Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Guinevere’ Category

I haven’t had time to write a blog for a while but thought I’d post one of my favorite poems, William Morris’ “The Defence of Guenevere” published in 1858. November seems to me a very Arthurian month perhaps because the words from the musical Camelot – “on a day dark and drear came to trial Guinevere” sound like one of these dark November days. The poem is considered a dramatic monologue, and for fiction writers like myself, writing dramatic monologues, whether in prose or poetry, can be very helpful for getting into the minds of one’s characters, so this posting is especially for my fellow novelists creating their own versions of Guinevere. Enjoy.

THE DEFENCE OF GUENEVERE

by

WILLIAM MORRIS

But, knowing now that they would have her speak,

She threw her wet hair backward from her brow,

Her hand close to her mouth touching her cheek,

 

As though she had had there a shameful blow,

And feeling it shameful to feel ought but shame

All through her heart, yet felt her cheek burned so,

 

William Morris’ painting La belle Iseault is sometimes mistakenly titled Queen Guinevere.

She must a little touch it; like one lame

She walked away from Gauwaine, with her head

Still lifted up; and on her cheek of flame

 

The tears dried quick; she stopped at last and said:

“O knights and lords, it seems but little skill

To talk of well-known things past now and dead.

 

“God wot I ought to say, I have done ill,

And pray you all forgiveness heartily!

Because you must be right, such great lords; still

 

“Listen, suppose your time were come to die,

And you were quite alone and very weak;

Yea, laid a dying while very mightily

 

“The wind was ruffling up the narrow streak

Of river through your broad lands running well:

Suppose a hush should come, then some one speak:

 

“‘One of these cloths is heaven, and one is hell,

Now choose one cloth for ever; which they be,

I will not tell you, you must somehow tell

 

“‘Of your own strength and mightiness; here, see!’

Yea, yea, my lord, and you to ope your eyes,

At foot of your familiar bed to see

 

“A great God’s angel standing, with such dyes,

Not known on earth, on his great wings, and hands,

Held out two ways, light from the inner skies

 

“Showing him well, and making his commands

Seem to be God’s commands, moreover, too,

Holding within his hands the cloths on wands;

 

“And one of these strange choosing cloths was blue,

Wavy and long, and one cut short and red;

No man could tell the better of the two.

 

“After a shivering half-hour you said:

‘God help! heaven’s colour, the blue;’ and he said, ‘hell.’

Perhaps you then would roll upon your bed,

 

“And cry to all good men that loved you well,

‘Ah Christ! if only I had known, known, known;’

Launcelot went away, then I could tell,

 

“Like wisest man how all things would be, moan,

And roll and hurt myself, and long to die,

And yet fear much to die for what was sown.

 

“Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,

Whatever may have happened through these years,

God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie.”

 

Her voice was low at first, being full of tears,

But as it cleared, it grew full loud and shrill,

Growing a windy shriek in all men’s ears,

 

A ringing in their startled brains, until

She said that Gauwaine lied, then her voice sunk,

And her great eyes began again to fill,

 

Though still she stood right up, and never shrunk,

But spoke on bravely, glorious lady fair!

Whatever tears her full lips may have drunk,

 

She stood, and seemed to think, and wrung her hair,

Spoke out at last with no more trace of shame,

With passionate twisting of her body there:

 

“It chanced upon a day that Launcelot came

To dwell at Arthur’s court: at Christmas-time

This happened; when the heralds sung his name,

 

“Son of King Ban of Benwick, seemed to chime

Along with all the bells that rang that day,

O’er the white roofs, with little change of rhyme.

 

“Christmas and whitened winter passed away,

And over me the April sunshine came,

Made very awful with black hail-clouds, yea

 

“And in the Summer I grew white with flame,

And bowed my head down: Autumn, and the sick

Sure knowledge things would never be the same,

 

“However often Spring might be most thick

Of blossoms and buds, smote on me, and I grew

Careless of most things, let the clock tick, tick,

 

“To my unhappy pulse, that beat right through

My eager body; while I laughed out loud,

And let my lips curl up at false or true,

 

“Seemed cold and shallow without any cloud.

Behold my judges, then the cloths were brought;

While I was dizzied thus, old thoughts would crowd,

 

“Belonging to the time ere I was bought

By Arthur’s great name and his little love;

Must I give up for ever then, I thought,

 

“That which I deemed would ever round me move

Glorifying all things; for a little word,

Scarce ever meant at all, must I now prove

 

“Stone-cold for ever?  Pray you, does the Lord

Will that all folks should be quite happy and good?

I love God now a little, if this cord

 

“Were broken, once for all what striving could

Make me love anything in earth or heaven?

So day by day it grew, as if one should

 

“Slip slowly down some path worn smooth and even,

Down to a cool sea on a summer day;

Yet still in slipping there was some small leaven

 

“Of stretched hands catching small stones by the way,

Until one surely reached the sea at last,

And felt strange new joy as the worn head lay

 

“Back, with the hair like sea-weed; yea all past

Sweat of the forehead, dryness of the lips,

Washed utterly out by the dear waves o’ercast,

 

“In the lone sea, far off from any ships!

Do I not know now of a day in Spring?

No minute of the wild day ever slips

 

“From out my memory; I hear thrushes sing,

And wheresoever I may be, straightway

Thoughts of it all come up with most fresh sting:

 

“I was half mad with beauty on that day,

And went without my ladies all alone,

In a quiet garden walled round every way;

 

“I was right joyful of that wall of stone,

That shut the flowers and trees up with the sky,

And trebled all the beauty: to the bone,

 

“Yea right through to my heart, grown very shy

With weary thoughts, it pierced, and made me glad;

Exceedingly glad, and I knew verily,

 

“A little thing just then had made me mad;

I dared not think, as I was wont to do,

Sometimes, upon my beauty; if I had

 

“Held out my long hand up against the blue,

And, looking on the tenderly darken’d fingers,

Thought that by rights one ought to see quite through,

 

“There, see you, where the soft still light yet lingers,

Round by the edges; what should I have done,

If this had joined with yellow spotted singers,

 

“And startling green drawn upward by the sun?

