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I first read Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy—The Crystal Cave (1970), The Hollow Hills (1973), and The Last Enchantment (1979)—and the follow-up book The Wicked Day (1983) in 1986 when I was fifteen. I had already read Sidney Lanier’s The Boy’s King Arthur and some children’s versions of the Arthurian legend, but this was the first novel series I read. (Later, I would read Stewart’s The Prince and the Pilgrim (1995), but sadly, that novel was far inferior to the earlier ones.)

Mary Stewart's three novels, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment, compose her Merlin trilogy, here published in one volume.

Mary Stewart’s three novels, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment, compose her Merlin trilogy, here published in one volume.

I admit that after all these years, I remembered very little of the novels, and I have since read so many other Arthurian novels that many of them are blurred together in my mind, but I did remember a few scenes from Stewart’s novels, and most of all, how they held me under their spell, so I decided it was time that I go back and reread them.

The spell was still there, although perhaps it is no longer as strong as it was upon my first reading and when Arthurian novels were still relatively few in number. As an older and more educated reader in Arthuriana, I could see some of the novels’ faults—mainly that they were a little overly descriptive and the pacing a bit slow in places—but I also found things I did not pick up on before—most noticeably the poetic elements and powerful build-up in The Hollow Hills that crescendos with Arthur becoming king, and also, how exactly Stewart juxtaposed different parts of the Arthurian legend to make it her own interpretation. In fact, I think some of the novels influenced me so much that upon rereading them, it was like I had discovered a lost part of my brain because some of the choices I made in writing my own novels I may have unconsciously been influenced by Stewart to do.

Two things specifically stood out for me in this series: 1) the idea that Constantine was power-hungry and seeking to take the throne for himself, and 2) the possibility that Mordred was a relatively good person caught up in the wrong situation at the wrong time. In fact, I think Stewart was the first to suggest both in a novel. Later, when I wrote my nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children, the initial version of which I penned in 1994-1995, one of my primary theories was that Constantine was the villain of the story, but because he had conquered, he had caused the story to be retold to vilify Merlin. As for Mordred, plenty of sources suggest he was not a villain, obscure sources that I also explored in King Arthur’s Children and which led to my positive depiction of Mordred and my negative depiction of Constantine in my novel Arthur’s Legacy.

Also not on my radar when I first read these novels was the fact that in them King Arthur has children other than Mordred—we are told in The Wicked Day that Arthur was rumored to have other bastards—“two at least, were spoken of,”—but unlike Mordred, they are not at court or in favor with the king. Arthur also has a stillborn son by his first wife, Guenever, who dies as a result. His second wife, Guenevere, is barren. We also find out that Mordred has two sons—the first by a woman in the Orkneys before he comes to Camelot, who is named Medraut and thinks Mordred is just his stepfather when Mordred later returns to the area and weds his mother. The second child, named Melehan, is Mordred’s son by his mistress in Camelot. Mordred’s sons are referenced in other Arthurian works as slain by Constantine after the Battle of Camlann, and in my novel Arthur’s Legacy, I named them Morgant and Meleon (the French version of Melehan). The difference is that in my novel, Meleon has a child who survives to carry on Arthur’s lineage. In Stewart, none of these children by Arthur or Mordred plays any significant role and no hope is provided of Arthur’s lineage continuing, although it may have in obscurity.

In The Wicked Day, Constantine plays a key role in trying to turn Arthur against Mordred.

In The Wicked Day, Constantine plays a key role in trying to turn Arthur against Mordred.

Another interesting aspect of rereading these novels is the reference to the Goddess being worshiped at Ynis Witrin (Avalon) in The Last Enchantment. This depiction of a cult of the Goddess was a major theme in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (1982), the novel that probably influenced more recent Arthurian writers than any other, but here the seed was planted in Mary Stewart before Bradley—one wonders whether Bradley read Stewart since Stewart’s novel was published three years before Bradley’s. Whether there ever was a Goddess cult at Ynis Witrin I’m uncertain, but it seems doubtful—if there was, it was probably for a very specific goddess and not a vague Mother Goddess.

