Archive for the ‘Morgan le Fay’ Category

Twenty years ago, I used to read every Arthurian novel that was published—there seemed to be three or four a year—but then the self-publishing revolution happened, so now there are more than I can ever read in a lifetime; therefore, picking which ones to read is extremely difficult.

TheMaidofCamelotI stumbled upon The Maid of Camelot since it came up when I looked for my own book, Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One, at Amazon because its subtitle is Arthur’s Legacy: Volume One. Well, there’s no copyright on book titles and I actually was intrigued that someone would come up with a similar title. After reading the description of the novel, it sounded like the maid of the title, Fleur, might just be one of King Arthur’s descendants, and since I had documented all the known (to me at the time) treatments of possible descendants of Arthur in my nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children and predicted that more Arthurian novels would begin to depict children for King Arthur, which has been the case, I was interested in seeing how the author—J. Hannigan—would treat the subject.

Now, as I said, there are a lot of Arthurian novels being self-published, and sadly, a lot of them are not very good; The Maid of Camelot started out very well—many self-published novels do, but about halfway through, it started to be plagued with too many typos and regrettable periodic switching from first to third person point of view. Hopefully, Hannigan will find a good editor for future books in the series. That aside, I was intrigued and thought the book showed a lot of promise as I started reading.

I won’t summarize the entire plot, but just the opening scenes, along with mentioning one plot twist that will be a spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read the novel.

Yes, the novel is about a descendant of King Arthur—sort of, as I’ll explain shortly. It opens in Thessaly with Fleur, who learns that her maternal grandfather, King Arthur, has died. Fleur is the daughter of Orlando, son to the King of Thessaly and Melora, daughter of King Arthur. Melora is a minor character in this story, but she has her own sixteenth century romance, Eachtra Mhelóra agus Orlando (The Adventures of Orlando and Melora), an Irish story that was heavily influenced by Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, in which Orlando, son to the King of Thessaly, travels to Britain and falls in love with King Arthur’s daughter, Melora. I thought it fabulous that Hannigan used Melora in the novel. I don’t know of any other modern novelist who has revisited the story of Melora, although many authors have created daughters for King Arthur in recent years. Needless to say, I was hooked by the book at this point.

And it only got better because Fleur decided she would disguise herself as a female knight and travel to Britain with Parsival, who happens to visit Thessaly. Of course, they believe that Mordred slew King Arthur, but when they arrive in Britain, they find that Constantine, the Roman Emperor, was trying to conquer Britain, and also that Mordred did not kill Arthur, but rather, the story of Arthur’s death was spread to confuse his enemies.

Now I was both interested and also a little confused. I’ve always preferred to think Mordred was a good guy, as several traditions exist that he was. I also, in my own novels, have made Constantine out to be the cause of Arthur’s downfall—after all, history is written by the conquerors, so I always figured he blackened Mordred’s reputation. I was thrilled that J. Hannigan seemed to have the same idea.

But the problem is that in the traditional legend, Constantine is Arthur’s relative, usually in some unspecified way, and from Cornwall. Of course, Constantine is a Roman name and it might imply he is of Roman descent, but he couldn’t be the emperor of Rome. There hadn’t been a Roman emperor of that name since Constantine III who died in 411 A.D. That led me to wonder what year the story takes place—something that J. Hannigan either didn’t think through or decided wasn’t important. At one point, we are told the Christian religion is three hundred years old, which made me think Constantine I (r. 306-337) is the Constantine referred to. That would make sense given that Rome is trying to take Britain—and the Romans left Britain about 410 A.D. But later, we are told that Arthur knew Clovis, King of the Franks, who died in 511, a century later. It’s even more confusing when Hengist shows up in the story—he supposedly came to Britain in 449. And of course, the traditional date for the Battle of Camlann is 539 A.D. or thereabouts, so just when does this story take place? There wasn’t any Roman Empire in the West after 476, so it just doesn’t add up.

Then comes the mystical part of the story, which adds to the dating confusion. Because Arthur was betrayed by his wife and Lancelot, he missed the opportunity to bring about heaven on earth—the chance is only available once every 1500 years. Once Fleur meets Arthur, he explains that they now have to wait another 1500 years, but to be conscious and live so long would drive them mad, so they’ll hibernate in a cave and wake up 1500 years from now. I assume that means they will wake in the present, so roughly 2015, and if that’s the case, the story takes place in 515—again, too late for the Roman empire to exist (unless one is referring to the Byzantine Empire, which called itself Roman at the time, but I don’t think that’s what Hannigan meant).

