The story begins with the unusual conception of Arthur. King Uther Pendragon had fallen madly in love with Ygraine, the wife of his supporter, Duke Gorlois. Determined to have her, Uther has Merlin the Magician turn him into the likeness of Gorlois so he can secretly lie with Ygraine. Unfortunately that night, Gorlois was killed while the king was with his wife. When Uther married Ygraine later, he knew that the boy was his, but his subjects did not. Because of the muddy nature of the boy's parentage, Uther sent him to be raised by Merlin who placed him with Sir Ector. Howeve, Uther dies soon after and the kingdom is left without a leader. Several years later (as all know from the Disney Movie), Arthur takes the throne by pulling an enchanted sword from a stone proving himself the rightful king of England. Arthur also unknowingly sows the seed of his own death when he unwittingly sleeps with his half sister Morgause, siring the treacherous Mordred. Although Arthur tries to kill Mordred, he escapes, and lives to kill his father.
Arthur then marries Guenevere and founds his Round Table of Knights who swear to uphold the chivalric code. He then turns to fight the Emperor Lucius of Rome. On the journey he singal handedly defeats a giant and then his army defeats the Roman army. Arthur returns home a hero. He soon meets the greatest of his knights, Lancelot Du Lac. However, Lancelot himself creates a large problem in Camelot. He is in love with Guenevere, the queen. This love will bring about the fall of the Round Table and the idealistic vision it inspired. The story continues with the passionate tale of Tristan and Isolde whose adulterous relationship foreshadows the tragedy to come. However before that fall, the knights of the Round Table go on a search for the Holy Grail which only Percival, Bors, and Sir Galahad are allowed to see.
The end of Arthur's dream is brought about by Mordred, but it could not have happened without the love between Guenevere and Lancelot. Mordred masterminds a plan to expose the lovers. Arthur is then forced to find Guenevere guilty of treason and sentenced to die. Lancelot of course has to rescue her, breaking the binds that held the round table together. Mordred can now rebel openly against his father. In a final battle between Mordred and Arthur, the two kill each other. As Arthur lay dying he orders that his sword, Excaliber, be thrown into the lake. He is buried with a gravestone inscribed "Here lies Arthur, the once and future king." This is the only hope that Malory has to offer.