, he admits that his history is imperfect: contradictory accounts which he couldn’t resolve, information that couldn’t be recovered, sources’ memories playing tricks on them, etc.

      Goes to show you how hard it is to do history.

    5. History really comes down to the point of view held by the writer. In the Deep South, there were some that called the Civil War the “War of Northern Agression”, because from their point of view, that’s what it had been.

      Frankly, I question a lot of what we have been told about the past. Speaking to two different European-born Christians about WW II was revealing. They weren’t pro Nazi, or anything like that, but they saw the role of the US much differently than I did. (They didn’t change my opinion to any great extent, but they did give me a reason to do some research on my own. Both were unanimous in lying some of the blame for the Holocaust at Roosevelt’s feet.)

      The narrative regarding the source of the native population of America having migrated across the Bering Strait is a bit much for me to swallow. Any mass migration across the Darian Gap would have been all but impossible in any age.

  1. We can not believe much or most of what we are told is happening today. Writing our history a few years from now will be either as variable as a kaleidoscope or in one approved version only.

  2. Another great read if you like English history: “The White Horse King: the life of Alfred the Great” by Benjamin Merkle.

  3. You know it is a good book if you wished it kept on going. That’s how I feel about the “Bell Mountain” series, and why I just read a chapter or two before bed so it will last longer (and I can have dreams about Whit, my favorite character).

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