The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

John Melton

Second Advisor

Alfred Leja

Third Advisor

Terrence MacTaggart

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Arthurian Legend, Fantasy, Science Fiction


The 1970's Arthurian fiction represents the latest step in the legend's growth; Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur represents a landing five-hundred years down the staircase. The comparison of Malory and these 1970's authors in their handling of Arthur's and Merlin's characters, of magic, and of violence, not only distinguishes between authors and times, but explores the aspects of the legend which future writers will need to consider.

In working with Arthur's story, modern authors return the king to his place of prominence and work with explaining the inconsistencies in his character which they found in Malory - his abdication of power and fame to his knights, and his reaction to Guenever and Launcelot's affair. Merlin's enigmatic character in Malory also presents a challenge to modern authors and they attempt to discover the source for his concern over Arthur's kingdom. In the 1970's Arthur and Merlin regain their dominant roles in the legend and begin emerging as fully developed characters.

Fantasy plays an integral part in Arthur and Merlin's world; the legend was born when the marvelous was a natural part of everyday life, and Malory's tale is itself fantasy, filled with giants, wizards, and miracles. The modern authors, somewhat estranged from the marvelous, do not deal with magic as naturally as does Malory, yet they do not sever fantasy from the tale. While they struggle to explain their magic, modern authors show future writers that the marvelous must shape and influence the entire tale.

In Arthur's world, war is assumed. Two aspects of violence control its use by Malory and the modern authors: relevance to the story, and distance between the reader and the violence. The appropriateness of violence is determined by purpose and the author's efforts to give. man an example a life he must rise above. Malory achieves a delicate balance between distance to the reader, relevance to the story, and providing his characters with a purpose; the modern authors do not achieve that same balance and it remains the task of a future writer to do so.

The differences between Malory and the modern authors show what might come next in the legend: Arthur's character will continue to develop as the modern authors have struggled to develop it; the elements of fantasy and violence will also be carefully considered and explored in order to achieve a modern effort comparable to Malory's work.