Did you know that King Arthur’s sister Morgan le Fay was the lover of Ogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne’s great knights? In fact, they knew each other since Ogier the Dane was first born. In my new novel Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three, I explore their relationship.
Following is the opening scene in the novel where Ogier begins to tell his story, beginning with his first meeting the legendary woman who would be a guiding influence throughout his life.
From Ogier’s Prayer:
The first remarkable occurrence of my life took place when I was just days old, during my initial presentation to the court; it was not the day of my baptism or christening as the Christians would call it—for my parents and all of Denmark in those days were followers of the old Gods, Odin and Thor and all those who dwelled in the halls of Asgaard—but it was the day I was named and presented to the court as my father’s son and heir.
Although it was a great day of celebration, considering that an heir had been born to the king, the presentation was not expected to be anything beyond the ordinary for such events. But it soon became an extraordinary day because of a visit from unexpected guests. I remember little of the early years of my life, but that day, as I lay in my mother’s arms, facing the court, I witnessed such marvelous events that even a mere babe could not forget them.
My memory of that day begins just as my father presented me to the court, and the nobles and his other liegemen had formed a line to pay me homage and to swear to serve my father, the king, and his newborn heir. In the midst of this ceremony, first faintly, then growing ever louder, came the sweetest music that mortals ever heard. It seemed to originate from right outside the castle wall, but then it soared, as if carried on the wind, through the open window, and into the throne room. Nobody knew from whence such bewitching sounds could come, but many murmured how the music was so heavenly that they could only think we were to be visited by an angel.
But that misperception was soon corrected when through the window floated six female fairies. Each bore in her hands a garland of flowers and rich gifts of gold, gems, and other priceless valuables. I will never forget, from where I sat upon my mother’s lap, the sight of these lovely creatures. They were so beautiful and so aglow with light that the courtiers later admitted to feeling great awe and fear at the sight of them, but I only laughed with glee to see their radiant beauty, and I felt a great happiness descend upon me.
My mother, however, seemed afraid of the fairies’ presence, for I could feel her trembling once they had positioned themselves before the throne, the crowd having drawn back to provide a place for them to land, but instead, these six gracious beings hovered a few inches above the floor, their gossamer wings making a gentle, quiet, and cooling breeze.
Then the first fairy approached my mother and me, and said, “Fear not, good queen. We are here to bestow blessings upon your son.”
The fairy took me in her arms, kissed me upon my forehead, and said, facing the court so all could hear, “Better than kingly crown, or lands, or rich heritage, fair babe, I give thee a brave, strong heart. Be fearless as the eagle, and bold as the lion; be the bravest knight among men.”
I remember feeling such deep peace, and at the same time, such joy as she held me in her arms, and that peace and joy continued as I was passed into the arms of each of the fairies in turn.
When the second fairy took me into her arms, she sat down on my mother’s throne for my mother had risen and later stepped aside when the first fairy approached, and though it would have been treason for anyone else to sit on my mother’s throne, not a word was spoken when this fairy did so. For a moment, she dandled me fondly upon her knee, giggling with me, and then she looked me in the eye long and lovingly before she said, “What is a brave heart without the ability to do brave deeds? I give to thee many an opportunity for manly action.”
The third fairy then approached while I was yet on the second fairy’s knee, and kneeling before me, she took one of my hands in her own, and with her other hand, she stroked my hair, saying, “Strong-hearted boy, for whom so many noble deeds are waiting, I, too, will give thee a boon. My gift is skill and strength such as shall never fail thee in fight, nor allow thee to be beaten by a foe. Success to thee, fair Holger!”
The fourth fairy then took me from the second, who, with the third fairy, returned to her sisters, and this fairy then tenderly stroked my mouth and my brow before she said, “Be fair of speech, be noble in action, be courteous, be kind: these are the gifts I bring thee. For what will a strong heart, or a bold undertaking, or success in every endeavor, avail, unless one has the respect and love of one’s fellow men?”
Then the fifth fairy came forward; she clasped me against her breast and held me tenderly for a long time without saying a word. Finally, she looked at all the court, and she then held me away from her so she could look into my eyes and said, “The gifts my sisters have given thee will scarcely bring thee happiness, for, while they add to thy honor, they may make thee dangerous to others. They may lead thee into the practice of selfishness and base acts of tyranny. That man is little to be envied who loves not his fellow men. The boon, therefore, that I bring thee is the power and the will to esteem others as frail mortals equally deserving with thyself.”
And then the sixth fairy, the most beautiful of all, took me from the fifth; she lifted me high and danced about the room with me in rapturous joy, all the while singing sweetly a lullaby of fairyland and the island vale of Avalon, and then, although she never said her name, somehow I and all the court knew she was that fabled one, Morgan le Fay, sister to the great King Arthur and the Queen of Avalon.
When she had finished singing, Morgan le Fay placed a crown of laurel upon my head, and then a fairy torch appeared in her hand; when it lit by itself, it created a gasp of astonishment from all assembled. And then the Queen of Avalon said, “This torch is the measure of thy earthly days; and it shall not cease to burn until thou hast visited me in Avalon, and sat at table with King Arthur and the heroes who dwell there in that eternal summerland.”
And then Morgan le Fay gently placed me back into my mother’s arms, and with the torch still in her hand, she and the other fairies strewed the floor of the throne room with rich flowers and gems until all the air was filled with perfume and the angelic music resumed, and suddenly, a radiant sunbeam broke through the open windows until the room grew brighter and brighter and the light forced all to close their eyes, and at that moment, the music ended. After a second, when everyone opened his or her eyes, the fairies were nowhere to be seen, although the flowers and jewels remained.
And then I felt a great coldness come over me for the fairy’s blessings and their prophecies of my future fortune and mighty deeds were all that a mother could ever desire for her child, and this overwhelming joy must have filled my mother’s heart until it could not be contained and thereby burst. And in another second, my nurse ran to catch me as I tumbled from my mother’s lifeless arms.
Learn more about Ogier’s Prayer and purchase a copy of the novel at www.ChildrenofArthur.com
Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, and the upcoming Lilith’s Love and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly work King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.