A guide to...
Who was King Arthur?
Many historians believe that there was a British leader called King Arthur who was responsible for fighting against Anglo-Saxon invaders when they arrived around AD 500. There are a number of historical recounts that talk about a heroic leader who defeated hundreds of Saxon warriors, such as the writing of Nennius, who describes Arthur slaying 960 men single-handedly in one battle!
Was King Arthur real or just a legend?
It is difficult to know for sure, because the figure known as King Arthur comes from the period of history called the Dark Ages, for which we have inadequate evidence. Many of the stories that exist about King Arthur have been written down years later in the form of heroic myths, which is a literary style that adds magic, fantasy and exaggerated details to real events. If Arthur did exist, he would have been more of a war leader than a king in a castle.
What is King Arthur like in the stories?
The heroic myths tell tales about Arthur, the son of a royal couple who was hidden away and looked after by a wise wizard called Merlin. Arthur established his right to be king by drawing out a sword that had been magically set into stone. Later he married Guinevere and was famously seated at a Round Table along with his courageous knights. King Arthur lived in a great castle called Camelot and was able to complete many dangerous quests with the help of his magical sword, called Excalibur.