But shouting, loosed out, see now! all my hair,

And trancedly stood watching the west wind run

 

“With faintest half-heard breathing sound: why there

I lose my head e’en now in doing this;

But shortly listen: In that garden fair

 

“Came Launcelot walking; this is true, the kiss

Wherewith we kissed in meeting that spring day,

I scarce dare talk of the remember’d bliss,

 

“When both our mouths went wandering in one way,

And aching sorely, met among the leaves;

Our hands being left behind strained far away.

 

“Never within a yard of my bright sleeves

Had Launcelot come before: and now so nigh!

After that day why is it Guenevere grieves?

 

“Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,

Whatever happened on through all those years,

God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie.

 

“Being such a lady could I weep these tears

If this were true?  A great queen such as I

Having sinn’d this way, straight her conscience sears;

 

“And afterwards she liveth hatefully,

Slaying and poisoning, certes never weeps:

Gauwaine be friends now, speak me lovingly.

 

“Do I not see how God’s dear pity creeps

All through your frame, and trembles in your mouth?

Remember in what grave your mother sleeps,

 

“Buried in some place far down in the south,

Men are forgetting as I speak to you;

By her head sever’d in that awful drouth

 

“Of pity that drew Agravaine’s fell blow,

I pray you pity! let me not scream out

For ever after, when the shrill winds blow

 

“Through half your castle-locks! let me not shout

For ever after in the winter night

When you ride out alone! in battle-rout

 

“Let not my rusting tears make your sword light!

Ah! God of mercy, how he turns away!

So, ever must I dress me to the fight,

 

“So: let God’s justice work!  Gauwaine, I say,

See me hew down your proofs: yea all men know

Even as you said how Mellyagraunce one day,

 

“One bitter day in la Fausse Garde, for so

All good knights held it after, saw:

Yea, sirs, by cursed unknightly outrage; though

 

“You, Gauwaine, held his word without a flaw,

This Mellyagraunce saw blood upon my bed:

Whose blood then pray you? is there any law

 

“To make a queen say why some spots of red

Lie on her coverlet? or will you say:

‘Your hands are white, lady, as when you wed,

 

“‘Where did you bleed?’ and must I stammer out, ‘Nay,

I blush indeed, fair lord, only to rend

My sleeve up to my shoulder, where there lay

 

“‘A knife-point last night': so must I defend

The honour of the Lady Guenevere?

Not so, fair lords, even if the world should end

 

“This very day, and you were judges here

Instead of God.  Did you see Mellyagraunce

When Launcelot stood by him? what white fear

 

“Curdled his blood, and how his teeth did dance,

His side sink in? as my knight cried and said:

‘Slayer of unarm’d men, here is a chance!

 

“‘Setter of traps, I pray you guard your head,

By God I am so glad to fight with you,

Stripper of ladies, that my hand feels lead

 

“‘For driving weight; hurrah now! draw and do,

For all my wounds are moving in my breast,

And I am getting mad with waiting so.’

 

“He struck his hands together o’er the beast,

Who fell down flat, and grovell’d at his feet,

And groan’d at being slain so young: ‘At least,’

 

“My knight said, ‘rise you, sir, who are so fleet

At catching ladies, half-arm’d will I fight,

My left side all uncovered!’ then I weet,

 

“Up sprang Sir Mellyagraunce with great delight

Upon his knave’s face; not until just then

Did I quite hate him, as I saw my knight

 

“Along the lists look to my stake and pen

With such a joyous smile, it made me sigh

From agony beneath my waist-chain, when

 

“The fight began, and to me they drew nigh;

Ever Sir Launcelot kept him on the right,

And traversed warily, and ever high

 

“And fast leapt caitiff’s sword, until my knight

Sudden threw up his sword to his left hand,

Caught it, and swung it; that was all the fight,

 

“Except a spout of blood on the hot land;

For it was hottest summer; and I know

I wonder’d how the fire, while I should stand,

 

“And burn, against the heat, would quiver so,

Yards above my head; thus these matters went;

Which things were only warnings of the woe

 

“That fell on me.  Yet Mellyagraunce was shent,

For Mellyagraunce had fought against the Lord;

Therefore, my lords, take heed lest you be blent

 

“With all this wickedness; say no rash word

Against me, being so beautiful; my eyes,

Wept all away to grey, may bring some sword

 

“To drown you in your blood; see my breast rise,

Like waves of purple sea, as here I stand;

And how my arms are moved in wonderful wise,

 

“Yea also at my full heart’s strong command,

See through my long throat how the words go up

In ripples to my mouth; how in my hand

 

“The shadow lies like wine within a cup

Of marvellously colour’d gold; yea now

This little wind is rising, look you up,

 

“And wonder how the light is falling so

Within my moving tresses: will you dare,

When you have looked a little on my brow,

 

“To say this thing is vile? or will you care

For any plausible lies of cunning woof,

When you can see my face with no lie there

 

“For ever? am I not a gracious proof:

‘But in your chamber Launcelot was found':

Is there a good knight then would stand aloof,

 

“When a queen says with gentle queenly sound:

‘O true as steel come now and talk with me,

I love to see your step upon the ground

 

“‘Unwavering, also well I love to see

That gracious smile light up your face, and hear

Your wonderful words, that all mean verily

 

“‘The thing they seem to mean: good friend, so dear

To me in everything, come here to-night,

Or else the hours will pass most dull and drear;

 

“‘If you come not, I fear this time I might

Get thinking over much of times gone by,

When I was young, and green hope was in sight:

 

“‘For no man cares now to know why I sigh;

And no man comes to sing me pleasant songs,

Nor any brings me the sweet flowers that lie

 

“‘So thick in the gardens; therefore one so longs

To see you, Launcelot; that we may be

Like children once again, free from all wrongs

 

“‘Just for one night.’  Did he not come to me?

