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Tales of King Arthur


Lightly he grasped the handle of the sword with one hand, and it came forth straightway! Then, glad that his brother should not be without a sword, he swiftly gat upon his horse and rode on, and delivered the sword to Sir Kay, and thought no more of aught but the splendid knights and richly garbed lords that were at the jousts. From King rthur!s Knights by Henry Gilbert. The stories of King Arthur and his Court have entertained young and old alike for over a thousand years. In this lesson, students ill dis!over ho histori!al events gradually merged ith fantasy to !reate the !olorful tales e en"oy today. They ill read some of the more familiar stories, learn about the !ode of !hivalry of the #ound Table, $onder the symbolism of the Holy Grail, and then !hoose a favorite Arthurian !hara!ter for a bit of role%$laying.
Guiding Questions Who was King Arthur and how did his legend evolve? What were the ideals of the knights of the Round Table? Learning Objectives

After !om$leting this lesson, students ill be able to

Describe King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table Explain the historic and the m thical aspects of the Arthurian legend Discuss the rules of chivalr honored b Arthur!s knights Relate several familiar tales associated with King Arthur Explain the significance of the "uest for the #ol $rail


The figure of King Arthur as $robably based u$on a Celti! king or !hieftain ho lived in south estern &ngland during the 'th !entury and led his arriors against invading armies of (a)ons. This fearless leader as famous in his o n time, and over the !enturies his legend gre as storytellers a ed their audien!es ith tales of his e)$loits. His name first a$$ears in a long *elsh $oem of the +th !entury, " #oddodin. He is referred to by the *elsh !hroni!ler ,ennius in the -th !entury and figures $rominently in .ritish histori!al annals of the /0th !entury. In //12 Geoffrey of 3onmouth rote the 4semi%histori!al4 $istory of the Kings of %ritain, devoting half of his ork to the e)$loits of Arthur. .lending and embellishing many strands of the oral tradition, then setting the a!tion in his o n times, he forged the first Arthurian novel.

3anus!ri$ts ere translated from 5atin into the Anglo%(a)on tongue and ,orman Fren!h and idely distributed throughout .ritain. It be!ame the bestseller of its time. At the end of the /6th !entury, Fren!h $oet Chretien de Troyes further embellished the legend, adding ne tales of !hivalrous knights as ell as the tragi! roman!e of 5an!elot and Guinevere. A de!ade later, #obert de .orron reintrodu!ed the theme of the grail 7dra ing u$on early Celti! folklore8 and gave $rominen!e to the magi!ian, 3erlin. .y no , the stories had taken on greater Christian overtones, although !ertain $agan elements remained. King Arthur had !ome to embody the ideal Christian knight. In the /9th !entury, (ir Thomas 3alory re orked the some hat un ieldy !olle!tion of tales into a long unified e$i! entitled 5e &orte d! rtur. *ritten in a lyri!al &nglish $rose 7rather than 5atin8, it as an instant hit. 3alory:s ork be!ame the definitive version of the story of King Arthur. ;f !ourse, by no the Celti! hero of !enturies $ast had been lost in the long series of transformations. In more re!ent times, <i!torian $oet 5ord Tennyson re$o$ulari=ed the Arthurian legend in his long $oeti! ork, 'dylls of the King, and in the early 60th !entury T.H. *hite !reated his ell% loved, himsi!al ada$tation, The (nce and )uture King. Arthur and his !ourt of !hivalrous knights are alive and ell in the 6/st !enturygra!ing the stage in $rodu!tions of 5erner and 5oe e:s musi!al *amelot, a$$earing on the ide s!reen in films like +,calibur, )irst Knight, and &erlin, and aiting to be redis!overed by ne generations of readers in books about their fabulous adventures.
Preparation Instructions Review the activities of the lesson plan% &ocate and bookmark suggested materials and websites% Download the reading passages cited in Activities '( )( *( and + and mark the places where students are to begin and end reading aloud% Download and duplicate the charts provided in pdf format in Activities '( +( and , and the -enn Diagram in Activit *% Additional background information can be found at the following links available through ED./TEment0reviewed resource &ab rinth1
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Arthur 2A3 at the 4amelot 5ro6ect King Arthur7The $eograph 8ackground for the #ol $rail at the 4amelot 5ro6ect

