King Arthur enlists children in quest Legendary leader passes on lessons

January 22, 1993|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

Once upon a time, in the most noble kingdom of Mount Airy, the people were visited by a king who told them wondrous stories of magic and quests and knights and dragons.

He came in full regalia -- golden jeweled crown, red cape and tunic, and by his side a shining silver sword, the mighty Excalibur.

King Arthur arrived Tuesday at Mount Airy Elementary School to teach his subjects how to peaceably settle their differences and properly go about a quest -- how to set a goal and attain it.

"I started out as a squire," he told the students after picking out six youngsters to be his helpers. "But I lost my brother Kay's sword, so I had to find another. In the woods, I saw this sword stuck in a rock.

"I pulled and pulled and finally, it came out," he continued. "Then I heard a noise and looked up, and the people were looking at me, and Kay told me to put the sword back.

"That's when I saw the words on the sword: 'Whosoever shall pull this sword out of this stone, shall be king of England,' " he said.

Amazed, the 14-year-old squire watched as the strongest of the knights failed to pull the sword out of the stone. At Kay's urging, Arthur once again pulled it out.

"The people started saying, 'Long live the king' -- they thought I was their king," Arthur said.

As king, Arthur watched and listened as his 150 knights quarreled and fought among themselves until he finally built the Round Table.

"Instead of squabbling, hitting and punching each other, we sat down and talked and settled our differences peaceably by talking to one another," the king said.

From his teacher, Merlin, King Arthur learned some magic. One trick is simple: Close your eyes, make one turn to your left, then two to your right and repeat, "I like myself, I believe in myself."

But just being king wasn't enough for Arthur; he wanted his own quest. So Merlin taught the young king the five rules of questing.

With his squires on stage, each holding a wooden sign, King Arthur shared his rules for questing: Set a goal, make a plan, take action, don't give up and enjoy yourself.

The legendary king, by following the rules, successfully completed his first quest of taking medicine to a village. Along the way, he also made friends with a fierce, angry dragon.

"I asked the dragon, 'Why are you angry?' and he said, 'I'm a dragon, I'm supposed to be angry,' then I got angry and drew my sword," King Arthur recalled. "Then I remembered Rule Number Four and I yelled, 'Stop!' "

The king began talking with the dragon and found out that he grew up without any friends because everybody was afraid of him. So the king offered to be the dragon's friend.

"Is this for real?" a voice called out from the front of the group.

"Is this real?" the king asked in disbelief. "It was for me, my friend. And when you go on your quests, you will achieve many wonderful adventures as I did."

Then, the king noted, "We no longer use our swords for settling differences, but we do use them for ceremonies." He proceeded to knight his six squires.

After the king left, Chief Squire Craig Grabowsky, 11, thought he'd like to be a king's squire.

"I like adventures," he said.

In real life, King Arthur is Bill Cates, 41, of Silver Spring, a professional management trainer and speaker to adult groups. Always fascinated by the King Arthur stories, he decided three ++ years ago to bring the legend to life with positive messages for elementary-age children.

"There's a lot of negative messages coming out today, and I wanted to do something positive for the children," Mr. Cates said. "King Arthur has lived through the ages."

He gets bookings through an annual mailing to schools in the Maryland, Washington and nearby Virginia areas. But King Arthur & Company also does adult programs on leadership and management.

How much truth is there to the King Arthur stories?

"I think the legend is based in some truth," Mr. Cates said. "I think there was some person who did some good and who the legend is based on."

L King Arthur will visit Manchester Elementary School Feb. 10.

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