What thing could keep true Launcelot away

If I said, ‘Come’? there was one less than three

 

“In my quiet room that night, and we were gay;

Till sudden I rose up, weak, pale, and sick,

Because a bawling broke our dream up, yea

 

“I looked at Launcelot’s face and could not speak,

For he looked helpless too, for a little while;

Then I remember how I tried to shriek,

 

“And could not, but fell down; from tile to tile

The stones they threw up rattled o’er my head

And made me dizzier; till within a while

 

“My maids were all about me, and my head

On Launcelot’s breast was being soothed away

From its white chattering, until Launcelot said:

 

“By God! I will not tell you more to-day,

Judge any way you will: what matters it?

You know quite well the story of that fray,

 

“How Launcelot still’d their bawling, the mad fit

That caught up Gauwaine: all, all, verily,

But just that which would save me; these things flit.

 

“Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,

Whatever may have happen’d these long years,

God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie!

 

“All I have said is truth, by Christ’s dear tears.”

She would not speak another word, but stood

Turn’d sideways; listening, like a man who hears

 

His brother’s trumpet sounding through the wood

Of his foes’ lances.  She lean’d eagerly,

And gave a slight spring sometimes, as she could

 

At last hear something really; joyfully

Her cheek grew crimson, as the headlong speed

Of the roan charger drew all men to see,

The knight who came was Launcelot at good need.

 

Read Full Post »

Llacheu is Arthur’s son in the earliest Welsh legends and the only of the three sons mentioned in Welsh tradition–Amr and Gwydre being the others–who made it into the later continental romances.

A strange tradition also exists that Llacheu may have been killed by Sir Kay. The following is a passage discussing this possibility from my book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, which contains a much longer discussion of Llacheu and is available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

            The French, however, when they learned the Welsh tradition that Arthur had a son, either ignored or did not know his true place in the legends and simply let their imaginations run wild (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 184). It may be Geoffrey of Monmouth’s responsibility that Arthur’s sons disappeared from later versions of the legends; The History of the Kings of Britain was so popular that it firmly placed a structure on the way the tale would be told from then on, and since Geoffrey did not give Arthur any sons, his successors avoided creating sons for Arthur. And if writers had added sons to the legend, they would have had to come up with explanations for why these sons did not succeed their father. However, the fact that Llacheu does appear in romances written after Geoffrey of Monmouth is a clear indication that the French writers had some knowledge (however limited it may have been) of the Welsh traditions from Breton traditions, independent of Geoffrey of Monmouth (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 179).

One aspect of Llacheu’s story the French appear to have added was his illegitimacy through his mother Lisanor, a woman who is probably completely fictional. More importantly, the French and their followers created a whole new death story for Llacheu that has come down to us in two different, but closely related versions.

In all of these versions, Llacheu is slain by Sir Kay. Several scholars have suggested that the source for Kay’s murdering Llacheu was Llacheu and Kay’s names being mentioned together in The Black Book of Caermarthen as follows:

Unless it were God who accomplished it,

Cai’s death were unattainable.

Cai the fair and Llachau,

they performed battles

before the pain of blue spears [ended the conflict].

(Bromwich, Arthur of the Welsh, 43)

The two warriors may have fallen together in battle, but Bruce and other scholars believe it is evident from the way the names are coupled that Kay was not Llacheu’s slayer in Welsh tradition (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 184). Kay seems to have been accused of murdering Llacheu, much as the mention of Arthur and Mordred falling together at Camlann in the Annales Cambriae may have been interpreted as Mordred revolting against Arthur.

In his Studies in the Arthurian Legend, John Rhys gives one version of Llacheu’s murder which he takes from the second part of the Welsh version of the Grail, the Seint Greal. In this version, Llacheu seeks adventure and fights a giant named Logrin, who has proven himself one of King Arthur’s cruelest foes and allows no one to live in the same country with him. Llacheu succeeds in killing the giant and then lies down on the giant’s body and falls asleep. Kay then rides up, discovers this strange sight, and beheads Llacheu and the giant. He then returns to court, claiming he slew the giant. The court makes much of him, but soon his treachery is known and hostility grows between Arthur and Kay, causing Kay to flee to his own castle (61).

Another version of this story occurs in the Perlesvaus, a French work of the early thirteenth century. Here everything occurs as in the last story up to where Kay kills Llacheu. This time, Kay cuts off both the giant and Llacheu’s heads and brings Llacheu’s body, along with the giant’s head, back to court, claiming he killed the giant who had killed Llacheu. Later a damsel comes to court with a coffer containing Llacheu’s head, and she tells the story of his death. Guinevere recognizes the head as having belonged to her son from a scar that is on it; the sight of it causes her to die of grief (Bruce, “Arthuriana,” 182).

