Monday, February 16, 2009

Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory

According to goodreads.com I have been reading this book for over a month. I would just like to point out how ridiculous that is, seeing as how almost no book ever takes me that long. Le Morte D'Arthur is definitely not a book that can be taken on lightly.
I read this book as part of the Medieval Challenge, which ended a few days ago. I wanted to read a couple of books that were actually written during Medieval times, but that may have been my downfall with this particular challenge. Spending a month on one book for the challenge is not the best way to finish when your goal is six books. So, anyways, I will continue posting as I read the last two books I planned on for the challenge, but only here on my blog.
Le Morte D'Arthur is the classic written compilation of the stories of King Arthur. It was written by Sir Thomas Malory in the early 1400's and printed by William Caxton in 1485, after Malory's death. Malory himself wrote the stories that were already known in various other French and English translations. He brought them all together in written form. It is titled Le Morte D'Arthur because Caxton made a mistake in thinking that the title for the last part of the book was meant to be for the whole. The story is divided into twenty-one books, each one further divided into chapters which are then summarized by Caxton.
This book was almost impossible for me to finish, for a variety of reasons. First, it is over 900 pages long. Secondly, it is written in Old/Middle English, which is not easy to read quickly. I would have given up on it, except for the fact that I really did want to read the book in its entirety - I really wanted to know the original stories that are the basis for so much modern (and past) fantasy, in books and movies. I was unprepared for the repetativeness of the story. There are endless listings of knights, jousts, tourneys, and a flock of nameless damosels, maidens, and gentlewomen. (The only women that need names, it seems, are those who stick around for more than a chapter or two, or those who are exceptionally good or evil; knights on the other hand get to have multiple names no matter how unimportant.) It is interesting to see how the stories are used as moral examples for their times - especially in the Holy Grail chapters, only the knights that are the most pure and holy have a chance of finding what they seek, and then they get the honor of dying and going straight to heaven when their quest is done.
All in all, I am honestly glad to say that I have read this book, but I would not necessarily recommend it to anyone. If there is a good modern version out there, one that doesn't alter the story in any way, but just makes it easier to read, that may be the way to go.
I also read this book for the Really Old Classics Challenge and the Centuries Challenge. This is the first book read for both of those, although I do have a stack sitting by of really old classics to read. For the Centuries Challenge, this book obviously qualifies for the 15th century.

4 comments:

Rebecca Reid said...

Wow, it sounds like it was a hard read! Congrats on getting through it all the same! I suspect I'll be looking for a modern "translation" when I get to this one.

Thanks for the review, and congrats on finishing your first book for the Really Old Classics Challenge!

Moira said...

Congrats on getting through the challenge book. (Guess it was in more ways than one huh?)

I too find some of the older English styled books difficult to read, perhaps due to our brains looking and understanding that which is familiar-especially where language is concerned.

Penny (aka Yooperchick) said...

I'm working my way through this one as well. I have a goal of 50 pages a day, and that's not even going so well. And I'm the same way...I don't think I've ever taken this long to read a book before! When I finish (no "if"), I'd like to post a link of your review to mine. Is that okay?

Jeska said...

You are absolutely welcome to link to this review Penny - thanks for asking. And good luck!!