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Posts Tagged ‘King Arthur’s Children in Fiction and Tradition’

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.

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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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Today, I am very pleased to interview my fellow Arthurian author Cheryl Carpinello.

Author Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl is the author of the young adult novel Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend and today she will be talking about her new novel The King’s Ransom, the first in her new series Young Knights of the Round Table.

Tyler: Welcome, Cheryl. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today. I’ve read and enjoyed both of your books and I only wish they had been around for me to read when I was a kid. To begin, will you tell us what made you decide to write books about the Arthurian legend for children?

Cheryl: I’ve always been fascinated by King Arthur. I’ve probably read just about every fiction story written over the last 15-20 years. One of my favorites is Deepak Chopra’s The Return of Merlin. I’ve also ventured to nonfiction or scholarly accounts like your King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. However, I’m more of a romantic, and it’s that side of the legend that appeals to me. I like the ideas that surround the legend like might is not right; how when seen from the air, there are no lines or boundaries on Earth—we are all here together, and we need to learn how to get along; and how in Arthur’s time hope still lives. Underneath it all, I believe this is what draws young and old to the legend. What the legend says to kids without them realizing it is that there is a right way and a wrong way to live. This is done with the stories of the knights with their quests, their jousts, their rescuing of the damsels, and their fighting for the underdog. These stories present young readers with vivid accounts of honor, loyalty, and friendship. This is why I chose Arthurian Legend.

Tyler: What age group would you say your books are most suited for?

Cheryl: I typically write shorter books for the readers I’m trying to reach. My focus is on reluctant readers in grades three through eight. These reluctant readers are kids who are able to read, but prefer to do other activities. If I can reach them early in their schooling, it’s just possible I might hook them into exploring other books. I’ve yet to find a student in the younger grades who isn’t excited about the medieval time period. Reluctant readers, my nephew Joe is one, will usually balk at long, fat books, so I shorten mine. I usually add simple illustrations to break up the text, but being an ebook, The King’s Ransom does not have these. I’m hoping my publisher will put the illustrations back in the print book when it comes out later this year.

Tyler:And in this first book, just who are the Young Knights we’re talking about?

The King’s Ransom by Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl: The Young Knights are three kids who have become friends via their friendship with a beggar/vagabond called the Wild Man. Without the Wild Man, it is likely that they would not have met and become friends because they are from very different backgrounds. Eleven-year-old Gavin is the youngest prince of Pembroke Castle in southern Wales. Fifteen-year-old Bryan has been sent to Pembroke by his parents to learn to be a blacksmith. Thirteen-year-old Philip is an orphan who wandered into Pembroke village and lives and works at the church. They are really just three lonely kids who find friendship with the Wild Man and each other.

Tyler: Will you set up the plot a little for us?

Cheryl: Someone breaks into the king’s (Gavin’s father) treasury in Pembroke Castle and not only steals the medallion The King’s Ransom, but also kills Aldred, the king’s advisor. Being a beggar/vagabond, the Wild Man is captured and charged with the crime. It doesn’t help that a bloody knife is found with his belongings. Gavin, Bryan, and Philip are determined to prove that the Wild Man is innocent. In order to do this, they embark upon a quest where each is tested and must conquer his fears or face humiliation and/or even death.

Tyler: I think the Wild Man is my favorite character. Where did you get the idea for him?

Cheryl: Ah, the Wild Man. He is much more important than it appears. I knew that in order to make The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) work, I had to have a strong tie-in with Arthurian Legend. Sure, King Arthur makes an appearance, but that wasn’t enough. Then I remembered the Wild Man from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. He worked perfectly. The Wild Man is also mentioned in a number of other Arthurian books, but my Wild Man comes from White.

Tyler: How many books do you think you’ll write for the series?

Cheryl: Right now, I don’t have a definite number in mind, at least two or three more.

Tyler: Is Guinevere going to be tied into the series down the road or is it a completely separate book?

Cheryl: Guinevere won’t be tied into the series because it occurs at the beginning of Arthur’s reign. Young Knights takes place after Arthur is more established. However, another book featuring Guinevere and Cedwyn is in the planning stage. I’ve had several requests from readers to write about what happens to Cedwyn. That’s what the next book or two will deal with in that line.

Tyler: Do you have a favorite Arthurian novel of your own or which ones most influenced you in your own writing?

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl: I would have to say my favorite is T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I like how White makes the legend so accessible to a variety of readers. Many people—kids included—are already familiar with White’s story even though they may not be aware of it. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that Disney made the animated feature story The Sword in the Stone from Book I of The Once and Future King.

Tyler: You include several educational items in the book for teachers. Will you tell us a little about those?

Cheryl: One of the many reasons I’m excited about The King’s Ransom is that my publisher MuseItUp wouldn’t let me include the educational pieces in my book. They had me do a separate eighteen-page Teacher Guide that is available as a free PDF download when readers purchase The King’s Ransom from their bookstore. (https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=322&category_id=10&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1) I also have a copy that I can send to readers for free and hand out in classrooms and at workshops. The guide carries that great castle cover and is loaded with resources and materials for teachers and homeschooled students. Included are a synopsis, information on the Arthurian Legend and the medieval time period, castle vocabulary, and a word find puzzle. Teachers have suggestions for discussions, projects, and writing exercises as well as additional medieval references specifically geared for young readers. I also put together a complete set of comprehension questions/answers for all eighteen chapters.

Tyler: How has being a teacher yourself influenced your writing middle grade/tween books?

Cheryl: I’ve written several books over the years. I’ve done an adult romance, a YA romance/bildungsroman, and several stories suitable for picture books. I just never seemed to find a genre I was passionate about writing. Then I started teaching The Once and Future King. My students loved the story and the whole medieval world. After writing Guinevere, I started doing medieval writing workshops in the elementary schools and found every classroom full of kids crazy about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the medieval time period. I have to say that being in the classroom and working with the younger kids has been my entire motivation for writing my books.

Tyler: What do your students think about having an author for a teacher?

Cheryl: My students were excited when I told them my book would be published at the end of the school year. Then when they found Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend in the school’s library, one of my senior boys told me, “That’s tight, miss.” When the cover proofs for The King’s Ransom came out, the kids picked the one(s) they liked best. In the end though, I combined aspects from a couple of the proofs for the final cover, and they liked that as well. The book released just three days before school ended. Many of my students left me their addresses so that I could contact when the print book comes out later this year. They want an autographed copy.

Tyler: Thank you for the interview, Cheryl. Will you tell us about your website and what information we can find there about The King’s Ransom and the Young Knights of the Round Table series?

Cheryl: Beyond Today (Educator) http://www.beyondtodayeducator.com contains information on the King Arthur Legend and both Guinevere and The King’s Ransom. The events section is a picture gallery of my Medieval writing workshops I do with the Colorado Girl Scouts. The education section currently shows how Guinevere aligns with the Colorado State Standards for Reading and Writing. I’ll be updating a lot of the site this summer.

On my blog Carpinello’s Writing Pages http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com, I review Children/MG/Tween/YA books, conduct interviews with authors, and post ideas to get kids involved in reading and writing. Visitors can still do the virtual blog tour of the book’s settings in Wales that I posted when The King’s Ransom released.

Tyler: Great, Cheryl. And thanks again for the interview. I can’t wait to hear about the next book.

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