Caitlin and John Matthews, in the The Arthurian Book of Days (1990), give a version of the tale that makes Kay look more like a victim than a murderer; however, they do not give their source. It appears in the entry for March 15, as follows:

 

Arthur sat in solemn justice to hear the defence of his foster brother. Kay stammered his sorry tale:  “Upon my last quest I encountered a giant who made me play a beheading game. I knew the way of it, I thought, since Gawain’s contest those many Christmases ago. Instead of himself, the giant sent forth against me a knight who acquitted himself nobly, but I overcame him and struck off his head. It was not till the helmet was off that I saw it was Loholt, and that I had been tricked into treachery. Until the ending of my life, I repent that stroke.” (45-6)

Here Morgain interrupts to relate that the giant is the brother of King Arthur’s enemy, King Rhitta, and that this event is the sorrow she foretold.

And since Kay had been shamed by such a trick, Arthur forgave him before all, though Guinevere was less forgiving. (45-6)

Since Caitlin and John Matthews do not give a source for this version of Llachue’s death, it seems logical to assume that they were merely rewriting the tale as it appeared in the Perlesvaus since Kay’s motive for murdering Llacheu is not expressed in that work; furthermore, they also added in the detail of Gawain playing a beheading game, an event that occurs in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a late fourteenth century Middle English work; the Matthews reinterpret the tale by giving Kay a form of motivation for killing Llacheu, which makes Llacheu’s murder more plausible.

In the two earlier versions, Kay is clearly an intended murderer, rather than a victim of someone else’s evil deeds. This depiction of Kay is surprising since in the Welsh tales he usually appears as the greatest, or at least one of the greatest of Arthur’s warriors, plus his loyal subject, friend, and foster-brother. However, Kay is sometimes depicted as being touchy toward Arthur as at the end of “Culwch and Olwen,” where a hint of some discord between Arthur and Kay exists, although it seems unlikely that in the Welsh tradition Kay would have stooped to murdering Arthur’s son; therefore, the story of Llacheu’s murder is probably of continental origin.

 

Read Full Post »

Today, I’ve asked author Nicole Evelina to be my guest and let me interview her about the novel for which she is currently seeking a publisher, titled Guinevere of Northgallis.

Author Nicole Evelina

Nicole Evelina is a writer from the Midwest. Guinevere of Northgallis is her first novel and is part of an anticipated trilogy. Nicole has spent the last 12 years researching Arthurian legend, Celtic Britain and the various peoples, cultures and religious practices that shaped the country after the withdrawal of Rome. She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society.

Nicole holds a B.A. in English and M.A. in media communications, as well as accreditation from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a distinction that tests writing and communications skill, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide.

Tyler: Welcome, Nicole. As a writer of Arthurian novels myself (I plan to publish King Arthur’s Legacy in the fall of 2013), I’m excited for the opportunity to talk to you today. First, will you tell us a little bit about how you became interested in the Arthurian legend and what made you decide to write novels about it?

Nicole: I’ve been a fan of Arthurian legend since I was a little girl. While most other kids had Disney princesses as idols, I had the queens, kings, and knights of Arthurian legend. I was so enamored with Guinevere that I wanted to take her name as my confirmation name, but the nuns wouldn’t let me because there’s no St. Guinevere.

How I came to write about it is kind of a funny story. I’d been avoiding reading The Mists of Avalon because everyone told me “don’t read that book if you like Guinevere.” Well, my freshman year of college, a friend gave it to me as a Christmas gift. As predicted, I hated Marion Zimmer Bradley’s portrayal of Guinevere, but loved the book overall, especially Avalon. Shortly thereafter, I read Parke Godwin’s Beloved Exile, which tells what happened to Guinevere after Arthur dies. His premise didn’t really resonate with me, but it got me wondering what did happen to her. You don’t hear much about that. Inspired by the two books, I started thinking about what Guinevere’s real story was, and then one autumn morning—I can still tell you the date—she walked into my head and told me she wanted to tell her side of things. That’s how Guinevere of Northgallis was born.

Tyler: Was Guinevere of Northgallis the first novel you wrote or did you write or attempt to write other novels about it?

Nicole: It is my first novel. I’ve been writing and re-writing it on and off (more off than on) for 13 years now, so it’s gone through several iterations and really has been several different books in that time. Prior to writing it, I wrote some short stories, but they were mostly fantasy and never really went anywhere.

Tyler: The Arthurian legend is rich with characters, and of course, after Arthur, Guinevere might arguably be the most important one, but many authors such as Persia Woolley, Nancy McKenzie, and Rosalind Miles have already devoted several books to Guinevere. What made you think you had something new or original to say?

Nicole: You’re right that several other authors have covered this territory. But my Guinevere is very different, mainly because of where I’ve placed her in history. She’s not a meek Christian wallflower like in previous legend. She’s a pagan Celt who was taught to fight by her mother, a noblewoman from the land of the Picts. Although living in Britain, Guinevere was raised in her mother’s matriarchal ways, so she’s a strong, smart woman who will stand up for what she believes in and fight for it, with her tongue or with her sword, as appropriate. But despite all of that feministic rhetoric, women were pawns during that time period and the strong ones were rare, so you’ll see the consequences of her unique outlook as well.

Also, while my story has elements of fantasy, it’s also very historically grounded. Guinevere lives in a time period (approximately 480-530 A.D.) that was in the throes of transition, both politically and religiously, so my books also deal with that upheaval. The transition from paganism to Christianity is central to the story, as is the shifting political landscape, as the Britons struggle to organize themselves after the withdrawal of Rome and fight against the encroaching influences of the Saxons and Picts.

Tyler: You must have had a lot to say since you plan to write an entire trilogy. Can you tell us a little about why you decided to write a trilogy rather than just one book, and give us a little overview of what the books will cover—is it Guinevere’s entire life story?

Nicole: Originally, I thought it was going to be just one huge book. It wasn’t until I finished the first draft of the first book that I realized it needed to be a trilogy, just for page count, if nothing else. The story begins when Guinevere is 11 and will encompass her entire life, before she meets Arthur, her time with him and her life after the fall of Camelot. That’s roughly how the books are divided.

