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Over the passed century, there’s been a lot of work done on the figure of Arthur.  The last sixty or seventy years have been about proving Arthur existed or showing there’s no way to be sure.  The decades before that, though, the approach to everybody’s favorite Briton was a little less traditional.

One theory said that Arthur was derived from an etymology of Arcturus, the brightest star in Ursa Major.  He was a sort of god of the constellation in the form of a bear.  Never mind that Arthur was nowhere spelled Arcturus, he seemed to have fought battles like a bear.

  Others, most notably an eminent professor named Loomis, thought that Arthur might be a sun god.  That was because it seemed like the myth of Arthur might have emerged before any record of an historical Arthur.  That, and everything was being connected to sun gods in the early part of the century.  He was mainly compared to Fionn MacCumhail of the Irish, who had been the subject of many folktale and legendary stories before some monk in the early Middle Ages thought to include him in an Irish annal.  Fionn, as it turns out, is a sun god.  His name comes from Old Irish Uindo which is white or bright.  Arthur’s name doesn’t have the same root, though, and his legend developed at the same time as his historical self.

Professor Loomis especially got very involved in his theory.  He looked through the Welsh materials and decided that Arthur was like Fionn in that he seemed to live outside of society.  His band of men included the fantastic, like Fionn.  He wasn’t connected to any historical figures, like Fionn.  Loomis suggested that if Arthur’s legend hadn’t been written down in a history, like Historia Brittonum, he would have become associated with many different periods such as the Romans and the Vikings, again like Fionn. 

  Loomis also looked through the romances (regardless of their dates of composition or their sources) and worked out which twelve knights were associated with which heavenly bodies.  Many of them were easy of course, with Arthur as the sun, Lancelot as Mars and Guinevere as Venus.

After Dr. Bromwich and Professor Alcock the only question was whether he existed or no.  Dumville and Padel have felt the pressure of the field (and the amusement it has among other academics) and have voted no while a few brave souls like Dr. Bromwich have argued in his favor and most real scholars have simply presented the evidence and avoided a decision.  It’s frustrating at times, but realizing how far we’ve come in fifty years I think I can deal with it.

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