Arthur’s sword in these novels is that of Magnus Maximus (Macsen Wledig in Welsh tradition). Here Stewart is following the in footsteps of Rosemary Sutcliff, who wrote what was probably the first series to set Arthur in his correct historical time period, something Stewart continues but with a slight touch of fantasy. Both Sutcliffe and Stewart depict Arthur as a descendant of Maximus, a concept that numerous other successive Arthurian novelists have continued.

One final item that I know consciously influenced me was Stewart’s decision to give Bedwyr the role of being Guinevere’s lover. As she states, Bedwyr probably had that role before Chretien de Troyes invented Lancelot. For that reason, in writing Arthur’s Legacy, I consciously followed Stewart’s lead and had no Lancelot, but rather a Bedwyr as Guinevere’s lover to be more true to the original Welsh sources.

Stewart’s novels were probably the most popular Arthurian novels of the 1970s and early 1980s until Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon became so incredibly popular. They created a new interest in the Arthurian legend for many people, and all of us Arthurian novelists of more recent years owe a tremendous debt to her, one that has been overshadowed by Bradley and then by many fine Arthurian novelists since, but Stewart deserves her place in the Arthurian canon, for all the reasons stated above and especially for her depictions of Merlin and Mordred. Her first-person style, telling the story in Merlin’s voice in the first three novels, is especially remarkable given that almost every female novelist who has used first person narration has chosen instead to tell the story from Guinevere or Morgan le Fay’s point of view. Now, over forty years since she began her series, Stewart remains one of the finest Arthurian novelists of modern times.

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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.

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Few people know, and few Arthurian works mention, that Guinevere had a sister. She was named Gwenhwyvach, but she has been written out of the legend over the centuries. In fact, I believe I’m the only modern novelist to include her in my novels, where she is a major character.

But just who was Gwenhwyvach? We really don’t know anything about her other than that she was Guinevere’s sister.

She is mentioned in the Mabinogion tale Culhwch and Olwen, in which her name is included among the 200 men, women, dogs, and horses invoked by Culhwch when he makes his request of King Arthur to help him win his love Olwen. But this reference really tells us nothing of Gwenhwyvach.

Another reference isn’t much more helpful. In The Welsh Triads, it states:

“One of the reasons for the Battle of Camlann was the blow Guinevere struck to her sister Gwenhwyvach.”

N.C. Wyeth's depiction of Arthur and Mordred at the Battle of Camlann, which Gwenhwyvach may have helped to cause.

N.C. Wyeth’s depiction of Arthur and Mordred at the Battle of Camlann, which Gwenhwyvach may have helped to cause.

This statement is obscure, but it’s obvious that Gwenhwyvach must have had a major role in the early legends, or perhaps in history itself, if she influenced the Battle of Camlann where Arthur and Mordred fought each other and died. At least one writer, Thomas Love Peacock, in his novel The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829), decided that Gwenhwyvach was Mordred’s wife, which seems a plausible conclusion based on this statement.

The only other reference to Guinevere having a sister is in the thirteenth century Prose Lancelot where Guinevere has a sister, known as the False Guinevere, who tries to take the place of Guinevere the night she weds Arthur.

In writing Arthur’s Legacy, my curiosity about Gwenhwyvach and the False Guinevere led to my combining the two to create a major villain not just in this novel but the entire The Children of Arthur series. Following is the scene from Arthur’s Legacy where Gwenhwyvach reveals her past to Constantine, whom he hopes to enlist in her desire for revenge:

“Do you know what this is, Constantine, Cador’s son?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied, shrinking back at the sight of the foul mark.

“This brand is the reason you never knew of my existence. Arthur banished me as a traitor, though I am not one. He decreed it a crime for anyone even to utter my name.”

Constantine hesitated to associate with a criminal, but his curiosity would not yet permit him to flee from her enticing gaze.

“What is your name, lady?” he asked.

“Gwenhwyvach,” she replied. “I am the rightful heir to King Leodagraunce of Northgallis, and more importantly, the rightful Queen of Britain, Arthur’s lawful wife.”