Tyler: What do you find the most fun about rewriting the Arthurian legend?

Nicole: The fun part is how the characters come alive for me. They talk in my head and sometimes when I’m writing, they do things I didn’t expect or plan for. I love seeing the legend take on its own life through them. The most rewarding part is knowing this is a legend written in a way that will speak to people of our time—a way of preserving it as a living story that continues, rather than being a dusty, moldering tale from another time.

Tyler: I think we can break Arthurian novels down into two categories—fantasy and historical, and then there are books like my own that try to include a little of both—I would consider my novels historical fantasy. What genre would best define yours?

Nicole: Historical fantasy is probably best. I’ve tried to be very true to the time period, but I can’t imagine Arthurian legend without a little magic, so there’s an element of fantasy to it as well. But it’s not high fantasy by any means. The magic is more subtle, and is, I think, in keeping with the beliefs of the Celtic people.

Tyler: I know you’ve done extensive research in writing your novels. Will you tell us a little about your process and how you decided what to include?

Nicole: At the beginning, my process was to read anything I could get my hands on about Arthurian legend and the Celts—to really get the lay of the land, so to speak. Once the story started forming into an actual plot in my head, I was able to get more specific and research the elements that I knew would directly affect my characters. I must confess that my research still isn’t done; it probably won’t be until the last book hits the shelves because I’m always finding some new detail to verify. I do additional research as I come to the main plot elements of each book. For example, I’m getting ready to research the Holy Grail in-depth because that’s the part of the second book I’m on now. I’ll do more research into the tribes of the Gododdin and the Picts when I get ready to start book 3 because that’s where most of that book takes place. So much research, so little time!

Tyler: I know you’ve also visited England. How did that visit influence your research and your vision for the novels?

Nicole: England is such an amazing country. I was fortunate to visit about six months after I started writing the first book, so knowing the land has been extremely helpful. It’s completely different being there and feeling the energy of the places than just reading about them. I actually picked my location of Camelot based on an area I came to know very well. Oddly enough, I haven’t been to most of the places in the first book, but I’m planning to take a tour of south-western England next June that will remedy that!

Tyler: With so many Arthurian novels already published, what pitfalls do you see for writers of Arthurian literature? Did you fear being influenced too much by other writers who had already published their stories?

Nicole: There’s always the fear that you’ll be influenced by someone else. But in way, it’s a good thing because it forces you to really look at what you’re writing from a new perspective and really make things your own. One way I’ve tried to shield myself is that I haven’t read any other Arthurian fiction that deals with Guinevere since I decided I was going to write my own story. By that time I had seen enough of what was out there to know what’s unique and what is not, but there’s been enough time distance that I don’t have to worry about replicating someone else’s work.

One pitfall of writing in Arthurian tradition is that there isn’t a lot of source material out there for the Celts. If other writers have done their research (which they clearly have), you’re going to have some overlap in ideas. For example, Marion Zimmer Bradley did really great research into the beliefs and rituals of the Druids and the possibilities for Avalon. You can’t change something like that drastically without it becoming inauthentic, but you can look at it from another angle and try to add to what’s already been done.

Tyler: Thank you again, Nicole for joining me. I wish you much success with finding a publisher for Guinevere of Northgallis and its sequels. Before we go, tell us a little about how to find more information about you online. What is your blog or website, and what more can readers learn there about you, your books, and the Arthurian legend?

Nicole: My web site is http://nicoleevelina.com. From there you can read my blog, which is updated weekly, learn about my books and connect with me on social media sites like Twitter and Pinterest. My site also has an extensive research list and a playlist section where you can see what music has influenced Guinevere’s story. I blog mostly about Celtic history, Arthurian legend and writing, but as I get farther into the publishing process, I’ll keep all my readers updated on that as well.

Thank you for having me, Tyler, and for your well wishes. It has been a pleasure.

Read Full Post »

As I noted in my last blog post, Sarah Luddington’s novel Lancelot and the Wolf has gained a lot of attention for its explicit sex scenes between Lancelot and Arthur. While the sex scenes are fairly spicy, the truth is that there’s little else in this novel to make a fuss over. I’m not saying it’s a bad book, but it’s obviously a self-published book (not a bad thing in itself) and one badly in need of a good editor.

Lancelot and the WolfFor those who want to explore the love between Arthur and Lancelot, they will find a few explicit sex scenes, but also a convoluted plot. The story begins with Lancelot having left Camelot in shame and in exile in France (although I was well into the book before I realized he was in France). Why he left has something to do with his love for Guinevere, but it’s never really clear what happened until halfway or better through the book (not because the author is purposely withholding information for suspense, I’m afraid). Lancelot ends up returning to Camelot after he meets Else, who turns out to be Merlin’s daughter and part fey. Her real name is Eleanor de Clare, and that’s where the string of anachronisms in the novel begins….I’ll get to those in a minute. Anyway, through his interactions with Eleanor de Clare, Lancelot comes to learn that evil spirits are threatening Camelot and he must return there to save Arthur. The plot has its twists and turns and moments where I had to go back to reread because I got bored and wasn’t paying attention to what I was reading, although at other times, the story moves forward quickly.

As for the anachronisms, Luddington drops words and names and doesn’t always follow through or explain them. At one point, she refers to Wessex—where and what is that? King Arthur lived probably in the 6th century—Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, was in its infancy if it even existed then and there are no Saxons in this novel; nor is it clear whether the story takes place in Wessex. Happy is the reader whose author provides a map. Later, there are references to England. Whatever happened to Britain? As for Eleanor de Clare, there was a historical woman of that name who was niece to King Edward II and married to Hugh le Despenser (read Susan Higginbotham’s wonderful novel The Traitor’s Wife for Eleanor de Clare’s story). Luddington’s Eleanor de Clare is not the historical woman and her Norman surname has no place in an Arthurian novel.

