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Archive for September, 2012

Recently, Sarah Luddington published a novel Lancelot and the Wolf, with explicit gay sexual content depicting Lancelot and Arthur as lovers. The book has created a controversy and even hate mail to Luddington and her publishers. In response, she has created a special Kindle edition at Amazon, for sale for $3.00, to raise funds to help the LGBT charity Stonewall in Britain.

But what is all the fuss about? The Arthurian love triangle of Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot has always had a hint of homoerotism in it—and romantic feelings between Lancelot and Arthur seem a reasonable reason to many for why Arthur would not do anything about his best friend sleeping with his wife. Luddington may be the first one overtly to depict a homosexual relationship between Arthur and Lancelot, but the possibilities have been implied or suggested in numerous Arthurian works, especially in the twentieth century.

Even as far back as Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, there are homoerotic hints in cross-dressing scenes and a scene where two knights accidentally end up in bed together. Dorsey Armstrong’s Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur has explored this topic and how the knights of Camelot themselves are aware of the possibility of homosexual rumors surrounding a group of men in an organization like the Round Table.

Aubrey Beardsley’s image of Sir Bedivere returning the sword to the lake. Beardsley, who may have been homosexual or asexual, was known for his androgynous looking characters in his Arthurian illustrations, and for very erotic works, complete with enlarged genitalia, in other works not geared toward children.

More recently, in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King (1958 but published in smaller pieces 1938-1941), the scenes of Lancelot’s youth where he dreams of coming to Camelot express a sort of boy crush upon King Arthur. Later, the story takes normal turns of Lancelot loving Guinevere, but is that not a more acceptable outlet for his love for Arthur? T.H. White was himself later treated at the end of his life for his own homosexuality.

In Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (1982), Arthur endorses the romance between Guinevere and Lancelot. He cannot provide an heir so he hopes Lancelot will do it for him, leading Lancelot to his bed to sleep with Guinevere. Arthur joins them in bed, and later, Guinevere comments to Arthur that she saw how he touched Lancelot.

But White and Bradley only hint at homosexuality. Other authors introduced it into the legend, but perhaps felt creating a gay King Arthur was going too far. Furthermore, homosexuality is a negative behavior in these works that can bring about Camelot’s downfall, so other characters than Arthur are the ones afflicted with homosexuality—notably, the villains.

In Joan Wolf’s The Road to Avalon (1988), Agrivaine is homosexual and the downfall of Camelot comes largely due to his jealousy because of his crush on Bedwyr, the Lancelot character in this novel. Because he can’t have Bedwyr, he doesn’t want Guinevere to have him so he reveals their love and brings about Camelot’s downfall.

Douglas Clegg goes even further in Mordred, Bastard Son by depicting Mordred as homosexual—and while Mordred is not a villain in this book (it’s only the first of a planned trilogy), homosexuality being associated with him seems to imply a negativity to it. Mordred is hopelessly in love with Lancelot, and while he is well-meaning in this first novel, we know from the story’s frame that he will bring about Camelot’s fall nevertheless. (Clegg has not yet published the remaining two volumes of the trilogy.)

And that brings us to “Merthur.” If you don’t know what Merthur is, where have you been? I’m talking about the legions of fans for the successful BBC television series Merlin who insist and badly want Arthur and Merlin to be in love in the show. These fans are convinced there is a secret love between Arthur and Merlin and they are even making YouTube videos with clips from the TV show either to promote their argument that there is a Merthur bromance going on, or even splicing to make there be actual love glances and scenes between the two characters. Just go to YouTube and search for “Merthur” and you’ll find dozens of these videos.

So why has Lancelot and the Wolf created such a fuss? I think it’s because while these other works depict homosexual desires not acted upon, Susan Luddington is the first author to depict actual sex between Arthur and Lancelot—in fact, her reviewers are calling the book an adult version of the Merlin TV series.

And while Luddington might be getting hate mail, she’s also found a gay readership longing for such stories, and her Kindle sales are reportedly skyrocketing. With Luddington, perhaps the Arthurian legend has taken a new turn and will never be the same again, and it is always an author ready to push the story, push the boundaries, and thereby renew the legend for the next generation.

I haven’t yet read Lancelot and the Wolf, but I plan to and will review it in the near future.

Meanwhile, for more information about Lancelot and the Wolf and the special edition to raise funds to support the LGBT British charity Stonewall, visit: http://www.xtra.ca/blog/ottawa/post/2012/08/14/King-Arthur-and-Lancelot.aspx

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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

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Prince Valiant Vol. 5 continues the long-drawn out tale of Prince Valiant’s love for and frustration over Aleta, Queen of the Misty Isles. At the end of Volume 4, Aleta and Val had fled the Misty Isles and they were wandering through the desert, with Aleta as Val’s prisoner, since he is convinced she is a sorceress who has enchanted him, and he is angry at her for the death of his servant.