“How?” Constantine asked. He wondered whether her desire for revenge included her seeking the throne of Britain. But how could she? No woman could rule a kingdom.

“Do not fear. I have no desire for a crown, although I could build an empire if I so wished. All I want is to destroy Arthur and Guinevere. I don’t care what becomes of Britain after that. I will make you its next king if you will assist me in my enemies’ destruction.”

Constantine was flattered and his eyes lit with excitement at the prospect of being king, but he was too conniving to agree at once. He would first determine how useful an ally this evil wench might be.

“Before I agree to anything,” he said, “you must tell me your full story.”

“You will help me no matter what I say,” she replied, “but I will tell you my past if only to relieve my own misery.”

She picked up a stick and poked at the fire while muttering under her breath. The sparks flew up into the air, and as Constantine raised his eyes to follow their path to the cave’s ceiling, Gwenhwyvach began her tale.

“My father, King Leodagraunce of Northgallis, conceived me upon my mother, who was his lawful wife, Queen Elen. That same night, he afterwards left his marital bedchamber, drunk as he usually was, and made his way to the room of my mother’s young handmaiden, whom he raped. Nine months later, upon the same full moon, Guinevere and I were born.

“My mother, the queen, died in childbirth, as did her handmaiden. The handmaiden’s mother assisted as midwife at the births of Guinevere and myself. We were born only an hour apart, and being half-sisters through our father’s royal blood, we have always looked immensely alike. The old midwife, partly out of love for her newborn granddaughter, Guinevere, and partly to revenge her daughter’s rape and death caused by my father, switched the two babes the same night they were born. Guinevere, the bastard child, was raised as King Leodagraunce’s rightful daughter, while I, born of a king and queen and conceived in holy matrimony, grew up as a household servant.

“Being the same age and living in the same household, Guinevere and I were playmates before we could even talk. The old woman, who claimed to be my grandmother, encouraged our friendship because it allowed her to see her true granddaughter more often. I grew up envying Guinevere for having a father, while I had no parents. I had heard rumors from the other servants that I was the king’s bastard child, and although still not knowing the whole truth, I began to believe these tales, for the king clearly displayed an aversion toward me, while he always expressed great love for Guinevere. As I grew older, I found myself resenting the princess. I believed I had as much right to our father’s love as she did. It was not my fault I was a bastard.

“Then as we approached womanhood, King Leodagraunce died, and Guinevere went to live in Cornwall, under your father’s protection. Because we had been close friends, or so I let her believe, she allowed me to accompany her, as well as the old woman who claimed to be my grandmother. All the eligible lords in the kingdom now began to court Guinevere, some for her beauty, while others merely wished to rule her kingdom. Even several royal princes sought her hand. I envied her, for the only man interested in me was a shepherd, and he had nothing to offer me except a hut and a stench I could not tolerate.

“One afternoon, I was walking with Guinevere in the gardens at Tintagel when she told me a messenger had arrived that morning from Camelot. He had come bearing a marriage proposal to her from King Arthur.

“Although she had never seen the High King, Guinevere had fallen in love with the stories told of him, so she did not hesitate to accept the proposal. I could not bear the jealousy I felt over her good fortune. Perhaps I was selfish, but it was unfair that one sister marry a High King while the other could find no husband of worth. I fled from the garden, ignoring Guinevere’s shouts for my return. I did not stop until I was deep in the forest, and then I slumped down beneath a tree and spent several hours crying and wishing my life were different. I felt I could no longer remain at Tintagel. I dreaded having to watch Arthur’s men bear Guinevere off to become High Queen of Britain, so I decided to return to my grandmother’s hut after the old woman had gone to sleep. Then I planned to gather my few belongings and depart forever. Perhaps even depart from Britain, for nowhere in the land would my sister’s name not be known, and I knew the mere mention of it would henceforth be intolerable to me.

“But when I returned to the hut, I found several of our neighbors gathered outside the door, and when they saw me, they all began asking where I had been. Then they told me to go inside and see my grandmother because she had suffered from some sort of dizzy spell and collapsed in the street. She was lying down now, but awake, though she probably would not live through the night. For the last several hours, she had been calling my name, and entreating the neighbors to find me.