In her afterword, Luddington states that she likes the Arthurian world of Malory more than the historical Arthur. She has set her Camelot in a time equal to that of the Hundred Years War of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and that’s fine. A good editor could have helped clean up, smooth over, and explain the anachronisms to her later medieval period story. And Luddington does have a good imagination and an ability to write prose that moves the plot forward and can be a fun and easy read. She just needs to work at it more or find a good editor to help her. Perhaps the other novels in this series show improvement.

Unlike Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame, who claims she never read a vampire novel or saw a vampire film (a claim I don’t believe but that’s another blog and it would be hard to say whether Luddington or Meyer is the better or worse writer—but at least Meyer had a decent editor), Luddington states in her afterword, “see I’m educated, even if I can’t use commas properly” (I’m glad she realizes her punctuation problem because her comma use or lack of use irritated me quite a bit). Her use of “educated” means she has read other Arthurian works and is familiar with the literary tradition, citing such authors as Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes—so she does have some knowledge, but fact checking we apparently can’t expect, considering she mentions that “In the space of the two hundred years between Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes we’ve seen a vast sea change in the way the myths are presented.” Hmm, I’ll pass over the “myth vs. legend” issue here and point out that Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his History of the Kings of Britain around 1135 and Chretien de Troyes wrote The Knight and the Cart around 1180—hardly a 200-year difference. A good editor would have caught that mistake as well.

I read the “Special Edition” of Lancelot and the Wolf which included two extra stories and a novella in it, which left me wondering just how many gay men lived in Camelot—seems like a lot to me. By the way, the novella “Taliesin’s Song” I actually think I enjoyed more than the novel itself.

Lancelot and the Wolf is a fun book to read if you don’t have high expectations for it. If you’ve already read the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart, Jack Whyte, Bernard Cornwell, Stephen Lawhead, and about a dozen other authors I could name, then you will find Lancelot and the Wolf disappointing, but you’ll maybe read it because like me, you read all the Arthuriana you can. On a scale of 1-5, I will give it 3 stars. If you are looking for gay Arthuriana, you might be more likely to enjoy it, but it’s still a 3 star book. That said, if you buy it, buy the special edition Kindle version for $3 because the proceeds go to Stonewall to fight gay discrimination. The greatest strength of this book is Luddington’s willingness and courage to write a gay Arthurian novel. I doubt it will go down in literary history as a great book, but one of those books that nevertheless made an impact and hopefully paved the way for greater books.

The ultimate question is: Was Lancelot and the Wolf good enough to make me read the next book in the series, Lancelot and the Sword? Yes, I think there’s a 50/50 chance that I will, although I won’t be rushing to buy it right away but it might be something to read while I wait for the next season of Merlin.

For more information about Luddington and her novels, visit her website http://www.darkfiction.eu/ and the site devoted specifically to the Lancelot novels, www.theknightsofcamelot.com

Read Full Post »

Knights of the Round Table – movie poster

I remember seeing advertisements for Knights of the Round Table being shown on TV when I was a kid, but I never got the chance to watch it. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get the chance because it’s surprisingly a rather distorted version of the Arthurian legend in many ways. Still, when I stumbled across it the other day, I watched it with interest.

First, let me say I’m a sucker for these old movies. Just that it is shot in Technicolor makes it beautiful in many places. There is a lot of color and pageantry, and I give it credit for being, to the best of my knowledge, the first film to try to tell the entire Arthurian story. Previously, King Arthur in Hollywood had been mostly limited to remakes of A Connecticut Yankee.

But in telling the full story, the studio must have felt they had to clean up the story. I mean, even if 1950s audiences, not to mention the movie censors, could get past Guinevere and Lancelot’s adultery, they certainly couldn’t accept Mordred being a child of incest and killing his father.

So some rather big changes had to be made. First of all, Mordred replaces King Lot of Orkney as Morgan le Fay’s ally. I was never quite clear in the film if he is her husband or just her lover, but they are obviously a couple and King Arthur’s primary enemies. The film begins with Morgan, Mordred, Arthur, and Merlin meeting to determine who will rule Britain upon Uther Pendragon’s death. Morgan believes she deserves the throne as Uther’s only legitimate child, but Merlin has Arthur draw the sword from the stone, thus leading to his being proclaimed king. Mordred and Morgan aren’t too happy about this decision and cause plenty of trouble before they finally agree to Arthur’s rule, which he achieves largely through battle and the help of Sir Lancelot, making Lancelot and Mordred enemies.

Arthur is soon pushed to the side of the story in favor of Lancelot. Although the movie is called Knights of the Round Table, the other knights get very little attention, except for Percival, who is on a quest for the Holy Grail. He meets Lancelot early in the film and tells Lancelot of his quest. In the same scene, Percival’s sister, Elaine, meets Lancelot and falls in love with him, and eventually, she is married to Lancelot, after Merlin realizes Lancelot and Guinevere have begun to have feelings for one another so it would be best to have him away from court.

I won’t give away all of the plot, and there’s not much to give away if you know the Arthurian legend, but I do need to discuss the end a bit. I do give the film some points for a stab at historical accuracy since it sets the film at the time soon after the Romans have left. That said, I think John Wayne had a stab in writing the script since upon first meeting, Lancelot says to Percival, “Declare thyself, Cowboy.” I think he should have changed “Cowboy” to “Pilgrim”—it would have been funnier.

