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Grail and Cornucopia - A Personal Grail Quest

By Phil Vance
(Published at Lughnasa 2000)

In my last article "Who was the Real King Arthur?" (White Dragon No 25, Samhain 1998) I mentioned, in passing, the importance of the Grail or magical vessel motif as linked with Arthur and also that the late medieval romances of Arthur and his Grail quest probably borrow from earlier pre-Christian legends.

In the following article I will attempt to give some greater (though by no means exhaustive) detail to this claim. The idea that the Holy Grail is borrowed from the pre-Christian mythology is certainly not a new one. Richard Cavendish is worth quoting at length:

"Legends of heroes do not all tell fundamentally the same story, and attempts to show that they do end in twisting them out of shape. However some patterns do occur fairly frequently. In one of them, which often appears in Arthurian tales, the hero leaves the world of men and ventures into an Otherworld, a strange and perilous region which is the realm of gods, spirits and uncanny beings. In the Otherworld he performs some great exploit or acquires something of inestimable value. He may kill a dragon or monster, he may even, as in the Grail legend, discover the ultimate secret of life and to win immortality.

In some stories the hero stays in the Otherworld forever, lost to the world of men. But if he is to be in the front rank of heroes he must return to the human world, whether he is Moses coming down from Sinai with the tablets of law or Prometheus stealing fire from heaven and bestowing it on mankind. The hero brings back something that the world lacks and yearns for; something which re-generates and enhances life.

It seems likely that this pattern goes back ultimately to the practices of the shamans or priest magicians of prehistoric tribes. The shaman put himself into trances in which he visited the world of gods and spirits, where he encountered terrifying dangers and obstacles. He also gained knowledge of the mysterious forces which ruled nature and govern life and death, and he used his knowledge for the benefit of his tribe" (Richard Cavendish 1978)

None of the written accounts that we have speaking of Arthur’s exploits are contemporary with him. Indeed the more detailed accounts do not blossom until some 600 years after the century in which history places him (1). These accounts and tales may be based on older legends or local legends that have become attached to Arthur as a convenient figurehead and archetypal hero.

Many of the Welsh writings concerning Arthur in the 11th and 12th centuries were written by Christian clerics (who far and away represented the literate majority of the island) and the European accounts were written often for the pleasure of some royal patron.

Being written accounts of the medieval period, we would expect them to demonstrate the popular beliefs, fashions, prejudices and politics of the time and they certainly live up to this expectation. However there is a core in most of the tales that echoes an earlier heritage and set of beliefs quite at odds with orthodox Christianity as represented by Rome.

One of the most striking legends which demonstrates this is a group of stories associating Arthur with the Holy Grail, commonly accepted today as being the chalice or cup which Christ used to celebrate his communion with his disciples at the Last Supper. The earliest known use this motif is in Chrétien de Troyes Conte du Graal. (c 1180). Chrétien wrote this story at the request of his sponsor, Count Philip of Flanders, based on a book that the Count lent to him. Thus, so it goes, the story existed before Chrétien's version.

In his story Arthur does not think Perceval ready to be a knight. Thus he leaves Arthur's court and encounters many adventures while seeking to make his reputation. He is offered hospitality by the crippled Fisher King in his castle. The king presents Perceval with a magnificent sword (surely a symbol of sovereignty). A procession comes into the banqueting hall, including a young man with a lance which is bloodied and a young maiden, richly dressed, holding before her a golden grail splendidly embellished with precious stones and there is a radiance cast about her and the Grail which she carries. The procession passes through the hall and goes off into an anteroom.

Although Perceval is naturally intrigued, he remembers the advice he received in training as a knight by Gournemant and he keeps his silence; indeed he had been chastised for interrupting and chattering. Thus he politely continues with the feast before him and does not ask the questions that burn within him concerning the meaning of the procession.

