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Arthurian literature is a generally coherent mythos, like the Greco-Roman one, but it can be appreciated as an evolving, rather than fixed, tradition, so changes and contradictions also abound. Stories have a tendency to aggregate together and answer to each other more or less tightly.

We can therefore distinguish the following areas around which to concentrate texts:

  • The Welsh tradition: in tatters compared to the other groups of text, these shreds of legend, poetry, elegies, stories, and chronicles are nevertheless vigorous, evocative pieces that focus mostly on warrior deeds, glory, and mourning.
    • The Mabinogion
    • Y Gododdin
  • The “historical” tradition: centered on the model of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, those works tend to tell in a brisk manner the birth, rise, and fall of Arthur and his kingdom. Most Round Table knights are here but supporting characters, and the fate of Britain as a whole is the central concern.
    • Historia Brittonum, Pseudo-Nennius
    • Historia Regum Britanniae
    • Roman de Brut, Wace
    • Laȝamon’s Brut
    • Alliterative Morte Arthure
  • The Tristan tradition: although initially peripheral to Arthurian stories, the story of Tristan and Iseult has had a long life of intertextual dialogue with the Arthurian canon until they were folded together in the Prose Tristan and the Post-Vulgate Cycle. It is generally credited as a major source for the courteous preoccupation of Arthurian romances, and the Lancelot tradition is heavily indebted to it.
    • Early verse versions of the Tristan stories, all incomplete except for Eilhart von Oberge’s
    • Tristan en prose
    • The Post-Vulgate Cycle
    • Ysaÿe le triste
  • The Merlin texts: an original synthesis by Geoffrey of Monmouth of the Welsh bard Myrddin and the wiseman/wizard Ambrosius.
    • Merlin’s prophecies in Historia Regum Britannia
    • Vita Merlini, Geoffrey of Monmouth
    • Robert de Boron’s Merlin
    • The Vulgate version of Merlin and the Suite du Merlin
    • The Post-Vulgate version of the Suite du Merlin
  • The Graal romances: starting with Chrétien’s Perceval, a host of continuations and expansions have developed, making alternatively Perceval, Gawain, or Galaad the winner of the Holy Grail.
    • Perceval, ou le conte du graal, Chrétien de Troyes
    • Continuations of the Perceval (4)
    • Parzival, Wolfram von Eschenbach
    • Diu Crône (The Crown)
    • Le Haut Livre du Graal a.k.a Perlesvaus
    • Iberic Demandas (quests for the Grail)
  • The Cyclical Romances: while the Continuations of Chrétien’s Perceval tried to close together all the threads of the story left hanging, the Cyclical romances take a different approach. By filing in Chrétien’s romance with a backstory mainly inspired from apocryphal Christian sources, the cycle attributed to Robert de Boron is an integrated suite of stories that combine both prequel and sequel material to Perceval. This is an approach also evidenced by the Parzival, but the difference is that the Cyclical Romances inscribe the Graal story as the keystone of the fate of the whole Arthurian realm.
    • The Perceval continuations
    • The Robert de Boron cycle
    • The Vulgate cycle
    • Tristan en prose
    • The Post-Vulgate cycle
  • Lancelot: although it is not definitive whether he is a Chrétien invention, or simply a reworking of an older source, Lancelot is the paragon of courage and total devotion to his lady. Chrétien’s great contribution was his adulterous relationship with queen Guinevere, which would be reinterpreted in the Vulgate cycle as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the Graal Quest, and thence as a cause of the downfall of Arthur’s kingdom, unmade by the outcome of the Quest.
    • Lanzelet, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven
    • Lancelot ou le chevalier à la charrette, Chrétien de Troyes
    • Lancelot du lac (a.k.a the non-cyclic version)
    • Lancelot, from the Vulgate cycle
  • The Gawain romances: unlike Lancelot, Gawain is the paragon of loyalty to Arthur, and while a central character in most traditions, he is seldom the main character. He has however inspired a host of lesser-known romances, especially in England. The Middle English tradition is rich with them, and has given us what is perhaps the shining star of poetic art in all the Arthurian tradition, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
    • Hunbaut
    • L’âtre périlleux
    • Le Bel Inconnu, Renaud de Beaujeu
    • Wigalois
    • Le chevalier à l’épée
    • Le chevalier aux deux épées
    • La vengeance Radiguel
    • La demoiselle à la mule
    • Diu Crône
    • First Continuation of Perceval
    • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    • The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
    • Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle
    • The Avowyng of Arthur
    • The Awntyrs off Arthur
    • The Knightly Tale of Gologras and Gawain
    • The Greene Knight
    • The Turke and Sir Gawain
    • The Marriage of Sir Gawain
    • The Carle of Carlisle
    • The Jeaste of Sir Gawain
    • King Arthur and King Cornwall
    • Le Romanz du reis Yder, to a certain extent
  • The late “prequels”: by the 14th and 15th centuries, two extremely long and ambitious novels have tried to tell the pre-history of the Arthurian tradition by telling the stories of the ancestors, and fathers of the most important characters:
    • Perceforest
    • Guiron le courtois
  • The “post-Arthurian” romances: in a manner similar to the stories of the fathers, these are the stories of knights who come after the time of glory of the main characters. Think Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • Claris et Laris
    • Ysaÿe le triste
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