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Marquette, MI, December 9, 2015—Three centuries after she carried her brother, King Arthur, to Avalon, Morgan le Fay is still interfering in the lives of mortals. At the court of Charlemagne is the handsome and virile Prince Ogier of Denmark, and Morgan le Fay has surprising plans for him. Now Ogier tells the story of his amazing adventures in award-winning author Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new historical fantasy novel Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three.

Tyler Tichelaar's newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne's France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur's descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

Tyler Tichelaar’s newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne’s France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur’s descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

Ogier the Dane is the greatest knight since King Arthur. Blessed at birth by Morgan le Fay and her fellow fairies, he has always known a great destiny awaits him. Even when his evil stepmother Gudrun turns his father’s affections against him, leading to his exile at Charlemagne’s court, he does not cease to aspire to greatness. There he befriends the great knight, Roland, and he achieves many valorous deeds, rescuing princesses and surpassing other men at arms.

Then Ogier’s father dies and his evil stepmother secretly marries Roland’s uncle, Geoffrey, son of the mysterious fairy Melusine. When, soon after, Ogier learns that Gudrun has murdered Geoffrey and taken Melusine’s magic ring, he fears Gudrun has sinister and far-reaching plans. Ogier soon pursues her beyond the limits of the known eighth century world. From France to Avalon, and from the fabled land of the legendary Christian king, Prester John, to the court of Haroun al-Rashid, the caliph of Arabian Nights fame, Ogier finds himself caught up in more adventures and mysteries than he ever could have conceived. Most importantly, before his quest is completed, he will discover that the power of prayer can work wonders that no manner of manly prowess could ever accomplish.

Bookending Ogier’s tale is that of Adam and Anne Delaney, a twentieth century couple who have appeared in each volume of the Children of Arthur series. The Delaneys’ children have just been kidnapped, and they fear it is by the latest incarnation of Ogier’s evil sorceress stepmother, who is preparing to unleash havoc upon the human race. In their efforts to protect their children and stop this ancient supernatural woman, they are guided by the great magician Merlin, who reveals to them their own family’s connections to Morgan le Fay and her lover Ogier.

Arthurian authors and fans have been delighted with each volume of the Children of Arthur series. Sophie Masson, editor of The Road to Camelot, praises the first book, Arthur’s Legacy, as “an intriguing blend of action-packed time-slip fantasy adventure, moving love story, multi-layered mystery, and unusual spiritual exploration.” Cheryl Carpinello, author of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, proclaims that the second book, Melusine’s Gift, is “reminiscent of those ancient Tales from the Arabian Nights where one story flows into the next…. I can’t recommend this series enough.” And Roslyn McGrath, author of The Third Mary, calls Ogier’s Prayer an “inspirational re-visioning of the past…vivid, suspenseful storytelling will leave you craving the next installment of this thought-provoking, delightfully plot-twisting series!”

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of numerous historical fiction novels, including The Marquette Trilogy, The Best Place, and the award-winning Narrow Lives, as well as the scholarly books The Gothic Wanderer and King Arthur’s Children and the play Willpower.

Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three (ISBN 9780996240017, Marquette Fiction, 2015) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Review copies available upon request.

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I have long been interested in the Fairy Melusine, as evidenced by my writing the book Melusine’s Gift. While researching that novel, I learned that Melusine was referenced in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins War series, beginning with The Lady of the Rivers, so I had to read those novels. I found them fascinating since I’ve also long been interested in the Wars of the Roses. Indeed, it’s possible that I am descended from Elizabeth Woodville, and her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who figure prominently in the novels.

Melusine

Melusine

But one thing confused me about Gregory’s depiction of Melusine. Her insistence that Jacquetta, and the House of Luxembourg, was descended from the famous mermaid-like fairy. I assumed there must be some source to this idea, but Gregory never explains the connection in the novel. Melusine is better known as the ancestor to the House of Lusignan, so I could only guess that some member of the House of Lusignan had married into the House of Luxembourg, but who?

I also was surprised by Gregory making the English characters in the novel suspicious of Jacquetta and Elizabeth because of their connection to Melusine. Both women are even accused of witchcraft, so clearly descent from a famous mythical creature—sorceress, mermaid, flying serpent woman, however you want to describe Melusine—was a partial explanation for this fear and their belief that the women might share their ancestor’s supernatural powers. But Gregory completely ignored that the English royal family, the Plantagenets, including Edward IV, whom Elizabeth Woodville married, themselves claimed descent from Melusine. Not until the final novel in the series, The King’s Curse, does she even make a passing reference to this connection.

Where did Gregory get the idea that the House of Luxembourg could be descended from Melusine? According to Wikipedia, Gregory may have gotten this idea from another novelist. “Rosemary Hawley Jarman used a reference from Sabine Baring-Gould’s Curious Myths of the Middle Ages that the House of Luxembourg claimed descent from Melusine in her 1972 novel The King’s Grey Mare, making Elizabeth Woodville’s family claim descent from the water-spirit. This element is repeated in Philippa Gregory’s novels The White Queen (2009) and The Lady of the Rivers (2011), but with Jacquetta of Luxembourg telling Elizabeth that their descent from Melusine comes through the Dukes of Burgundy.”

