Sir Thomas Mallory was a great one to write the adventures of King Arthur and his knights - a knight himself, he led a life of intrigue and adventure, albeit not one that always lived up to the ideas of chivalry he penned at the heart of the Arthurian legends. Mallory did not invent Arthur; he is one of the principle medieval chroniclers, having time (he was in prison with nothing else to do, after all) to set down in prose stories he'd heard throughout his life. These were popular tales, not always told in the same way with the same details, as is true of most oral legends and transmitted stories, much to the later frustration of scholars and readers. The earliest printing of Mallory's stories had his authorship suppressed by Caxton, one of the better-known publishers of the time.
The earliest Arthurian legends date back as far as the late Roman times in Britain. Controversies abound, but many have settled on a late Roman or Romano-British general named Arturius - however, given the linguistic nature of the name (it is derivative of ruler or leader), it is impossible to know if this was in fact a name or a title, and the legends may be compilations of the acts of many leaders bearing the name.Read more ›
As an example of this condensation in progress, Baines version of The Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake is 19 pages long. Steinbeck's translation of the same story (which had the goal of accurately preserving the story as told in the Winchester Ms.) runs over 100 pages. Throughout, Baines' edition is horribly abridged. He leaves most of the basic facts from the story intact (though some parts of his translation, especially concerning the obscurer genealogies, are plain wrong when compared to most other editions). However, he cuts all elements that make reading the legend enjoyable.