For forty years, the name Loomis was synonymous with Arthurian studies. During that time, he published seven significant works on the subject, as well as a large quantity of articles. He also served as an editor for the Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, or ALMA, which was the great undertaking of his time. ALMA is still required reading in Arthurian studies. What comes across in a reading his papers is his access to a phenomenal knowledge of Arthurian literature and Celtic mythology. It cannot be ignored. Though he died well before I was born, I found him to be necessary reading in nearly every aspect of my thesis, and citations of his writings are to be found throughout.
At the core of his writings was a simple premise; that all the Arthurian stories were direct borrowings from Celtic mythology. For instance, the abduction of Guinevere matched with an entire segment devoted to abductions; they happened because the queen represented a marriage to the land and her abduction was a symbolic way of showing that the king was no longer capable of protecting it; Guinevere was taken because Melegant/Melwas wanted to be king. All the other details could be fitted around that theory. The odd question that Perceval forgets at the grail castle, “For whom is the grail?”was a question associated with kingship, and again the other details of the various versions could be fitted around that if one looked at enough of the Celtic myths.
In his assumptions, Loomis was a victim of his times and our own limited understanding of the nature and transference of the Arthurian materials. We know now that the materials came to the continent by a number of means – formally by latimari and Breton poets, but also informally by soldiers, merchants, nobility, and anyone else who happened to cross the channel with some tidbit of information about Arthur and his knights.
He also was not aware that there were other influences at work. Each writer of the Arthurian world had his own motivations, as did his patrons. Whatever sources they used had their own set of influences as well.
Although his conclusions were erroneous, his instincts were good; they often led him in the right direction. If one is to find new answers to the questions posed of the Arthurian world, one must first confront the conclusions of Roger Sherman Loomis.