Episode 1.8: Rolf the Preacher

Writer: Terence Feely


In Mark’s village in Cornwall. Rolf is on his knees, in the middle of a circle of men – including Mark of Cornwall.

Rolf: Yes … The Lord showed me that he who strikes his fellow man is no better than a ravening wolf. And he who lives by violence is already dead in his heart. [He snatches someone’s sword] What did the sword ever bring you but pain and death?

He starts to chant, and everyone except Mark joins in.

Rolf and Villagers: Pain and death, pain and death, pain and death.

Rolf: And what is peace, but life and sweetness?

Villagers join in again.

Rolf and Villagers: Life and sweetness, life and sweetness.

Rolf holds up the villager’s sword.

Rolf: The day the first sword was forged on earth – that day there was weeping in heaven.

Mark looks dubious.

First villager: Shame!

Rolf: I was a killer. I raped, and I plundered. But I was not a happy man. Then the Lord opened my eyes, and took the sword from my hand, and I found peace. Has the sword given you happiness?

Villagers: No!

Rolf: Has the sword given you plenty?

Villagers: No!

Rolf: Do you want to renounce the sword?

Villagers: Yes!

Rolf: [yells] Then cast it out!

Rolf drives the villager’s sword into the ground, grabs one from another villager, and does the same with that one. All the other men, except for Mark, begin drawing their swords and throwing them to the ground, while Rolf continues his exhortations.

Rolf: Cast it out, cast it out!

Mark: Pick them up!

The few men who haven’t thrown their swords away keep hold of them. Mark grabs a villager by the scruff of the neck, and throws him to the ground in the pile of swords.

Mark: I say! What are you? [Mark grabs another man by his shirtfront and gives him a shove] Warriors or bloodless priests? This fool – he’s moonstruck! [Mark takes Rolf’s place in the centre of the circle and addresses them all] Are you going to let him talk you out of your manhood?

Rolf: Man is made strong by strong heart – not by the sword. Cast out the poisoned blade!

Some start to draw their swords, then sheath them again as Mark starts to speak.

Mark: Even now, plunderers are massing against us. And they mean to take what is yours. How are you going to defend yourselves? On your knees?

Rolf: You will conquer them with peace! And friendship! They will come in hate – but they will leave in love. It will be a victory greater than the Celts have ever known.

Rolf crosses his arms over his chest in rapture.

Mark: Yaar, this man booms like an empty wineskin. No man can return love for hate! The world is a battlefield. [to Rolf] You say that violence is wrong.

Rolf: I do.

Mark: [nodding] And you would not defend yourself against an attack.

Rolf approaches Mark, and holds up his wooden cross.

Rolf: I would not.

Mark: [grins at the onlookers] You would not. Then show me what you’d do, if someone did this.

Mark takes Rolf’s cross, drops it, hits Rolf, back-handed, on the right side of his face, knocking him to the ground, then draws his own sword. Rolf gets slowly to his feet, hands raised, then strokes his left cheek, and offers it for Mark to hit.

Rolf: Now this one.

Mark gives him a look of puzzlement and disgust. All the villagers throw down their swords again.



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Episode 2.6: The Marriage Feast

Writer: Terence Feely


Kai rides into the village.

Kai: Some news.

Kai dismounts. Arthur and Llud approach.

Kai: Rowena’s to marry Mark of Cornwall.

Arthur looks troubled.

Llud: Never! Rowena could never stomach a man like that. Besides, her father can’t stand the sight of him.

Kai: Ah, it’s true I tell you. I just heard it from one of Mark’s men.

Llud: When’s the wedding to be?

Kai: Soon.

Llud turns to Arthur.

Llud: You’d better go down there and do something about it.

Arthur: Why should I do anything about it? Nothing to do with me.

Arthur walks away.

Kai: [amused] Oh, I see.

Arthur walks towards the longhouse.

Arthur: If she can’t see what a pig the man is ...

Kai: True.

Llud turns his back to Arthur; he is laughing.

Arthur: And if her father’s willing to deliver his daughter into the hands of a man like that, that’s his business.

Kai: [innocent] Of course.

Llud smirks.

Arthur: It’s their choice.

Kai: Right.

Arthur: If she wants to ruin her life, that’s her funeral.

Arthur starts up the ramp to the longhouse.

Kai: Er … will you be going then?

Arthur turns back at the longhouse door.

Arthur: Hmm?

Kai: You’ve been invited to the marriage feast.

Arthur: [deadpan] Oh.

Arthur disappears inside the longhouse. Kai slaps Llud on the shoulder and they burst out laughing.



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Episode 1.6: The Duel

Writer: Terence Feely


A misty morning. The sounds of birds. Arthur, Kai, Llud and two other Celts ride into view, over a hill. Some other riders are seen in the distance, coming to meet them.

