I t was in that 2004 that Sandy Marchant, the Go West Projects Director first met Arthur de Caldicot. It was in 'Waterstones' bookshop in Worcester. Sandy had long been attracted to stories about King Arthur so it wasn't so surprising that she felt drawn to a new book* about him, but this one was different! It was still about King Arthur but it featured a boy called Arthur and it was set in the Teme Valley area of the Welsh borderlands and around the turn of the 13th century. The new project was to be set in the Teme Valley! This is an area of ruined Norman castles and ancient churches, in the early 13th century they were going through their first make-over. This book might just help to bring the past to life, but how would Arthur's creator, the author Kevin Crossley-Holland feel about this? It turned out that not only did he not mind but he is now the Grand Master of the Fellowship of the Heritage Knights!
Over the years we have taken a few liberties with Arthur and we are enormously grateful to Kevin Crossley-Holland for his active support and understanding.
Much of the work of the Heritage Knights is directed at children. It is not easy for any of us to 'people' the past but story, literature, costumed role play and reenactment can all help. The Heritage Knights use a band of fictitious medieval characters to help.
Arthur de Caldicot and his friends, created by by Kevin Crossley-Holland for his 'Arthur' trilogy, help us ground and focus the activities of young heritage detectives.Young heritage detectives are encouraged to ask the question: Would Arthur recognise this? Then they must answer the question: How do you know?
The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossly-Holland comprises
For anyone who falls in love with Gatty, she has a book of her own, its called "Gatty's Tale"
These are Arthur's words from 'The Seeing Stone.'
“When I’m standing on the top of Tumber Hill,
I sometimes think of all the people,
all the generations who grew up on this ground
and grew into this ground,
their days and years....”
Kevin Crossley-Holland@2000, Courtesy of Orion Children’s Books
Quests for heritage detectives may come in different forms but they all ask the same question. Could Arthur have seen this?
To answer this question it is necessary to know something about Arthur, especially when he was born! Find out about Arthur.
The simplest quests are the ones that you create yourself. Once you have the skills you can quest just about everywhere you go, you just keep asking the question - Could Arthur have seen/eaten/touched/heard this?
Of course everyone who knows Arthur knows that his friend Merlin always answered one question with another question, thats just what we expect heritage detectives to do. When you think you know the answer to the first question we ask you a second question - How do you know?
That's where the fun comes in and the answers are not always straight forward, sometimes you might even have to answer this question with
We think this is the answer, but we are not sure, because....
This is a lovely book, beautifully written, and easy to read. It is really a story about how a young medieval boy aspires to become a knight through proper humility and chivalry, according to the
codes of honour which King Arthur laid down centuries before.
From "Reading Matters"
1) From the author Kevin Crossley-Holland
"My story is the story of a boy in search of his identity (or his name); and the way he can most fully find it is partly through his own experience, partly through the models he sees in the world of his stone. Art may imitate life; but life needs art. To live rich lives, we must embrace both."
At the heart of Arthurian legend lies a magnetic dream: that there was a time when people formed a society more perfect than ours, a Golden Age…and that by reading about it, reaching out to it
and its ideals, each of us too will be touched with a little gold dust, and will rededicate our own lives.
William Caxton, who brought printing to England, was quite explicit about this when he published Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur in 1485. "I have done set it in imprint," he writes, "to the intent that noble men may see and learn the noble acts of chivalry, the gentle and virtuous deeds that some knights used in those days….Do after the good and leave the evil." These last eight words are crucial. Like the Bible or a body of myths, Arthurian legends offer us any number of models covering the whole gamut of human behavior.
I suppose much of this was in the back of my mind when I decided to write an Arthur trilogy. To try to tune in to a tradition spanning almost 1,500 years: for me, little could be more tempting, and little more intimidating. How to make old Arthur new? How to write an Arthur revolving around issues that should matter to us all?
In The Seeing Stone , the first part of my Arthur trilogy, the reader discovers that people living in the Welsh Marches at the end of the 12 th century remembered stories about a great Celtic hero. Arthur de Caldicot is a 13-year-old boy with authoritarian parents. He's worried they may force him to become a priest or, even worse, a teacher. But he wants to be a squire. He's worried, too, by his swine of an elder brother, and worried by that lump at the bottom of his spine. Surely he's not growing a tail? When Arthur looks into his hunk of obsidian, all he can see at first is his own dim reflection: his sticking-out ears, blob nose, and rabbitskin cap. But before long he starts to see and hear stone stories, chapters from the life of his namesake
What I am aiming for, of course, is a subtle relationship between the characters and lives of Arthur de Caldicot and Arthur-in-the-Stone. It's no good asking which came first. Sometimes an event in Arthur de Caldicot's fictional life suggested to me the use of a specific legend, and sometimes the other way round. In either case, the two worlds half-anticipate or half-echo one another. And around this boy, all the new-old arguments go on: What is the price of weak leadership? Gender inequality and social inequality: Are they inevitable? Does literacy militate against memory? What comprises a decent education? And what are the dangers of fundamentalism? Is a holy war, a jihad , justifiable?
