True Hero: Quest for Camelot

King Arthur, Knights of the Round Table, Camelot, Excalibur…

These episodes from English history are steeped in legends. But what do we really know about them? Camelot is a castle and court associated with the legendary King Arthur. The Round Table is King Arthur’s famed board, around which he and his knights congregated. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status.

It’s been ten years we celebrate,

All that made our kingdom great,

Liberty and justice for all,

Each of us we now divide,

For equal shares our countryside,

promising equality for all we reside!

We all know who plays the main roles in this legend: Arthur, his wife Guenevere, and the knight Lancelot (First Knight directed by Jerry Zucker is one of the famous screen adaptation of this story). But ordinary people make history and it is always useful for us to look at legendary events from different points of view. The 1998 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Warner Bros made such an attempt. Featuring animation and directed by Frederik Du Chau, the writers based the screenplay on the 1976 novel The King’s Damosel by Vera Chapman.

The heroes are Kayley (Jessalyn Gilsig), a young woman who wants to be a knight, and saves Camelot, and Garrett (Cary Elwes, do you remember The Princess Bride?), a blind hermit who helps her.

When Kayley’s father, Sir Lionel, one of the Knight of the Round Table, sacrifice himself to save King Arthur (Pierce Brosnan) from the treacherous, power-hungry former knight Ruber (Gary Oldman), Kayley knows she cannot stand aside and must serve England. Ruber invades Kayley’s home, holds everyone hostage, and uses a potion he purchased from witches to create steel warriors from his human henchmen and a henpecked rooster. He plans to use Kayley’s mother Juliana, who is always welcome by King Arthur, to gain entrance into Camelot.

Kayley’s escape leads her to the Forbidden Forest in the footsteps of Excalibur, taken from Arthur by Ruber’s griffin. The heroine’s adventures only begin when she meets Garrett, a blind young man who lives with his pet falcon Ayden in the forest and has the dexterity and strength of a real knight. Throughout her hero’s journey, Kayley must learn who she is and what her duty to Camelot entails. She earns the love of a knight during her adventures. Garrett shows Kayley basic combat techniques so she can protect herself from Ruber’s henchmen and himself. Kylie will soon realize her true strength lies in the Garrett, as taught by her father Lionel.

I felt that way too, but I knew he would never want me to give up. He wouldn’t want you to give up, either. You’re as good as any knight in Camelot.

Don’t worry, I’ll be your eyes.

Garrett has lived in the dark since a horse he rescued from a stable fire blinded him. Sir Lionel took the boy under his wing and taught him to adapt to his conditions. Garrett is handsome, smart, and agile, like a real knight, but an emptiness reigns in his soul from the understanding that they do not need him in Camelot in his blind condition. Garrett wants to stay in the forest forever and feels uncomfortable in Camelot.

You don’t understand. In Camelot, she’d only see me through their eyes. Not a knight, not a man, not anything.

Meeting Kayley makes him look at himself and the world around him in a new way, even if this world exists only in his imagination. Kayley convinces Garrett to help her find Excalibur, much to his reluctance. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it ends on a happy note. What is the moral of this tale? True chivalry doesn’t lie in external attributes, but in the heart. You need to look each other in the eyes with your heart to understand each other’s soul and find the strength in yourself for true love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is candidate of philological sciences specializing in the first Russian drama and theatre of XVIIth century. She’s also a film and TV critic by calling. You can find her essays on her Lumiere page and on her blog. 

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