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The legends of King Arthur of Britain and his Knights of the Round Table among the most popular and beloved of all time originated in the Middle Ages As they do today medieval people listened to the accounts of Arthur with fascination and awe It is certain that popular folktales were told about a hero named Arthur throughout the Celtic parts of the British Isles and France especially in Wales Cornwall and Brittany Lunt 76 Other stories of chivalry that did not include Arthur existed in this time period as well Although these stories were not recorded at first they were known as far away as Italy where mosaics and carvings depict Arthurian characters The tales are often mentioned by early writers including William of Malmesbury who distrusted them as lying fables Bishop 32 Today literary critics believe that such folktales are sometimes based on real characters but the stories about them change greatly as they are passed from one generation to the next This art of storytelling became an oral tradition among these people and their ancestors so the question of King Arthurs actual existence still remains a mystery Bishop 34 Nevertheless the medieval world viewed much of the Arthurian legend as a part of history and writers of the time built into the legend many of their highest ideals-deeds of chivalry courtly love and the contribution of the Arthurian legends and romances to literature Chivalry was a code of honor that developed for armed knights on horseback the most powerful fighters in medieval warfare The word is related to cavalry and to the French word chevalier which means horseman and gained its meaning during the Middle Ages Evans 205 To the knights basic role as a warrior chivalry added ideas about social rank manners Christian virtues courage and honor Knights began to pursue high standards of chivalrous behavior in their own lives Religious groups of knights called chivalric orders were formed to fight
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