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  Vortigern Studies > Faces of Arthur > Arthurian Articles > John Matthews

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Graham Sumner
John Matthews

John Matthews, (1948). John Matthews is a leading mythographer of the Arthurian and Grail legends. He has written over a hundred books, many of them about the myths and legends as well as the real history of King Arthur and his knights. His best-known work are The Grail: The Quest for Eternal Life, At the Table of the Grail, Merlin through the Ages, the Unknown Arthur and Warriors of Arthur (with Bob Stewart). John Matthews is also a master storyteller and draws from his wide experience of folk tales to find stories that will be new to many young readers. He is the author of numerous highly- acclaimed books on Arthurian legends and Celtic mythology, and has co-written a number of books with his wife Caitl?n. This is John's third book for Barefoot, joining The Wizard King & Other Spellbinding Tales (1998) and The Barefoot Book of Giants, Ghosts and Goblins (1999). Learn more about John and Caitlín Matthews at their website: Hallowquest

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An interview with John Matthews about his book: 'Arthur of Albion'.

Robert Vermaat

Product Summary
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN: 9781846860492
Uitgever: Christofoor
ISBN: 9789062388868

question one:

Where does the inspiration come from? A quick search turned up between 90 and a 180 titles written by you and your wife Caitlin. I do not know if that's all of them, but I know your work spans the complete spectrum of Arthurian publications - from movies to tarot cards, from novels to scientific publications. So where does the inspiration come from?

First, a love of myth and legend, of folklore and story, that seems always to have been part of me. I grew up in a household with very few books, but those I did have included a retelling of Malory’s version of King Arthur and one on Robin Hood - both subjects of books I have written since. When I was in my teens, having decided I wanted to be a writer more than anything else I read T.H. white’s The Once and Future King and Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset. By the time I had finished these I knew that I had found my subject. It was several years before I wrote my first ‘Arthurian’ book (The Grail: quest for the Eternal, 1981) but by then I had read hundreds of works by others and knew a lot about the subject. I have continued to read and write about Arthur for the last 30 years, producing around 60 titles drawn from Arthurian sources. I still feel a deep and abiding love for the subject. Eventually, I hope to complete a vast novelisation of the mythic elements of the story, but so far it keeps getting help up by other work! And, I have plans for a very different movie as well, but that’s still in the future for now.

question two:

Why this book? Maybe an odd question (because I like the book very much), but it's not as if this fills a niche that was still empty.

Well, in a way, I think it does. There have been lots of children’s books retelling the stories of Arthur and his knights, but all of them, I felt, lacked a very important dimension - the mythic aspects of Arthur. So, when I was asked if I would like to write a book of Arthur for Barefoot Books I said yes – on the understanding that I could go as deeply into the myth as I wanted and not pull any punches. They said yes, and I wrote this book, in which I have tried to honor the myths. This is why, between each story, you will find the littler mini essays on the mythic strands of the tales.

question three:

I am smitten with the illustrations. How did you and the illustrator Pavel Tatarnikov end up together? I know he did illustrations for books about legends, but also William Shakespeare!

It was my editor at Barefoot who suggested Pavel and when I saw his work I jumped at the chance. As he speaks no English it was not always easy to communicate, but he has a natural aptitude for the stories and once we had worked out some basic parameters – such as not making it look too Russian – we are very much in accord. I am still amazed at the quality of his work and at the way he simply got into the stories and produced images that complimented them and even added to my words.

question four:

Maybe a subject well-chewed (feel free to ignore this one), but your involvement with Jerry Bruckheimer's movie 'King Arthur' has been the subject of many a discussion. What do you feel, looking back, about the historical claims made by the producers at the start of the movie?

I get this one a lot! All I can really say now,is that I still stand by most of the movie. It has a strong basis in fact (see my recent book King Arthur: Myth and Legend, written with my wife Caitlin and published by the Folio Society for a full account of the ideas behind the movie.) Of course I did not write it, nor was it anything to do with me that they chose to include the statement regarding ‘archaeological evidence’ at the start. I wished then and I still wish this had not been there as it gave a false impression. But the film-makers were always good to work with and listened tomany of my suggestions and made changes accordingly. I think that what they were really getting at was that the archeology of the Sarmatian presence in Britain suggests that they were on Hadrian’s Wall and that, since their leader was called Artorius, this is too big a coincidence to ignore. I feel this myself, though I know many do not.

question five:

You are regarded as an icon among those who know Arthurian books and literature. As I referred to above, your publications touch every aspect of the Arthurian Matter. Would you say that the Wikipedia page about you and your wife is due for a good update?

Very much so! It’s just finding the time to do it! We have currently a dozen new projects on the go and its hard to find time to work on personal stuff. For those who are interested we have our own web site at: Hallowquest.org.uk Check out our other new Arthurian title King Arthur’s Raid on the Otherworld (Gothic Image, 2008) I have also just finished by first foray into the Graphic Novel world with a story about the young Arthur which will be published by Simon & Schuster in the USA next year!

question six:

Arthur of Albion is a book that should belong on many many bookshelves. Will it be translated into other languages, such as into Dutch?

Nice of you to say so! It has already been translated into Dutch, Norwegian, French and Croatian. I understand other languages will follow.

John Matthews, 24.09.08


An interview with John Matthews, is Copyright © 2008, Robert Vermaat. All rights reserved.


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