And then I realized the story was going into modern times and my interest in it started to wane. Arthur explains that he and Morag (his sister, apparently Morgan le Fay or Morgause—why Hannigan didn’t stick with one of those names I don’t understand) and some others are really Atlans—people who survived the destruction of Atlantis. They need to find Scala, Arthur’s sword, which is fashioned from a dragon’s tooth. Morag denies they are really brother and sister, but she and Arthur are related and they have been at work on earth for thousands of years.

Anyway, the characters all go to sleep and wait for 1500 years to pass. Next thing we know, Fleur wakes up in the twenty-first century. At this point, the story became a bit hard for me to follow—I somewhat lost interest in it, and it seemed kind of full of mayhem. It also switched from Fleur’s viewpoint to that of other characters, including Parsival and a modern-day bodyguard named Janet, along with the awkward point of view shifts I mentioned.

I won’t summarize the rest of the plot but just reveal one key point at the end—Fleur finds out she is not Arthur’s granddaughter after all. Her real mother is Morag, and that means Mordred isn’t her uncle but her half-brother. She was hidden and raised by Melora to protect her. Stranger yet, Morag had mated with Dharg, the dragon whose tooth Scala was formed from—he was in mortal form at the time—and Fleur is the result of that union.

Therefore, while Melora is Arthur’s descendant, Fleur is not, and that means this isn’t really a significant novel for the treatment of Arthur’s descendants. I have to admit I was disappointed by this revelation, plus the novel, because of its focus on characters in the modern day, just wasn’t my cup of tea; even with the cliffhanger at the end, I probably won’t go on to read the sequels since I doubt any further treatment of Arthur’s descendants will be included.

All that said, I am glad that J. Hannigan and so many authors continue to write on Arthurian themes. For me, however, the historical time period of Arthur is what most interests me, and even though I have many modern scenes in my Arthurian novels, ultimately, projecting the Arthurian characters into the twenty-first century doesn’t do it for me as much as the sixth century did. But the Arthurian legend is vast and has no borders, and that makes it timeless and able to adapt and continue to be retold century after century.

The Maid of Camelot is available at Amazon. I could not find much on the author except this at http://awesomegang.com/the-maid-of-camelot/

“Raised on stories of knights and heroism, J. Hannigan had a lifelong dream to bring chivalry into the 21st century.

“J’s first novel, The Maid of Camelot, treads new ground in dealing with the actual personalities of famous Arthurian figures in a real world context.

“Always open to feedback and interaction, J welcomes suggestions, criticisms and general rapprochement.”

I hope J. Hannigan, if he (or she) reads this, does not feel too much rapprochement from my criticisms and continues to write about Arthurian themes and characters.


Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy and Melusine’s Gift, and he has written the nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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On Tuesday, October 21, I had the opportunity to see Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot—The National Tour at the Rozsa Center in Houghton, Michigan. Yes, I live 100 miles from Houghton and my night vision isn’t the best, so to get there I had to get a hotel room and spend the night, but Camelot is my all-time favorite musical and movie, and having never seen it performed live, I knew it would be worth the trouble.

First, let me say I’m a Camelot addict. I have seen the movie more times than I can count, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I’ve listened to the movie soundtrack thousands of times—I wore out the record, wore out the cassette tape and CD, and hopefully, won’t wear out my iTunes. I also have played hundreds if not thousands of times the original Broadway Cast recording as well as the 1982 London recording and watched the HBO version from 1982 with Richard Harris. For thirty years, Camelot has been a big part of my life and a major influence on my deciding to study the Arthurian legend and write my own novel series about it.

Merlin makes a stunning departure when enchanted by Nimue. (Photo taking from https://www.facebook.com/CamelotMusicalTour)

Merlin makes a stunning departure when enchanted by Nimue. (All photos taking from https://www.facebook.com/CamelotMusicalTour – no photography is allowed during the production.)

