Saturday, 20 November 2010

Shadows in the Mist

King Arthur

Shadows in the Mist
August Hunt

“August Hunt brings a bold new interpretation to Arthur’s military sphere, in the process adding his voice to an increasingly large chorus of voices that place the famous war-leader not in the West Country, which has claimed him for many hundreds of years, but in the north of Britain, along the borders between England and Scotland.” - John Matthews

The publication of August Hunt's new book King Arthur: Shadows in the Mist by Avalonia Books, due 31 October 2010, is said to be imminent.

The book claims to re-open the debate on the historical existence of the legendary King Arthur, with August Hunt joining the rank of modern authors [1] arguing for the actual existence of a war leader in Dark Age Britain called King Arthur. Recently Hunt provided a critical treatise on his blog of Thomas Green's Concepts of Arthurthe most recent opponent of the idea of a historical Arthur”. [2]

In this work, Hunt is said to re-consider the source material with a new and original approach, exploring the historical evidence, looking at place names and local folklore, to provide a challenging argument for the actual existence of King Arthur.

The blurb on the author's Facebook page promotes this book as “thoroughly considering the place names associated with Arthur’s battles and other significant contemporary sites like towns and Roman forts, the author shows through onomastics, geography, archaeology and philology how they are all based on real historical places on the English-Scottish border. Not only this, but they also point to both the location of Camelot and to Arthur’s final resting place of Avalon, near to Hadrian’s Wall.” [3]

I certainly find it hard to see how the author can claim to bring “academic rigour to the study of and quest for the historical King Arthur as opposed to the mythological figure who developed from folk memories and legends.[4] Much of Hunt's work is typically based on medieval romance and poetry and not original source material simply because none exists for an historical Arthur. [5] Owing to the absence of available source material any attempted reconstruction not reliant on conjecture is inevitably forced to delve into myth and folklore. Consequently, using medieval romance and poetry it is possible for anyone, and everyone, to reconstruct an account of “King Arthur”. However, all of these Arthurian works claiming to have identified the king, leave the reader thinking, “perhaps, maybe” but fail to present any solid evidence whatsoever to be convincing in providing a conclusive “yes, definitely”.

Hunt's constant rewrites are frustrating; the articles on Faces of Arthur were continually updated and much of that material was included in the original Shadows in the Mist: The Life and Death of King Arthur (Hayloft, 2006). Indeed my copy of the book included a 'Corrigendum' referring the reader to the website for updates; for example the 4th article “the identification of Noquetran with Tanberry, pp 111 -115, is incorrect. The real site, Windy Edge, is discussed at” [the website]. I can understand corrections to production errors and omissions due to restrictions of space, but this seems like a complete change of mind post-publication and leaves one with a nasty taste in the mouth wandering how much of the book the author actually believes in, or will he change his mind – again!

In the Shadows in the Mist the author set out to try to reverse the current academic trend of 'Arthur denial', the increasing tendency of scholars to question the historical existence of Arthur. And like other books claiming to reveal the real King Arthur 'Shadows in the Mist' could not resist identifying his final resting place.

From the publisher on Shadows in the Mist: “What little we can learn about a possible historical King Arthur must be gleaned from accounts of his battles recorded in written form in the ninth century AD. Other than these accounts, which are really nothing more than listings of place-names, there is the doubtful testimony of heroic poems, pseudo-histories, medieval romance, modern fiction and Celtic Reconstructionism. Valuable as these first early sources on Arthur's battles would appear to be, their veracity has been brought into question by a generation of scholars. Rather than seeking firm identifications for the battle sites, an exercise in philological and geographical investigation which might well point the way to a viable historical candidate for Arthur, scholarly opinion in general now rests content with concluding that no historical Arthur ever existed. "Shadows in the Mist" seeks to reverse this academic trend in an effort to return the field of study to its proper sphere of endeavour: the eventual discovery of a genuine historical Arthur. To accomplish this goal, the author embarks on a systematic treatment of the battle site place-names. Identifications made for these battle sites will display an obvious pattern of military activity and suggest not only a power centre, but the most probable location for the king's final resting place. With Arthur's territory clearly defined, a critical re-examination of the Arthurian genealogy preserved by Welsh tradition will reveal the true identity of the great Dark Age king”. [6]

Inevitably, this new book, King Arthur: Shadows in the Mist is said to be a new edition of that 2006 work. No one could be a bigger fan of the elusive Arthur than me, I've studied the Arthurian legend for over thirty years, and I really wish someone could show me some incontrovertible evidence for his existence as a Dark Age war leader. We await publication of this new edition to see what evidence is contained in the new material; hopefully not the poorly reproduced black and white photographs from the previous publication.


1. See Swords, Stones and Digging for Camelot a review of Revealing King Arthur by Christopher Gidlow in which the author set out to reverse the academic trend of the last 30 years denying the actual existence of a Dark Age warlord named Arthur.
2. Thomas Green versus King Arthur by August Hunt.
3. August Hunt's Facebook page.
4. Ibid.
5. Writing in the early 6th Century and within memory of the Seige of Mount Badon, Gildas fails to mention Arthur; odd if he had been the battle leader at the Britons greatest Dark Age victory over the Anglo Saxons. The English sources such as Bede and the Anglo Saxon Chronicle also fail to mention him. The earliest historical account we have is the list of Arthur's battles in the 9th Century Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons) written down several hundred years after the events and even by then it contained Arthurian folkloric elements in the Mirabilia, The Wonders of Britain.
6. Shadows in the Mist - Hayloft Publishing.

* * *