$ather together a collection of books about the 9iddle Ages and stories about King Arthur from our school librar % These will be useful for providing additional illustrations of the material covered in the lesson as well background information% :2or recommended books on King Arthur( see Extending the &esson%;

Lesson Activities Activit <% .etting the .tage Activit '% The .word in the .tone

Activit =% The 4hivalrous Knights of the Round Table Activit )% Excalibur

Activit *% The #ol $rail Activit +% .ailing to Avalon

Activity 1. Setting the Stage

.egin the lesson by asking ho has heard of King Arthur. >is!uss ith students to determine ho mu!h they kno about him and hat sour!esmovies, books, and so oninform their ideas. Then ask hether they think King Arthur as a real $erson. 73ost $eo$le believe he as mythi!al.8 &)$lain that the stories about Arthur are based u$on the e)$loits of a !hieftain ho really lived many !enturies ago. >is!uss the ba!kground material $rovided at the beginning of this lesson $lan, stressing ho the stories evolved and !hanged over the years. ?ou might ant to !reate a timeline on the board to hel$ the students better understand the !hronology. Indi!ate the $eriod of the 3iddle Ages 7from the 9th !entury to the /9th8, and then $oint out hen the 4real4 Arthur lived and hen the ma"or versions of the legend a$$eared. ,e)t, lo!ate the geogra$hi!al setting of the stories. A!!ess the ma$ of &uro$e available through 5abyrinth and lo!ate south estern &ngland. &)$lain that this is here the battles ere fought bet een the Celts and the (a)ons in the 'th !entury. ,o go to Anglo%(a)on &ngland in /0th !entury also available through 5abyrinth. Find *in!hester and Glastonbury. These !ities are !losely !onne!ted ith the legend of King Arthur. ,ote ho !losely southern &ngland lies to Fran!e. This is here the (a)ons !rossed the Channel to invade &ngland during the >ark Ages. 7*illiam the Con@ueror took the same route in /0''A8 The $ro)imity of the t o !ountries also en!ouraged the s$read of the tales from .ritain to Fran!e. ,o that the students have a general idea of the setting behind the evolution of the tales of King Arthur and here they took $la!e, tell them they ill be reading and sharing o$inions about some of the more famous e$isodes.
Activity 2. The Sword in the Stone

In this a!tivity the students ill read together a $assage des!ribing ho Arthur be!ame king taken from King rthur!s Knights by Henry Gilbert. 5ike many tales derived from folklore, the stories of King Arthur are a blend of history and fantasy. As the students read this $assage, they should think about hi!h as$e!ts seem realisti! and hi!h are more fan!iful or unrealisti!. A!!ess Gilbert:s King Arthurs Knights Cha$ter / available through Internet Bubli! 5ibrary. Gilbert:s book, $ublished in /-//, as intended to offer a more 4kid%friendly4 version of 3alory:s &orte d! rthur. It is indeed a gri$$ing, beautifully ritten version of the legend, but be!ause the style and vo!abulary !an $resent a !hallenge for modern students, you might !onsider having $assages read aloud as a grou$ under your guidan!e. If you do so, !onsider $ausing after ea!h $aragra$h or t o to dis!uss s$e!ifi! images, !hara!ters, or events. ?ou should rite any diffi!ult ords on the board and e)$lain their meanings. .egin by !alling u$on a student or students to read aloud u$ to the $aragra$h that begins 4As it neared the feast of Christmas.4 #emind the !lass that the (a)ons ere tribesmen ho invaded &ngland in the 'th !entury 7 hen the 4real4 King Arthur lived8. Boint out that 4$agans4 ere