“I don’t know that I ever loved the old woman, but I had always believed her to be my grandmother, so I at least felt some respect for her. I wanted to leave Tintagel as quickly as possible, but I could not desert her in her last moments. Deciding I would not leave until after she had died, I entered the hut and went to her bedside. The old woman was pale, yet she nearly shouted my name when she saw me. It was there on her death bed that she told me the truth, that I was the daughter of King Leodagraunce and his late queen, meaning I was the true Princess Guinevere. She also admitted it was her fault my birthright had been taken from me because she had switched my half-sister and me in our beds the night we were born. She begged my forgiveness, but after so many years of living in poverty when I could have lived royally and had any of my heart’s desires, any lingering of Christian mercy deserted me. I spat in her face and uttered a series of curses that made her tremble and seek her grave all the sooner. When the life had left her, her face held a terrible look of fear beyond what anyone could imagine. I believe she saw the gates of Hell opening for her. She deserved no lesser fate.”

Gwenhwyvach’s brow steamed with hatred as she repeated her tale; Constantine’s selfish soul pitied this woman because, like him, what was rightfully hers had been stolen from her.

“Did you go to Guinevere and tell her the truth?” he asked.

“How could I have proven it? The old woman had made certain no one knew her secret until moments before her death. If I had told anyone, the story would have been passed off as the deathbed ravings of a crazy old woman, or worse, I might have been accused of lying and rebelling against my queen.”

“But then why did Arthur banish you from Britain?”

“I was determined to get my revenge. If I were the rightful daughter of King Leodagraunce and Queen Elen, I believed it was my right to wed King Arthur.”

Constantine squirmed in his seat. He sympathized with Gwenhwyvach, but he also wondered whether she did not make up this tale, and if she had made it up, how much of it had she convinced herself was true? Still, if she hated Arthur and Guinevere as much as he did, her hatred could make her an invaluable ally.

Whether or not she noticed Constantine’s puzzled look, Gwenhwyvach continued her tale.

“Arthur and Guinevere’s wedding ceremony took place without interruption. But I had laid my plans for that evening. When Guinevere went to her bedchamber to prepare for the consummation of her marriage, she changed into her nightgown, then stepped out into the garden to relieve herself before Arthur entered the bridal chamber. I had found myself a lover in the village, one Bertolais, a strong, hulking man but weak in his desires for a woman. I convinced him to help me, and then he convinced his friends to do the same with my promise to reward them all later. That night, we hid in Guinevere’s garden. Bertolais and his friends were to kidnap the bride, and then murder her after they had carried her far enough away from the castle. Meanwhile, I would take Guinevere’s place as Arthur’s wife.

“But that foul old druid Merlin learned of my plans by the use of his black arts. Arthur’s soldiers stormed into the garden just before we grabbed Guinevere. Then Arthur ordered that Bertolais and I be banished. My lover was sent to Gaul, forbidden ever to return, while I was imprisoned in Hengest’s Tower in the middle of the Saxon Lake. Instead of marrying the High King of Britain as was my rightful and intended destiny, I spent the next fifteen years enchained in that prison. That is why I will hate Arthur and Guinevere until they are both dead.”

“But then how did you escape from the tower, my lady?”

“The jailer became ill one day, and a naïve, young man came to take his place. Within a week, I had the fool hopelessly in love with me. I offered myself to him, but the mere pleasure of holding me exhausted him, and he fell asleep.” Gwenhwyvach laughed as she recalled the event. “I then extracted the key from his belt, imprisoned him in my cell, and made my escape. Five years have since passed, so if Arthur has ever learned of my absence and made a search for me, by now he must have given up all hope of my recapture.

“Since my escape, I have had to live like an animal in hiding, foraging for berries in the forest, fishing with my bare hands, and taking shelter under trees and in caves. No human being has ever had a more unfortunate and miserable existence than what I have suffered. You have no idea what it is to sleep in a cave without even an animal fur to cover you on a cold winter night. That is why I must have my revenge on those who caused my misery even if it means killing every soldier in Britain before I can reach Arthur and Guinevere. And if they succeed in destroying me first, my spirit will return to haunt Britain for centuries to come. Nothing is too powerful to stop me!”