Arthur: Mark of Cornwall.

Kai: He won’t be pleased to see us.

Llud: He’s a Celt. And like us he cannot always have what pleases him.

Llud rubs his left shoulder.

Llud: Oh ...

Kai casts a worried glance at Llud, then looks at Arthur and shakes his head. Llud makes another sound of pain.

Arthur: Perhaps it was wrong for all of us to have come. One of us should ride back and keep command of the camp.

Llud: My place is at the battle – not at the hearth with the women and children.

Kai: It’s a long hard ride, even to reach the battle area.

Arthur and Llud turn to look at him.

Llud: I was making long, hard rides before you were born.

Kai: [as if Llud has just made his point for him] Ye-es.

Llud: It’s this weather gets into my shoulder. Well, are we going to stay here gossiping, or are we going to see Mark? Come on!

They ride forward to meet Mark and his four companions.

Arthur: This is the battle that decides.

Mark: Decides what? I’m in no trouble.

Mark and his men chuckle.

Arthur: Unless the Saxons are stopped at Modred’s Field they’ll overrun us. And then you … will be in trouble.

Mark: You asked for men, I gave you men. Now you come begging for horsemen.

Arthur: A messenger has brought word that the Saxons outnumber us, six to one. But as warriors they are raw. And they’ve never met cavalry.

Mark: Why should it be I must get you out of trouble once again?

Llud: Because you’re a Celt. And there’s such a thing as loyalty to the blood. Perhaps you haven’t heard of that in Cornwall.

Mark and Llud give each other hostile looks.

Llud: If you’ve no stomach for the fight, say so, and let those who have get on.

Mark: I’ve no cause to like you, Arthur. But I like Saxons less. I’ll help you fight your battle. But I give you fair warning. It’s a long way to Modred’s field. Keep him … [points at Llud] out of my way. [to horse] Hah!

Mark and his men turn and ride away. Llud watches them go.



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Episode 1.4: The Penitent Invader

Writer: Terence Feely


Arthur and Llud are fighting the Picts; seriously out-numbered, they are losing. One of the Picts throws a knife, which hits Arthur in the back; it looks serious. Llud catches Arthur as he falls. In the nick of time, Herward the Holy and two other mounted warriors come to the rescue, putting the Picts to flight.

Arthur: Herward the Holy. To say that I am pleased to see you –

Herward: No need to put your gratitude into words. But put it into action. I have helped you. Now you must help me.



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Season 1, Episode 2: The Gift of Life

Writer: Terence Feely


Kai and Arthur ride into the village to find it in flames. Villagers are variously fleeing, mourning their dead, and trying to douse or beat out the flames.

Arthur: Where is Llud?

Celt Villager: He was called away to see Ambrosius. The Saxons attacked us after he left.

Arthur picks up a small child from by the roadside, and returns him to his mother.

Horseman: Saxons! Saxons! They’re coming back!

Kai and Arthur run down to the lakeside to see a Saxon longboat drifting towards the jetty. Other Celts join them, crouching behind some fishing baskets.

Arthur: He’s lying low.

Kai: How many of them?

Arthur: Lying low against our spears.

Kai: Yes, but the first head to be split will be with this.

Kai brandishes his axe and leaps into the boat, ready to do battle. Two little blond-haired children, Krist and Elka, appear from the bottom of the boat.

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Season 1, Episode 3: The Challenge

Writer: Terence Feely


A wood. Two men fight fiercely with short swords.

Garet: God! I’ll kill you!

Gawain: As your father tried to kill mine! But you will meet with no more success than he!

They continue fighting.

Garet: Who was it who stole my father’s inheritance? His own brother, the brigand who spawned you.

Gawain: He took back what was his by right

Garet: To my father they were promised. And this quarrel is settled now.

A spear lands in the trunk of the tree that stands between the two of them. Arthur, Kai and Llud have arrived, on horseback; it is Arthur who threw the spear.

Arthur: Animals!

Arthur dismounts, and stalks towards them.

Arthur: Not even wolves in winter do this to their kin.

He begins removing the spear from the tree.

Arthur: You’re cousins. Your fathers were one flesh, one blood.

Garet and Gawain look sheepish.

Arthur: Yet you act like sworn enemies.

Arthur tosses the spear to Kai.

Arthur: Your men butcher one another.

Arthur takes Garet and Gawain’s swords from them.

Arthur: And now you look for death by your own swords.

Arthur tosses their swords to Kai.

Gawain: I don’t know how it comes to this.

Garet: It all starts from nothing.

Gawain: Then the feud that lives deep in our hearts takes us over.

Arthur: For my part you could kill each other any day you wish.

Arthur pulls them by their shirt fronts, then walks away.