non%Christians. 7?ou might use this ord to begin your vo!abulary list on the board.8 After this se!tion has been read, ask for a volunteer to e)$lain the meaning of the red and hite dragons. (ele!t students to !ontinue reading the te)t, ending at the $aragra$h that begins 4(o that the kings and lords should be ke$t togetherC4 Then ask hat event in this $assage seems most unrealisti! or fan!iful. 7The sudden a$$earan!e of the s ord in the stone.8 >oesn:t this add a measure of sus$ense that makes one ant to read furtherD #ead together the rest of the $assage. Then ask the students their o$inion of the !hara!ter of (ir Kay. *hat !auses him to !onfess that he has lied. 7#emember the influen!e of the Christian !hur!h in the stories.8 ;n!e he reali=es he is king, hat $romise does Arthur make to (ir KayD *hat does this tell about Arthur:s !hara!terD <ie an illustration of this famous s!ene by a!!essing Arthur >ra s the ( ord from the (tone available through 5abyrinth. ,e)t, arrange the students in grou$s. Hand out a !o$y of the !hart HistoryEFantasy in the Tales of King Arthur available in $df format to ea!h grou$. Instru!t the students to dis!uss in their grou$s the story they have "ust read. They should sele!t four elements of the story that seem realisti! and note these in the first !olumn of their !hart. Then they should !onsider elements that seem unreal, magi!al, or mythi!al, noting them do n in the se!ond !olumn of the !hart. After all the !harts have been !om$leted, !all u$on a volunteer from ea!h grou$ to des!ribe realisti! and one fan!iful element a$$earing on the grou$ !hart. Ask students to dis!uss hat effe!t in!luding fantasti! elements has on the story. Ho does it both add to and detra!t from ArthurFs legitima!y as kingD *hat is the general effe!t of mi)ing realisti! and non%realisti! elementsD
Activity 3. The Chivalrous Knights of the Round Table

.y reading a sele!tion from GilbertFs King ArthurFs Knights Cha$ter 6, students ill learn ho Arthur, on!e he be!ame king, Arthur led an army of knights and defeated the (a)ons, e)$anded his kingdom, and brought about a $ea!e that lasted for /6 years. He also took a ifeGuinevere and established his !ourt at his !astle at Camelot. As a edding gift from his father%in%la he as $resented ith a large, round table. It as a magi!al table that !ould e)$and to a!!ommodate fifty, one hundred, or even one hundred and fifty knights. *henever a ne knight "oined Arthur:s !ourt, his name a$$eared on the ba!k of one of the seats at the table. Have students read from King ArthurFs Knights Cha$ter 6 until the follo ing $aragra$h 7either in !lass, or at home8G .oth the knights and the !ommon $eo$le shouted ith "oy, and a!!laimed (ir 5an!elot as a noble and mighty knight. .ut the young man as full modest, and ithdre from the $ress. King Arthur gave to him the >olorous To er and the lands hi!h had belonged to (ir Carado!, and 5an!elot !aused the old dame and her sone to be given a fair $ie!e of land and a hut, and many other rongs and evil !ustoms that had been done by (ir Carado!, (ir 5an!elot !aused to be righted. Ask students, hat is the advantage of having a meeting at a round table rather than a re!tangular one. (tudents might $oint out that all $ersons are seated in an e@ual manner at a round table. If

the table is re!tangular, the leader or leaders are usually seated at one end, a dominant $osition. #ound tables are far more demo!rati!A &)$lain that Celti! arriors often met in !ir!les to avoid fighting over ho as su$erior to hom, so here is another element of the legend that is based on fa!t. They !an see illustrations of Arthur:s #ound Table by a!!essing the follo ing images available through 5abyrinthG 4(ir Galahad Is .rought to the Court of King Arthur4, as ell as the #ound Table of King Arthur on the all of the Great Hall of *in!hester Castle. The table as !onstru!ted in the /1th !entury 7long after the time the legendary Arthur as su$$osed to live8 and still hangs in the !astle. At the se!ond site, s!roll do n and vie the se!ond image in the left margin. As you !an see, the #ound Table as used for ban@uets and feasts as ell as offi!ial meetings. At the end of the /6th !entury, Chretien de Troyes introdu!ed the notion of !hivalry into the Arthurian legend. From his time on ard, every knight of the #ound Table as e)$e!ted to adhere to the rules of a stri!t !ode of honorable behavior. Have students reread GilbertFs $refa!e in hi!h he re!ounts a version of the !hivalri! !odeG The duties of a -good and faithful knightwere .uite simple, but they were often very hard to perform. They were/ to protect the distressed, to speak the truth, to keep his word to all, to be courteous and gentle to women, to defend right against might, and to do or say nothing that should sully the fair name of *hristian knighthood. >is!uss the follo ing @uestions ith the !lassG

Wh is it necessar to have rules such as these( even if the are not alwa s followed to the letter? Which rules might be most difficult to follow? Wh ? What rules of good conduct govern groups of people in modern life? Who are the similar to or dissimilar from chivalric codes? What does the stor of &ancelot teach about the importance of chivalric codes? #ow does &ancelot>s behavior adhere to the code? #ow does he compare to .ir 4aradoc?