In the tale its unlikely that the word Graal refers to the chalice from the Last Supper as firstly it is referred to as un graal and not le Graal, and secondly, later in the tale, a hermit remarks to Perceval that the graal is not used to serve up salmon or pike (2) but a communion wafer. Indeed this vessel is so powerful that the wafer served thus is all that the Fisher King's father has needed to sustain him and he has, miraculously, lived on this and nothing else for 15 years.

In Thomas Mallory's 15th century work Le Morte D'Arthur we again see the Grail as being a magical vessel which may serve food, for, when the holy vessel entered Arthur's hall "every knight had such meats and drinks as he best loved in this world", thus again showing the link, even at this late stage of literature, with the magical Celtic vessels which provide limited quantities of food, drink and sustenance directly from the other world.

There are many elements in both of these tales which have their parallel in Celtic legends but the two main themes are "the other world" and "the magical cauldron, cup or vessel".

In The Spoils of Annwn, which many writers today date as being pre-10th century in style, Arthur is set the quest of sailing to Annwn to steal a number of magical artefacts from the Otherworld (indeed this tale is incorporated in a revised Culhwch and Olwen dated to the 10th century by Philips and Keatman, 1992). Included in these are the recovery of the magic sword and a cauldron out of which only the brave could eat.

This cauldron was finely decorated and heated by the breath of nine maidens. In the poem, Annwn is also referred to as Caer Sidde (Sidhe), the faery fortress, and as Caer Wydr, the glass fortress. Celtic legends, as with the legends of many races, are full of such vessels of plenty, of wisdom and of regeneration of healing and rebirth.

For example, the Dagda had a cauldron which provided unlimited food. Cuchulain and Cu Roi stole Midir's cauldron from an otherworld castle that provided silver and gold without end; Bran had possession of a cauldron which gave regeneration to any dead warrior placed within it; Cerridwen's cauldron of wisdom from which Gwion Bach tasted inadvertently and is reborn (after transmigration) as Taliesin; and the cornucopia of the Greeks, or copper pot which the Sun God Surya gives to the Pandava brothers which provided them, in exile, with unlimited quantities of food.

In this earlier legend (c500 BCE or before) we see a possible predecessor of the Indo-European, Mediterranean and North European legends and symbolism, as culture, beliefs and possibly a race migrated north and west.

The other world is a mystical place. It can be both, at the same time, faraway and close at hand. It may be an island or a group of islands far to the West (the Fortunate Isles of the Greeks, Hy-Brasil (Isle of the Blessed) and Tir n'an Og (Land of the Young) of the Celts. It may be underground with the entrance being on a hill or in a burial mound (as with the Tuatha de Danann) or the bottom of a lake (suggested by the many offerings that both Romans and Celts made in holy wells and lakes or by Bhisma's entering the Kingdom of the Nagas at the bottom of the Ganges, or of Orpheus entering the realm of the King of the Underworld).

It is a parallel world connected to the land of living mortals and overlapping the barriers of which at certain places and at certain times (for example a twilight or at Samhain) the boundary became thin and crossing between one world and another becomes almost commonplace.

It is a beautiful place full of feasting, where the immortals wear clothes of unsurpassed in finery and sing songs of such seductive enchantment that the souls who hear them may become captivated. Time has a different meaning and days or years spent there may pass in hundreds of years or in a fleeting of an instant (for example The Wooing of Etain or Oisin and the Land of the Young or Manawyddan, Son of Lyr").

In a later tale, St Collen of Cymru, (7th century) it is said that St Collen was sceptical of such rustic nonsense until one day a messenger came to invite him to the Faery King's castle under the hill, (Glastonbury Tor). This king was none other than Gwyn ap Nudd himself, Lord of Annwn. St Collen refused the first two invitations but plucking up courage he finally agreed to go at the third invitation. Entering Gwyn's domain at a concealed point just below the summit, he came upon a great feast with much music and dancing. Gwyn welcomed him and asked St Collen if he would not eat and drink with them but St Collen refused, knowing that to do so would lead to enchantment of his soul and that he would be captive there.