Arthur: But I gave you the command of the two villages guarding me from the north. Three times now, the Saxons have swept through and been at my throat before I knew it, because you were too busy fighting each other to stop them. You’re a broken shield at my back. What I need is men at my shoulder blades, not murderous squabbling boys.

Garet: Arthur, we know we’ve put you in danger.

Arthur: You’ve put all my people in danger.

Gawain: It won’t happen again, I swear it.

Arthur: No, it won’t happen again, I’ll make sure of that. You’re banished to Gaul, both of you. Get on your horses.

With great reluctance, they obey.

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Season 1, Episode 1: Arthur is Dead

Writer: Terence Feely


Arthur, Kai, and three other Celts, all mounted, line up for a race.

Kai: Across the ledge at the back of the village.

Arthur: Then through the forest. Now. Let’s see who’ll be first man.

Kai: Everybody ready? [shakes reins] Har!

They thunder across the landscape. One by one, the other three horsemen fall – or are thrown – from their horses, leaving Arthur in the lead, with Kai close behind. Arthur looks behind him, and a low branch knocks him from his horse. He lands flat on his back, and lies motionless. Kai dismounts, kneels beside Arthur, and carefully moves his head. Two of the other Celts arrive. Kai looks up.

Kai: Go and tell the village. Tell the world. Arthur is dead.

The others gallop away.

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This fascinating glimpse into the early planning stages of "Arthur of the Britons" was kindly supplied by Paul Lewis, who preserved the article.

HTV to spend £1/2 m on King Arthur series

HTV West is to spend more than £500,000 one a new adventure series, a 24-part saga devoted to the exploits of King Arthur.

The story of the West Country’s own legendary hero will be filmed on the locations actually associated with Arthur, among them Cadbury Camp, the reputed site of Camelot, and holy Glastonbury.

Filming will begin in June.

“This is a very exciting project by any standards and reflects our confidence in the production team, led by Patrick Dromgoole, we have created at Bristol,” said managing director Tony Gorard last week.

The series will be done by the same team who produced the 13-part series, Pretenders, and the play Thick as Thieves, which was the winner of the Royal Television Society’s “Pye Oscar” as the best regional production of the year.

HTV has found an American distributor, Heritage Enterprises, for the new series. Mr Arthur Steloff, of Heritage, said, “There is enormous interest in a programme based on King Arthur and I am confident we can achieve world-wide sales.”

Lord Harlech, Chairman of HTV said, “The series will be as historically authentic as we can make it. Arthur was a young and powerful fighter who fought savagely and successfully to defend the remnants of Roman Britain against the invading Saxons.”

“We are tearing up the cosy Victorian water-colour picture of Arthur and showing instead the hard tough cavalry leader he must really have been,” he added.

The series will show how Arthur moulded the splintered British tribes into the force that repelled barbarian invaders bent on conquest, and moulded still more – the shape of a kingdom to come.

The role of Arthur will be played by Oliver Tobias, star of the London production of Hair. Michael Gothard, well-known for his appearance in The Last Valley and in Ken Russell’s The Devils plays Kai, a loyal follower of the King.

Jack Watson who starred in Pretenders is cast as Ludd The Silver Handed, a powerful Celtic warrior who rides as Arthur’s right hand. Merlin will be played by Maurice Evans.

Peter Miller is the producer and his team includes Roy Baird, the executive producer for Women In Love, Henry VIII and If.

Writers engaged include Terence Feely, Robert Banks Stewart, Jack Seddon, David Purcell, Stuart Douglas and Bob Baker and Dave Martin the Bristol playwrights responsible for both Pretender and Thick As Thieves.

It is interesting that at this stage, they were still referring to Arthur as "King Arthur", though he is never referred to as such in the series. Also interesting is the fact that nowhere is it stated that the series is for children, though in the UK, it was shown late afternoon, when children would be watching after school.

Early plans to film at sites connected with the little we know, or think we know, of the historical Arthur - including Cadbury Camp and Glastonbury - must have been abandoned at an early stage.

Also abandoned was Merlin, whom the article says was to be played by Maurice Evans - Dr Zaius in "Planet of the Apes"(1968). As Patrick Dromgoole has said: "It was difficult to stick to a realistic theme of an available gang of pro-British professional soldiers available where needed, without losing the mystical aspects of Merlin."

£500,000 was a great deal of money to spend on such a series at the time, so it isn't surprising that selling it to foreign networks was a high priority. This plan came to fruition, with "Arthur of the Britons" being shown, in various forms, sometimes under a different name, and either dubbed or subtitled, in France ("Arthur, Roi des Celtes"), Germany ("Konig Arthur"), Spain ("Arturo de Bretaña"), many Eastern European countries, Australia, the USA ("King Arthur") and South America ("El Rey de los Guerreros").

TV Today 15 June 1972 small


Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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