So my expectations were very high to see this production. I find it a bit hard not to keep comparing it to the film since it’s not a film and you can’t achieve on stage what you can on film nor perfect it in the same way. Given those limitations, I was intrigued by this production. It was promoted as “Camelot like you’ve never seen it before,” and the ads with the scruffy looking knight made it seem like it would be a modernized, visually stimulating and maybe sexed-up Camelot for a new era. Would this still be President Kennedy’s beloved Camelot? I was relieved to find it was. With a few exceptions, it faithfully followed the original Broadway production, and I’m sure Kennedy, whose administration was named after it because he loved it so much, would have enjoyed last night’s performance.

Of course, I have a few criticisms, so I’ll point out what was good, what could have been better, and what made this play stand out from the film.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was that the play started with Arthur speaking—no overture! But I think this lack worked to bring about the crisis moment the show opens with of Arthur about to fight Lancelot for Guinevere, thus allowing the flashback. I admit, with the knights in the scene, it looked a bit flashy and hardcore and I felt a little uncomfortable about where it might be going, but soon the scene went back in time, and the minute King Arthur (Adam Grabau) opened his mouth to start singing “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight,” I was hooked. Guinevere (Mary McNulty) then made her entrance with her wonderful song “Where Are the Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and the show was off to a great start.

The magic came to life through the acting and the singing, but the costumes and sets definitely added to that magic. For me, the most impressive costume was Lancelot’s—metallic and shimmering and full of detail, although Guinevere’s costumes were impressive as well, as was Nimue’s. Merlin and Pellinore’s costumes could use a little trimming. Both roles were played by Mark Poppleton, who was convincing and just a tad comical without going too far in each role—but his robe got caught under the backdrop as it came down when he made his entrance and he had to yank it out, and later as Pellinore, his robe caught on the furniture. That said, because of these characters’ roles, it made it seem almost like these snafus were intended for comical effect.

The sets were a bit understated but worked well. I was a bit taken aback by the gigantic metallic structure that doubled for trees and a canopy for the throne room, but it worked well for its purpose, allowing Arthur to fall out of his tree, among other things. The most impressive set was when Nimue enchanted Merlin—a truly beautiful moment of special effects. Almost as impressive was the jousting scene with the wonderful music rarely included on recordings, and of course, the lighting for the song “Guinevere” was dramatic and spectacular. The only place I felt the lighting effects could have been better was for “The Lusty Month of May.” I think a green and blue background would have said May more than the magenta pink coloring, and I would have liked to have seen a Maypole or more flowers. Mary McNulty as Guinevere had a beautiful voice and deserved a set to match the frolicsome fun and just the slightest touch of mischief (eat your heart out, Vanessa Redgrave) she conveyed during this song. Still, both the costume and scene designers deserve kudos for their overall impressive work.

There is really little I can fault in the production, but there are a few things I would have done differently. Lancelot (Tim Rogan) really did a splendid job in his role overall. He was appropriately unlikeable in his quest for purity and goodness, yet believable. He got the audience laughing as he made a grand entrance singing “C’est Moi” while still convincing us of his manly valor. I’m afraid he’s no Franco Nero (but then even Franco Nero wasn’t quite Franco Nero since his voice was dubbed for the film), but I’d rather listen to Tim Rogan sing over Robert Goulet (Goulet was wonderful in other shows, especially The Happy Time, but he never convinced me as Lancelot). I wasn’t quite convinced that Rogan’s Lancelot was French, but better not to try the French accent probably. The miracle scene was quite well done and convincing, as were all Lancelot’s speeches about chivalry, but alas, I wish he hadn’t been so stiff when he sang “If Ever I Would Leave You.” I would have liked to have seen a little movement and emotion on his part. He honestly looked uncomfortable singing it—a little taking of Guinevere’s hand, holding her, walking about the stage would have brought it to life. I expected a lot here though since the film’s love montage for this song is breathtaking and one of the most beautiful moments in cinematic history in my opinion—and the song ranks as one of my all time three favorite songs (along with “Memory” from Cats and “And This Is My Beloved” from Kismet) and in all other ways, he was a superb Lancelot, but he could use some work in being convincing for this song. All that said, I can definitely see why Guinevere would prefer him to Arthur, as fine as Adam Grabau’s Arthur was throughout the show—worthy to stand beside Richard Burton if not quite Richard Harris.