Thus we come to understand the term enchanting, ie that this otherworld is, while beautiful and wonderful, also dangerous to man in that the hero who visits there may not find it so easy to escape or to return to his loved ones. I believe that many Arthurian legends, both of earlier or later origin, reflect this theme, as knights or maidens are taken captive on islands or in castles set about by magical obstacles and spells preventing their release or escape.

The Fisher King's castle in Le Conte du Graal appears to be just such a place belonging to the otherworld, and has little that relates to Christian doctrine about it. Perceval was on his way home and he follows a fisherman's directions to this castle, and is roundly cursing this advice when the castle suddenly appears before him. Likewise, once he has left it, he meets his cousin and telling her how he spent the night, she replies that there is no lodging to be had for miles. Thus we realize that the Fisher King's castle may appear and disappear from time to time, or at least is not visible to all who pass but only to the selected few. In many such legends attaching themselves to Arthur, we see these pre-Christian themes.

In Culhwch and Olwen, Arthur's companions included Drem who has superhuman powers of sight; Clust who has superhuman powers of hearing; Gwyn ap Nudd himself; and Menw son of Teirgwredd, the court magician and shape-shifter. In this tale, the giant Ysbadden imposes on Culhwch 40 wonders to perform if he is to win the hand of his daughter, including obtaining of the comb and scissors from the boar Twrch Trywyth (3), and also the getting of four magical vessels including the Cup of Llwyr which provided the best of all drink; the Plate of Gwyddner which supplies unlimited quantities of the best food; the Drinking Horn of Gwlgawd; and the Cauldron of Diwrnach the Irish in which to cook the food.

Indeed in a later passage Diwrnach tells Arthur that he may not have this cauldron though he might be better for a mere glimpse of it, hinting strongly at the vessel's mystical nature and that its regenerating or healing properties. In another piece of early literature, (the Black Book of Carmarthen, compiled circa 1300), the gatekeeper, Glewlwyd, asks Arthur about the qualities of his companions before he will allow them admittance. Arthur replies with a list of heroes and qualities which have no place in the retinue of a Christian figurehead and king, including Mabon son of Modron, (Maponos - young god), Mannawydan son of Llyr (the sea god); Cai who could live without sleep and made himself as tall as a tree, who slew as would a hundred; and of adventures describing Arthur and his war band battling against the dog-headed humans of the mountain of Eidyn or pitting their wits against a magical hag at Wrnach or dealing with a demon in the form of a cat which killed nine score warriors with her claws and fangs simply as food for her stomach.

We can see in these earliest accounts of Arthur's exploits the beliefs of our pagan forbears surviving even into the Middle Ages when most of these tales were interpreted, compiled and written by Christian monks and clerics. Yet it is the Celtic motif of a magical vessel of plenty, of healing, wisdom and rebirth that was so appealing to the Christian writers of the medieval romances in the 12th century onwards as it seem to embody the crux of the Gospel message - the sacrifice of God's son and his promise to what "true believers" of healing, of resurrection and rebirth and of plenty in the halls of his father.

It is readily accepted by most modern historians that the themes behind the Conte du Graal are pagan in origin rather than Christian and not a few have suggested that the radiant graal carried by the beautiful maiden is less a representation of Christ's chalice from the Last Supper than a representation of Sovereignty. The holder of the Grail will be the rightful king, but further the Grail is selective of who is truly worthy to be king. Certainly we see that, in other tales, the kingdom is plunged into disease, waste and disorder following the "betrayal" of Gwenhwyvar (4) who is often interpreted as the goddess of the fertility and sovereignty of the land. Only by a successful conclusion of his quest for the Grail may Arthur also re-establish his kingship and consequently the healing of the land.

Likewise in other chalice stories, the cup is selective of who it will serve, selective of who may eat or drink from it or, indeed, before whom it will appear. Perceval is supposed (in Chrétien's tale) to ask the question who is served by the Grail? And the answer would have been the old Grail King, possibly his maternal uncle whose heir Perceval was.

