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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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The following essay is an excerpt from my book King Arthur’s Children, taken from Chapter 4 about the Birth and Origins of Mordred:

Perhaps the most interesting, although far-fetched, of the new theories surrounding the birth of Mordred lies in Norma Lorre Goodrich’s study King Arthur (1986). Here Goodrich suggests that Mordred was actually a twin, and his twin was none other than Sir Lancelot. Goodrich points out that both Lancelot and Mordred have stories of being thrown into a body of water. Furthermore, she states that in the Celtic world, the birth of twins was considered as a sign that the mother had committed adultery with a devil. It was believed that the firstborn twin was the son of the earthly father while the second twin was the son of the Devil; giving birth to twins resulted in the mother being put to death for adultery. Beginning probably with the Lanzelet and carrying into later Lancelot tales, Lancelot is kidnapped by the Lady of the Lake, who then raises him as her own son. This kidnapping usually takes place when the castle of King Ban, Lancelot’s father, is besieged by its enemies. Lancelot’s mother flees the confusion with her child. She either sets her son down for a minute, or else she accidentally drops him into the water. The Lady of the Lake then appears and steals away the child. Goodrich suggests that this kidnapping may have been a late version of an earlier story in which Lancelot’s mother, because Lancelot was the second born twin, threw her son into the lake to drown him. If she could successfully hide the fact that she had twins, she would not be put to death for sleeping with a devil (163).

However, the Lanzelet is the first source for this story and it is a late source. It seems unlikely that this German author would have knowledge of an actual tradition which the English, Welsh, and French writers never mentioned; therefore, it is more probable that Zatzikhoven invented this story from his own imagination than that he found it in a now lost Arthurian source.

Furthermore, the Lanzelet states that Lancelot is a year old when he is thrown into the lake (26). Obviously, if Lancelot were a year old, his mother would not try to drown him so late after his birth when his being a twin would already be known. Perhaps this statement of Lancelot’s age, however, is also a later addition to the story. Originally, Lancelot’s mother may have thrown him into the lake, and the later romancers, not understanding why a mother would so treat her child, may have added the attack upon the castle to try and make the tale understandable (Goodrich, King Arthur, 164-5).

Howard Pyle's illustration of Sir Lancelot - could there be a resemblance to show he is Mordred's brother - compare to the illustration below.

Howard Pyle’s illustration of Sir Lancelot – could there be a resemblance to show he is Mordred’s brother – compare to the illustration below.

Is it possible then that Lancelot was Mordred’s brother and twin, and therefore, even the son of King Arthur? If so, then Lancelot’s true mother was not King Ban’s wife, commonly named Clarine or Helen, but Morgause or Morgan le Fay. In the Lanzelet, a mermaid messenger declares that Lancelot “is now proved a relative of the most generous man whom the world ever saw:  King Arthur of Cardigan was beyond doubt his uncle…Thus Lanzelet discovered he was Arthur’s sister’s child” (92-3). If tradition says Lancelot was Arthur’s nephew as Mordred is referred to as being, then is it not just as possible that he was Arthur’s son born of an incestuous relationship?

This theory leaves some confusion since it doesn’t seem necessary that if twins were born, the mother would have thrown both into the sea to hide her guilt. Perhaps Lancelot was the second born, believed to be the devil’s son, and therefore tossed into the sea to prevent his mother’s death; following this event, Arthur’s edict was made, which resulted in Mordred also being tossed into the sea. Mordred was probably the first born child since in some sources his mother wished to prevent his death by casting him out in a floating cradle that allowed him to be washed ashore (Goodrich, King Arthur, 164). However, the cradle suggests that the writer may have merely been borrowing from other sources such as the biblical tales of Moses and the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod, or the classical tales of Perseus and Oedipus. In these tales, children are ordered to be murdered by a king because that king fears a child overthrowing him when the child becomes an adult. Similarly, Arthur is afraid of Merlin’s prophecy that Mordred is the child who will result in his downfall so he orders all the children of Mordred’s age to be killed. Therefore, the tale of Mordred’s nearly drowning may have its origins in either biblical or classical sources, or it could be a universal motif that the Celtic people also frequently used.

