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Posts Tagged ‘Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur’

Despite the old adage, people always do judge a book by its cover, and so, in publishing The Children of Arthur series, I wanted the books’ covers to reflect the themes and atmosphere of their contents. Many fine graphic artists are out there, but I opted instead to use nineteenth century depictions of legendary figures that fit the individual book titles and which placed me within the literary and Romantic tradition I was modeling. I strongly believe I am trying to capture a somewhat more modern and progressive version of the Arthurian legend akin to what Pre-Raphaelite painters did in their art and nineteenth century authors like Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Morris captured in their Arthurian poetry. Below is a description of each cover—and how it relates to the series overall.

Cover-ArthursLegacyArthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One

Cover Image: The Death of King Arthur (1860) by James Archer (1822-1904)

For me, no painting is more quintessentially Arthurian than this one, which captures the pivotal moment that transforms Arthur from a king into a legend. This may well be my favorite painting of all time. For me, it captures the great moment of reconciliation in the novel when Arthur has been wounded at Camlann and is about to be carried off to Avalon. Both Morgana and Guinevere come and make their peace with him, and Elaine also comes and makes her peace with Bedwyr, Guinevere’s lover. Of course, as we all know, despite the grief in this scene, Arthur is carried to Avalon to be healed of his wound, and there he resides until the day he will be called upon to return. This moment reminds us that he will return, and hence, his legacy is one of hope and immortality, much like that of Christ, who also plays a role in the novel.

Cover-MelusinesGiftMelusine’s Gift: The Children of Arthur, Book Two

Cover Image: The Fair Melusine (1844) by Julius Hübner (1806-1882)

Many images of Melusine have been painted over the years, but most, being medieval in look, fail to capture the Romantic style, depicting her in unflattering ways largely as a flying serpent. This painting is by a nineteenth century German artist and contemporary of the British Pre-Raphaelites, whose images fill the covers of all the other novels except this one and that of Ogier’s Prayer. To me, this painting was far more beautiful and positive than any other depictions of Melusine. It depicts the magic of Melusine as a mermaid. Some people told me it was too risqué for the cover, so I asked my cover designer to make one small change and move up Melusine’s arm to cover her nipple. Others thought it was creepy that a man is spying on Melusine—he is actually her husband, Raimond. By putting him on the back cover and wrapping the image around the book, I hoped to eliminate the creepiness and only provide the wonder as the first sensation the viewer experiences, and then upon flipping over the book, Raimond can be seen, which adds to the dimension and wonder of the story. This moment is pivotal because Raimond promised Melusine that if she married him, she could hide herself away in private every Saturday and he would not disturb her. When Raimond breaks his promise, Melusine is forced to leave him, but in Melusine’s Gift, I have made that moment not one of shame and curses, but one of wonder and expansion of knowledge. It is only then that Raimond learns what Melusine’s gift truly is.

Cover-OgiersPrayerOgier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three

Cover Image: The Flying Carpet (1880) by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926)

In Ogier’s Prayer, Ogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne’s great knights, is carried on a magic carpet from the fabled land of Prester John to the court of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid in Baghdad—and you can imagine the reactions of the people of Baghdad when they see him making his entrance in truly grand Arabian Nights style. This painting actually depicts the Russian folklore hero Ivan Tsarevich. However, I felt the scene of Ogier the Dane on a flying carpet was the most visual scene in Ogier’s Prayer so I sought for a flying carpet painting, and when I found this one, I thought it breathtaking. Yes, Ogier would be blonde, not dark-haired, but I imagine his years in the hot Middle East helped to darken his hair and complexion. In the painting, Ivan is carrying a magical firebird with him on the carpet, but if I hadn’t read about the painting, I would have just thought it a lantern, so I thought it close enough for the cover art I desired, and it gave the same feel and matched the Pre-Raphaelite and Romantic style of the other covers.

Cover-LilithsLoveLilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four

Cover Image: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1902) by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)

These last two covers are both by Sir Francis Dicksee, one of the best known of the Pre-Raphaelite artists. This first one depicts La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a popular theme of the Pre-Raphaelites. I know of at least two other depictions of her from this period, but this is the most fabulous one. Her name means in French, “The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy,” and she is based upon John Keats’ famous poem of the same name in which a supernatural woman takes a young man for her lover one night, and when he wakes in the morning, he finds that he has spent decades with her and is now an old man. The image was perfect for this book’s cover because Lilith is the primary antagonist of The Children of Arthur series and highly sexual, taking lovers so she can control them. In Jewish tradition, Lilith was the first wife of Adam; she was cast from Eden, and consequently, in The Children of Arthur series, she wants her revenge upon Adam and Eve’s descendants. But she also has a gift to give the world if the world would only quit fighting her—that of love. And so the novel’s title is a play both on the gift of her love and the man she loves. I thought the painting appropriate for the cover because the stunned looking man captures perfectly how the man she takes for her lover in the end must feel—and yes, he turns out to be a true and chivalrous knight.