In the Irish tale Baile in Scail, Conn of the Hundred Battles meets Lugh, Shining Spear, sitting on a golden throne. Next to Lugh on the throne of crystal sits a beautiful maiden wearing a golden crown and she has, in her possession, a vat worked all in silver and filled with ale and at her side a golden plate and cup.

The maiden fills the cup from the inexhaustible vat of ale and asks Lugh to whom shall this cup be given? Lugh pronounces that it shall be given to Conn. Again and again, as the maiden and fills the cup and Lugh names all the future kings that will be descended from Conn. The maiden is the Sovereignty of the Land, of Eireann.

There are many stories of cups and chalices that will serve only the deserving, and it is highly probable that the French tale in the book from which Chrétien created his version was based on these earlier Celtic strands. Indeed other elements in Chrétien's version point in the same direction. The mysterious links between solving riddles and healing of the Fisher King, the inexplicable and magical knowledge of events by the lovely damsel, the Grail castle itself, all seem to belong more to the realms of the sidhe, the faery folk, than to the realms of medieval Christian France or England.

In Chrétien's account, Perceval was brought up by his mother, not knowing his true identity (another common theme), the old Grail King is feeble and retired, his successor is crippled and therefore not "whole", ie without blemish and therefore cannot be king over the land (see Nuada or Lugh Silver Hand). Perceval, as the Grail Grail King's sister's son, is his true heir, and if Perceval were to ask the question all would be revealed to him. But Perceval fails the test and the land will fall into ruin: "Lands will be laid waste, knights killed, women widowed and children orphaned", as represented by the "Loathly Damsel", evocative of the kingdom twisted torn and barren.

In the sequel to the Conte du Graal, the first continuation, we again observe the pagan theme of the motherland grieving for its rightful Lord. Gawain meets a knight fatally wounded by a spear and rides through a land barren and desolate to carry out the dying lord's mission. Again at a feast given in a castle, we see the Grail described as moving by itself among the guests providing both food and drink without end to all that want them (still no suggestion here that "un graal" or "le graal" is Christ's chalice from the Last Supper).

In a series of medieval romances (5) we can see this archetype of the wounded king/knight, his ruined and wasted kingdom and the restoration of his health and therefore of the land linked with possession of a magical vessel. It is not until Robert de Boron (6) that "un graal" is identified as the chalice the Jesus is reputed to have used to celebrate the mass of the Last Supper with his disciples. In his version, this chalice was given to Pontius Pilate who, in turn, gave it to Joseph of Arimathea when he asked for permission to take Christ's body from the cross. It is this Joseph who is believed, in the popular Glastonbury legend, to have hidden the Grail in a well and that he was none other than Jesus' uncle. (7)

However in de Boron's original history, the Grail was taken to the Vale of Avalon in the country far to the west (unnamed) by Joseph's brother in law, named Bron and nicknamed the "Rich Fisher". In this story Bron and a number of others (Alain, Peter and their wives) come to spread the gospel of Jesus. In Bron's tale, Joseph does not go with them. Once again we see a magical vessel providing Joseph with food and drink whilst imprisoned for many years in Palestine, and also with possession only by the righteous and with the failure of the land and of the crops (though in this case said to be due to the sins of some members of Bron's group). In this storey the name Bron (changed to He-Bron in later versions) may be a reference to Bran, (the Blessed), son of Llyr, god of the sea, who owned a cauldron which restored the dead to life and made the wounded whole.

In a war with Ireland, this cauldron is smashed, the land of Britain became desolate and barren. Similarly in the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest we hear of Pryderi, son of Rhiannon and possibly a precursor of the later Arthurian hero Perceval, Perlesvaus, Parzifal or Peredur.

Rhiannon marries Manawyddan, brother of Bran the Blessed, both sons of the Llyr. Bran, as we know, owned a magic cauldron and presided over the otherworldly "feasting of the wondrous head". Pryderi is nephew to Bran the Blessed (Bran the Rich Fisher), keeper of the cauldron, as Perceval was the later version nephew to the Fisher King, keeper of the Grail. Coincidence? Maybe, but highly unlikely.

