Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Worlds of Arthur by Guy Halsall


Worlds of Arthur:  Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages by Guy Halsall is a highly academic look at the history of England with an eye to determining the historicity of Arthur. Through the interpretive lens of archeological and even sociological wisdom, everything that could definitively prove the existence of a literal King Arthur is pulled apart.

The emphasis is on the Academic, capitalization implied. This book is an arid read, with often long-winded and detailed explanations of what seems to be minutiae that eventually get to the point of how this could possibly relate to Arthur and his world.

The average reader would lose interest long before the scholar and it is clear that his anticipated audience will only be an academic one because too often Halsall indulges himself by sounding arrogant and dismissive.  This is especially evident when he is addressing some of the pseudo-historic proof used to argue for the existence of Arthur.

In many ways it is as though he were preaching to the choir as he boldly says there's no point in wasting time proving an erroneous belief is wrong but then deigning to do so for the sake of thoroughness.  By doing so, any hope of converting the believers to disbelief is lost.  Why would anyone determined to believe in a historical King Arthur read pages of tedious details while also being belittled? 

I am neither a believer in a factual King Arthur nor am I a scholar.  I found the book interesting even when I occasionally felt as though I were going cross-eyed with boredom.  If I was put-off by the tone of arrogance is neither here nor there given that he could not possibly have hoped to appeal to a wider audience.  Yes, I wish he had been able to make the details of British history more engaging and I absolutely wish he had not chosen to make such explanations like an academic concession on his part.  He proves that there is still more faith than fact where King Arthur is concerned.  Unfortunately, the only ones who will bother to read his many valid points are the ones who already know that or who are not personally invested in believing.  What price intellectual humility?  Perhaps Halsall could write another book arguing for its existence or lack thereof.

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