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Merlin and the Grail: Joseph of Arimathea, Merlin, Perceval: The Trilogy of Arthurian Prose Romances attributed to Robert de Boron (Arthurian Studies) [Paperback]

Robert de Boron , Nigel Bryant

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Book Description

17 Jan 2008 Arthurian Studies
It is hard to overstate the importance of this trilogy of prose romances in the development of the legend of the Holy Grail and in the evolution of Arthurian literature as a whole. They give a crucial new impetus to the story of the Grail by establishing a provenance for the sacred vessel - and for the Round Table itself - in the Biblical past; and through the controlling figure of Merlin they link the story of Joseph of Arimathea with the mythical British history of Vortigern and Utherpendragon, the birth of Arthur, and the sword in the stone, and then with the knightly adventures of Perceval's Grail quest and the betrayal and death of Arthur, creating the very first Arthurian cycle. Ambitious, original and complete in its conception, this trilogy - translated here for the first time - is a finely paced, vigorous piece of storytelling that provides an outstanding example of the essentially oral nature of early prose. NIGEL BRYANT is head of drama at Marlborough College. He has also provided editions in English of the anonymous thirteenth-century romance Perlesvaus, published as The High Book of the Grail, and Chretien's Perceval: The Story of the Grail.

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Merlin and the Grail: Joseph of Arimathea, Merlin, Perceval: The Trilogy of Arthurian Prose Romances attributed to Robert de Boron (Arthurian Studies) + Arthurian Romances (Penguin Classics) + The History of the Kings of Britain (Classics)
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A trilogy of romances establishing a provenance for the Holy Grail and, through Merlin, linking Joseph of Arimathea with mythical British history and the knightly adventures of Perceval's Grail quest.

About the Author

NIGEL BRYANT is head of drama at Marlborough College. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on An Invaluable Service 30 Sep 2003
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A cycle of three -- or, by some counts, four -- Arthurian romances attributed to the poet Robert de Boron (or Borron) is of exceptional importance. It seems to have provided the model for the later Vulgate Cycle, which includes "Lancelot" and "The Quest of the Holy Grail," and its successors, including Thomas Malory''s "Le Morte D'Arthur." Obviously, everyone seriously interested in Arthurian literature will have read it. Wrong. Very wrong.

To begin with, there is, unfortunately, direct manuscript evidence for only "Joseph of Arimathea" (the early history of the Grail) and the opening of "Merlin" in verse. What we have for the whole cycle, concluding with "Perceval" (the Grail Quest), and "The Death of Arthur" (as either the conclusion of "Perceval" or a short continuation of the cycle), is a prose redaction. The relationship of this to the work of the original poet in its later portions is uncertain -- assuming that there was a complete version in verse.

The prose retelling exists in a variety of manuscripts, only two of which (known as Modena and Didot, the latter famous but textually corrupt) contain the whole collection, and they otherwise differ among themselves. There have been a number of editions of the medieval French texts, based on different manuscripts and editorial principles, so even those with a good reading knowledge of Old French have not necessarily read the same book.

For those of us who read only English (at least with any fluency), there has been only the last section, as "The Romance of Perceval in Prose: A Translation of the E Manuscript of the Didot Perceval" by Dell Skeels, published by University of Washington Press in 1961. It was once available in paperback (1966 printing), but is long out of print. Fortunately Skeels resisted the turn-of-the-century models of Sebastian Evans and W.W. Comfort, and turned out workman-like modern English instead of pseudo-Malory. Unfortunately, he provided only half the story (the Quest and the Death of Arthur), and the information provided about the material was limited.

Now Nigel Bryant has come riding to the rescue of beleaguered amateur Arthurians and besieged students (sorry, I can't resist the image) with another of his modern language translations. (He has also made available in English the "Perceval" of Chretien de Troyes, and a selection of its numerous continuations, and also the rather odd "Perlesvaus," as "The High Book of the Grail"). Originally published in hardcover as Volume XLVIII of an ongoing Arthurian Studies series, "Merlin and the Grail" is readable, critically astute, and bibliographically up to date (although I have yet to find Skeels in the bibliography or notes.) It is exactly what I longed for a quarter-century ago when trying to make sense of passages in William Roach's 1941 edition of "The Didot Perceval, According to the Manuscripts of Modena and Paris." We have at last a really early version of the origin and wanderings of the Grail, the conceptions and births of Merlin and Arthur, and the King's early reign, and the insertion of the Grail Quest into the traditonal "history" of Arthur's reign.
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