Bran is wounded in the foot and the land of Britain turns barren and desolate. The Fisher King was wounded in the thigh and thus his lands ruined.

In the Didot Perceval, named after the bookseller's shop in Paris where it was discovered, the strands are a continuation of de Boron's Joseph of Arimathea, but tying in more of the flavour of Chrétian's work - appearing and disappearing castles, key questions and riddles, holy lance or magic spear and so on, only this version has a happy ending, with Perceval re-finding the castle, asking the key question, and Fisher King and land being healed and Perceval identified as Bron's grandson (!) and the rightful heir to the Grail - the king and land thus reunited and "the desolate enchantments besetting Britain are banished". Hooray!

By the 13th century, the magical vessel and its meaning has almost totally, if not forcibly, converted to Christianity as we might expect. The many tales of the exploits of Arthur and his warriors and knights are portrayed as legends in the spirit of the day, and themes within them borrowed from earlier tales inherited from medieval man's Celtic forebears (and possibly earlier still, travelling from the east and southeast). They are presented in a form understandable and enjoyed by the laity and as a figure of reverence and awe, though many features must have appalled the Church, smacking of unorthodoxy and even of heresy.

In these 12th and 13th century stories, the chalice is accompanied by secret words, chants, and prayers passed on by word of mouth from keeper to keeper but never in possession of, or under the authority of, the Church. It is magical in that it provided unlimited food and drink, ecstasy and happiness, healing of the land and of the person, even longevity and immortality. Its power is often linked to the understanding or solving of riddles. It is accompanied by otherworldly keepers and bearers and guarded and set about by enchanted and mystical defenses. It is not quite of this world in that both itself and the castles in which it is kept appear only to the to the worthy and/or the fated and are invisible to all others.

But what of the late "histories" and legends of the Grail? What of the popular tale that the Grail described in these earlier stories truly was Christ's chalice, rather than some allusion to earlier pagan symbols of fertility, sovereignty and healing? There are many today who are inclined to the view that it was Joseph himself that brought this reputed relic to this country and even that he hid it in a well in Glastonbury at the foot of the Tor.

Sadly for this legend, the earliest Christian accounts of the Grail do not identify it as Christ's chalice. It is not until later accounts that "un graal" borne into the feast by a beautiful maiden is converted into the cup Christ is said to have used in the events described in the New Testament as the Last Supper.

Interestingly, the Last Supper is described (Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23 and Luke 22:72, though not in the gospel of John) in absolutely identical passages even as to the dialogue used. Anyone who has ever had occasion to give an eyewitness account of an event, even immediately after the event, knows that this is impossible. Actual details, sequence and what transpired is usually disagreed upon, far less the dialogue used. This suggests either collusion between the writers of the original Gospels or that when the Emperor Constantine (4th century) recalled all texts relating to the New Testament and had his clerics produce an orthodox and standardized version, an accepted version of this event evolved or was created (possibly according to or in the light of what the Church of Constantine accepted as being bona fide "faith" in the 4th century).

It is well known that some alternative Gospels were destroyed in this era as heresy by Constantine and the academic debate into how much of the New Testament is actually "historical" or "allegorical" rages on into the 21st century. I, for one, have no problem with Christians and their faith and am happy to leave the analysis of both the Old and New Testaments to the experts. In short, though, we did not actually know that either the event of the Last Supper occurred nor the details within it.

The earliest account we have of this chalice as coming to Britain is Robert de Boron's accounts (circa 1200) which speak of Bron taking it with him and his followers to an unnamed land in the west, possibly France, Iceland, Britain, Ireland or the Isle of Man. It is not until the Quest del Saint Graal (circa 1230) that Joseph himself is described as travelling to Britain. Neither in this account or any other 13th century manuscript thus far discovered is any mention made of Joseph hiding the chalice at Glastonbury.

