The Story of King Arthur and His Knights is a November 1903 novel by the American illustrator and writer Howard Pyle. It was published by Charles Scribner's Sons.
Pyle's illustrations for the stories have been called "glorious", with the text and the illustrations complementing each other. The book consists of a large series of episodes in the legend of the mythological first king of Britain King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
The Book of King ArthurEdit
The Winning of KinghoodEdit
This section of the book tells how young Arthur pulled a sword out of an anvil, how he learned of his royal lineage, and how he thus became king.
The Winning of a SwordEdit
King Arthur loses to his enemy, King Pellinore, and is wounded thereof. Merlin advises Arthur to seek Excalibur. The Lady of the Lake instructs Arthur on how to earn the sword, and, following her instructions, takes Excalibur. He then meets Pellinore again, and with Excalibur's magic, he wins against him. The two thereafter make amends and become friends.
The Winning of a QueenEdit
King Arthur is infatuated with the Lady Guinevere, the daughter of his friend, King Leodegrance, and visits Cameliard, where she resides, with Merlin's help, disguises himself as a peasant and works as a gardener below her tower. Meanwhile, King Ryence threatens Leodegrance for much of his lands, and also for the notorious Duke of North Umber being able to marry Guinevere. The Duke torments the people of Cameliard by parading in front of the castle, calling for a battle. Arthur, though unrecognized by others, takes up battle and defeats the Duke. He then goes traveling through the country and runs into Sir Geraint, Sir Gawaine, Sir Ewaine, and Sir Pellias. He defeats them all in battle, and demands them to be servants unto the Lady Guinevere. Shortly after, he returns to Cameliard, donning his peasant costume once more. He is just in time for another challenge by the Duke, and Arthur chooses to take on the challenge. Unrecognized, he forces the knights to obey to him. After he finds his armor, Arthur asks to be Guinevere's champion. She then gives him her necklace. He and his knights defeat the Duke and his companions. After the battle, Arthur reveals himself to King Leodegrance, and asks for the hand of his daughter.
The Book of Three WorthiesEdit
The Story of MerlinEdit
Merlin is bewitched by an aspiring, young sorceress named Vivien, a friend of Queen Morgana le Fay. Morgana seeks revenge against Arthur because he did not choose her son, Sir Tor, to be a member of the Round Table. Merlin, being infatuated with Vivien, teaches her all of the sorcery he knows. Vivien then poisons Merlin and leads him to his death. Merlin, shortly before his death, prophesizes that Arthur is in trouble, and his dying wish is that Vivien would save Arthur. King Arthur and Sir Accalon, meanwhile, become lost while hunting. While searching for their way out, they see a ship coming to shore. The ship is run by fairies, and they offer Arthur and Accalon a feast and comfortable quarters for the night. Arthur awakes a prisoner in the dungeon of Sir Domas le Noir, which is full of miserable knights and even some ladies. The only way to escape is to fight a battle against Sir Domas's brother, Sir Ontzlake. Arthur agrees. Meanwhile, Accalon awakes in a beautiful, strange land with a fair maiden. She asks him to fight for Sir Ontzlake against Sir Domas, and offers Excalibur as a reward if he accepts. Accalon agrees. This turns out to be a plan by Morgana to end Arthur's life. Arthur and Accalon, not recognizing each other, fight a very bloody and harsh battle. They both end up near their deaths; Vivien soon leads them to a nunnery. Through sorcery and concoctions, she leads Arthur to good health once again, though he must rest for a while. When Arthur asks Vivien to treat Accalon, she lies and says she has no more of her concoction. Accalon passes away from his wounds. Morgana steals the sheath of Excalibur while Arthur rests, and she drops the sheath back into the lake whence he obtained it. Once Arthur awakes he is outraged, and he, Vivien, and his men go searching for her. Morgana transform herself into a rock, yet Vivien recognizes her and begs Arthur to kill her. Arthur, however, forgives his sister. Vivien is mad at Arthur for this, and remains vengeful.
The Story of Sir PelliasEdit
While the Queen and her court, including Sir Pellias, went out maying, a damsel named Parcenet approaches them. She explains that she came to see if the Queen was more beautiful than her Lady Ettard, who is reputed in her area to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Sir Pellias agrees to go to Grantmesnle, the home of Lady Ettard, to settle the matter with her knight, Sir Engamore of Malverat. As Parcenet and Sir Pellias journey to Grantmesnle, they venture into the legendary Forest of Adventure, a place rumored to always bring some kind of adventure to a knight. There they found a sad old woman who sat by a stream of water. She asks for help in crossing the stream, as it is very violent and she is feeble. Sir Pellias kindly helps the old woman onto his horse and then passes the stream. As Sir Pellias helps the old woman down from the horse, she transform into the Lady of the Lake. The Lady gave him a beautiful, magical necklace which makes the wearer adored by all who see him. Later he gives the necklace to Lady Ettard. Under the spell of the necklace, Sir Pellias becomes deeply infatuated with Lady Ettard. However, once Sir Pellias took off the necklace, Lady Ettard felt no love for him whatsoever. Sir Pellias humiliates himself trying to see the Lady Ettard who abandoned his affections. Sir Gawaine, meanwhile, is told by the Lady of the Lake to go to Grantmesnle to help bring sense into Sir Pellias. Sir Pellias accepts his help, and they devise a plan, but Sir Gawaine is, too, charmed by Lady Ettard. Sir Pellias and Sir Gawaine have a fight, where Pellias, although victorious, is wounded by Gawaine. Pellias, nearly dying, is brought to the chapel of a healing hermit. The Lady of the Lake comes. First, she takes the necklace with the charms. She then revives Pellias with a potion. Although Pellias is revived, he is no longer fully mortal, but instead half-mortal and half-fairy. The Lady of the Lake and Sir Pellias go to their fairy city hidden on the lake, where they are married.
The Story of Sir GawaineEdit
Instead of just retelling the stories previously told by Sidney Lanier and Sir Thomas Malory, Pyle came up with new versions of the stories, using other stories and his own imagination to embellish the tales. Pyle's telling of the Arthurian stories "[used] text and illustrations to complement one another...in the presentation of natural description." Helmut Nickel, in his essay "Arms and Armor in Arthurian Films", called Pyle's illustrations "glorious", and worthy of use for inspiration for any Arthurian film.