ladyofastolat: (Misty Glastonbury)
[personal profile] ladyofastolat
The stated justification for the Round Table is that no knight takes precendence. However, most medieval depictions of said table show King Arthur sitting at it. This is a clear contradiction of the stated aim, since precedence will be defined by proximity to Arthur. Yes, you could randomise this, perhaps by holding a daily raffle (proceeds to go to distressed damsels), but you could do this just as easily with a plain old rectangular board. I think the most likely solution is that King Arthur sat in the middle, either in a hole cut in the exact centre, or sitting on an elevated platform that dangles from the rafters. No knight should suffer the ignominy of having the king's back turned to him, so the King would have to rotate. It would be easy to devise a mechanism for this, like a turnspit or a donkey-powered well, powered by dogs or small servant boys (but probably not hamsters.)

However, other problems present themselves. Some sources put the number of Knights of the Round Table as high as 150. That is a VERY large table, and likely to need a veritable forest of legs beneath it. However, medieval carpenters who can build cathedral roofs can cope with such a table. But what about the poor king, stuck in the centre of a circle large enough to hold 150 round its circumference? Think of the noise, and the constant shouting of "what? What?"

And then there's the problem of serving. Service a la Russe hadn't come along yet, so all dishes need to be put on the table at once. With a rectangular board, you can fill up from both sides. High Table, sitting on only one side, can be served from the opposite side, and regular people can ask the person opposite to pass them the buttered parsnips. With the guests sitting around the rim of a vast circle, only a tiny part of that table can be used for serving food, and the rest is wasted, and impossible to clean without clambering on it. The King, stuck in the middle, would need food parcels thrown at him - a skill, perhaps, practiced by pages in the tilting yard?

But there are other ways to denote precedence at the dining table. Take the whole "above the salt" thing. Clearly it would be out of the question to have a single, elaborate Salt on the table. Thus we see the origin of the small salt shaker that we see now on every cafe table - or maybe even tiny sachets, that survived into the present century only in Salt 'n' Shake crisps. And what about boars' heads and such like, and the honour of carving such things? If Knight A has a boar's head put in front of him, and Knight B only has some boiled cabbage, then Knight A is clearly more favoured! Instead of this divisive practice, we would need a vast array of small plates of mixed food stuffs, none of them an obvious centrepiece. Did the dining needs of Camelot lead to the invention of tapas?

Or did the Round Table itself rotate along with the King, thus bringing boar's head to each knight in turn? Was the Round Table the origin of the Lazy Susan?

Date: 2016-07-11 01:12 pm (UTC)
sally_maria: Black and white Asgard, caption Giggling Madly Inside (Giggling Madly)
From: [personal profile] sally_maria
See icon... :-)

Date: 2016-07-11 02:00 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I have long believed that the Round Table MUST have rotated, and had the king in the middle. I think there must be an underground access route to it, for the delivery of nibbles and to allow the king to unexpectedly pop up like a prairy dog.

Date: 2016-07-11 02:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm still concerned about the pop-up King being so far from the perimeter of the table. Do you think the table was actually annular? The king could be bracketed onto the inside rim of the ring, with the boar's head and the salt in front of him, so table and king would rotate together, ensuring that every knight had his time with both king and choicest morsels. The Round Table is supposed to be portable, and a ring-shaped table would certainly be lighter to carry than a solid circle, and there'd be plenty of space inside for the access tunnels.

Agh, but precedence would still be implied by the king's choice of where to start his rotational journey...

Maybe all their feasts took the form of a giant game of musical chairs. That's where the legend of the Siege Perilous originated.

Date: 2016-07-11 02:45 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Baying)
From: [identity profile]

Pop the king, boars head*, salt, etc into place, then all the knights give it a shove and off he goes, where he stops, nobody knows!

*though remembering that awful pig's head that we had for a banquet once, personally I would be more than happy if someone else ended up with that, and I got something actually edible, like apple pie or pork loin.

Date: 2016-07-11 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Winchester Round Table looks very like a roulette wheel. (Or a darts board, but I'm not going to suggest that the king was hurled at the table like a dart, to see where he landed. Unlike all the other suggestions in this post, that would just be Silly.)

I've often wondered if that boar's head was so horrid because boar's heads were always horrid, or if the boar's heads of yore were awesome, and pig's heads bought from Oxford Covered Market in 1992 cannot possibly compare.

Date: 2016-07-11 03:18 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I'm getting a sense of deja vu here now. Have we had this conversation before? In Winchester, possibly, in the early 90's...?

I have often wondered if David Cameron's pig's head, if indeed it existed, came from that same shop. How many pig head purveyors can there be in Oxford?

Date: 2016-07-11 03:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You remember conversations from the early 90s? :-O

If anywhere in Britain could support two purveyors of pigs' heads, it is the Oxford Covered Market. There could even be a whole range of them, for all tastes and interests.

