(Dorling Kindersley 1998)
(co-editions: USA, Argentina, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt,
Germany, Iceland, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Portugal)
Recommended by the American Library Association:
“the legend of Arthur as you’ve never seen it”
Attracted full-length features in the Sunday Times children’s supplement and the TES
“chronicles the legend...simply and accessibly… both entertaining and informative” - Dispatch Online
“vividly brought to life” - North West Evening Mail
Getting the chance to retell this wonderful legend was the equivalent of an actor being asked to play Hamlet! But the brief I was given was a real challenge: I had to condense the story into just 8,000 words to fit in with DK's format for their Eyewitness Classics series. I decided to approach it as an oral story teller, which resulted in a tightly woven yet vivid text which gives children a real insight into the romance and chivalry of the epic tale.
My retelling is mainly based on Malory's Morte d'Arthur written in 1485 - an extremely long narrative which took me two months to study in its entirety! - plus other medieval texts. I was unable to include all the subsidiary legends in this short retelling, but have since retold them in for a separate book for adults, Arthurian Legends (please see separate blog entry, above).
The old king was dead. The throne was empty, the crown unclaimed and fear crept like a glowering storm-shadow across the land. Without a king, there were no laws. Without laws, the land was soon overrun by ruthless invaders and local warlords. Gangs of coarse men forced their way through the villages, stealing cattle and treasure, breaking down doors, snatching away children. Without a new king - a good, strong king - there was no hope, but only the promise of more darkness, more fear.
Out of this darkness, through the secret paths of the Great Forest, a strange figure came walking, the figure of a wizard. his name was Merlin.
This Merlin, he was as old as oak roots; he could catch the wind and weave it into poems; his black eyes could read he future and his spells could change it. He saw the future now as he walked towards it, a time of sunshine, gold and glory, the glory of a great new king. Merlin knew the name of that king and where he was hidden, for his own wizardry had overseen the boy’s birth and hidden him away from evil and danger. Now that boy’s time had come.
Merlin stepped out of the forest. He was a tall, gaunt, long-bearded figure, muttering in strange tongues, wrapped in a grey cloak, bent against the driving rain. Leaving the trees behind him, he strode along the open road that led to the city of London.