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?
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