Activity 4. !calibur

Arthur:s famous s ord, &)!alibur, as first mentioned in the //th !entury *elsh $rose roman!e *ulhwch and (lwen. &)$lain to the students that hile 4the s ord in the stone4 hel$ed make Arthur king, another s ord, &)!alibur, be!ame his favorite ea$on. Ho he obtained this s ord is among the most famous e$isodes of the Arthurian legend. It is retold in .ulfin!h:s 3ythology a!!essible through 5abyrinth at .ulfin!h:s 3ythology, Age of Chivalry Cha$ter III Bart III. (!roll do n to the se!tion entitled 4King Arthur Gets a ( ord from the 5ady of the 5ake.4 Then !all u$on students to read the $assage aloud. .e!ause the language is some hat 4old%fashioned,4 !aution them to read slo ly. The ord 4!hurl4 used in the first senten!e means 4$easant.4 7In medieval times a !hurl as a freeman of the lo est rank.8. The ord 4re!reant4 in the /2th line means 4!o ardly4 or 4untrue.4 Add these to the vo!abulary list on the board you started ith A!tivity 6. ;n!e the $assage has been read, !all u$on students to retell the main events in their o n ords. An illustration of this s!ene !an be vie ed at The #eturn of Arthur available through 5abyrinth.

The knight $ut to slee$ by 3erlin is BellinoreH in later e$isodes he ill a!tually "oin the fello shi$ of the #ound Table. Bellinore is also the father of Ber!eval, hom e:ll be meeting later in this lesson. Although &)!alibur is a beautiful s ord, it is the s!abbard that has magi!al $o ers %% as long as Arthur is earing it, he ill never lose a dro$ of blood in battle. Ask the students for their rea!tions to this $assage. Although magi! $lays a ma"or role in the s!ene at the lake, is the s!ene believableD Arthur agrees to give the 5ady of the 5ake hatever she asks in the future in e)!hange for the s ord. Is this iseD *hat ne element does this $romise add to the unfolding dramaD 73ysteryD (us$enseD8 #emind the students of the !ode of !hivalry dis!ussed in A!tivity 1. Ask them to !onsider in hat ays Arthur has follo ed the !ode in this $assage. Have ea!h student make a list of e)am$les. Then have the members of the !lass share their ideas.
Activity ". The #oly $rail

;ne of the most familiar themes of the Arthurian legend is the @uest for the Holy Grail. A!tually, in the earliest versions of the story the grail is not the ine !hali!e most $eo$le think of. In Celti! folklore, the magi!al vessel is a $earl%rimmed !auldron %% a $rovider of $lenty and a sour!e of $ro$he!y. 7Celti! !auldrons ere used in !eremonial feasting in very an!ient times.8 A later version of the story refers to a stone, hi!h $rovides food and drink and $revents anyone ho sees it from dying ithin the eek. Chretien de Troyes des!ribes a flat dish brought to the table during various !ourses of a meal. This is a graal, a ord derived from the 5atin ord gradale 7a dish brought to the table8. 7The ord 4graal4 as used in most te)ts until fairly re!ently, hen it as re$la!ed by 4grail.48

4hretien!s tale :&e 4onte del $raal; is the oldest stor in which one of Arthur!s knights :5erceval; encounters a magical graal% 5erceval is described as a rather slow0witted :but brave and well0meaning; fellow% :#is character is based upon 5eredur( a na?ve @countr bumpkin@ appearing in an earl 4eltic tale%; .oon after 5erceval is knighted( he is given some rather bad advice1 he is told that it is rude to ask "uestions about something he doesn!t understand% Ander these conditions 5erceval encounters the grail% Read the following passage aloud1 The young knight, Perceval, has been riding through the woods and suddenly enters a desolate wasteland. Continuing on, he comes upon a large castle, which is guarded and inhabited by an order of knights and ruled by the Fisher King. The king, who has been wounded in the thigh and is dying, invites Perceval to dine with him. The meal begins with a strange procession: it is led by a young man carrying a lance dripping with blood, followed by two s uires with golden candelabra and a beautiful woman carrying a silver graal set with precious !ewels. The woman places the graal on the table, and it supplies food for the full company of knights. Percival is most intrigued about what is going on around him, yet mindful of being told not to ask unneeded uestions, so he holds his tongue. "fter the meal, he falls asleep. #hen he awakes, he is lying in the woods. The castle has disappeared. For many years, Perceval searches for the mysterious castle. $e later discovers that the Fisher King is his uncle and that had he only asked about the function of the graal, the