Cover-ArthursBosomArthur’s Bosom: The Children of Arthur, Book Five

Cover Image: The Two Crowns (1900) by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)

I had the most difficulty in finding an image for this final book in the series, largely because I had only started to draft the novel at the time so I didn’t have a full idea of what it would be about yet. Then one day I stumbled upon this painting and knew it was perfect. This final novel depicts the return of King Arthur, and so what better to have on the cover than a king? It wasn’t until I saw the painting’s name that I even spotted there were two crowns in it—yes, the second is Christ with his crown of thorns. As with the cover for Melusine’s Gift, I decided to wrap the image so the back would surprise readers. In doing so, I had to have the image reversed since, originally, Christ was on the right side, and I wanted him on the back of the book. Only when you turn the book over then do you see that the king is looking at Christ and, therefore, is meditating upon what a true king is and what it means to wear a crown. It felt like it was destiny that I would find this painting, for at the same time, I first heard the theories of how Christ’s cross was brought back to Britain by the Empress Helena, and so that story and this painting with its depiction of Christ on the cross really inspired the writing of the novel. In the novel, my main character goes upon a quest to find the True Cross and by doing so, he helps to bring about King Arthur’s return. As for the book’s title, it refers to a line in Shakespeare, a play on the biblical phrase of “Abraham’s Bosom,” which is a reference to heaven. In the novel, the main character finds himself in what might be termed a type of Arthurian heaven.

I hope my choice of cover images inspires my readers and complements the primary theme of the Children of Arthur series, which is:

Imagination is the Salvation of Mankind.

May these books and their covers lead you on your own fabulously imaginative and world-changing journey!

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Here’s a sneak peek at the beginning of my new novel, Arthur’s Legacy, which retells the tale of Camelot from a perspective that alleges not only that Mordred was not a traitor, but that King Arthur’s descendants live among us today. Enjoy!

 

PROLOGUE

 “For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground

And tell sad stories of the death of kings.”

— William Shakespeare, Richard II

Meleon had never thought it would come to this. He knew he and his brother, Prince Morgant, were far from the great knights that their grandfather, King Arthur, or even their father, Prince Mordred, had been, so if those two great men had not succeeded in defeating the usurper Constantine, how could he and Morgant? Yet, Meleon had hoped the good Lord above would aid them in their battle.

But it had been a slaughter, a hopeless slaughter. The brave and loyal men of Britain, those left who had not been slain at Camlann and many more—farmers, millers, merchants, all able bodied men who remained loyal to Arthur’s blood—had done their best. But what could they do against a tyrant who was aided by a witch?

Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One – the first in a five book Arthurian historical fantasy series

Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One – the first in a five book Arthurian historical fantasy series

The men had fought valiantly all that afternoon, but when the ravens began to flock above the battlefield with the decline of day and Meleon looked about him, having just run his blade through one of Constantine’s men, he saw that few of his own army remained on the field, and if they did not retreat now, those few would also fall by the sword.

“Meleon!” cried Morgant. “It’s hopeless! Hurry! We must get away!”

Meleon hated to turn and run, but he knew his brother was right. His father and grandfather would not have thought it cowardly if he sought to save his own life. Then perhaps he could make it safely to Lesser Britain, to their distant cousins there, to raise a new army, to seek out Merlin, the great wizard who had disappeared from Britain years before, but who might be the only one alive now who could fight against the witch. Meleon, however, had never even met Merlin, only heard tales of him, so how could he know whether the wizard were still alive? But sightings of him had been rumored over the years, and what other hope was there?

No time to think of Merlin now. Meleon turned and rushed after his brother, joined by a couple of dozen fellow soldiers as the enemy’s army tried to pursue them. They ran over the nearby hill and into the forest, the enemy cutting down half of them along the way, the blood of his comrades spraying onto Meleon’s face as he fought to try to save them. But once his men reached the forest, the enemy failed to pursue them farther, and Meleon and Morgant led their loyal handful of followers into the woods.

They were hardly worth pursuing now. Doubtless, Constantine and his men would find them if he wanted their lives, and they were bleeding so profusely from their many wounds that they could not run far.

Still, they managed to make their way through the forest as the sky darkened, and after a couple of miles, as night finally fell, they emerged into a clearing where stood a small monastery, one Meleon knew well—it was where the great Sir Bedwyr had retreated after the fatal Battle of Camlann where Arthur and Mordred had been slain.

Just that morning, Meleon’s men had camped at the monastery before going to face Constantine, and Meleon had then begged Sir Bedwyr to join them in battle, even declaring that as Arthur’s heir, he, Meleon, was now Bedwyr’s king, so it was his duty to obey him.

But Bedwyr had calmly said, “No. All the trouble that has come upon Britain is my fault. It is God’s punishment for my and Queen Guinevere’s sins. I am not wise, nor good, but I can hold off causing more pain and bloodshed.”

Meleon could not believe the knight’s words. Never had there ever been a braver man in all the history of Britain than Sir Bedwyr, so how could he desert them now?

“It is desertion, you know,” Meleon had said, trying to incite the knight to anger so he would join them. “You are being disloyal to Arthur. If you wish to make penance for your sins, the best way is to take up arms against he who has usurped Arthur’s throne.”