I didn't impose these issues on my material. They grew out of it. And as I mulled over them, I could see that they're as relevant now as they were 800 years ago. My story is the story of a boy in search of his identity (or his name); and the way he can most fully find it is partly through his own experience, partly through the models he sees in the world of his stone. Art may imitate life; but life needs art. To live rich lives, we must embrace both.
2) From "Scholastic"
It is 1199 and young Arthur de Caldicot, aged 13, is waiting impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his friend's father, Merlin, gives him a shining piece of obsidian, and his life becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the Arthur whose story he sees unfold in the stone.
In this many-layered novel, King Arthur is seen as a mysterious presence influencing not just one time and place, but many. The 100 short chapters are almost like snapshots, not only of the mythic tales of King Arthur, but the earthy, uncomfortable reality of the Middle Ages. Written in the direct, open voice of a real boy living in a time of uncertainty about the future, this story touches on the issues of war and peace, social inequality, religion, reason, and superstition. A thoroughly contemporary novel about the past and a brilliant new take on the Arthurian legends.
3) From "Reading Matters"
Have you ever seen a piece of obsidian? It's like black glass, sharp at the edge like a broken bottle. It is spewed out of volcanoes when they erupt, along with all the lava and other stuff. I've got some that I picked up in Iceland. There are so many volcanoes in Iceland that obsidian is all over the place. When you find a piece it seems quite special.
Arthur has a piece in this book. That is what his seeing stone is. Merlin gives it to him on his thirteenth birthday. At first Arthur doesn't know what to make of his gift, but later, as he handles his stone he begins to see images in the shiny black surface.
Now, who is Arthur? And, for that matter, who is Merlin? Arthur isn't King Arthur. He's Arthur de Caldicot. He's the second son and page of Sir John de Caldicot and he lives in the manor house at Caldicot. In the year 1199 he is waiting to hear what his father's plans are for his future. Is he to be betrothed to his cousin Grace of Gortanore? Is he to be a squire to his uncle Sir William de Gortanore, the necessary first step to becoming a knight? Or is he to be a priest and bookman? While Arthur waits he must practise his duties obediently:
' ... What are your duties?'
'To learn to tilt and parry and throw and wrestle and practise all the other Yard-skills; to dress my lord, and serve at table, and carve; to read and to write.'
Arthur keeps a diary. In it he will tell you all about his family and the people who live and serve on the manor. I wonder whether you would relish his life? It sounds hard and uncomfortable to me and burdened with superstition.
Well, Arthur doesn't seem to be King Arthur, but is Merlin the very same wizard who we know from the ancient stories? All anyone seems to know about Merlin at Caldicot is that he came to the manor shortly after Arthur's arrival.
Merlin isn't a lord or a knight, but he isn't a priest or a monk or a friar. He isn't a manor tenant or a labourer; he doesn't do any days' work for my father. And he isn't a reeve or a baker or a brewer or a beadle. So what is he? Has he always lived here next to the mill? Why doesn't he ever talk about his mother or his father? Has he any brothers or sisters? How is he able to pay for meat and broad and ale? I realise I know almost nothing about Merlin.
It was Merlin who gave Arthur the seeing stone. As Arthur gazes into the depths of the stone a story unfolds about the young King Arthur, before he became King. As you will see, there are striking similarities in the circumstances of the two young boys, even though they are separated by many centuries. In the dark ages Merlin the wizard watched over Uther Pendragon's son and helped him to become King Arthur, the King Who Was and Will Be. And now the same Merlin seems to be watching over young Arthur de Caldicot as he sets out on his personal quest:
'Each of us needs a quest,' says the hooded man, 'and a person without one is lost to himself.'
'Each of us must have a dream to light our way through this dark world,' Sir Pellinore says.
'So, Arthur,' says the hooded man in his deep voice, 'what will your quest be?'
This is a lovely book, beautifully written, and easy to read. It is really a story about how a young medieval boy aspires to become a knight through proper humility and chivalry, according to the codes of honour which King Arthur laid down centuries before.