Gwenhwyvach’s eyes flared with heat that could burn down a forest. Constantine could not help being mesmerized by them.

“Will you assist me in bringing about Arthur and Guinevere’s destruction?” Gwenhwyvach asked. “When it is completed, I will make you the most powerful man in the world. I learned much of the black arts while in my prison, for I was not denied reading material, and my jailers were illiterate, so they never realized how harmful were the books they innocently brought me from the ruins of a nearby monastery. My powers as a sorceress will set you on the throne of Britain, and I shall ask nothing more of you, but that I may continually reward you for the good services you performed in helping to vindicate me. All that belonged to Arthur and Guinevere will be yours. I shall ask no share. What is your answer, Constantine, Cador’s son?”

*

To find out Constantine’s answer and how I also incorporated the reference to The Welsh Triad in the novel, read Arthur’s Legacy, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and watch for its sequel Melusine’s Gift, coming in January 2015.

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Enter to win a copy of King Arthur's Children this coming Friday, June 27, 2014

Enter to win a copy of King Arthur’s Children this coming Friday, June 27, 2014

This week Free Book Friday is giving away five free, autographed copies of my nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition.

Please note, this is not my new novel Arthur’s Legacy, but readers should enjoy both of them. Since Arthur’s Legacy was published last month, people are asking me which book I wrote first.

I actually began writing Arthur’s Legacy first but soon realized how much work all the research for it would be. Since I had just started an M.A. program in English at Northern Michigan University at the time, and I knew I would write a Master’s Thesis in the program, I decided to write my thesis on the Arthurian legend and soon latched onto the theme of King Arthur’s children. The result was the nonfiction book which incorporated all the research, and it also led to much of that research being worked into the plot in Arthur’s Legacy, notably that King Arthur had children other than Mordred, including Gwydre and Llacheu in the Welsh legends, as well as redeeming Mordred’s character and an eye-opening reinterpretation of Constantine’s role in Arthurian legend.

So both books inform each other.

You can enter the Free Book Friday drawing for your own copy of King Arthur’s Legacy by going to http://www.freebookfriday.com/2014/06/king-arthurs-children-tichelaar.html You can also read an interview there with me about the book. The drawing will be held on Friday, June 27, 2014.

I hope you’re one of the lucky winnners, but if not, next week, visit my website www.ChildrenofArthur.com because I have a special discount of 20% off for people who buy King Arthur’s Children and Arthur’s Legacy together.

My new novel - I wrote King Arthur's Children as a way to do the research for this novel.

My new novel – I wrote King Arthur’s Children as a way to do the research for this novel.

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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….

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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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Recently, Dane Pestano, author of King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition was kind enough to write a review of my book King Arthur’s Children on his blog at: http://darkagehistory.blogspot.com/2011/11/book-review-king-arthurs-children.html. I felt honored to have such a scholar read my book, and I wish to return the favor by reviewing his book.

And I’m glad I did because King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition is an impressive and insightful look into the possibility that the legend of King Arthur may be rooted in that of a historical Irish king. I am completely impressed with the extensive research Pestano did to write this book—in his short bio in the back of the book, Pestano states that he spent four years researching this topic, and while I don’t feel qualified to comment on all of his research, I could easily follow the argument and he has me fairly convinced by all the supporting evidence he finds.

Pestano begins by discussing the evolution of the Arthurian legend in early written texts including the Historia Brittonum from 829 AD that first mentions Arthur and his Twelve Battles, the 10th century Gododdin, and the Vita Goeznovius, circa 1016, which first mentions Arthur’s kingship and conquest of Gaul. All these works predate Geoffrey of Monmouth’s important History of the Kings of Britain from the twelfth century. But they are all three centuries or later from Arthur’s actual timeframe of the early sixth century. Pestano thinks the answers to the historical Arthur may lie in Irish literature and history, and after discussing scholars who have dismissed Ireland as offering anything in the search for the historical Arthur, he states that the Irish had their own Arthur but by a different name so his identity has lain hidden. This Arthur actually fits into the timeframe for Arthur better than any other candidate offered so far.

