A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (originally published in Britain as A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur) is a novel by Mark Twain. It was first published in 1899. The novel makes fun of works of Arthurian legend, in particular Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and satirizes 19th century ideas of chivalry and a romantic idealized Middle Ages, as depicted in the historical fiction novels of Sir Walter Scott.
The title character and protagonist of the novel is a 19th century American named Hank Morgan who finds himself transported back in time to 6th century England, where he meets King Arthur and other famous legendary figures. King Arthur's times are depicted in the novel as being times of ignorance and danger in which life was extremely harsh for ordinary people. The main villain of the novel is Merlin, a very different character from the version of the magician who appears in T.H. White's The Once and Future King. The Merlin of Twain's novel represents the old order which wants people to continue to believe in magic and superstition and seeks to prevent scientific advancement.
There have been numerous screen adaptations of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, most of which have been considerably less dark than the original novel.
The novel begins in the 19th century in Warwick Castle. A visitor to the castle meets a stranger who has an unusual manner, as if he were from another time. The stranger later meets up with the visitor in his hotel and tells him his story. He says that he is Hank Morgan, a 19th century gun maker from Hartford, Connecticut, USA.
One day Hank Morgan gets into a fight, is hit over the head and wakes up in Camelot in the year 528. He is taken prisoner by a knight and is led to King Arthur's court. The entire court, especially Merlin the magician, are very suspicious of him because of his strange appearance. Hank is sentenced to death by burning at the stake. However, he knows that the day he is sentenced to die, June 22, 528, is the day of a solar eclipse. Hank claims to be causing the eclipse and threatens to block out the sun forever unless he is released.
Hank Morgan realizes that, with his 19th century knowledge, he is the cleverest man in the world. He becomes an adviser to the king and the most powerful man in England, after the king himself, known to everyone in the kingdom as "The Boss". Hank wants to put an end to Medieval attitudes and superstition and begins to industrialize the country. He founds secret factories that make modern products and secret schools that teach modern ideas and modern English. He is assisted by a boy called Clarence whom he lets in on most of his secrets and comes to rely on heavily.
Hank also encounters a woman named Sandy, rescuing her from what she believes are ogres, although Hank knows that they are only pigs.
Wanting to find out what life is like for the poor, Hank and King Arthur travel the country disguised as peasants. During their voyage they are captured and sold into slavery, eventually being rescued by Sir Lancelot and other knights on bicycles.
Challenged to a duel by Sir Sagremor Le Desirous, Hank kills him with a revolver. After that Hank reveals the industrialization and modernization that he had secretly been working on for years. Trains, telephones, newspapers and even a new currency of dollars and cents are introduced to England.
Hank marries Sandy and they have a daughter named "Hello Central". When his child becomes sick, Hank is told to go abroad for her health. During his absence, civil war breaks out in England and King Arthur is killed. Hank and the modern ways and inventions he introduced are denounced and people stop using them. Hank gathers volunteers to fight back with gatling guns but they are defeated. Hank is wounded with a knife and then put to sleep by Merlin until the 19th century.
The novel ends with Hank eventually dying of the injury he received more than a thousand years earlier.
- Text of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court on Wikisource.
- Quotations from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court on Wikiquote.
- Free public domain audiobook of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court from LibriVox.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court on the SparkNotes website.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court on King Arthur Wiki.