If Goodrich’s theory is correct, then Lancelot was King Arthur’s son, since it is doubtful he would have been the son of a devil. Something else Goodrich doesn’t mention that could help back up her theory from a mythological point of view is the tale of Dylan’s birth. Arianrhod is said to have given birth to two children, Dylan and another son named Llew Llaw Gyffes. Llew was a solar god who grew so rapidly that when he was four, he was as big as if he were eight, and he was the comeliest youth ever seen (Rolleston 381). If Dylan and Llew were twins, then could Mordred and Lancelot also be twins? Loomis suggests that Lancelot may have mythological connections to Llew, and his name might even be derived from Llew (Lanzelet 15). This connection is disputed by most present day scholars, but we will return to it in Chapter 7.

Howard Pyle's depiction of Mordred - perhaps Lancelot's twin?

Howard Pyle’s depiction of Mordred – perhaps Lancelot’s twin?

If Lancelot is Arthur’s son, there is a good possibility that he is connected to Arthur’s earlier son, Llacheu, since both may have connections to solar gods. Rhys has claimed that Llacheu wore a circle of gold, and although this seems unlikely as we saw in Chapter 3, Lancelot is credited with similarly possessing a ring by the Lady of the Lake. Norma Goodrich says this ring may have been able to clear Lancelot’s head since he was subject to delusions and madness (King Arthur 164). Although Llacheu’s circle of gold does not protect or heal his head since it is chopped off, perhaps Lancelot’s need for something to protect his head is a borrowed motif from Llacheu’s losing his head. Goodrich also points out that Lohengrin’s mother put golden chains around her babies’ necks as she surrendered them to be thrown into the lake (King Arthur 164). This ring may then have a connection to the Lady of the Lake. If Llacheu is in some way a source for Mordred, who was also thrown into the sea, then it is not so surprising that Llacheu would have had such a ring.

Whether or not Lancelot is Mordred’s brother and Arthur’s son, it is an interesting theory that has some support in Mordred’s own mythological background. This background suggests that Mordred may have traditionally been Arthur’s son from the beginning, a son born through incest rather than originating as a nephew who was then twisted into the child of incest by the romancers.

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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 the Children of Arthur. 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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Bernard Cornwell creates significant children for King Arthur in his trilogy “The Warlord Chronicles,” consisting of The Winter King (1996), Enemy of God (1997), and Excalibur (1997). Cornwell seeks to make his novels historical, not only providing them with a setting in a grim dark age Britain, but also attempting to incorporate the Welsh traditions by recreating Arthur’s sons Amhar, Loholt (a version of Llacheu) and Gwydre. The Mordred in the novels is Arthur’s nephew, but he is important for he is the King of Dumnonia. Mordred’s father was Arthur’s deceased half-brother, also named Mordred. Arthur and the elder Mordred were both Uther’s sons, but because Arthur was illegitimate, the throne has passed through the elder Mordred’s line to his son. The younger Mordred is in his infancy when the trilogy opens, making Arthur one of the council who govern the British kingdom of Dumnonia for Mordred.

The Winter King Bernard Cornwell Warlord Chronicles

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

While these novels adopt Arthur’s children from Welsh tradition, Cornwell allows the children’s personalities to deviate from the characteristics attributed to them in Welsh legend. At the opening of The Winter King, Arthur has two bastard twin sons, Amhar and Loholt, by his mistress Ailleann. Arthur is a neglectful father, and throughout the novel the children are scarcely mentioned, appearing only on pages 108, 163, and 182. When they are mentioned, they are dismissed simply as brats.

Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell Warlord Chronicles

Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell

Enemy of God seeks to expand the role of Arthur’s bastard children as well as providing Arthur with a legitimate son, Gwydre, by Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere. In Welsh tradition, Amhar and Gwydre’s mother is never named, while Llacheu is sometimes the son of Guinevere, so it is strange that Cornwell picks Gwydre rather than Loholt as Guinevere’s son. Gwydre is significantly younger than his half-brothers who are already adults when he is born. Amhar and Loholt have now matured into wicked young men who hate their neglectful father. They become the followers of the cowardly, yet handsome, Lancelot, the exiled prince of Benoic. Lancelot eventually becomes King of the Belgic lands in Britain. Guinevere, who is hungry for power, wishes Arthur to declare himself King of Dumnonia, then unite and rule over all Britain. Arthur, however, refuses to usurp the throne from his nephew, Mordred. Seeing Arthur will never rule Britain, Guinevere turns her attention to Lancelot, becoming his lover and political supporter. Eventually, Arthur and Lancelot go to war, and Arthur’s twin sons, Amhar and Loholt, side with Lancelot. Amhar and Loholt claim to be great druids who have combined ancient druidic lore with the knowledge derived from other religions such as Christianity and the Cult of Isis which have come into Britain. Merlin, however, scoffs at their claims to be druids, for the greatest magical feat the twins perform are simple tricks like pulling eggs from people’s ears. During the conflict between Arthur and Lancelot, Guinevere and Gwydre become hostages in Lancelot’s castle. Arthur, wishing to regain his wife and son, attacks Lancelot’s strongholds, first defeating one held by Loholt. When Arthur asks the defeated Loholt how he could raise a hand against his own father, Loholt replies, “You were never a father to us” (387). Arthur then requests that Loholt place his right hand upon a stone. Loholt thinks he is about to take an oath of loyalty to his father, but instead, Arthur cuts off Loholt’s hand (388), then sends Loholt to Lancelot as a warning of the approach of Arthur’s army. By the novel’s end, Arthur has defeated Lancelot’s armies and rescued Guinevere and his son, Gwydre.

Excalibur Bernard Cornwell Warlord

Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell

In the final novel of the series, Excalibur, Arthur’s three children continue to have prominent roles. The novel begins with Arthur preparing to battle the Saxons. Derfel, the narrator, travels to the court of the Saxons to bargain with them. Here, he discovers Lancelot has allied himself with the Saxons, and Lancelot’s supporters, Arthur’s two sons, Amhar and Loholt, are also present. When peace cannot be made, the Britons and Saxons battle, culminating in Arthur’s victory at Mynydd Badon. Amhar and Loholt survive the battle while Lancelot is killed. Arthur’s villainous twin sons then disappear from the novel for several pages. Meanwhile, Merlin has attempted to save Briton from the Saxons by having the Old Gods return to Britain. In order to bring about the old religion’s return, he must sacrifice the son of a ruler and throw the body into the Cauldron of Clyddno Eiddyn, one of the Treasures of Britain which is said to bring to life anyone who is sacrificed and thrown into it. Among Merlin’s intended victims is Arthur’s son, Gwydre, but Arthur rescues Gwydre before such an atrocity can be committed. As Gwydre grows up, he becomes Mordred’s rival for the throne, for Mordred and his wife, Argante, have been unable to conceive a child. Gwydre marries Derfel’s daughter, Morwenna, and has two children by her, a son Arthur-Bach (meaning Arthur the Little) and a daughter, Seren (298-9). Mordred, meanwhile, plots against Gwydre, by going to France and then spreading rumors that he is dying. Mordred suspects that Arthur and Derfel will now try to win the throne for Gwydre, and when they do so, he can accuse them of treason. Unaware of Mordred’s plan, Derfel travels south to proclaim Gwydre’s claim to the throne. Unfortunately, Derfel is captured by Mordred’s forces and taken prisoner. Here he discovers that Arthur’s twin sons have resurfaced as Mordred’s followers. Derfel manages to escape during the night when everyone is asleep, but before he leaves the castle, he runs a blade through Amhar’s neck, killing him (342). Mordred’s forces now attack Arthur. Arthur does not want war, so he tries to leave Britain for Gaul, but Mordred’s troops quickly attack Arthur, resulting in the Battle of Camlann. Loholt is killed in battle, and Arthur slays Mordred. Arthur and Mordred’s forces are both destroyed, but as the battle ends, a neighboring king, Meurig, appears with an army to claim the right to rule Dumnonia. Arthur, Gweniver, Gwydre and Morwenna, and their children manage to escape on a fishing boat and head to France. The novel ends with Derfel watching the boat depart, and stating that no one has seen Arthur since (433).

With the end of Cornwell’s trilogy, one receives the sense that Gwydre’s chance of gaining the throne is now hopeless. Arthur’s family, however, may live on in Gaul, where Gwydre’s children will marry and multiply, thus continuing Arthur’s bloodline.

