Everyone who has approached the Arthurian legends with a view to finding out more about them is struck at once by their sheer breadth and complexity. Many turn away at this point or content themselves with reading Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. In so doing they miss a great deal. Wonderful though Malory's retelling of the legends is, it is only one among many. To have failed to discover the fourteenth-century poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or the mysterious pageantry of the mighty Vulgate Version from which Malory himself drew extensively, is to have missed a wonderous experience. Even if the intrepid reader does find his way to Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and discovers how it differs from Perlesvaus, he will almost certainly reel back at the welter of names -- people, places and things -- which are part of the magic of the Arthurian world but which change, overlap and sometimes contradict each other outright. Toward the end of the twelfth century, the poet and philosopher Alain de Lille wrote:


Whither has not the flying fame spread and familiarized the name of Arthur the Briton, even as far as the empire of Christendom extends?


That "flying fame" has continued into the twentieth century which has probably experienced the largest explosion of interest in the matter of Arthur since the Middle Ages. Novels such as Rosemary Sutcliffe's Sword at Sunset, Henry Treece's The Great Captains, and most recently, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon have helped keep the legends alive; now those who have longed to discover for themselves the older stories behind these fictional re-tellings, can take the first steps upon their own Arthurian quest.


Paraphrased from The Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends by John Matthews.