Arthurian Legend in Modern Fiction

Everyone is familiar with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian legend is responsible for stories like the Lady of the Lake and the Excalibur. It has also given us characters such as Sir Gawain, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin. But what you might not know is how many stories in modern fiction rely on or retell aspects of Arthurian fiction. There are a ton of them, but the following list presents some of my favorites.

1. The Buried Giant (2015) – Kazuo Ishiguro:

On its surface, this book is a fable that recounts an old couple wandering the lands in a post Arthurian world, looking for a son that left them long ago. However, the story is also an allegory for an old couple looking back on their relationship together and all the struggles and decisions they had to make. Everything–the candles, the dragon, the fog, the warrior–are all devices to continue the metaphor of a relationship that went through tremendous challenges over the years. This was an amazing read and I highly recommend it.

2. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) – Mark Twain:

A factory boss in the late 19th century gets transported back to the days of King Arthur. This will never be as popular as Twain’s more notable works but it is relevant for a variety of reasons. This is noteworthy because it’s a time travel tale way before time travel was common in fiction, it’s a genre-bender before such things existed, and it’s far less subtle satire than Twain would become known for.

3. I am Mordred (1998) and also I am Morgan le Fay (2001) – Nancy Springer:

Nancy Springer is best known for her young adult mysteries but she also wrote a pair of stories that retell the tales of two lesser known characters from Arthurian legend. The great thing about these books is that they introduce King Arthur and his supporting cast to a new generation of young audiences.

4. The Mists of Avalon (1982) – Marion Zimmer Bradley:

This is probably the most popular retelling of King Arthur’s tales but also the most straightforward because the tales are basically unchanged. The highlight here is that the stories are told from the perspective of the female characters. There are seven books in this series, so if you’re a serious fan of Arthurian fiction you have a lot of reading to do.

5. The Green Knight (2016) – Chris Dietzel:

Obviously, I have to mention my Space Lore books. I’m familiar with a ton of books like The Mists of Avalon that present Arthurian legend in its original time frame and setting, with nothing much changed, but my six Space Lore books are the only ones I’m familiar with that take Arthurian legend and transport it to a space fantasy / space opera setting similar to that of Star Wars. For example, The Green Knight is a retelling, set in space, of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. I was a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy when I was a kid, and it was a lot of fun writing books in that type of universe.