The above passage is from King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. For more information, visit http://www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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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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Pendragon’s Banner: Book Two of The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy by Helen Hollick

(published by Sourcebooks Landmark 2009; ISBN 978-1402218897)

In this second volume of The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, Helen Hollick continues her historical portrayal of the Arthurian legend. Arthur is now firmly established as King of Britain, although he has plenty of opposition, including his ex-wife Winifred, who seeks what is best for her son by him, Cerdic, as well as his own people who oppose his making peace with various of the Saxon peoples.

But in my interest in how modern fiction writers treat King Arthur’s children, I think the results here are fairly predictable for his children based on Welsh tradition, all of whom are Arthur’s children by Gwenhywfar in this novel, namely Gwydre, Amr, and Llacheu. Hollick, following their traditional stories, more or less, has each of them die before Arthur.

In legend, Amr usually dies in battle with Arthur—he is believed to have been the original version of Mordred, but Hollick has other plans for Mordred, named “Medraut” in her story, she can’t allow Amr to have the same ending as Medraut so she has him fall into the river and drown when he’s about two years old (p. 98-102). Amr’s death causes hostility between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar, who blames Arthur for not watching him closely.

During Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s time fighting following Amr’s death, Arthur ends up bedding his cousin, Elen, the daughter of one of Uthr’s sisters. She is demanding and manipulative and claims she is pregnant with Arthur’s child. She also wants more from him than just a fling on the side. When they have a disagreement, Elen pulls a knife on Arthur, resulting in his kicking her in the stomach in defense. It’s unclear whether he’s caused her to miscarry their child, and if so whether intentionally, but it does not matter since she becomes despondent and soon after slips off a cliff. However, as I said in my earlier blog about The Kingmaking, Hollick’s Arthur has few if any qualities that make him likeable.

Arthur and Gwenhwyfar soon after reconcile, but then she loses a son of Arthur’s in childbirth.

The fate of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s sons continues to be ill. When Hueil of Alclud, a lover to Morgause, accuses Gwenhwyfar and Bedwyr of adultery, Arthur does battle with Hueil, and in the battle, Llacheu is accidentally stabbed by Hueil. He manages to recover, but soon after eight-year old Gwydre is gored to death during a boar hunt, leaving only Llacheu alive of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s children.

When Llacheu becomes deathly ill, Arthur seeks out the Lady of the Lake, Morgaine, desperate not to lose his and Gwenhwyfar’s last son. Morgaine uses her skills to keep the child alive, but Arthur has no idea she is Morgause’s daughter, or that Morgause has ordered her to hurt Arthur. Neither Morgaine nor Arthur know she is also Uthr’s daughter, and therefore, Arthur’s half-sister. Morgaine tells Arthur her mother orders her to sleep with him, although Arthur interprets what she says to mean the Mother Goddess. They sleep together and Morgaine soon after gives birth to Medraut.

Despite Arthur’s bargain with Morgaine, Llacheu ends up being killed in battle when Morgause is involved in a plot to overthrow Arthur. The novel ends with all of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s children dead, but Gwenhwyfar pregnant.

Arthur is left with two living sons, Cerdic, by his first wife, Winifred, and Medraut, by his half-sister Morgaine.

Doubtless, Medraut will be a key player, and perhaps the traditional villain in the final book of the trilogy Shadow of the King, but what about Cerdic? My guess is he’ll end up ruling the kingdom when all is said and done and being ancestor to the Wessex royalty that will eventually rule all of England, but I’ll have to read the third book to find out how it all actually turns out.

For more information about Helen Hollick and her Arthurian novels, visit www.HelenHollick.net

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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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The Kingmaking: Book One of The Pendragon Banner’s Trilogy by Helen Hollick (published by Sourcebooks Landmark 2011; ISBN 978-1402218880). Available at Amazon.

Somehow in writing King Arthur’s Children, I overlooked Helen Hollick’s The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. I would like to remedy that by discussing each of the books in the trilogy in separate blogs, beginning here with the first book The Kingmaking.

Modern Arthurian novels can be divided up between those that seek to be truly historical and those that are vaguely historical with fantasy elements. Hollick’s retelling is purely historical. There is no Merlin and no magic in this book, and the same is true of the succeeding two books.

