Edited by: Michael A. Faletra
ISBN: 9781551116396 / 1551116391
Broadview Press

To call the whole HRB tedious to the modern reader is an understatement. As a chronicle of Britain, its real currency was the glorification of the 12th century Norman patrons who could inscribe themselves in an illustrious line of rulers. Yet it remains a “required reading” to familiarize oneself with the arc of the story of King Arthur, to go beyond seeing it as an eternal court for the most glorious knights in the world. The Arthurian episode stands out by it self-containment (its closest related passage is the section devoted to Merlin’s mostly incomprehensible prophecies), the character of Merlin, and the twists and turns of the story. In fact, it feels almost impossible to read it “for the first time” since one has always heard in one form or another elements from the story of Arthur (sword in the stone, intercession of Merlin, adultery of Guinevere, etc.), so that reading the HRB is more like re-reading clearly a familiar story only known through hearsay.

I have read it in Michael Faletra’s translation for Broadview Press, which has the advantage of coming with a very nice set of companion texts, in particular Pseudo-Nennius, The History of the Britons (Historia Brittonum), and Geoffrey’s own The Life of Merlin (Vita Merlini), rendered in prose, which are reproduced integrally. Excerpts from the Welsh Triads, the Gododdin, poems such as What Man is the Gatekeeper? (Pa gur yw y porthor?), and others nicely complement the HRB.

A Penguin edition, translated by Lewis Thorpe (ISBN 978-0140441703), is also available, but without companion texts. Boydell & Brewer offer a facing-page edition of a newly edited Latin text by Michael Reeves and translated by Neil Wright, (ISBN 978-1843834410) in paperback. They also offer a scholarly edition using a different manuscript by Neil Wright, with Latin text only (ISBN 9780859912112), which is the first in a series of volumes that offer extended critical studies, as well as little-known related texts. Finally, a French translation is available from Les Belles Lettres (ISBN 978-2-251-33917-7).