Excalibur is not a thing, something you can hold in your hand.
Excalibur is the good in you.
The power to do good, to stand up for what's right, to slay dragons, to capture bank robbers.
You always carry Excalibur in your heart.

Robert Tinnell, Kids of the Round Table (1995)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Out Now: A Green and Pagan Land

New from McFarland:

A Green and Pagan Land: Myth, Magic and Landscape in British Film and Television
David Huckvale

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 227
Bibliographic Info: 33 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7050-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2993-3
Imprint: McFarland

British literature often refers to pagan and classical themes through richly detailed landscapes that suggest more than a mere backdrop of physical features. The myth-inspired writings of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Algernon Blackwood, Aleister Crowley, Lord Dunsany and even Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows informed later British films and television dramas such as The Owl Service (1969-70), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), The Wicker Man (1973), Excalibur (1981) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). The author analyzes the evocative language and esthetics of landscapes in literature, film, television and music, and how “psycho-geography” is used to explore the influence of the past on the present.

About the Author(s)

David Huckvale has worked as a researcher, writer and presenter for BBC Radio and as a lecturer for various universities in England. He lives in rural Bedfordshire.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

CFP: ICMS 2019 - Arthurian Games Roundtable "All Manner of Knightly Games"

"All Manner of Knightly Games": Games In and Inspired by the Arthurian Tradition. Kalamazoo 2019 session:

Throughout Arthurian literature, there is an abundance of games and entertainments. Perhaps most famously, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is structured on two sets of games: the exchange of blows game and the exchange of winnings game. In Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, the hallmark of a happy court is “revels and games” or “all manner of games and plays.” And of course the tourneying so central to the Arthurian tradition is in essence a game. Often, these games and entertainments contribute to the main themes of the text, as when Queen Guinevere goes a-Maying (a type of “game),” protected by a handful of woefully unprepared “Queen’s Knights.” The devious Sir Meligrance kidnaps Guinevere, taking her back to his castle. While Lancelot eventually slays the evil knight, and rescues the Queen, the gaming and abduction highlight the decadence of Arthur’s court, which leaves Camelot vulnerable, unready to defend itself from the gathering shadows.

Perhaps because of the games and gaming inherent in the Arthurian tradition, these texts have recently inspired elements of modern games: video games, board games, card games, and more. Some games feature themes from the original medieval texts, such as Shadows Over Camelot, a board game that assigns players roles as loyal knights or as a traitor. As the players go on quests, safeguarding Arthur’s kingdom, tensions rise as each knight suspects the other of foul play. Other games simply appropriate Arthurian names and objects, such as the video game Persona 5 which features the Holy Grail as a boss for players to defeat near the end of the game.

The purpose of this Round Table will be two-fold: first, to discuss “courtly play” and “gaming” as they appear in medieval Arthurian texts, and second, to consider the ways contemporary games have utilized the Arthurian tradition as a world building function. The dual nature of this session seeks to gain a better understanding of Arthurian game and play in both medieval and contemporary Arthuriana.

Session presenters will be asked to give short papers or prepared remarks, followed by time for discussion. We are very interested in trans-temporal proposals, linking the themes, narratives, characters or concepts between medieval and medievalism. To emphasize this point, audience members will be given character cards from Camelot Legends, to encourage reflection of these moments. This tactile scholarship and specific use of cards produced lively discussion in BABEL’s 2017 Reno Meeting session “The Hand You’re Dealt: A Presentation of Exhibits and Roundtable on Creative Process.”

The session will serve as an excellent opportunity to introduce attendees to contemporary gaming culture and its pedagogical potential. The narratives of decadence and treachery serve as only a few examples for the approaches to this subject. The wealth of Arthurian “gaming” narratives found in medieval Arthurian texts along with the profusion of contemporary games creates fertile ground for a nuanced discussion of Camelot and its legacy.

Finally the session welcomes papers which discuss race (and whiteness), gender, LGBTQ, disability, poverty and education.

Please submit 200 word abstract to:
tnarayanan@mail.csuchico.edu by 9/15.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Unworthy Knights in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Zelda games are full of medievalisms, typically of the Arthurian variety. The basics of tedious side quests, pontificating hermits, damsels in distress, and a sword in the stone are all there.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS is no exception.

