We all know about King Arthur. The mythic first king of England, wielder of Excalibur, the sword in the stone and/or given to him by the mysterious Lady in the Lake, subject of countless literary romances across hundreds of years and several languages, a variety of classic dramatic modern films and novels, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Dozens of adaptations have been made of Arthur’s rise to power, the affair of his wife Guinevere with Lancelot, and Arthur’s eventual fall to his (sometimes) inbred sonephew Mordred.
You know what all those adaptations are lacking?
About ten gallons of pure, unfiltered Badass.
I’ve stated on here before that I enjoy going back to the origins of myths and cutting through the more iconic adaptations. Most modern adaptations of the Arthur myths focus on the more Romantic aspects from works written after the twelfth century or so. Lancelot for instance wasn’t even a character until Chrétien de Troyes wrote him in in that time. These were based around the literary traditions of the time, and thus featured major themes like courtly love and other (if my fellow feminists will pardon the term) chick-flicky themes.
Older Welsh stories…don’t.
Historians’ best guess for who the real-life inspiration for Arthur is a fifth or sixth century Romano-Brittish warlord/leader from Wales who held off Saxon invasion of England in the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire in western Europe. In other words, a big burly Welsh guy in command of a bunch of other big burly Welsh guys who spent their days murdering Vikings. The earlier Welsh works of Arthurian Literature reflects this, full of bombastic stories of epic battles of swords and magic with saxon hordes and evil Giants. And that’s just the starting layer of badassery.
Let’s take a look at some individuals of the older legends. First off you have Arthur, wielder of the Sword Excalibur. Originally independent of the the “sword in the stone” and called Caledfwlch (pronounced “Caledvulkh” because Celtic languages are kind of stupid, and meaning “hard cleft”), it was described as glowing (sometimes extremely brightly) and having a scabbard which makes it so the wearer CANNOT BLEAD, and is likely related to the Caladbolg, Fergus mac Róich’s sword from Irish legend, which produced a rainbow beam that could CUT THROUGH MOUNTAINS. Yep, King Arthur may have had WMD lightsaber.
Then there’s Guinevere: Arthur’s loving wife, famous for her affair with Lancelot. Except early on, when there were actually three women named Gwenhwyfar (again, Welsh is stupid), all married to Arthur (which kind of lessens the impact of the cheating). The first was the daughter of the neighboring King Cywryd of Gwent. Familiar so far, right? The second one however, was a goddamn demigod by Gwythyr ap Greidawl a Welsh deity in competition with Gwyn ap Nudd, the lord of the Welsh Otherworld. The third was the daughter of a Giant. So at least two out of three are probably huge badasses. I’d interpret the marriages as politically motivated: the first Gwen binds Arthur to his fellow kingdoms and Christendom, the second to the Welsh gods of his ancestors, the third to the giants and fair folk of the land (such as the one who gave him the aforementioned magic sword).
Then of course you have the Knights of the Round Table. Most adaptations at least try to depict them as a group of Uber-badasses, but they ignore some of their more badass magical traits. Gawain, notable in film for being played by Liam Neeson one time, is in his most famous work of literature, Gawain and the Green Knight, explained to have gotten a magic green sash that gave him impenetrable skin (an having a cool shield with a pentacle on it. Very Captain America). There are other examples, but they all pale in comparison to Kay.
Sir Kay, called Kay the tall, or Kay the long, played a pretty prominent role in early works, where he was more or less Arthur’s number 2. Later he was demoted to just being his foster brother and a jackass. But in the older Welsh, such as Culhwch and Olwen, hoo boy. He was described as having the power to grow to giant size, along with the power to start fires with his hands and hold his breath or go without food for a week at a time. The guy was a colossal badass worthy of a gory Anime (note the similarities to characters from Attack on Titan) and where is that in modern works?
So yeah. This is what I’d like to see in a King Arthur movie. Two hours of Welsh supermen with awesome magic powers killing Vikings. I want to Arthurian legend what 300 was to Greek history. Just a hundred twenty minutes of bloodless laser-sword guy, his super-magic wife, his giant warrior other wife, bulletproof Captain Wales, fire handed Giant Man, and a bunch of other assorted fur and leather-clad superbadasses (plus the well known Wizard mentor and sometimes evil sorceress) murdering saxons (who, I should note, all have artfully quaffed beards and may have the assistance of Norse gods), with barely a romance-drama plotline in between.
I feel like I can get some support on this.