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Existentialism of the Story of King Arthur

The story of King Arthur is one of the folklores for children that many people suspected as a history of British Empire, because the story of King Arthur was folklore so there wasn’t an author for the story. However, the story of King Arthur has been published by retold from some authors and the story of King Arthur that I would discuss was The Story of King Arthur and His Knights retold from Howard Pyle original by Tania Zamorsky. In this story, I see there is a process to prove self, to make the existence, to define what they are. As Sartre said, “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself (pg.445).” and “If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and be himself will have made what he will be (pg. 445).”
When a man born he was nothing until he chose to be something and made his existence. It is what I wanted to discuss, in the story of King Arthur, there are some characters that show their existence to prove themselves and to make their existence be known. Every character in this story has a process to define and to make existence of their life, but I will focus on one character, King Arthur tough I will also analyze some characters that text show if he or she has existence issue. As I see from Sartre’s opinion if at first man is nothing but after he go through his live then he can create the value of his live by doing something to make every men aware of his existence. At first Arthur born, his life was in great danger because of battle of power, so Merlin, a wizard told Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, to let Merlin hide his son for Arthur’s safety. When Arthur born he was nothing, but his father was someone with a great existence. Uther Pendragon was a king of Britain, so his father could make Arthur existence because of what he chose. He chose to hide him, although it would make everyone didn’t know Arthur but Arthur still exist. Just like Sartre claimed, “We do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men (pg.445).” Uther was responsible for his own life’s child and Merlin who told Uther about Arthur also have responsible for that. Then Merlin demanded Sir Ector to take care of Arthur as his own child. Sir Ector has one son, Sir Kay and Arthur became his brother. When Sir Kay made an existence of his life, went to many battles, tournaments, while Arthur was just a serving boy, Kay’s esquire-at-arms, very much like a knight’s assistant. However, after young Arthur appeared at a scene that set up by Merlin and he knew who he was, he started to make a value of his live as a new king of Britain. Merlin brought Arthur to pull out the sword from the anvil to prove that he was the rightful King of Britain. “Man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterward, defines himself (pg. 445).” It was what Sartre revealed on his essay. When a man exists and shows himself, he will start to define himself. It happened to Arthur when he became a King of Britain. After he became King, he won many battles, tournaments, and duels. One day King Arthur fought with King Pellinore because of he wanted to get revenge of his wounded knights, Sir Myles and Sir Griflet. As I see on the text, King Arthur went to the Sable Knight to have a duel with him because he thought that his knights’ dignity and his pride were hurt by that, the Sable Knight hung his knights’ shield on tree. So that, he wanted to recover it but he almost lost, luckily he was safe by Merlin. “Existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him (pg. 445).” To continue of proving Arthur’s existence, the text shows that he tried to make his existence continue by fighting again with Sable Knight, King Pellinore. He willed to be a great King that could defend his pride and his knights. Beside the people of his country that he wanted to show, King Arthur also wanted to make himself sure about his being, “Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence (pg. 445).” One day, King Arthur fell in love with Lady Guinevere when she had come upon him like an angel while he lay wounded in the forest. He heard that Lady Guinevere was in disadvantage so he came to help but he disguised himself to secretly watch her. Merlin gave him a magical cap that would make him like a different person. King Arthur worked as a gardener boy in the Lady Guinevere garden. For a while King Arthur became somebody else, stopped his existence as a King of Britain and made new existence as a gardener boy. However, what I see from the text is that a gardener boy is not a new existence of King Arthur, it is King Arthur existence. Because when he decided to be someone else to protect Lady Guinevere he just did something to remain his existence, he fell in love so to carry on his Lady, a woman that he wanted to be his future, he created something possible to make it happened, “We shall confine ourselves to reckoning only with what depends upon our will, or on the ensemble of probabilities which make our action possible (pg. 449).” To make Lady Guinevere his wife, he fought Duke Mordaunt, the man that threated Lady Guinevere’s land and demanded her to be his wife. After wounded Duke Mordaunt for first round, he went to forest and met his knights, Sir Geraint, Sir Gawaine, Sir Ewaine, and Sir Pellias. Four of them asked to have a duel with him, and then King Arthur had overthrown and sent four of them to serve Lady Guinevere for seven days while they didn’t know who the knight that beat them was. Lady Guinevere amused for the knights that White Champion sent to her but she was thinking that it was very strange that when the White Champion was around the gardener boy was not and vice versa. The other action the text said that King Arthur did for Lady Guinevere; he revealed his existence as King of Britain to make his knights went to second round battle with Duke Mordaunt and his knights. He was a King of Britain and realized that he have big responsibilities for his own people’s future and for beating Duke Mordaunt and his knights to prevent him marry Lady Guinevere and take the land, he chose to take his knights to and fought Duke Mordaunt. King Arthur became a law-maker for everyone because he realized that it was his responsibility, just like Sartre explained, “The man who involves himself and who realizes that he is not only the person he chooses to be, but also a law-maker who is, at the same time, choosing all mankind as well as himself, cannot help escape the feeling of his total and deep responsibility (pg. 446).” After beat King Arthur and his four Knights beat Duke Mordaunt and his knights, King Arthur and Lady Guinevere were married on a beautiful fall day in a ceremony of great splendor.
King Arthur was a great king; he defended his country, his knights, and his being with sincerity, full of responsibilities that were why his knights and people were really respect and willing to sacrifice to protect King and Britain that they loved. When King Arthur was in danger because of his sister Morgana le Fay, his knights and Merlin have protected him, also while King Arthur went to the battle, his knights were faithfully, loyally to serve King Arthur to win the battle. However, how powerful and loyal his knights were, King Arthur’s knights were a mere human, sometimes to prove their King existence, his knights also have to prove their existence, even if it could danger their life. Sometimes they have to make their own decision, save their life or defend their King’s pride but in the text for some knights whatever choice they chose it never could not make both of things that they preserve can be secure. They just could have one side. As Sartre said, “Subjectivism means, on the one hand, that an individual chooses and makes himself; and, on the other, that it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity (pg. 445). However, some of them could defend both of it, their King’s pride and their life while they transcend human nature. Just like Sir Pellias, he was became spirit of the land of fairy. All of the man in the text has been showed that all of them made their existence just like what they have planned and they did, not what they would want to be, “Man will be what he will have planned to be. Not what he will want to be (pg. 445).”

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1985. Existentialism and Human Emoticons. Philosophical Library and Carol Publishing Co.
Zamorsky, Tania. 2006. The Story of King Arthur and His Knights / retold from the original story by Howard Pyle. New York. Sterling Publishing Co.