The first part of the game features a mysterious sorcerer named Yuga who invades the Kingdom of Hyrule. Yuga erects a mysterious energy barrier around the kingdom’s castle, trapping Princess Zelda. Link learns from a Merlin-like sage that the only thing capable of breaking the barrier is the Master Sword. To gain this sword, our hero must hold the pendants of Courage, Power, and Wisdom, which can only be acquired through defeating monsters at the end of dungeons. These are physical manifestations of traits whereas Galahad and other Arthurian knights sought to prove themselves brave and chaste, among other things, through adventures, not physical possessions.

Even after trekking throughout the kingdom and defeating all sorts of enemies and monsters, Link still must take his newfound courage, power, and wisdom into the Lost Woods. There, our hero must make it through a shifting maze where ghost-like creatures try to confuse him. They do a decent job, as it took me nearly a dozen attempts and break to figure out the trick.

Finally, when Link makes it through the Lost Woods, he finds the Master Sword, which he pulls from a literal stone. Then Link’s real adventure begins.

Link’s pendants put a twist on Arthurian legend. If a knight can physically hold courage, power, and wisdom, can the knight also misplace them? In fact, before Link begins his quest, Princess Zelda gave him the Pendant of Courage. At that early stage in the game, there was virtually no feat of note and Link was unaware of the pendant’s value until a hermit explained it to him. Thus, in this world, instead of knights proving themselves, they just must collect all the necessary physical items to prove themselves worthy of the Master Sword. If the pendants can be gifted, could they also be stolen, lost, traded, or gambled away?

Of course, one possible answer is in the Lost Woods, which required more than bruit strength. Although Link physically had the pendants, he still had to best the maze and misleading spirits. Perhaps this final adventure is the answer to protecting the sword from unworthy knights. Could a fierce, but unworthy knight possessing the necessary pendants forever wander the Lost Woods? Or perhaps the knight could only glimpse the sword and never touch it, reminiscent of Lancelot and the Grail.

- Scott Manning (@warpath, scottmanning.com)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

King Arthur in Marvel's Luke Cage on Netflix

References to King Arthur occur in the recently released season 2 of Marvel's Luke Cage on Netflix. In episode one, Cage and others attempt to determine who is the likely buyer of weapons, working off the vague reference El Tercero, which they track down to Arturo Gomez, a Dominican gangster.

After looking at older photos, one of Cage’s friends recognizes the face, “This guy’s on TV 24/7. Arturo Gomez the third.” He opens a paper to reveal an ad for “Magical Markdowns” at Merlin Discount Furniture.

Cage immediately appreciates the lead, realizing Arturo Gomez changed his last name to Rey and reinvented himself with a “legitimate” business.

One of Cage’s friends tries to connect the dots with the rebranding, “Merlin? Arturo Rey?”
The group realizes the connection at the same time and exclaims, “King Arthur!” as Arturo Rey translates from Spanish to Arthur King.

“Sometimes the answer’s right in front of you,” concludes Cage.

Eventually, Cage goes to confront King Arthur in a warehouse district, possibly the furthest thing from Camelot.

-Scott Manning (@warpath)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

CFP Magic and Witchcraft on Stage and Screen Panel (6/27/2018; PAMLA 11/9-11/2018)

Extended deadline: Magic and Witchcraft on Stage and Screen

deadline for submissions: June 27, 2018

full name / name of organization: Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA)

contact email: lgreene@ewu.edu

Deadline extended to June 27, 2018

Proposals are invited for a Special Session of PAMLA (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association) 2018, which will meet November 9-11, 2018, in Bellingham, Washington. The conference theme is “Acting, Roles, Stages,” and we will be contributing papers on ways in which magic and witchcraft have been represented dramatically over the centuries.

In the 400 years between Macbeth and Harry Potter, the image of the witch has become more appealing and less frightening, more popular culture and less cultural nightmare. Magic has lost its association with conjuring demons and is portrayed as an innate or acquired skill, more mysterious than playing the piano but maybe not essentially different. Witches are not wicked, and magic is not a tool of the devil. This is a huge cultural shift.