old king would have been healed and the wasteland surrounding his castle would have been transformed into a green and fertile countryside. :4hretien died before completing this stor % .ome scholars believe that he intended to have 5erceval return to the castle and ask about the graal% 8ut( of course( we!ll never know for sure%; Ask the students for their reactions to this stor % #ow do the feel about 5erceval!s simple character? What is the moral of the stor ? What might the graal s mboliBe?

About /0 years after the death of Chretien de Troyes, Fren!h $oet #obert de .oron redefined the graal as a !hali!ethe !u$ from hi!h Christ drank at the 5ast (u$$er and hi!h as later used by Iose$h of Arimathea to !at!h His blood as He as taken do n from the !ross. This Holy Graal as su$$osedly brought by Iose$h to Glastonbury in .ritain. 7This !ity is indi!ated on the se!ond ma$ a!!essed in A!tivity /.8 The vessel no took on a Christian meaning, and the @uest for the holy !hali!e be!ame the highest s$iritual $ursuit a knight !ould undertake. In 3alory:s Le &orte d! rthur, (ir .ors is the first of the knights of the #ound Table to see the graal. #ead Henry Gilbert:s version of his adventure by a!!essing Gilbert:s King Arthur:s Knights Cha$ter - through Internet Bubli! 5ibrary. (!roll do n to $aragra$h beginning 4It !han!ed that seven nights beforeC4 Tell the students to look for similarities ith the earlier tale about Ber!eval as this story is read aloud. 7These in!lude the setting of a !astle in a desolate region, the a$$earan!e of a strange ea$onin the first tale it as a bleeding s ord, in this one it is a flaming s$earand, of !ourse, the a$$earan!e of a magi!al, health%restoring vessel.8 A $ainting of the graal by >ante #ossetti !an be seen at Attainment of the (an! Grael available through 5abyrinth. >is!uss the similarities and differen!es bet een the t o stories of the grailBer!eval and the Fisher King and (ir .ors at the 4haunted4 !astle. Ho affe!tive are the 4thriller4 elements of the se!ond tale % the em$ty armor, the fero!ious boar rushing out of the dungeon, the food set out to tem$t (ir .orsD Ask the students ho the old man might be. 7Could he be the Fisher KingD8 *hat is the symbolism of the grailD Boint out the religious em$hasis in this story. In a later story in 3alory:s ork (ir .ors, (ir Galahad, and (ir Ber!eval 7a ne , more so$histi!ated knight than the sim$leton you first read about8 find the grail in the hands of the s$irit of Iose$h of Arimathea himself. The s$irit tells them that no one ill ever see the grail againG be!ause there is too mu!h evil in &ngland, it ill disa$$ear, and Arthur:s kingdom ill be torn a$art by arfare. Con!lude this a!tivity by handing out !o$ies of the <enn diagram available in .$df format 7also available as an online intera!tive8. >ivide the !lass into grou$s. Instru!t the grou$s to dis!uss the t o stories of the grailBer!eval and the Fisher King and the adventure of (ir .ors. Then ea!h grou$ should fill in the diagram, indi!ating the similarities and differen!es bet een the t o tales.
Activity %. Sailing to Avalon

After many years of $ea!e, Arthur:s kingdom did indeed eru$t into a state of ar. (ir 5an!elot $roved an un orthy friend, and he as driven from Camelot. He returned to his homeland, Fran!e. Arthur de!ided to $ursue him there, leaving the kingdom in the hands of his ne$he ,

