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ARTHUR LEGEND:

The cycle of stories clustering around the semi-mythical hero King Arthur of England, and which finds its place in Jewish literature in a Hebrew translation entitled ("The Book of the Destruction of the Round Table"), composed in 1279 by an author whose name can not be ascertained. Only a few fragments exist in the Vatican manuscript edited by A. Berliner in "Oẓar Ṭob," 1885, pp. 1-11. These include passages from "The Life of Lancelot" (), "The Birth of Arthur," "The Quest of the Grail" (). The original seems to have concluded with a sermon on repentance, to which the translator refers in his preface as one of his two motives for translating the work, the other motive being to drive away his own melancholy. From the nature of the translation, which includes several Italian words, Steinschneider concludes that the original was in Italian and that the writer lived in Italy. But the source from which the author drew his form of the story is no longer extant; it was obviously merely a short abridgment of the voluminous romance of chivalry out of which the Arthur Legend has been composed. While the book throws no light upon the origin of the legend, or even upon its later literary history, it is interesting for the contrast it presents between the scenes of bloodshed and unchastity that constitute the romance and the Jewish ideals so opposed to these. "The Quest of the Grail," though possibly in its origin a Celtic legend, has become inextricably associated with the Christian sacrament of the mass; and it is therefore extremely curious to find it treated in Hebrew. The translator seems to have felt this, and gives a somewhat elaborate apology for translating it. A Judæo-German version of the legend also exists among the manuscripts in the library of the city of Hamburg.

Bibliography:
  • Steinschneider, Hebr. Uebers. pp. 967-969;
  • idem, Hebr. Bibl. viii. 16;
  • idem, Cat. Hamburg Library, No. 228 and p. 183.
A. J.
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