In the writings of the Glastonbury monks at the end of the 13th century, there is a claim the Joseph led around 12 Christians there in AD 63 and that they established a humble church in honour of the Virgin Mary, probably the first of its kind in Britain. In this version Joseph carried with him two silver vessels, one containing the blood and the other to sweat or Jesus as he stood on the cross that these vessels were buried with Joseph when he died, though the site of his grave is not mentioned.

Innumerable variations on the theme of Joseph and the Grail and Glastonbury have surfaced over the centuries since the Middle Ages, even to suggesting that Joseph was Jesus’ uncle and that Jesus visited Somerset in his youth to learn a trade, and hence the large gap in Jesus' life is accounted for in the New testament. But as far as I know, there is no real evidence for these legends and they appear to start much later than the earliest accounts or Arthur or of the Grail (ie from the mid 13th century and flourishing into the mid 16th century), probably based on self-seeking publicity by the Abbot of Glastonbury, an abbey which already made claims to possess bits of wood from the True Cross and to have discovered the remains not only of St Patrick but also of St Dunster (which may have surprised his ghost as he was interred in Canterbury some 200 years earlier.)

There was a sudden upsurge of interest in Arthur not only in Britain but also in France and Germany in the 12th and 13th centuries, and this may have been for a number of reasons.

1. From a genuine interest in a hero or kingly figure which could be made to embody the chivalric and romantic ideals of the times. Indeed Arthur was an ideal figure, surrounded by many popular legends and myths, both in Britain and on the continent and surrounded also by the veils of time to a period a long ago when all things were possible.

2. From political viewpoint, the story supported the Norman possession of Britain, both here and in France, against claims of the Saxons.

3. Many of the stories were sponsored by Anglo-Norman lords and were written to provide a flatteringly noble and heroic pedigree to the author's patrons.

Most of the authors seem to borrow heavily from, even plagiarize, each other's works. However this is, I suggest, entirely forgivable in that the production of such books as Chrétien's or Robert's must have been severely limited and later versions perhaps simply attempts to write a version for their own audience, maybe in their own eyes a better or true or more "Christian" version. Many of the authors certainly give credit to having copied their script from elsewhere, but strangely to this original as having been some ancient work discovered in an abbey library, given by a friend, or discovered in Spain and written in Arabic rather than copied from a popular romance written some 5 to 15 years earlier by a contemporary.

Whether or not such ancient volumes in French or Latin or Arabic actually existed is unknown. This may simply have been a falsehood to give the version a semblance of historical accuracy. It is certainly true that romances were based on legend still living into the late medieval period and that the themes and motifs running through these legends with a pagan ones of magical vessel, the otherworld, the wholeness of the king linked to the health or fertility of the land and incorpating a host of similar symbols and elements.

That such patterns were pagan in origin may well have bothered the Church, and may suggest the reason why the supposed keepers and bearers of the Grail were not high officials of the Church but the Fisher King and the Grail maiden. As the versions progressed chronologically, a greater and more concerted effort was made to convert stories and to render them more orthodox. The early Church had however had always distanced itself from the character of Arthur of reminiscent of some earlier pagan god (see White Dragon issue #25) and a rival in the hearts and minds of the populaces to the Church's power and faith. Thus neither were they keen to embrace ownership of that, theoretically, most holy of relics, the Grail. Markedly so in the case of Glastonbury Abbey which might be said to have such strong claims to it. They certainly make claims to pretty much every other holy relic in Christendom and, more importantly, they claim to have had the first Church in Britain founded by none other than the first keeper of Christ's chalice, Joseph of Arimathea.

The obvious conclusion that this Grail which had become so much written-of in the 13th century might be buried with Joseph somewhere in Glastonbury Abbey or its environs is completely ignored by the abbots even though such tales passed into popular legend among the laity possibly by the end of the 12th century.

The suggestion that they may have been sworn to secrecy (as made by some current authors) is laudable and contrary to what we know of the publicity- and fund-seeking character of the abbey and its abbots over this period. We can learn much from the Arthurian romances as echoes of our pagan heritage.