Tim Rogan as Lancelot praising his own virtues. "But where in the world Is there in the world A man so extraordinaire?"

Tim Rogan as Lancelot praising his own virtues. “But where in the world
Is there in the world
A man so extraordinaire?”

A few key differences about this production compared to the film and other productions of it stood out concerning the songs. Most importantly, the play includes several songs that were dropped from the film: “Fie On Goodness,” “The Seven Deadly Virtues,” “Before I Gaze on You Again,” and the madrigal sung by Lancelot. All of these were included in this new production and were performed well, especially “The Seven Deadly Virtues” sung by a delightfully naughty Mordred (Kasidy Devlin). And “Before I Gaze on You Again” was very convincing and Mary McNulty made me feel the words in a way Julie Andrews never has. Also the jousting music, was a treat to hear. The only disappointment of these songs for me was the lines cut from “Fie On Goodness” regarding Scotland—who wouldn’t want to stroke someone’s bonny….

Two songs, however, from the play and film both were cut in this production—“Take Me to the Fair” and “I Loved You Once in Silence.” And both are such wonderful songs that it’s a shame they were cut. I’m not aware that they have been cut in other productions. (I know it’s a long show so maybe that was why, but I was prepared to sit there for three wonderful hours, so I was a bit disappointed it only lasted two and a half with these songs cut.)The placement of the songs was also somewhat odd. “If Ever I Would Leave You” is usually at the beginning of the second act, but instead, it was placed where “I Loved You Once in Silence” belongs. I think moving “If Ever I Would Leave You” back where it belongs and keeping this love song would have been preferable. “I Loved You Once in Silence” really adds to the love development which I felt there could have been a bit more of in this production.

One song is changed in its placement and lyrics from the play to the film. “Follow Me” in the play version is sung by Nimue when she enchants Merlin, and it is a beautiful song and a beautiful moment as she leads him “To a cave by a sapphire shore/Where we’ll walk through an emerald door,/And for thousands of breathless evermores my life you shall be.” I love this song, but I also love how it’s sung by the forest creatures in the film production to convince Arthur that “as we were, we can be, follow me.”

As for Morgan le Fay’s character, I knew she was cut from the show in the early years after it was first performed in 1960, but in the concert version in 2008, broadcast as part of PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center series, Fran Drescher played the role, so I was hoping Morgan le Fay was making her comeback in the production, but I’ll have to hope to see her in another future performance.

Overall, an enjoyable evening. If I had never seen Camelot, I’m sure I would have raved about it. The crowd gave the performance a standing ovation and everyone enjoyed it, including the woman seated beside me who had seen Robert Goulet in a 1960s production in Detroit. I was also pleased to see so many college students in the audience—of all the great musicals from the mid-twentieth century, Camelot perhaps most deserves to live on for its universal themes and appeal, so I hope future generations will continue to embrace it.

The knighting of Lancelot scene.

The knighting of Lancelot scene.

If you’ve never seen Camelot on stage or at all, go. Beyond the sets, singing, costumes, and story, there is a beautiful underlying theme about right and wrong, good and evil, and how we must fight against the darkness because whatever we do does matter in the end. Camelot long ago inspired me to “ask every person if he’s heard the story, and tell it strong and clear if he has not.” Now I’m telling you to go see it. It’s still early in the tour and I’m sure it will just get better with each performance. To find out where Camelot is playing near you, visit http://www.camelottour.com/tickets.html


Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, and The Children of Arthur novel series. Visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com

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Merlin has ended, and unlike King Arthur, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be the once and future TV show, despite countless fans on Facebook and across the Internet trying to convince the producers to continue it.

And as much as I love this show, I’m glad it has ended gracefully, before it “jumped the shark,” before it was cancelled without an ending.

Merlin310_2289The series finale offered few surprises in my opinion, but that is because we have heard the tale of King Arthur so many times before, and despite the original elements of the series, which often seriously diverged from the legend, I doubt any viewer who knows the Arthurian legend would have been content with any other ending than Arthur sailing off to Avalon.

It’s unlikely anyone will read this blog who didn’t see the episode, so I won’t summarize the plot here, but go watch the last two episodes of the series if you haven’t already.

