Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Finding Arthur: The True Origins of the Once and Future King


Rating: 1.5 Stars (On Goodreads I gave it a straight 1)


So much wrong, I don't even know where to begin. I don't mean with the THEORY itself (because regardless what this guy would have you believe, it is still just a theory), but I mean the presentation, tone, so much. It was a gigantic struggle just to finish this by the last two chapters. I hardly got through the epilogue. I was so excited to find another Arthur book, I can't get enough. Unfortunately by page 53, I was already beginning to regret my decision to read this one, as the tone was incredibly self-righteous and pompous. Certainly not the way to grab readers and earn their respect. Or better yet, get them to buy into your theory.

Now, I love Scotland.It is my favorite country in the world. Edinburgh is the city I belong to (despite me being entirely a US citizen of German and Swedish heritage) and want so badly to make my home there some day. So, I would not be at all opposed to the finding of any evidence indicating Arthur was actually a Scottish. I too hold a special place in my heart for England, so if he was King of the Britons, I am down with that. For me, it is more so a matter of, "did he really live?" For the author it is a matter of "where did he really live?" I get the Scottish pride thing, I have it and I am not remotely Scottish, but due to years of bullying and repression by England, the author is bound and determined to prove Arthur is Scottish.

Unfortunately, all he basically has is what amounts to word play. "This place sounds like this place, this name sounds like this name. We don't know this guy's real name but we know where he might be from, which sounds like this, but it certainly can't be that place because that place is south." He hardly actually refers to England by name at all, ever. It is always 'south'. He doesn't actually have any evidence (unless you count the book "Finding Merlin" which, incidentally, he wrote himself. No joke, he actually uses the phrase, "according to Finding Merlin". And he references it all the time. I think you might need to read that one in order to understand his weird double naming thing he does here with Merlin. But, whatever). There are two problems with this little word play game he has going on. First of all, it is not solid evidence. It is him taking names that sound like other names and saying they sound similar. That's great that they do - to him. To others, perhaps they are not close enough. He uses the very thing he calls others who have come before him for doing. That does not make a lot of sense to me. Same goes for his use of conjecture, which he readily admits multiply times under the guise of being humble, yet continues to state without a doubt that Arthur was a Scottish warrior.

The author has a major axe to grind with Christianity. He states very early in the book that Arthur was not and could not have been a Christian king, and constantly refers to Druids as those of The Old Way. He even goes on to say later (page 252) that it is, "...just daft - holy product placement" in regards to references to Arthur carrying a cross at the battle of Badon. Perhaps it never occurred to him in all his infinite wisdom that this statement could mean Arthur had a cross painted on or affixed to his shield. Certainly other authors have come to such a conclusion - authors who are willing to look at multiply theories, places, and names, and not just fixate on one and say it is right and that is that. I also enjoyed (sarcasm alert!) the part where he said those who have looked and continue to look for the Holy Grail are 'deluded' (page 74). His opinions on Christianity shine through VERY early on.

In addition to the word play he calls evidence for locating the real Arthur, he does a lot of this in regards to his own family name. He references this a lot, about how peoples' last names are only interesting to them, his is so rare, blah blah. You are right buddy, I do not care one iota about your super rare last name or the fact that it is so rare, you are related to everyone who has it. Perhaps this was included to show how great you are at deducing which words in ancient times are equal to our words of today. Either way it was pointless and filler and I have expected him to make the claim that he had discovered he was a descendant of Arthur. Maybe he did, I don't actually know because I skipped over the personal stuff.

I guess you have to give the guy a little credit (thought I can't give him much, because his arrogance and pompousness are evident, page after page) for being bold enough to make claims like, "To exist in the south in Britain it was necessary for Arthur to become a legendary figure, because Arthur did not exist in the history of the south" (page 225).

So, in the end I have to say pass on this one. I had high hopes but they were dashed quickly. Big disappointment here, so if you are looking for books about Arthur, look elsewhere.


  1. Yeah, I totally see where you're coming from. All the books I've read on the Early Middle Ages really suggest the situation in Scotland was really very complicated then. There were a couple of British Kingdoms there. Called Strathclyde and Goddodin as I recall (there's an epic poem about one of them),and the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria took up parts of what is now the Southeast, perhaps as far as Edinburgh.

    So, its quite possible that even if Arthur hailed from within the geographical region of what is now Scotland, he can't really be called 'Scottish', since many of the people living there at that time were Romano-Britons who basically spoke Welsh, and the Scots then were basically Irish tribe. Its true- look up the origin of the word Scottish. They're named after an Irish tribe who settled there in the 5th and 6th centuries. The ancient people of Scotland were the Picts.

    And the whole thing about him not being a Christian just sounds: slightly insane quite frankly. Even early writers who were hostile to the Romano-Britons said that they embraced Christianity REALLY early. By really early they usually mean whilst the Romans still ruled.

    I'm literally no expert, but I've read several books on Early Medieval England and Scotland, and even a few on what would be called the Arthurian period. Even with that, I can see what this guy is saying is tosh. To use the Britishism.

    It really reminds me of the story that came out a few years ago of how the leader of the Scottish National Party wanted to claim the Lewis Chessmen for Scotland, because they were 'Scottish'. He was informed that at the time they were made, the Isle of Lewis was ruled by Norway, and they were almost certainly made in Scandinavia. Not Scotland. Really quite embarrassing in all.

    Just goes to show that what might seem Scottish now, was not 'Scottish' or English 1000 years ago. Or 1500 years ago.

    1. It truly was all a bunch of rubbish. He has zero understanding of any of this complicated history, as you rightly called it. What we think of as Scotland, England, and Ireland today is not at all similar to what would have be known of the places in 'Arthur's time'. I have read several books on the Picts and the Scots, specifically, and the fact that they are identified as different groups might give this guy pause, if he understood what that meant. Or the term 'Scots-Irish'. Or literally any other term used to refer to the various groups of people living in that period.

      The whole thing about Arthur not possibly being a Christian was so beyond absurd. The author went on about how Arthur could not have carried a cross into battle. He is absolutely literal in this sense, how and why would Arthur have dragged a cross around. Yet when we go back to the name nonsense, he makes that absolute biggest leaps that he possible can just to get them to kind of fit together.


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