The Return of King Arthur

Roundup: Talking About History

From the Washington Post (June 20 2004):

Love and lust, friendship and betrayal, action and romance, heroes and villains, right and might -- all are parts of the legend of King Arthur.

And the History Channel adds the element of mystery as it tries to determine the truth behind the legend in"Quest for King Arthur." The special debuts on Sunday at 9 p.m. and is narrated by Patrick Stewart.

Was the legend ever true? Were the heroes ever real? These are just two of the many questions investigated by the two-hour program, which was filmed in England and uses reenactments of battles and other events to delve into what's history and what's myth.

In its sleuthing, the documentary also uses maps, art, historic writings, and interviews with experts who discuss archaeology and medieval warfare as well as history and literature.

"Quest for King Arthur" began about two years ago in a brainstorming session, said Beth Dietrich Segarra, vice president of historical programming for the channel and executive producer of the program.

"We were trying to think of topics that are known by a lot of the population -- but maybe they don't know the whole story," she said.

"One topic that came up was King Arthur. There are schools that believe he was a real person, but did Arthur really exist? Was there a king who united England? There were a number of men who kind of fit a profile that could give little bits and pieces of the legend."

Christopher A. Snyder, chair of the history and politics department at Marymount University in Arlington and a consultant for"Quest," said he thinks a strength of the documentary is that it begins by telling the story of Arthur and Camelot.

"It gives respect to the literature and looks at how history influenced that literature," said Snyder, who also has authored"The World of King Arthur" and"The Britons."

Snyder said he got interested in the topic"not in any highbrow way" but by playing"Dungeons and Dragons" in his youth.

"It was a creative way to put yourself in another world," he said....

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