Who is this Irish Arthur? Pestano points out that there are possibly some blended versions of this man, but he believes it to be Muircertach Mac Erca, who was the first Christian King of Ireland and reigned from about 510-537. Not only does Mac Erca’s timeframe fit perfectly with Arthur’s dates, but he has many other similarities, including that he was said to have conquered Britain and Gaul, and that he was fostered by a Druid. His wife also has a name that would match Arthur’s wife as the Welsh equivalent. Furthermore, he is provided with a threefold death which Pestano suggests was Christianized into the Fortune’s Wheel dream that appears in well known Arthurian texts.

Pestano’s research is very extensive, and I admit I had a bit of a hard time following it at times because most of the texts and people he discusses are unfamiliar to me, but those are shortcomings on my own part and the book’s organization is overall clear.

In my continual interest in King Arthur’s children, I found a couple of things particularly interesting in the book. Pestano mentions Mac Erca’s children, including Baedan, whose descendants were rulers of Saxon Northumbria, via his second wife, the daughter of Clovis of France. Therefore, if Mac Erca is the real King Arthur, his descendants did live on to the present day through Northumbrian royalty. Pestano also refers to Baedo, whom the Spanish say was King Arthur’s daughter, a reference to a child of Arthur’s whom I missed in writing King Arthur’s Children.

But I was most excited by research revealing that Mac Erca had a son whom Pestano says was Constantine, the heir to Arthur in the Arthurian legend. Interestingly, Constantine’s mother was the daughter to Clovis, King of the Franks, who when baptized was called the “new Constantine” which explains the origin for Constantine’s name, and more importantly, solves the longtime riddle of why Constantine ended up inheriting the kingdom upon Arthur’s death—because he was Arthur’s (Mac Erca’s) son.

I admit I have not read all the theories for different candidates of the historical Arthur, but most that I have heard about do not fit into the timeframe for Arthur but are several years away from it, before or after. Therefore, Pestano’s theories bear further looking into. Fortunately, he is planning to produce a longer work on the subject, while this work is to introduce the information and provide a basic life of Mac Erca and the supporting texts.

Overall, I highly recommend the book. My only criticisms stem from reading the Kindle version; I’m still getting used to the Kindle reader and dislike flipping back and forth to try to read end notes, and I wished there had been some genealogy charts to look at and help me keep all the people mentioned straight, but those are minor concerns. I definitely feel this book is one that merits a second and third reading in order to absorb fully all of the extensive research Pestano has done. I trust King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition will become a major source for future research, and it will be interesting to see a few years down the road if Pestano’s theory is accepted or other scholars build upon it. I look forward to Pestano’s next book which will go into even more detail.

King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition is available at Dane Pestano’s blog and website at: http://darkagehistory.blogspot.com/2011/08/king-arthur-in-irish-pseudo-historical.html

A Kindle editions is available at http://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Irish-Pseudo-Historical-Tradition-ebook/dp/B005GM6CZ4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1321307933&sr=1-1

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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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  1. King Arthur had children other than just Mordred.
  2. Arthur traditionally had three children in Welsh tradition, including Amr, whose story resembles Mordred’s, while Mordred (Medraut) is not Arthur’s child in Welsh legend.
  3. The Scots believe Mordred was the good guy at the Battle of Camlann.
  4. King Arthur’s descendants may include the Scottish Clan Campbell.
  5. Mordred had two sons of his own who tried to take over the kingdom after his death.
  6. Both Arthur and Mordred may have had daughters. Ever hear of Tortolina?
  7. Constantine, inheritor of Arthur’s throne, may have been the true villain, not Mordred.
  8. The British Royal Family claims to be descended from King Arthur in numerous and suspicious ways.
  9. Modern novelists have invented many new fictional children for King Arthur.
  10. If King Arthur really lived, DNA and mathematical calculations reveal that YOU are his likely descendant.

Find out the Fact from the Fiction and Far More in:

King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition

by

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D.

