King Arthur's Camlan by Laurence Main
"The story of King Arthur has captured the imagination of people all over the world and throughout centuries. Its very obscurity generates fascination. Instead of a recorded monarch, Arthur is a hero from a lost golden age. Yet there was a real King Arthur ...
Many brilliant authors have created his image to fit their theories. The variety of their conclusions reveals how easy it is to conjure prejudice out of ignorance. Yet there are some things that can be stated with respect for truth. This little book deals with Camlan, the final battle which left Arthur mortally wounded. The place can be identified, as can some of the characters, suggesting why the battle happened.
There is much more to Arthur, of course. Many aspects will be touched upon, even the archetypal, celestial Arthur whose pattern appears in the landscape, related to Arth the Bear. The flesh and blood Arthur encountered here, however, lived and breathed around AD 500. The Scottish Arthur of a century later was probably named after him. Our Arthur is the one named in such ancient Welsh texts as Culhwch and Olwen.
He belongs to that tantalisingly obscure period between the Roman withdrawal from Britain and the chronicles of the monkish scribes. We do have references to Arthur, but of aural origin and written down centuries after his death.
Some people worship words written on paper or parchment, whilst despising those held in the memories of bardic descendants of the Druids (who were famous for their memory). The contemporary account we do have suffers from being written by a man said to have destroyed, in a vengeful rage, works commemorating Arthur. This man was Gildas, pupil of 'St' Illtyd, whose surviving book has blackened the name of Gwynedd's King Maelgwn down the ages.
The term 'historian' must be used lightly when referring to Gildas. When Sabine Baring-Gould and J. Fisher compiled their 'Lives of the British Saints' they formed the conclusion that 'the remembrance of Gildas as a masterful and unscrupulous man lingered on' (cf their entry on St Oudoceus). Baring-Gould and Fisher also knew the real Arthur. In their entry on St Padarn, they conclude:
"Arthur is spoken of as a tyrant, and wholly without heroic qualities, showing that the Life was composed before Geoffrey of Monmouth had thrown a false glamour over this disreputable prince, who generally figures in the Legends of the Welsh Saints as an egregious bully, with nothing of the 'White Arthur' about him".
By contrast, their same entry on St Padarn records:
"Maelgwn was struck by blindness. This unfortunate and much abused King ... ""
The text above is from the start of King Arthur's Camlan by Laurence Main.
Camlan: King Arthur's Last Battle -
For answers to these questions and more, including battle of Camlan walking routes, please buy the book.
Text © Laurence Main
Illustrations © Sarah Enoch