Date: 2016-07-11 07:47 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Logres)
From: [identity profile]
Well, not usually, but when you mentioned the Winchester table, I suddenly had this overpowering feeling that this conversation had happened before. :-D

Date: 2016-07-11 03:17 pm (UTC)
ext_24338: (Outside Box)
From: [identity profile]
LOL!! I love your logic here, it all makes prefect sense!!

I shall now imagine King Arthur slowly rotating in the middle, covered in food that wasn't thrown accurately enough, lol! :D :D

Date: 2016-07-11 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I imagine that ability to throw food accurately would be one of the criteria of admittance to the fellowship of the Round Table. No true knight would misaim when throwing chicken drumsticks at his king!

Date: 2016-07-12 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
True knights pass drumsticks on lances.

Date: 2016-07-12 07:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah. Thus demonstrating the superiority of Round Table knights. With lesser men, hideous accidents would inevitably happen when 150 men took lances to the dinner table, tried to wrangle drumsticks onto the lances' tips when in close quarters with their neighbours, and thrusted them towards their king - all of this done while under the influence of wine and mead. But knights, being men of superior skill, manage this without mishap.

Date: 2016-07-12 04:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Naturally, putting the drumstick onto the lance is the work of a squire. Think of this as a version of tilting at the ring :)

Date: 2016-07-11 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Rotation would not be a practical solution to the problem of feeling that the king's back was to you. I attended a gala concert at an in-the-round theater, at which the MC conscientiously rotated (by her own mechanism, not a mechanical one), the effect being that she regularly had her back to everybody.

Date: 2016-07-11 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh dear. I bow to your first-hand knowledge of rotational monarchs/MCs. We'll have to elevate him somehow, whether by putting him on top of a tall pole, or by dangling him from above. Either way, if his seat is big enough, and if he's far enough above everyone else, nobody will be able to tell which direction he's facing. They'll all be equally beneath him.

Unless kings are better than MCs when it comes to handling equitable rotation?

Date: 2016-07-11 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Now I'm reminded of my critiques of the Hobbit movies. ( Jackson has a liking for the repeated image of "The general exhorting his army from a height so far up they wouldn't be able to see him."

Date: 2016-07-12 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for making me smile. Perhaps Arthur moved along a place each day?

Date: 2016-07-12 11:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That could work... although what about special feast days? It's nice to sit at the right hand of the king, but if you're doing so on a day when only 33 low-level knights are at the table, the rest being out a-questing, it's nowhere near as prestigious as sitting at his right hand at a huge banquet in honour of 25 visiting kings, all of whom see how favoured you are. Each meal would have to be given a ranking, and there would be tables allowing you to calculate how many D grade repasts were worth the same as one A grade banquet.

Date: 2016-07-12 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I believe there was a space in the middle of the table. Pages crawled underneath to the middle got up, and served the knights from baskets. So that's ok. But now you got me imagining Arthur like this:

Date: 2016-07-12 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was afraid to click on this link. Now that I've done so, I dread to see what adverts and purchase recommendations Amazon is going to present me with for the next few weeks... :-O

Date: 2016-07-12 04:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Be bold, be bold, but not too bold.

Date: 2016-07-12 06:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Archaeololological evidence at Windsor suggests that Edward III, who of course had the benefit of being much closer to the primary sources than modern scholars, considered the Round Table to have had a ring-shaped or annular construction, with a narrow rim with an extensive space in the centre. The rim was protected from wind and weather by portico, or possibly a colonnade; the existence of roof in the centre is speculative and (in this author's opinion) the archaeological evidence leaves this roof not well supported.

Logically, this would put 150 knights round the outside and the King in the middle. It must be remembered that not only was Arthur seeking to gather the best knights to his Round Table, but he was also under the necessity of demonstrating his fitness to rule. The facility afforded to an intelligent and imaginative monarch by such a space to demonstrate all manner of accomplishments is of course clear and need not be elaborated upon.
Edited Date: 2016-07-12 07:16 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-07-12 11:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You are clearly a learned and serious scholar, so when you talk about the accomplishments of a monarch, you are naturally referring to such things as gift-giving, piety, justice and knowledge of swallows and coconuts. Since such things do not require a circular arena to demonstrate them, your wording encourages the reader to imagine the king acting as acrobat, juggler and dancing girl. Obviously you never meant to imply such things, but I would advise you to elaborate this sentence before publication, lest silly-minded readers assume an interpretation that you did not intend.

Date: 2016-07-12 06:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I see it does indeed need to be elaborated on.

The essence of gift-giving, piety, justice and so forth is that they are performed in plain sight of the audience. The arena for such performance must of necessity be circular if the desired equivalence is to be afforded to all spectators equally - even an arc of a circle, putting all equidistant from the king, would result in differentiation between those in the centre and those at the ends. No alternative configuration satisfies the predicated requirements.

However, it need not be elaborated on in the unwarrantedly vulgar manner in which you appear to be considering it, and I would urge you to observe a modicum of decorum and elevate your mind somewhat. You risk being associated with the "popular" school of historical presentation!


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