Arthur Pendragon, Eco-Warrior
By Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Shichtman
Arthuriana, Vol. 23:1 (2013)
Abstract: This essay explores the environmental agendas and ambitions that motivate John Timothy Rothwell, ‘a mad biker chieftain wielding an axe,’ who, claiming to be a ‘post-Thatcher’ King Arthur, changes his name and links his political struggles against the state to myths that mourn the lost original purity of ancient Britain. This article looks backward to authoritarian values his ecocriticism should interrogate. (LAP and MBS)
Introduction: What ‘patient labor of mourning’ divides English Heritage’s fantasy of Britain’s medieval origins from the acts of political legitimation of one Artbur Utber Pendragon (born John Timothy Rothwell), a British soldier, the son of soldier, brought up in army camps and council estates, a truant, a persistent offender, a jack-of-all-trades, a traveler, a mad biker chieftain wielding an axe, who, in a moment of revelation, in a twentieth-century squat, claims to be a post-Thatcher King Arthur, who changes his name to reflect (create) that reality, and who links his political struggles against the state to myths that mourn the always already lost original purity of ancient Britain, invoking a time, long before history, when the people knew their place in the Universe, not as the centre, but as parts of a greater whole?
This is the characterization of Arthur Pendragon offered up in The Trials of Arthur: The Life and Times of a Modern-Day King the (auto) biography written byPendragon and Christopher J. Stone. King Arthur (and when we refer to King Arthur in this essay, we are referring to this late twentieth-century return), wearing Druid robes, a crown, and wielding Excalibur, has since the late 1990s been involved in ecological conflicts with such keepers and maintainers of the mythologies of the British past—and British monuments — as English Heritage, Parliament, and even the Monarchy, in his desire to reclaim the sacrality of the land.