‘Many a story is but a crooked way to the truth’?

Lessons from the Past as Truths for the Present in a Selection of Arthurian Young Adult Disaster Fictions


  • Elizabeth Braithwaite




The myth of King Arthur has been used for many purposes. In post-disaster fiction for young adults, the Arthurian myth has been drawn upon by a number of authors to advocate unity and equality as major factors in creating a just and peaceful world. This article focuses on seven texts set after major global disaster caused by human action has devastated, or is threatening to devastate, the world of the implied present-day reader. The texts for discussion are Ron Langenus’ Merlin’s Return; Janice Elliott’s The King Awakes and The Empty Throne; and Pamela Service’s Winter of Magic’s Return, Tomorrow’s Magic, Yesterday’s Magic, and Earth’s Magic. Although King Arthur is portrayed differently by the three authors, he is presented as a figurehead of unity and peace in all of the texts, and the texts all transpose contemporary values held by the implied author and the implied reader onto what the texts present as ‘King Arthur’s time’, in order to suggest that greed, selfishness, and lust for power contributed to the destruction of King Arthur’s society, and are also threatening to destroy the world of the implied reader. Drawing upon Foucault’s concept of the regime of truth, this article demonstrates that the forms of the Arthurian myth used in the texts for discussion are, however, inherently gendered and nationalistic, and thus subvert the ideas of equality and unity that the texts seek to present.  


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How to Cite

Braithwaite, E. (2023) “‘Many a story is but a crooked way to the truth’? Lessons from the Past as Truths for the Present in a Selection of Arthurian Young Adult Disaster Fictions”, Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, 27(1), pp. 77–101. doi: 10.21153/pecl2023vol27no1art1707.