For me, this series had a serious amount of content that needed resolving in this final episode. The strength of this storyline throughout has been the prohibition of magic in Albion, imposed by Uther and then by Arthur, and how Merlin has successfully kept secret his identity as a sorcerer from everyone, while trying to aid others with magic and often fighting those with magic who sought to harm Arthur, most notably Morgana. The series has done a tremendous job of highlighting this tension throughout, and in the last two seasons especially, we have seen Merlin come into his own, slowly using his powers and even revealing himself to his enemies before destroying them. And despite my earlier blog about the Old Religion and magic and the inconsistencies that exist in its treatment in the series, what has mattered most to the storyline has been how Merlin reconciles his magic with his relationship with Arthur, as Arthur’s servant in greater ways than Arthur knows.

And the series reconciles this issue with great ease and class. In the final episode, Merlin appears as a sorcerer, identity unknown to all except Gaius, at the Battle of Camlann, using his power to defeat the enemy, and having everyone realize a sorcerer has saved the day for Camelot, even Arthur admitting that the sorcerer won the battle. But Merlin cannot save Arthur from being slain by Mordred. Surprisingly, Arthur lingers for a couple of days after Mordred runs him through with a sword, while when Arthur stabs Mordred, he dies immediately.

Now Merlin must figure out how to save Arthur before Morgana can find him, and because he was slain with a sword forged in the dragon’s breath, he can only be saved if brought to Avalon, a journey that requires secrecy and a couple of days’ journey, allowing Arthur and Merlin to have the discussion they have put off all these years.

Merlin, in despair, tells Arthur how upset he is that he could not save him which leads to his revelation that he has magic and is a sorcerer. The result is Arthur’s initial disbelief, then anger that he has been lied to, even wanting Merlin to leave him, and finally, Arthur’s understanding of why Merlin kept his powers a secret, and of the great help Merlin has always been to him.

I admit, at this point, when Arthur tells Merlin he has something to tell him that he never told him before, I thought the show was going to give into the “Merthur” fans and have Arthur tell Merlin he loves him. It was for me a bit of an uncomfortable moment, for the Merthur fans (those who want to see a gay relationship between Arthur and Merlin) have not been too far off—Merlin’s closeted magic can easily serve as a commentary on closeted gay people within our own society who are unappreciated and unjustly considered to be deviant—but the show gracefully skirts these undertones (which may or may not be intentional—I’ll leave it up to each viewer to decide) by having Arthur simply say, “Thank you.” And thank you is enough for Merlin, and that moment is enough to resolve the show’s greatest tension. It is a powerful moment. Perhaps one of the very best in television history.

What happens next is not so surprising. Morgana makes one last attempt to kill Arthur, but Merlin successfully kills her, slaying her with Excalibur, a dragon breath forged sword just like the one she created to kill Arthur. To some extent, I found Morgana’s death scene anti-climactic, and more disappointing for me is that Morgana and Arthur did not reconcile in the end, for in the traditional legend, it is Morgana who comes to Arthur when he is dying to take him to Avalon. Morgana truly got the short end of the stick in this show—I almost wanted her to win in the end—she’s a great character who deserved redemption of some sort and the reconciliation of the Old Religion with Camelot—but perhaps that was too much to expect, too much happiness for what is basically a tale of tragedy.

Not only does Morgana not take Arthur to Avalon, but nor are there the traditional three other queens who accompany her, and there is no Sir Bedivere to tell Arthur to throw the sword into the lake. Merlin takes on all these roles. Merlin tosses the sword back in the lake and the hand reaches up to grab it. The dragon arrives and tells Merlin not to despair for all has happened as it should and Arthur is the once and future king who will return in Albion’s hour of greatest need, and then Arthur is placed in a boat and floats off to Avalon.

As for Albion, the throne passes to Guinevere. I don’t really want to know what happens next because it will be inferior to whatever came before. I had hoped we’d learn that Guinevere was at least pregnant with Arthur’s child, but no such hint. I imagine she’ll end up marrying Sir Leon since he’s at her side proclaiming her queen.

And then we see Merlin as an old man walking along the shore by the lake, and suddenly, a bus passes, a jarring moment letting us know that Merlin still waits for Arthur’s return, but also one that makes Albion appear to be part of our real world and not a fantasy kingdom. I’ve always believed the show intentionally created a fictional world, including fictional neighboring kingdoms, so it would not be caught up in the issues of depicting a sixth century, historical Britain. So I found this modern moment jarring, as well as the references in the last few episodes to Saxons, without any explanation of who they were. Albion is not England nor Britain, yet the show ends on this odd note trying to connect the two. I’d have been fine without that final scene.