The Kingmaking begins with Vortigern ruling Britain and Uthr Pendragon seeking to overthrow him. When Uthr is killed, Arthur eventually takes his place and the rest of the story will ultimately lead to the event of the book’s title. Anyone who reads an Arthurian novel basically knows what’s going to happen since there is a general structure to the legend that influences all modern fiction writers of Arthurian lore, but the legend has room to stretch and Hollick does her fair share of stretching within the legend’s boundaries while retaining her historical focus on what may have been likely to happen, much of it based in historical research and theories by Arthurian scholars.

One interesting change Hollick makes centers around Morgause’s role in the novel. Uthr is married to Morgause’s sister Igraine, but Morgause is Uthr’s mistress on the side. Morgause has had many daughters by Uthr but she has always exposed them to die. Morgause despises Arthur, not realizing until Uthr has died that he is Uthr’s son, but thinking he is only Uthr’s bastard-born nephew. Morgause’s hatred for Arthur causes her later to attack him sexually. The result is not quite what readers might expect, but it deeply shapes Arthur’s future character.

Arthur later admits that his disgust over what Morgause did to him has resulted in how he mistreats women. He is not a gentle man, but rather one who takes women whenever he chooses, determined not to let them exert any feminine power over him. He impregnates a slave girl (p. 160), and he later says he knows he has many bastard daughters (p. 220). Arthur ends up marrying Vortigern’s daughter, Winifred, as a political alliance, and by her he has a sickly daughter who dies soon after birth (p.313). Arthur, however, hates Winifred and is in love with Gwenhwyfar throughout the book.

Eventually, Vortigern dies and his son Vortimer assumes the kingship, but Arthur is on the road to gaining it for himself. During this time, he abandons Winifred and marries Gwenhwyfar. Both women then have sons by him. Gwenhwyfar’s son Llacheu is born first (but in what we would call a bigamist marriage today) while Winifred’s son Cerdic is born a few weeks later. Both women want to see their own sons acknowledged as Arthur’s heir. Winifred threatens to complain to the Pope to make sure Cerdic is acknowledged, but Winifred is half-Saex (Vortigern’s wife Rowena had been the daughter of the Saex leader Hengest) while Llacheu is fully British born. Arthur is disgusted at the thought of having a partially Saex child and lets Winifred know the British people will rally around Llacheu when the time comes.

That Arthur should have sons is unusual but not a new idea as I’ve shown throughout King Arthur’s Children. Llacheu is a traditional son of Arthur in the early Welsh legends and is usually attributed to being Gwenhwyfar’s son as well. More surprising is that Cerdic is credited as Arthur’s son. Hollick, in her “Author’s Note,” states that she is not the first to suggest Cerdic (who is a historical King of the Saxons) was Arthur’s son, but I believe she is the first novelist to do so. The idea was originally suggested by Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe in The Discovery of King Arthur (1985). [see the family tree for Ashe’s theory at http://www.childrenofarthur.com/. Finally, years after Morgause sexually forced herself upon Arthur, she is revealed to have had a daughter named Morgaine. Hollick does not reveal whether the daughter is Uthr or Arthur’s, but it’s a good bet it is Arthur’s daughter considering she exposed her other daughters. While Morgaine is a girl and not likely to inherit the throne, no doubt Morgause has kept her alive to serve as a way to hurt Arthur down the road. (Having not yet read the second book in the series, at this point I am pondering whether Morgaine is really a he and the future Mordred while Morgause is hiding the child’s sex while biding her time. My discussion of the next two books will reveal the details.)

While I was a bit put off by Hollick’s writing style, primarily the way she uses verbs in her sentences, I did find The Kingmaking to be entertaining reading, both for its depictions of Arthur’s children as well as the rather brutal and rough Arthur. I did not find Arthur likeable, but I did like Gwenhwyfar, and I am curious to see how the story will turn out. In her “Author’s Note,” Hollick states that because Lancelot and Merlin were the creations of later twelfth century Norman romancers, readers will not find them in her books since she wants to provide a historical portrait of what could have actually happened. While Merlin was actually established in Welsh tradition so I don’t understand this reasoning (other than perhaps Hollick saw no use for Merlin in a historical rather than fantasy novel), if there is to be no Lancelot, then I am curious to see how Camelot’s fall will be brought about. Will Gwenhwyfar find herself another lover, or will Morgause’s plotting be sufficient to bring about Arthur’s downfall? It’s on to reading Book II: Pendragon’s Banner to find out.

For more information about Helen Hollick and her Arthurian novels, visit www.HelenHollick.net

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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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