 Available at:

www.ChildrenofArthur.com

www.Amazon.com

www.BarnesandNoble.com

________________________

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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I’m always interested in treatments of King Arthur’s children and grandchildren and beyond–efforts to continue the story–so I was very excited to discover Anna Elliott’s Avalon series, which consists of a trilogy: Twilight of Avalon, Dark Moon of Avalon, and Sunrise of Avalon (the last to be published in the Fall of 2011), as well as two short stories you can download at Amazon from Kindle, or from Elliott’s website: http://www.annaelliottbooks.com/

Twilight of Avalon Anna ElliottElliott’s books seek to place the Tristan and Isolde legend into a new and perhaps more historically correct context within the Arthurian canon. The Tristan stories have always been a sort of digression from the main tales of Arthur and his knights, just plopped into Malory and other works, and not really feeling like they belong there. Elliott bases her versions on the knowledge that Tristan probably lived a couple of generations after Arthur in late 5th/early 6th century Britain, so she sets the novels in the  post-Arthurian era.

Isolde is the main character of the series through whose eyes we see almost everything with occasional switches to Trystan’s viewpoint and even Morgan’s. Isolde is actually Arthur and Morgan’s granddaughter, the daughter of Mordred and Guinevere. In earlier versions of the Arthurian legend, Mordred is said to have sons by Guinevere (see my earlier post While King Arthur was Away did Guinevere with Mordred Play?), but never a daughter. However, I found Isolde being made into Arthur’s granddaughter to be an interesting change.

Isolde is viewed as a sort of trophy wife by the Britons–the heir to Arthur, but a woman unable to inherit, and the local Britons view her more as the traitor’s daughter than the great king’s granddaughter. When the first book opens, Isolde is grieving the death of her husband Constantine “Con” who was chosen to succeed Arthur, and who in legend is the traditional heir of Arthur after Camlann. Isolde soon realizes her husband was most likely murdered and the primary culprit is Lord Marche (Elliot’s version of King Mark of Cornwall, though I don’t understand why she felt the need to change the name’s spelling). Marche now seeks to wed Isolde, although she is rather appalled by the idea. Isolde also encounters Trystan, who is in a prison, and as the novel progresses, she realizes he is Marche’s son and her former playmate as a child. Trystan despises his father (who does not recognize him). With Isolde’s help he manages to escape from prison.Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott

By the second book, Marche wants to become High King of Britain, but Madoc instead is crowned. Marche then seeks to ally himself with the Saxons and it is up to Isolde and Trystan to stop him from trying to seize the crown.

I won’t give away more of the plot than that, and we will have to wait to see how things turn out in the third book. It’s sufficient to say though that King Arthur’s great-grandchild is likely to be born soon based on how the second book ends.

In addition, Elliott creates a bastard son for Arthur, Amhar, based on legendary versions of his son Amir, one of the original sons given to Arthur in Welsh legend; Amhar died at Camlann, several years before the novels open, so he does not figure as a character in the novels, though his mother, Arthur’s mistress, does slightly. Elliott does not mention Llacheu or Gwydre, Arthur’s other two obscure sons in the Welsh legends.

I was really intrigued with Elliott’s ideas for these books and how she maneuvered the characters’ places in the legend. I have to admit, however, that I didn’t think the writing equaled the concept. The books were overly long – each runs about 420 pages, which is typical of Arthurian novels, but I felt Elliott’s scenes dragged and each could have been as much as half as long. I found myself skimming through most of the second book, reading just the dialogue and a sentence here and there of the description to see what would happen. I also never really figured out why she used “Avalon” in the titles since no scenes take place there. “Camelot” might have been more fitting.

Despite my not caring for Elliott’s writing, I will probably read the third book when it is out because of my interest in depictions of King Arthur’s descendants, and I am curious to read her two short stories, one about Morgan and Merlin and the other about Dera, a secondary character in Twilight of Avalon. Other readers may enjoy the books more than I did; before you buy, view free excerpts and download the short stories free at Elliott’s site. I suspect female readers will enjoy the books more than male because they are told more from a woman’s perspective.

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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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