But Bedwyr would have none of it. “My king is in heaven now,” he said. Meleon did not know whether by “my king” Bedwyr meant his deceased grandfather or God himself, but either way, it would not help Britain.

“God does not want an evil witch to sit on the throne of Britain,” Meleon had argued.

“God takes no interest in the wars of humans,” Bedwyr had replied. “He cares only for their salvation, and war, in any form and for any reason, works against that salvation.”

Now as Meleon struggled across the meadow to the monastery’s door, he wondered whether Bedwyr would even give him and his men sanctuary.

He need not have wondered, however, for the monks had been watching for their return, and without surprise at their greatly reduced numbers, the holy brothers quickly rushed outdoors to help them inside to treat their wounds.

Bedwyr greeted the princes, separating them from their men and telling them to come with him into the chapel.

“We will pray,” said Bedwyr, “for those whose lives were lost this day, both those of your own men and those of Constantine’s.”

“Pray for the souls of traitors!” spat out Morgant.

“Before your grandfather Arthur went to Avalon to be healed, he told me to pray for him and the souls of all men,” said Bedwyr calmly. And then he turned and walked to the chapel, and the princes, too exhausted to argue, decided it was best to follow and get the praying over with so Bedwyr might find them a meal and aid them in further escape.

“We cannot stay long,” said Meleon. “My wife Rachel will be grief-stricken with worry. We must find a boat and sail to Rheged so I can warn her of what has happened.”

“There is no need,” said Bedwyr, “this morning after your army left, a messenger arrived to bring news of your wife. He journeyed all night and was exhausted; he is resting inside the monastery, waiting to give you the news, but for now, it is enough to tell you that Princess Rachel gave birth two days ago to your son, whom she named Arthur after your grandfather, and this morning, she embarked with the child and several knights of her father, King Accolon, for Lesser Britain to find safety there, for Constantine has sent another army against Rheged. The messenger barely escaped them as they marched toward the castle just an hour after Princess Rachel and the child made their escape.”

“Thank God for her safety,” said Meleon as they entered the chapel. “I will pray then that God be with her, as well as with my father-in-law, King Accolon, and his people.”

Bedwyr bid the princes follow him to the altar in the small chapel, and there the three knelt and spoke silently to God of what troubled their hearts.

But their prayers were not to be finished. Not three minutes after they knelt, the chapel door was flung open and in strode Constantine with half-a-dozen of his armed men and the Witch Queen following him.

Bedwyr jumped up, instinctively reaching for his sword, but there was none by his side.

Morgant only had time to half-draw his sword before Constantine’s own sword swung through the air, severing the prince’s head.

“No!” cried Meleon, his sword drawn to engage his enemy in combat.

Constantine’s men, however, quickly surrounded the prince. One of them, having not a shred of honor, struck Meleon a blow in the back, which did not pierce his armor but sent the prince to the floor. A second later, Constantine’s sword rested against Meleon’s throat.

“Sacrilege!” shouted Bedwyr, who had been grabbed by three burly knights, now struggling to hold him, his old fighting spirit having been raised by the attack. “Would you shed blood in the House of God?”

“Silence!” screamed the Witch Queen, she who was named Gwenhwyvach and who claimed to be sister to Guinevere and the true Queen of Britain. Stepping up to Bedwyr, she laughed in his face. “Fool knight, you who thought yourself invincible—look at you now, a beggar monk. To such humility I have driven the strongest man in Britain. You are just like every other man since the time of Adam himself. Weak, foolish, a coward, afraid of women, afraid of my power, afraid of your very self.”

“My lady,” said Constantine, drawing her attention, “with this sword blow, I now do claim all Britain as wholly ours.”

And with those words and before Gwenhwyvach even could speak, he plunged his sword through Meleon’s throat.

Meleon could not believe the agonizing sting of the metal as it severed his flesh. He struggled for breath, his body going into panic mode.

“Fool!” screeched Gwenhwyvach at her consort. “Did I tell you to slay him? First I must know where the rings are!”

“What rings?” asked Constantine.

“Where are the rings?” Gwenhwyvach demanded, staring down at Meleon with piercing eyes.

But Meleon closed his eyes, for he had heard that the Witch Queen could read the very secrets of a man’s soul in his eyes. He knew which rings she meant—the royal rings of Avalon, the rings his grandfather and grandmother had always worn. Once, when he had been a small boy, he had sat on his grandfather’s lap and played with his ring and his grandfather had said, “This ring holds incredible power such that even I don’t know how fully to use it or all its secrets. But one day it shall be yours, and you shall pass it to all the Kings of Britain who shall come after you.” Meleon had always wondered what power it held, but he had never dared to ask his grandfather more. Neither his grandfather nor grandmother ever would have taken those rings from their fingers, so if…as Sir Bedwyr had told him…Morgana had…had taken…. Meleon could barely think…hated that he was dying…would never again…see Rachel or his son…. But if Morgana had taken…King Arthur to Avalon…the rings were there…and safe until his son….

_______________________________________________

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 novel Arthur’s Legacy, The Children of Arthur: Book One, to be released in June 2014. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com

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