The tales of the legendary King Arthur have become a part of British literary history. They are stories of romance, chivalry, magic, and adventure; the development of the stories took place over centuries, beginning primarily with Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1136 and continuing on in the work of many other writers, including Sir Thomas Malory in 1469. Despite its classification as a chivalric romance, many elements of the Arthurian romance cycle that developed over its lifespan reflect common folklore or storytelling motifs that are still recogniz- able today in the form of literary fairy tales. These include the evil stepmother (The Fyrste and the Secunde Boke of Syr Trystrams de Lyones), the rags-to-riches story (The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkeney), and the poison apple (The Tale of Sir Launcelot and Quene Gwenyvere). The following paper will explore the roots of each of these motifs in an attempt to uncover the relationship between Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur and familiar literary fairy tales.
There is some dispute about whether or not the Ar- thurian romances have any foundation in the folk- lore genre in the same way that literary fairy tales do. However, the persistence of folkloric motifs is undeniable. It bears resemblance to the literary fairy tales that emerged across Europe later, and it is possible that the Morte D’Arthur has a part to play in the development of literary fairy tales. But is it an early literary fairy tale, predating even the work of the Neapolitan Giambattista Basile, a distant cousin to the folklore genre or a work unto itself, related only marginally to the folkloric tradition? The motifs examined in an effort to answer this question will be compared to their use in popular literary fairy tales of Perrault’s Cendrillon and the Grimms’ Sneewittchen, with some attention paid to these motifs in other familiar literary fairy tales.
Lawson, Sarah N.
"Once upon a Time: The Morte D’Arthur’s Relationship to the Fairy Tale Canon,"
Proceedings of GREAT Day: Vol. 2014
, Article 1.
Available at: https://knightscholar.geneseo.edu/proceedings-of-great-day/vol2014/iss1/1