Navigation: Table of Contents, Index, next: Georg Trakl, Gedichte, prev: Comics
A few comments on the cause for Arthur's downfall in the books I've read. (slow work in progress)
The story is retold by the important female figures of the legend: Ygraine, her daughter Morgaine (Morgan), half sister to King Arthur, and King Arthur's wife, Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere). The story starts with Uther's and Ygraine's amour fou and ends with Arthur's death. At the beginning, the reader is introduced to the mystic island of Avalon, where the Lady of the Lake, Viviane, rules. She represents the old faith of the Mother Goddess. Morgaine follows Viviane to Avalon and becomes a priestess herself. At the same time, the Christian influences are making themselves known in Britain. Avalon decides therefore to lift Arthur to the throne, using a Pagan fertility ritual binding Arthur to the land, to the goddess and to Morgaine.
In the early morning hours after the ceremony, Morgaine and Arthur make love to each other again, not knowing themselves and drunken with youth and love for the world. This is when the seed of darkness takes hold. Mordred is begotten on Morgaine. The act itself will be Arthur's secret shame. As Morgaine feels manipulated and exploited by Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, she leaves Avalon and gives birth to Mordred in Orkney, at the court of King Lot and her sister Morgause. There, Morgause prevents a strong bond between Morgaine and her son by taking the baby away right after birth, the excuse being the hard labour Morgaine had to suffer. Morgaine is not rewarded with the experience of a newborn baby at her breast for all the pain she had to bear and leaves Mordred at the court of Morgause. Mordred is raised by the power hungry Morgause.
Slowly the downfall of King Arthur's reign approaches. Arthur doesn't want to see the love between Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar as he loves them both and Lancelot doesn't want to run away with Gwenhwyfar, shaming the king and tearing the kingdom appart. At last, Mordred and the other Orkney brothers surprise Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar in bed. The remaining events are quickly summarized at the end of the book: Lancelot slays Gareth and many others, Gawain wants revenge for his dead brother, Mordred sends Morgause away claiming that she has driven them all to this and ultimately to Gareth's death. King Arthur's kingdom is torn appart by the struggle between Lancelot and Gawain.
In Morgaine's last vision she sees Arthur and Mordred fight to the death. Mordred doesn't even know why he fights his father; it's all he has left, he claims. Mordred hates Morgaine and Avalon just as much as he hates Arthur and Christianity. Both Arthur and Mordred accuse Morgaine: Arthur claims that Morgaine was always the goddess to him and when she refused him, he looked for another god. Mordred claims that he had no need of the goddess; he needed a mother. And Morgaine had left him to a woman who feared neither god nor goddess. As Mordred is killed Arthur asks Morgaine with his dying breath wether the have all failed. And Morgaine suddenly knows that no, it was not all in vain: An entire generation was able to live in peace during Arthur's reign and the people of Britain will continue to fight for the light of civilization. And on the very last pages, Morgaine realizes that this is also true of the goddess; the goddess has not left the world even as Avalon is disappearing in the mists of time. The presence of the goddess can be felt everywhere in the world, even among the Christians.
The Mists of Avalon leaves us with a vision of the goddess continuing amonst us, the power of birth, youth, maturity, old age, a female spiritual power that continues to care and that does not desert us. This is achieved by three movements in the book. In the first half of the book, we are introduced to fascinating women and the magic of Avalon. In the second half of the book, the cruel competition for the throne of Arthur and for the heart of Lancelot tears everything down. And at the very end, Morgaine is granted a last vision of the grail, a vision from the goddess, a glimpse of the magic that dominated the first half of the book.
Further reading: Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine, http://www.mzbfm.com/
Navigation: Top, Table of Contents, Index, next: Georg Trakl, Gedichte, prev: Comics