3ordred. .ut 3ordred as an evil fello , and he soon !laimed the !ro n for himself. Arthur as summoned home by Guinevere. He battled and sle 3ordred, but he as mortally ounded himself. #ead together Henry Gilbert:s telling of the end of the legend by a!!essing The >eath of Arthur available through Internet Bubli! 5ibrary. (ele!t students to read the $assage aloud u$ to the $aragra$h that begins 4*hen morning broke C4 Then vie the follo ing images available through 5abyrinthG (ir .edivere Casts the ( ord &)!alibur into the 5ake. Call u$on students to des!ribe hat is ha$$ening in the s!ene. Ask the students if they remember Arthur:s $romise to the 5ady of the 5ake 7des!ribed in the $assage in A!tivity 18. 7In e)!hange for the use of &)!alibur, Arthur s ore to do hatever she asked of him in the future.8 *hat she later asked as that he return the s ord to her before he died. A!!ording to Celti! folklore, Arthur as !arried a ay to the island of .lessed (ouls to be healed of his ounds. In 3alory:s version of the story, he as taken to the island of Avalon 7for this same $ur$ose8. He never returned to Camelot, but it as said that one day he ould return to re!over and rule his kingdom. #evie the main !hara!ters and events of the five e$isodes studied in A!tivities 6%' of this lesson $lan. Then instru!t the students, orking in five grou$s, to fill in the !hart 7Tales of King Arthur8 available in .$df format. Then !all u$on a volunteer in ea!h grou$ to dis!uss one of the stories, follo ing the data noted on the !hart, until all five stories have been $resented. Con!lude the a!tivity by asking hi!h storyEstories the students en"oyed the mostand hy.

.y no the students have met many !hara!ters from the legend of King Arthur. 5ead a dis!ussion about these !hara!ters, noting their strengths and eaknesses. Ask the students to !hoose a favorite and to tell hat they like best about this !hara!ter. *rite do n the names of the !hara!ters on the board as they are mentioned. ,o e)$lain that there ere many other !olorful !hara!ters a$$earing in the many tales that make u$ the Arthurian legend. Tell the students they !an find out more about these !hara!ters by resear!hing both online and in the library. They are to !hoose one !hara!ter, resear!h him or her, and then fill out the form available in $df format.

The students should choose from among this list of characters1 King Arthur( .ir &ancelot( .ir $awain( .ir 5erceval( 9organ &e 2a ( 3ueen $uinevere( 9erlin( 9ordred( .ir 8ors( .ir $alahad( .ir 5ellinor( the 2isher King( .ir 8evidere( and the &ad of the &ake%

Cir!ulate among the students as they are orking to make sure that there is a ide distribution of !hara!ters !hosen. 7,ot everyone !an be Arthur or GuinevereA8 *hen all the !harts have been filled out, instru!t the students to assume the role of their favorite !hara!ter. ;ne at a time, they ill then ans er @uestions $osed by !lassmates until their identity has been guessed. This a!tivity !an be done ith the !lass as a hole or in smaller grou$s.

Extending The Lesson 4ontinue the stud of King Arthur b selecting chapters from the following book to read aloud to the class1 T%#% White!s The %nce and Future King( Rosemar .utcliff!s The &word at &unset( or 9ar .tewart!s The 'erlin Trilogy% The following books are recommended for independent reading1 &eeing &tone b Kevin #olland04rossle C King "rthur and $is Knights of the (ound Table b Roger &ancel n $reen( and Tales of King "rthur b 2elicit 8rooks% Selected EDSITEment Websites

The 5abyrinth

Anglo0.axon England in <Dth centur 8ulfinch!s 9 tholog


8ulfinch!s 9 tholog ( Age of 4hivalr 4hapter /// 5art ///

/nternet 5ublic &ibrar

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$ordd 4 mru!s Enline Arthurian Archives $ilbert!s King Arthurs Knights 4hapter < $ilbert!s King Arthur!s Knights 4hapter F The Death of Arthur Attainment of the .anc $rael &e 9orte d!Arthur

Europe King Arthur 00 The $eograph King Arthur1 A 9an for the Ages 00 The Things 4hivalr The #ol $rail King Arthur1 The 5eople of the &egends The 5laces of the &egends 9eet the 4haracters Arthur and the Arthurian legend The 3uest1 An Arthurian Resource

An Archaeological 3uest for the @real@ King Arthur

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4hretien de Tro e!s &e 4onte del $raal Arthurian .ites in England $aller Arthur Draws the .word from the .tone @.ir $alahad /s 8rought to the 4ourt of King Arthur@ The Return of Arthur .ir 8edivere 4asts the .word Excalibur into the &ake