The Holy Grail legend has always been an oddball part of the Arthurian story in my opinion, and it definitely is here. At one point, Percival comes to Lancelot’s castle to tell him the Holy Grail appeared at court, which I thought a shame, since the filmgoers never get to see the Holy Grail’s appearance in that scene, but it does lead to the knights going off to seek the Grail. At about this time, Elaine also has a dream about their son. Elaine dies soon after Galahad is born. Later the child Galahad is sent to be raised at Camelot.

And then Camelot begins to fall. After Elaine’s death, Lancelot becomes interested in Lady Vivian. Guinevere accuses him of trying to humiliate her in front of the court by making eyes at Vivian. While they are arguing alone, their enemies find them and accuse them of adultery. They manage to escape without any dramatic attempts at burning at the stake (a disappointment)—no dramatic “Guinevere” song for this movie like in “Camelot.” Things go as expected, leading to Arthur being slain by Mordred. Then Lancelot fights and kills Mordred.

The magic at the end of throwing the sword into the lake is missing because no hand rises up to catch it, but we are left with Lancelot and Percival going together to Camelot to see the Round Table in ruins. The film ends with a vision of the Grail, and Lancelot finding comfort in hearing that someday Galahad will achieve it. (A strange twist since Galahad usually achieves the Grail before Camelot falls.)

I certainly don’t think this film as entertaining as Prince Valiant or Lancelot and Guinevere (Sword of Lancelot) which followed in the next decade, although it does have its moments. People familiar with the legend will perhaps find it mostly entertaining for the fun of picking apart the changes made in the film from the usual legend and try to guess why such changes were made. (The opening credits claim the film is based on Malory, but it’s very loosely based.)

The cast has some big names—Robert Taylor as Lancelot and Ava Gardner as Guinevere, among others, but I have never felt very impressed by Robert Taylor. For me, Franco Nero is the best Lancelot. Ava Gardner is beautiful as always, but she just doesn’t have the role to make her acting skills stand out in this film.

If you’re an Arthurian enthusiast, you’ll want to watch the film, although on a scale of 1-5, I probably wouldn’t give it more than a 3. You can still catch it in reruns on TV or buy the video, or watch online at Amazon Instant Video. For more information on the film, check out IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045966/ or Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_the_Round_Table_%28film%29

______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can also visit him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

Read Full Post »

Today, I am very pleased to interview my fellow Arthurian author Cheryl Carpinello.

Author Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl is the author of the young adult novel Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend and today she will be talking about her new novel The King’s Ransom, the first in her new series Young Knights of the Round Table.

Tyler: Welcome, Cheryl. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today. I’ve read and enjoyed both of your books and I only wish they had been around for me to read when I was a kid. To begin, will you tell us what made you decide to write books about the Arthurian legend for children?

Cheryl: I’ve always been fascinated by King Arthur. I’ve probably read just about every fiction story written over the last 15-20 years. One of my favorites is Deepak Chopra’s The Return of Merlin. I’ve also ventured to nonfiction or scholarly accounts like your King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. However, I’m more of a romantic, and it’s that side of the legend that appeals to me. I like the ideas that surround the legend like might is not right; how when seen from the air, there are no lines or boundaries on Earth—we are all here together, and we need to learn how to get along; and how in Arthur’s time hope still lives. Underneath it all, I believe this is what draws young and old to the legend. What the legend says to kids without them realizing it is that there is a right way and a wrong way to live. This is done with the stories of the knights with their quests, their jousts, their rescuing of the damsels, and their fighting for the underdog. These stories present young readers with vivid accounts of honor, loyalty, and friendship. This is why I chose Arthurian Legend.

Tyler: What age group would you say your books are most suited for?

Cheryl: I typically write shorter books for the readers I’m trying to reach. My focus is on reluctant readers in grades three through eight. These reluctant readers are kids who are able to read, but prefer to do other activities. If I can reach them early in their schooling, it’s just possible I might hook them into exploring other books. I’ve yet to find a student in the younger grades who isn’t excited about the medieval time period. Reluctant readers, my nephew Joe is one, will usually balk at long, fat books, so I shorten mine. I usually add simple illustrations to break up the text, but being an ebook, The King’s Ransom does not have these. I’m hoping my publisher will put the illustrations back in the print book when it comes out later this year.

Tyler:And in this first book, just who are the Young Knights we’re talking about?

The King’s Ransom by Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl: The Young Knights are three kids who have become friends via their friendship with a beggar/vagabond called the Wild Man. Without the Wild Man, it is likely that they would not have met and become friends because they are from very different backgrounds. Eleven-year-old Gavin is the youngest prince of Pembroke Castle in southern Wales. Fifteen-year-old Bryan has been sent to Pembroke by his parents to learn to be a blacksmith. Thirteen-year-old Philip is an orphan who wandered into Pembroke village and lives and works at the church. They are really just three lonely kids who find friendship with the Wild Man and each other.

Tyler: Will you set up the plot a little for us?

Cheryl: Someone breaks into the king’s (Gavin’s father) treasury in Pembroke Castle and not only steals the medallion The King’s Ransom, but also kills Aldred, the king’s advisor. Being a beggar/vagabond, the Wild Man is captured and charged with the crime. It doesn’t help that a bloody knife is found with his belongings. Gavin, Bryan, and Philip are determined to prove that the Wild Man is innocent. In order to do this, they embark upon a quest where each is tested and must conquer his fears or face humiliation and/or even death.

Tyler: I think the Wild Man is my favorite character. Where did you get the idea for him?

Cheryl: Ah, the Wild Man. He is much more important than it appears. I knew that in order to make The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) work, I had to have a strong tie-in with Arthurian Legend. Sure, King Arthur makes an appearance, but that wasn’t enough. Then I remembered the Wild Man from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. He worked perfectly. The Wild Man is also mentioned in a number of other Arthurian books, but my Wild Man comes from White.