My qualms with the series overall are few, however. Long ago I stated it was the best Arthurian TV series ever made, far surpassing the short-lived 2011 Starz Camelot series that was a complete disaster, or even the fun 1950s British The Adventures of Sir Lancelot series. Is it perfect? No. There has yet to be a perfect Arthurian film or television program, but Merlin gets an A- for effort. Finally, I think Colin Morgan has proven himself to be a great actor in this series and I hope it leads to big things for him—just not another Merlin series. Please, I understand the fans’ demands, but don’t destroy Merlin with a spin-off or sequel series. Like with Gone with the Wind, we need to leave well enough alone. Let there be many other Arthurian TV shows and films and books—I hope there shall never be an end to them. Just let Merlin be the great TV show it was without degrading it. Congratulations to the writers, producers, and cast for ending it well.


Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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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.


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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

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In one word, my answer is sadly, “No.” A couple of months ago, I published a glowing review of Ravens of Avalon which I thought had redeemed the series for me, and I also liked Priestess of Avalon quite a bit, but I just could not get very attached to Sword of Avalon.

Sword of AvalonInitially, I was excited about reading this book. After all, it was going to tell me how Excalibur came to be, and I thought we would be making progress in the series. One aspect of this series I don’t understand is that there is no progression to the books. They are written to jump about in time. Priestess of Avalon takes place in the third century, then Ancestors of Avalon is centuries earlier, then Ravens of Avalon is set in the first century, and now Sword of Avalon takes place around 1,000 B.C. I just don’t get it. What’s the point of all this jumping around? Why wasn’t the sword then in Ravens or Priestess? There’s no real overarching plan to this series. I keep thinking each successive book should move chronologically forward, bringing us up to The Mists of Avalon, but there is no such plan. And I keep hoping for a sequel to The Mists of Avalon—I want to know what happened to Morgan le Fay, but no satisfaction there either.

But I was excited to read this book when I saw that part of the story would take place in Greece a generation or two after the Trojan War. I thought, “Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote The Firebrand about the Fall of Troy, and after The Mists of Avalon, it’s my favorite of her books. Will Diana Paxson connect the stories, maybe play off the interesting twist at the end of The Firebrand that Cassandra lived and had children—so that maybe she is also an Ancestor of Avalon? But no—no such connection.

Instead, there’s a boy named Mikantor who is saved by the Lady of Avalon during the burning of a village in Britain. She must hide Mikantor because he’s heir to the sacred kings descended from Atlantis, placing this books timeline after Ancestors. That’s basically the story. There’s also a bad guy named Galid, a chieftain who suspects Mikantor is alive and wants him dead. When Mikantor is a young man, he is kidnapped by pirates and ends up in Greece where he befriends the man who will one day make Excalibur. Together they will return to Britain. You can guess what happens when they do.

Galid is one of the least inspired villains I have ever experienced. Other than one or two successful dramatic scenes, there was nothing about this book that interested me. I found myself struggling to get through it. Every time I sat down, I tried to get back into it but after five or ten pages I was bored. The last couple of hundred pages, I could do nothing more than skim through and just read the dialogue, to see how it would all turn out, which was quite predictable.

I hate to say it, but Marion Zimmer Bradley is dead. So is this series. I hope this book has put it to rest so Marion can rest in peace. The Mists of Avalon was a tremendous achievement that changed modern Arthurian fiction—in fact, it is my all time favorite novel, which is saying a lot since I love Dickens, Trollope, Galsworthy and so many other great authors—but even though a couple of the other books in this series have been enjoyable, none of them are really very relevant to Arthurian fiction. I respect Paxson as a writer because I know she has skill from what she showed in a couple of the books, but I can only thinks she is just as bored with this series as her readers. No one will ever write another The Mists of Avalon, so it’s time to accept that and move on. Since it’s been three years since this book was published, I’m hoping Paxson and her publishers have realized that too.


Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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The Adventures of Sir Lancelot

The Title Card for the colored episodes of "The Adventures of Sir Lancelot"

Back in January, I posted on the 1950s British TV series The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. I’ve now finished watching the series and I enjoyed it a great deal. It has a bit of humor and some wonderful sets and costumes. Furthermore, I think William Russell made a very good Sir Lancelot, and he actually is quite handsome and debonair, or at least, he grows on you and grew into the role as the series continued. In the first episode, the swordplay was laughable, but it improved throughout. Also, King Arthur was originally played by Bruce Seton in the first episode, but he looked old and doddering and was quickly replaced by Ronald Leigh-Hunt, who is a tall and fairly commanding yet likable Arthur. I was disappointed there was no love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, but it was a 1950s TV show, so innocence was important for television, I guess. I also was disappointed that there was nothing that suggested a connection from one episode to another, no overarching storyline or character motivations or desires to keep the story progressing. You could have watched any episode after the first one in any order and it would make no difference.

About halfway through the series, it became colorized, and the color really was splendid because it made the costumes stand out. Some of the costumes look a bit too effeminate for Lancelot to wear, but there’s no accounting for medieval—or 1950s TV versions of medieval—fashion.

Overall, I would give the series a B, or 4 out of 5 stars. I would rank it below the Merlin TV series, but it is far above the Starz’ Camelot series. (See previous posts to my blog for discussions of both series.)

It would be tedious to discuss all thirty episodes, but here are comments on a few of the episodes that are most notable, particularly those that borrow from Arthurian tradition:

Knight’s Choice: This episode is interesting because Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s traitor sister, is included. She was apparently previously banished from Camelot for trying to murder her brother Arthur. Now she hopes to return if she can get her son to be chosen as knight for an opening among the Round Table’s fellowship. Interestingly, Morgan’s son is named Rupert, not Mordred. Arthur agrees to let him compete with the other potential knights. Another contender is Sir Balin, whose father was squire to King Pel. (King Pel is most likely King Pellinore, and Sir Balin is found in Malory, although this episode has no other links to Malory, and I have no idea why Morgan’s son is named Rupert, unless it was to distance the show from Mordred and the incestuous twist—after all if Guinevere and Lancelot’s love is forbidden on 1950 television, incest surely won’t be approved. That said, it isn’t stated who Rupert’s father is). This episode also has a sort of Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court twist when Merlin finds a way to delay the battle enough for an eclipse to take place, which will thwart Morgan’s plan to have her son win in battle over Balin by flashing light in his eye with a mirror. In the end, Rupert doesn’t get to join the Round Table—I guess that means he can’t stir up trouble—perhaps although eventually the series ended, this Camelot, then, did not fall.

The Thieves: Another episode drawing on Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee is X in which Arthur and Lancelot disguise themselves as ex-convicts to learn what chances these men have of earning a living.

The Shepherd’s War: This episode stands out because Sir Lancelot has been held a prisoner and grown a beard—the only time Russell sports a beard in the series. Although, throughout the series, Sir Kay, who comes off as a buffoon, sports a ridiculously fake mustache.

Sir Crustabread: This episode plays off the tale of Sir Gareth who plays a kitchen boy and goes off to rescue a maiden; the same concept was used in the first episode when Sir Lancelot found Brian, his squire, who was a kitchen boy. In this episode, Lancelot is mistaken by Lynette of Accolon, as a baker. He ends up being belittled by her as he rides with her to rescue her sister. When all is said and done, Lancelot saves the day and reveals his true identity, then kisses Lynette on the cheek—she says she’ll never wash it again.

Finally, the colored episodes trimmed down the theme song, which could be compared to songs like the theme to “Davy, Davy Crocket, King of the Wild Frontier.” The theme song actually grew on me after watching all these episodes and I found myself singing it around the house:

Now listen to my story, oh listen while I sing.

Of days of old in England when Arthur was the king.

Of Merlin the Magician, and Guinevere the Queen.

And Lancelot, the bravest knight the world has ever seen.

In days of old, when knights were bold,

This story’s told of Lancelot.

In days of old, when knights were bold,

This story’s told of Lancelot.

If you want the second verse, you’ll have to watch the series for yourself.

A complete episode guide to the series can be found at: http://ctva.biz/UK/ITC/SirLancelot.htm

I will post on last blog about this series in the weeks to come.


Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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