Arthur - The Seeing Stone

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

In Brief: Firmly-rooted and very human take on 13th century life in England, mixed in with the story of the mythical Arthur. Simple, if sometimes superstitious, faith.

Cover of Arthur - The Seeing Stone

Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland

Publisher: Orion

Published in: 2000

Age Range: Young Teens

Period: 13th C

Genres:  ArthurianFriendshipGrowing-UpHistoricalMagic


12-year-old Arthur de Caldicot is the younger son of a lesser landowner in the Welsh Marches at the turn of the 13th century. His skill is with words rather than with weapons and he worries about what his father has in mind for him.


The writing is full of interest and paints an entertaining, occasionally earthy, and presumably realistic view of 13th century England. The characters are real and each has worries and joys: Serle the older brother and the maid Tanwen, his sweetheart; Gatty the reeve's daughter; Sir William and Lady Alice and their children, Arthur's relatives.Then, intertwined, is the Arthurian side of things, because around the house is Merlin, the hooded old man who has always lived there, and who gives Arthur a stone in which he sees parts of the life of King Arthur. The business of Merlin changing King Uther's appearance so that he can sleep with his rival's wife is put forward bluntly, and Merlin's comment is: “No one and nothing can stand in the way of great passion”. In contrast, the people's faith is clear, altho' it tends towards the superstitious sometimes. Oliver, while seen as pompous, is respected as a priest.

When I climbed halfway up our staircase, I could see everyone at the same time. I looked and I thought how our roofbeams and old thatch were sheltering every man and woman and child who lives on our manor land - well, everyone who can walk. Three times I tried to count how many of us were in the hall, but each time the number was different. Forty-one, then thirty-nine, and then forty-two. My father says that altogether there are sixty people living at Caldicot.

Tuesday 1st January 2002