Tyler: How many books do you think you’ll write for the series?

Cheryl: Right now, I don’t have a definite number in mind, at least two or three more.

Tyler: Is Guinevere going to be tied into the series down the road or is it a completely separate book?

Cheryl: Guinevere won’t be tied into the series because it occurs at the beginning of Arthur’s reign. Young Knights takes place after Arthur is more established. However, another book featuring Guinevere and Cedwyn is in the planning stage. I’ve had several requests from readers to write about what happens to Cedwyn. That’s what the next book or two will deal with in that line.

Tyler: Do you have a favorite Arthurian novel of your own or which ones most influenced you in your own writing?

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl: I would have to say my favorite is T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I like how White makes the legend so accessible to a variety of readers. Many people—kids included—are already familiar with White’s story even though they may not be aware of it. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that Disney made the animated feature story The Sword in the Stone from Book I of The Once and Future King.

Tyler: You include several educational items in the book for teachers. Will you tell us a little about those?

Cheryl: One of the many reasons I’m excited about The King’s Ransom is that my publisher MuseItUp wouldn’t let me include the educational pieces in my book. They had me do a separate eighteen-page Teacher Guide that is available as a free PDF download when readers purchase The King’s Ransom from their bookstore. (https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=322&category_id=10&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1) I also have a copy that I can send to readers for free and hand out in classrooms and at workshops. The guide carries that great castle cover and is loaded with resources and materials for teachers and homeschooled students. Included are a synopsis, information on the Arthurian Legend and the medieval time period, castle vocabulary, and a word find puzzle. Teachers have suggestions for discussions, projects, and writing exercises as well as additional medieval references specifically geared for young readers. I also put together a complete set of comprehension questions/answers for all eighteen chapters.

Tyler: How has being a teacher yourself influenced your writing middle grade/tween books?

Cheryl: I’ve written several books over the years. I’ve done an adult romance, a YA romance/bildungsroman, and several stories suitable for picture books. I just never seemed to find a genre I was passionate about writing. Then I started teaching The Once and Future King. My students loved the story and the whole medieval world. After writing Guinevere, I started doing medieval writing workshops in the elementary schools and found every classroom full of kids crazy about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the medieval time period. I have to say that being in the classroom and working with the younger kids has been my entire motivation for writing my books.

Tyler: What do your students think about having an author for a teacher?

Cheryl: My students were excited when I told them my book would be published at the end of the school year. Then when they found Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend in the school’s library, one of my senior boys told me, “That’s tight, miss.” When the cover proofs for The King’s Ransom came out, the kids picked the one(s) they liked best. In the end though, I combined aspects from a couple of the proofs for the final cover, and they liked that as well. The book released just three days before school ended. Many of my students left me their addresses so that I could contact when the print book comes out later this year. They want an autographed copy.

Tyler: Thank you for the interview, Cheryl. Will you tell us about your website and what information we can find there about The King’s Ransom and the Young Knights of the Round Table series?

Cheryl: Beyond Today (Educator) http://www.beyondtodayeducator.com contains information on the King Arthur Legend and both Guinevere and The King’s Ransom. The events section is a picture gallery of my Medieval writing workshops I do with the Colorado Girl Scouts. The education section currently shows how Guinevere aligns with the Colorado State Standards for Reading and Writing. I’ll be updating a lot of the site this summer.

On my blog Carpinello’s Writing Pages http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com, I review Children/MG/Tween/YA books, conduct interviews with authors, and post ideas to get kids involved in reading and writing. Visitors can still do the virtual blog tour of the book’s settings in Wales that I posted when The King’s Ransom released.

Tyler: Great, Cheryl. And thanks again for the interview. I can’t wait to hear about the next book.

Read Full Post »

Children, parents, and educators will be delighted that Cheryl Carpinello, author of “Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend” is back with another King Arthur story for young readers. Like “Guinevere,” “The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table)” is a chapter book and also the first in a projected series of “Young Knights of the Round Table” novels.

While King Arthur and one of his greatest knights (to say which knight would be giving away the plot) make cameo appearances in the book, the primary story centers around Gavin, the Prince of Pembroke Castle, and his two friends, Philip, a young boy with secrets, and Bryan, a blacksmith in training, as they seek to save the life of their mysterious friend, the Wild Man, who has been training them for knighthood. The Wild Man has been accused of murdering and stealing the gold and emerald medallion, known as the King’s Ransom, which allowed its owner to wield enormous power. Convinced the Wild Man is innocent of the crime, Gavin and his friends are determined to find out who the real killer is before King Arthur arrives to watch that justice is done and the Wild Man put to death.

The adventures these future Young Knights of the Round Table experience in their quest to save their friend are filled with the fantasy and adventure story elements that children love to read. There’s a villain, secret passages in castles, swordplay, and even a witch. And with King Arthur’s appearance, astonishing secret identities being revealed, and a happy ending, what more could anyone want in a good read?

As a teacher, Carpinello has been teaching the legend of King Arthur to her young students for over twenty years, so she has a good sense of what children want to read as well as how to educate them through a story. At just seventy-seven pages, the book is divided into eighteen short chapters that keep the pacing of the book fast and readers interested. “Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom,” will teach young readers tolerance, loyalty, and courage as well as introduce them to the wonderful and thrilling literature of the Arthurian legend. While the book is best suited for readers in third through eighth grade, both young and old readers, boys and girls, as well as adults and King Arthur enthusiasts everywhere will enjoy this book. I only wish Carpinello had been writing her books when I was a child.

For more information about “The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table)” and Cheryl Carpinello, visit www.beyondtodayeducator.com

______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can also visit him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers