Thursday, May 8

The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great

by Gerald Morris
illustrations by Aaron Renier
Houghton Mifflin 2008

It's been way too long since I read me some Arthurian legend. And while I should probably go back and remind myself of everything I've forgotten from T.H. White's The Once and Future King, or perhaps Roger Lance Green's King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (with it's spiffy new Puffin Classics edition), it was more fun to get Gerald Morris's take on the French knight aimed at the young reader crowd.

Fun is key here. Morris has neatly selected a series of tales from Lancelot's part in the legends and presented them as a series of adventures that begin with his inadvertently spectacular arrival at Arthur's court to his days where he has grown weary of the burden of being Sir Lancelot. Along the way he meets challengers to his title as unbeaten, ladies who hold him hostage until he chooses one for a wife, and in the end, defender of the innocence of the queen.

Ah, yes, Guinevere. There's no mention of Lancelot's secret affair here, and nothing else unsavory that might scare off young boys (and girls, to be fair) who might be getting their first introduction to the Arthurian legends. Guine isn't even mentioned by name, she's simply the queen. All in all there is a very sanitized, safe feeling about these adventures, but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable.

The humorous illustrations, both inside and on the cover, are an appropriate indication of what the reader can expect. In some ways, the book's lineage feels closer to Monty Python than any of the traditional prose or poetry of legend. It's hard not to see the rampaging John Cleese at times as Lancelot goes through his paces, until you come across one of Renier's illustrations and are confronted with an entirely different, but equally humorous, character.

This is the first is what is promised as a series, the next up this fall being The Adventures of Sir Givret the Short. If I were a boy I'd be looking forward to these.

Wait a tick! I am a boy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ha! Just finished that one myself. And with my husband reading La Morte d'Arthur at the same time, we've been comparing and contrasting the two stories. Funny thing is, Morris is pretty faithful, for all the silliness he injects. Great stuff.