The image of the regenerative cauldron or chalice of plenty, of the "unwhole" or wounded King and the desolate land are particularly appropriate to us today, representing the earth itself and the dishonoured and unwholesome leadership of government and industry and the need for the land to heal.

I do not pretend to know who would be the true heir to the kingdom or indeed how to heal the kings of government and industry or how to marry them to the land (though doubtless there are many who would vociferously claim to know just exactly that and with certainty). It is intriguing to see that with all our thin veneer of civilization the same problems assail us today as they did countless centuries and millennia ago, and the quest for the Grail is in a profound sense still as meaningful today as it was in those earlier times.


1. Though many of which and especially the “Welsh Triads”, the “Red”, “White” and “Black” Books etc are generally accepted, based on linguistic analysis and metre, to be written compilations of an oral tradition much older that these earliest written versions.

2. Though this may be an attempt at humour. Certainly by the 13th century the word graal is widely accepted as being a chalice.

3. Which helps date the legend to the 9th century or earlier as Nennius also refers to this exploit.

4. Her name probably translates as White Phantom or Spirit and she is possibly a representation of Epona.

5. For example, Le Conte du Graal, Perlesvaus, Parzifal, The First Continuation, Le Suite de Merlin, Quest del Saint Graal and probably many more lost to us now.

6. Joseph d’Arimathea, c1200 by Robert de Boron

7. Which, if other legends of Glastonbury identifying the Tor as an entrance to Annwn and Gwyn ap Nudd’s cauldron are taken into account, may be an interesting though clumsy attempt by Christians to kidnap a local pagan legend.

Chronological Bibliography

1. Historia Brittonum - c800 - Nennius (Arthur described as a war leader who defeated the Saxons at the Battle of Badon.

2. Annales Cambriae - compiled c950 (Though allegedly referring to contemporary accounts of the death of Arthur and Mordred at Camlan.

3. Vitae Gildae - c1130 - Caradoc describes the abduction of Gwynhwyvar by Maelwas etc.

4. Historia Regum Britanniae - c1132 - 1136 - Geoffrey of Monmouth

5. De Gestis Regum Anglorum -c1140 - William of Malmesbury

6. Vita Merlini - c1148 - Geoffrey of Monmouth (His claims are based on "a very old work)

7. Roman de Brut - c1155 - Robert Wace (Describing Arthur as a hero of the native Britons)

8. Le Conte de Graal - c1160 - 1180 - Chretien de Troyes (Based on a book he claims was given to him by his patron, Philip of Flanders)

9. First Continuation - c1200 - Anon.

10. Joseph d'Arimathie - c1200 - Robert de Boron (Earliest known "history" of the Grail, again allegedly based on a great and ancient book).

11. Lanzelet - c1200 - Ulrich von Zatziknoven (Written in German)

12. Perlesvaus - c1210 (Described as copied from a book held at Glastonbury Abbey, but this is higly unlikely)

13. Parzifal - c1210 - Wolfram von Eschenbach.

14. Vulgate Cycle - c1215 - 1230 - Various authors (Possibly commissioned by a Norman king).

15. Suite de Merlin - c1230 - 1240 - Author unknown (Claims to be Robert de Boron).

16. The Didot Perceval - early 1200s - Anon (Named after the Parisian bookseller's shop it was discovered. A continuation of de Boron's work).

17. The Black Book of Carmarthen - Anon. (Earliest written version c1300, though believed, as with other Welsh prose, to be merely a written compilation based on a much earlier linguistic style and transmitted orally.)

18. The White Book of Rhydderch - c1325 (Written version based on earlier tales as above.)

19. The Red Book of Hergest - c1400 (Written version based on earlier tales as above.)

20. Le Morte d'Arthur - c1485 - Thomas Mallory (Well known to many readers and certainly the most easily available.)

21. The Mabinogion - c1849 - Lady Charlotte Guest (A compilation of stories borrowed from the White and Red Books above).