Aleta dances on the cover of “Prince Valiant, Vol. 5”

Aleta, however, is not the slave or prisoner type; nor is she vindictive, for through various ruses, she manages to save Prince Valiant’s life, trick his enemies, and even rescue herself when needed. In fact, Aleta proves herself worthy of her queen status and to be the love of Valiant, who really is quite foolish and irrational as a youth of only about twenty in this volume. After Val manages to rescue Aleta from a sultan who ends up capturing her and taking her to his harem—although Aleta was capable of taking care of herself all along as she proves—Val tells Aleta he will marry her, but she doesn’t want to be told; she wants him to woo her properly. It takes some doing and consternation for Val before he figures out how to convince her to marry him, culminating in his tossing her into a fountain and kissing her passionately—and then comes Aleta’s long awaited “YES!”

Valiant wants to go to Rome for the wedding and be married by the pope—after all, he’s a prince and Aleta a queen, but Genseric of the Vandals is planning to sack the city. When Valiant tells Genseric he wishes to be married in Rome, Genseric invites Valiant and Aleta to accompany him, and he’ll let them be married before he sacks the city. Things don’t quite work out as planned, and instead a former cardinal turned woodland hermit marries them in one of Foster’s most beautiful drawings.

But married life does not mean “happily ever after”—Valiant’s story is just beginning and the comic strip will continue another seventy-six and counting years. The Medieval Castle is not so lucky. This smaller strip Foster appended to the bottom of the Valiant strip ends in 1945, soon after World War II is over (see my earlier blog on Vol. 4 about The Medieval Castle) and the removal (no loss, it was boring like a medieval documentary) of this lesser strip allows for more space for Prince Valiant—more space for intrigue and obstacles for Valiant to deal with, including Aleta’s handmaid falling in love with him, resulting in tragic results.

Eventually, however, Valiant and Aleta make it back to England, in time for Mordred (here, I believe for the first time, named as Arthur’s half-brother) to catch Lancelot and Guinevere together and accuse them of adultery. Aleta, however, to save Camelot, claims it was she and not Guinevere, whom Lancelot was kissing. Of course, Valiant is enraged and more marriage troubles ensue, but not at the Round Table’s expense.

If readers want to know more of Valiant and Aleta’s adventures in this volume, they will just have to read them for themselves. I have to admit that for me, this volume dragged a little bit for reasons I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps it dragged for Foster a little too because Volume 6 will take a dramatic turn in bringing Valiant and Aleta to North America—long before Columbus or even the Vikings! Unfortunately, Vol. 6 won’t be released until January 2013 so we’ll just have to wait.

One final benefit of this volume is a discussion of Foster’s drawing sizes, which were actually a full page for each frame and then shrunk down to fit the strip. Some additional illustrations are included that Foster did as magazine covers.

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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

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I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my latest book The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, Gothic Fiction from 1794-Present by Modern History Press, which formerly published my book King Arthur’s Children. This new book has been about fifteen years in the making, having begun as my doctoral dissertation at Western Michigan University, and it has since been expanded and updated to include discussion of why I love the Gothic, and not only the classic nineteenth century British Gothic novels, but to explore how that tradition influenced works throughout the twentieth century and to the present day.

Here is some information from the back cover about the book:

From the horrors of sixteenth century Italian castles to twenty-first century plagues, from the French Revolution to the liberation of Libya, Tyler R. Tichelaar takes readers on far more than a journey through literary history. The Gothic Wanderer is an exploration of man’s deepest fears, his efforts to rise above them for the last two centuries, and how he may be on the brink finally of succeeding. Whether it’s seeking immortal life, the fabulous philosopher’s stone that will change lead into gold, or human blood as a vampire, or coping with more common “transgressions” like being a woman in a patriarchal society, being a Jew in a Christian land, or simply being addicted to gambling, the Gothic wanderer’s journey toward damnation or redemption is never dull and always enlightening.

Tichelaar examines the figure of the Gothic wanderer in such well-known Gothic novels as The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, and Dracula, as well as lesser known works like Fanny Burney’s The Wanderer, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni. He also finds surprising Gothic elements in classics like Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. From Matthew Lewis’ The Monk to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, Tichelaar explores a literary tradition whose characters reflect our greatest fears and deepest hopes. Readers will find here the revelation that not only are we all Gothic wanderers—but we are so only by our own choosing.

With the publication of The Gothic Wanderer, I have also launched a new website www.GothicWanderer.com, designed by my good friend Larry Alexander of Storyteller’s Friend. At this website, not only can you find more information about the book, but I will also be blogging about all things Gothic, and for those of you interested in the Arthurian legend and my blog at ChildrenofArthur.com, I’ll be tying the Gothic and the Arthurian legend together into my upcoming series of novels based on the Arthurian legend, so watch for many Gothic and Arthurian topics on both blogs.

Please visit www.GothicWanderer.com – if you ever wondered about the story behind the story of great books like Dracula and Frankenstein, you won’t be disappointed.

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