Was King Arthur a Winner or a Failure?

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I reviewed J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumously published book, The Fall of Arthur, for Chalcedon a few years ago–one of my better articles, if I do say so myself.


Much as I cringe at having to take issue with Tolkien, I can’t help it. I think he’s wrong for looking at the fall of Arthur rather than his long-term legacy. Our own time, that we live in every day, would be very different, had there been no Arthur in the 6th century. We do have many serious problems; but it would be worse, I think, much worse, had Arthur never lived.

What–am I crazy?

Read the review and see.

About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

6 responses to “Was King Arthur a Winner or a Failure?

  • marlene

    It’s always wrong to put too much focus on the fall of a great legacy. “Great” being the operative word. It does no justice to those who do, as most of us can espy a bit of pettiness, arrogance, and in some case, perhaps a tiny bit of jealousy. However i’ll get back to you after i’ve read your review. PS: I hope I don’t have to eat my words – lol.


  • Unknowable

    Revisionism is alive and well, in our day. We need righteous heroes.


  • Phoebe

    Of all the Arthurian lore, my favorite remains Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King,” maybe because my mother used recite large chunks of it to me from the earliest years of my life. (Also, it’s simply gorgeous blank verse.) In “The Passing of Arthur,” Tennyson does treat the end of Arthur, but in terms of Providence and prayer. All of the following is from memory, so I may have some words wrong, but this is part of Arthur’s farewell to Bedivere:

    “The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
    And God fulfills himself in many ways
    Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

    And Arthur adds, “More things are wrought by prayer / Than this world dreams of,” and tells Bedivere to pray for him, adding that men are no better than the animals if they don’t “lift their hands in prayer.”

    I also love what Guinevere says in the poem “Guinevere” after all has collapsed and Arthur, on his way to the last battle, has sorrowfully taken leave of her in the convent where she’s fled:

    “It was my duty to have loved the highest;
    It surely was my profit had I known;
    It would have been my pleasure had I seen.”

    That is so sadly emblematic of our fallen human nature — the way we too often throw away the best and run after the momentary and poisonous flash-and-dazzle.

    Pardon me. I think the “Idylls” will be my bedtime reading tonight. Boy, could that man write!


  • thewhiterabbit2016

    Great article, Lee. Legends are always bigger than life but that’s the point. We need to be inspired in order to achieve victory in life. It reminds me of the Johnny Mercer song, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.”


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