This panel invites speakers in the fields of history, anthropology, drama, film, literature, and religious studies, as well as practitioners of magic and witchcraft, to contribute to our understanding of these phenomena and their changing roles in contemporary culture. Topics from film, drama, and literature might include but are not limited to the following:

  • Macbeth
  • Bell, Book, and Candle
  • Bewitched
  • Harry Potter
  • The Craft
  • Practical Magic

Panel participants must join PAMLA BY July 1, 2018, and must register and pay for the conference by October 1, 2018. Please submit proposals through the PAMLA website at www.pamla.org.

Friday, June 22, 2018


The streaming video series Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia (Netflix, 2016-2018), produced by DreamWorks TV, includes a number of Arthurian elements and features both Merlin and Morgan le Fay as major characters. The following videos introduce the series, illustrate Merlin's initial influence (and allude to another iconic element of the Matter of Britain, and (lastly) preview the third and final season where Merlin returns and Morgana (looking a bit like DC Comics' version) is revealed.

Entzminger on Army of Darkness

I came across reference to the following article the other day. It should be accessible eventually from JSTOR.

Entzminger, Betina. "Fin de Siecle anxieties and cave endings: Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness." Mark Twain Journal. Spring-Fall, 2017, Vol. 55 Issue 1-2, p100, 13 p.

The publisher includes a synopsis, by guest editor Joseph Csicsila, (posted at http://www.marktwainjournal.com/volume_55A_springandfall.html) as follows:

Betina Entzminger adds to the discussion regarding the influence of Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court on Sam Raimi's 1992 film Army of Darkness. Having discovered that Raimi's original ending for the film (which was changed when the studio requested a more upbeat conclusion) resembles Twain's penultimate Sand-Belt scene with its discordantly dark tone and its cave setting, Entzminger suggests that both works reflect fin de siecle anxieties about the impact of new technologies in a rapidly changing world. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Boy Merlin

I've been tracking down series and films that depict the origins of Merlin as research for my Kalamazoo paper next month. One work I had heard about but never tracked down is the British series The Boy Merlin (launched on the series Shadows in 1978 and then airing for six more episodes as a separate series in 1980). The story is very much inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and alludes to Merlin as a "fatherless" boy but never (at least not on the episodes online) reveals the truth or falsehood of the incubus story.

The series anticipates a lot of the ideas found in Shine Entertainment's more recent series (2008-2012) with Merlin training as a mage and working to prepare for Arthur and himself to discover their destinies. It is also very similar to Mary Stewart's novel The Crystal Cave published in 1970 (and adapted to film in 1991), but embraces the magical elements of the character rather than rationalizing them.

The pilot from Shadows and three of the six episodes from the series are available on YouTube (see below).

A trailer for the Region-2 DVD set is also online and includes footage from yet another episode. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ritchie's King Arthur Now on Video

Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was released to home video this past week. Here are the images from the Blu-ray sleeve showing the cover and extras.

Monday, August 7, 2017

MAPACA Roundtable Update

I am pleased to announce the panelists for our roundtable on recent Arthuriana on screen. Registration information for the conference can be found at https://mapaca.net/conference. Hope to see you there.

New Visits to Camelot: Reflecting on the Contemporary Matter of Britain on Screen (Roundtable)

Session sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture for the Medieval & Renaissance Area of the Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association

Organizer/Presider: Michael A. Torregrossa (Independent Scholar)

Guy Ritchie and Michael Bay (Oh My): The Challenges of Contemporary Visions of Camelot on Screen
Michael A. Torregrossa (Independent Scholar) 

Michael A. Torregrossa is a medievalist whose research interests include adaptation, Arthuriana, comics and comic art, medievalism, monsters, and wizards. His founder of both The Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain and The Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture and serves as Fantastic Area Chair for the Northeast Popular Culture/American Culture Association.

Othering Pagan Archetypes: Reimaginings of Merlin and Morgan le Fay
Rachael Warmington (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

Rachael Warmington is a doctoral candidate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She earned her B.A. in English from Montclair State University, M.A. in English from Seton Hall University, and her MFA at City College of New York, City University of New York. Rachael is also the editor-in-chief of the open source academic journal, Wachung Review. She is currently focusing on the ways in which early regional and generational variations of Arthurian legend influence contemporary literary, film and television adaptations and appropriations of Arthurian works.

Round Table Revival: The Order: 1886
Carl Sell (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

Carl Sell is PhD student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is interested in all things medieval and Early Modern, and his studies focus on the Arthurian Legend and modern adaptations of the legend as well as adaptations of Robin Hood.