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The Merriest Knight
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
Green Knight Publ., 523 pages

The Merriest Knight
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
[George Edward] Theodore Goodridge Roberts was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada on July 7, 1877, the youngest of six surviving children of an Anglican (i.e. Episcopal) priest. His older brother, William, also a noted Canadian author, published Theodore's poems in The Independant (for which William was the literary editor) when Theodore was only 14 years old. Dropping out from the University of New Brunswick, Theodore headed for New York in November 1897. By April 1898, he was a war correspondent covering the revolution in Cuba. He founded his own The Newfoundland Magazine in 1900 which he edited for three years, and The Kit-Bag in 1902, which lasted only 3 issues. His stories of the now extinct Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland were collected in Red Feathers (1907) and Flying Plover, His Stories (1909). Roberts served in the Canadian army in France and England during WWI. Some of his later titles include Tom Akerley (1923), and Red Pirogue (1924). Beginning in the late 1920s, Roberts began to write some Arthurian stories, but it was not until the late 1940s that most of these were published in Blue Book. Before he could collect his Arthurian stories in a single volume, Roberts died (24 February 1953, in Digby, Nova Scotia). One of Roberts' sons, William Goodridge Roberts became one of Canada's premiere lanscape painters.

Publisher's page
T.G. Roberts' son William G. Roberts, Canadian artist 1, 2, 3, 4

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

The Merriest Knight gathers for the first time all the Arthurian works of Theodore Goodridge Roberts, in particular his delightfully humorous tales of Sir Dinadan, a character given only passing mention in Sir Thomas Malory's La Morte d'Arthur. Unlike the big-guns (or perhaps lances) like Lancelot, Tristram, and Kay, Sir Dinadan only manages to move up to #17 in the Round Table Knight Rankings by the end of his career, so while he's by no sense a coward, he looks hard and fast at a situation before engaging in combat. As Clint Eastwood once put it "A man's gotta know his limitations." The witty Sir Dinadan is also a fine bard, though his songs tend to reflect his poor opinion of love and women, many of which have managed to deceive him. The tales of Dennys ap Rhys and the amnesic knight Sir Lorn le Perdu, which range from Arthur's Britain to Ireland are much more straight ahead adventure, as is "Legend's End," a tale set in the era of the Norman invasions. "Young Wings Unfurling," however, is a poignant tale of romance of the naive and innocent Marc, raised in the wilderness by a hermit, and the lovely Sylvia he liberates from a group of gypsies.

Most of these stories first saw publication in the Blue Book, one of the more sophisticated fiction magazines of the early 1950s. Consequently, while Roberts' avoids trying to emulate Malory, his writing is polished, erudite and not intended for pulp magazine readers. While that results in Roberts remaining eminently readable today, his stories are somewhat tame compared to the bloody carnage popular to the pulps. This isn't to say that Roberts doesn't know his Arthurian material or how to function within the constraints of style and plotting of the genre. However, perhaps because this was intended as light romantic comedy material in the 1950s, it is more the sort literature for the afternoon tea and crumpets crowd -- in a word "polite" Arthurian fiction.

What does make The Merriest Knight worth reading, notwithstanding its lack of "edge," is that it doesn't delve into the dark side of Camelot, the whole Guinevere-Lancelot and Arthur-Mordred messes. The vast majority of the action occurs "on the road" and besides the brief appearance of Merlin in one tale the stories are largely free of supernatural elements. Sir Dinadan is a particularly endearing character from the very fact that he isn't a superstar. He certainly doesn't follow the chevalier sans peur et sans merci cliché, being simply a fairly competent, middle-aged knight who hasn't any illusions that he's ever going to unhorse the likes of a Lancelot. Sir Dinadan is basically a nice guy who likes to help out where he can, but isn't getting rich or famous doing it. Additionally, like of few of us, Dinadan is never quite sure about women, are they using him or conniving to break his heart, or genuinely enamoured of him -- it isn't until the last story that he, sort of, figures it out. If you looking for top-notch dark, depressing, hardcore Arthuriana check this excellent title, but if you're looking for something a bit more upbeat, some Arthuriana-lite, The Merriest Knight is just the book for you.

Copyright © 2002 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

Table of Contents
Story TitleAppearance in Blue BookPrincipal CharacterPage
Introduction - by Mike Ashley  9
Author's Introductionnot previously published 19
A Purfle for a KingJuly 1950Sir Dinadan21
The Quest of the Saracen BeastNovember 1950Sir Dinadan37
A Fairy's Childnot previously publishedSir Dinadan55
The Madness of Sir TristramDecember 1950Sir Dinadan64
A Quarrel for a LadyFebruary 1950Sir Dinadan85
Sir Dinadan and the Giant TaulurdApril 1951Sir Dinadan101
The Goose GirlAugust 1951Sir Dinadan122
For to Achieve Your AdventureOctober 1951Sir Dinadan141
Mountain MiracleDecember 1951Sir Dinadan162
Quest's Endnot previously publishedSir Dinadan183
Young Wings UnfurlingOctober 1947Marc207
Strike Hard, Bite DeepDecember 1947Dennys ap Rhys259
The Merlin TouchApril 1948, as "A Quest Must End"Dennys ap Rhys327
Castle CavanaughAugust 1948Dennys ap Rhys388
Revolt in the ForestSeptember 1949Patrick Pendragon455

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