First, let me say that the claim of the Dukes of Burgundy to being descended from Melusine seems unlikely. In fact, I believe Gregory made up the connection that the House of Luxembourg is connected to the House of Burgundy. If they were at the time of the mid-fifteenth century, it was a very tenuous connection and I could not find a connection. Furthermore, the Dukes of Burgundy during Jacquetta’s time in the early fifteenth century were directly descended from the French royal family.

Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward IV of England, was descended from the House of Luxembourg, and perhaps a descendant of Melusine.

Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward IV of England, was descended from the House of Luxembourg, and perhaps a descendant of Melusine.

Baring-Gould’s claim that the House of Luxembourg claimed descent from Melusine is true, but it is not a credible claim. In fact, in The Book of Melusine of Lusignan by Gareth Knight, who is perhaps the greatest expert on Melusine, it is stated that the Luxembourg legend says that Sigefroy, first Count of Lusignan, married a woman named Melusine (p. 117). Since we know Melusine married Count Raimond of Lusignan in other versions of the legend, it is likely various nobles just decided to make up their own connections to Melusine. Somehow, I just don’t see Melusine as a bigamist who deserted Raimond and then went and remarried. Furthermore, Sigefroy is considered the first count of Luxembourg and he lived in the tenth century, while Melusine seems to have lived in the eighth century when she is married to Raimond of Lusignan. Plus, we know that Sigefroy was married to Hedwig of Nordgau, by whom he had several children, including those through whom the House of Luxembourg descended.

So the link between Melusine and Luxembourg seems to be completely fanciful, but still, I decided to dig into Jacquetta’s family tree to see whether I could find any Lusignan link, and believe it or not, I did find a connection. The link is actually through Jacquetta’s paternal grandmother’s line, as shown below. The tree begins with the first documented member of the House of Lusignan, Hugh I, who lived in the ninth century and whom we can presume would be the alleged descendant of Melusine. Each person on the chart is the parent of the person below him or her.

 

Lusignan Genealogy, linking to Luxembourg

Hugh I

Hugh II (d. 967) According to the Chronicle of Saint-Maixent, he built the castle at Lusignan.

Hugh III

Hugh IV (d.1026)

Hugh V (d.1060)

Hugh VI (1039/43-1103/10)

Hugh VII of Lusignan (1065-1171)

Hugh VIII of Lusignan (d. 1165/71)

Aimery of Lusignan (1145-1205) – brother to Guy, King of Jerusalem

Hugh I of Cyprus (1194/5-1218)

Marie de Lusignan (1215-1251/3)

Hugh, Count of Brienne (1240-1296)

Walter V of Brienne (1278-1311)

Isabella of Brienne (1306-1360), claimant to the Kingdom of Jerusalem

Louis of Enghien (d. 1394)

Marguerite of Enghien (b. 1365) m. John of Luxembourg, Lord of Beauvoir

Peter of Luxembourg, Count of Saint Pol (1390-1433)

Jacquetta of Luxembourg, married Earl Rivers

Elizabeth, Queen of England m. Edward IV

Elizabeth of York m. Henry VII

Henry VIII of England

 

The genealogy above is a very roundabout way to connect Luxembourg to Lusignan, but the connection is there. That said, Jacquetta was as closely connected to the Plantagenets already as she was to Lusignan, being a descendant of Plantagenet king Henry III as shown below.

Henry III of England (1208-1272)

Beatrice of England (1242-1275) m. John II, Duke of Brittany

Marie of Brittany (1268-1339)

John of Chatillon, Count of Saint-Pol (d. 1344)

Mahaut of Chatillon, Countess of Saint-Pol

John of Luxembourgh, Lord of Beauvoir

Peter of Luxembourg

Jacquetta of Luxembourg

 

This chart would mean that Jacquetta would also be potentially descended from Melusine if it were true that the Plantagenets were descended from Melusine. But what was the Plantagenet connection? We know that Richard the Lionhearted, who was brother to King John and, therefore, uncle to Henry III, used to like to joke about being descended from Melusine. Therefore, the link has to date to before the thirteenth century. The connection of the Plantagenets to the Lusignan’s actually exists in the line of Anjou from which the Plantagenet line descended.

Fulk Anjou, King of Jerusalem

Geoffrey V of Anjou m. Maud, daughter of Henry I of England

Henry II of England

John of England

Henry III

 

Here’s where things get confusing. In the first chart above showing Jacquetta’s ancestors, we have Aimery of Lusignan, brother to King Guy of Jerusalem. The genealogy of the Kings of Jerusalem is full of marriages where husbands inherited the crown from their wives. Let’s try to unravel the genealogy of the Kings of Jerusalem.

Fulk of Anjou, King of Jerusalem m. Ermengarde of Maine. They were the parents of Geoffrey of Anjou, progenitor of the Plantagenets. Fulk later married Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem. They had two sons Baldwin III and Amalric, both Kings of Jerusalem. Melisende was herself the daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, so Fulk achieved the throne through marriage. Also, notably, Melisende is often confused with Melusine because of the similar name, though that may or may not be the cause of the Plantagenet claim to descent from Melusine. Melisende got her own name from her father, King Baldwin II’s mother, Melisende, who was the daughter of Guy I of Montlhery. Who Guy’s father was is questionable. According to Wikipedia, he was probably the third son of Thibault of Montlhery, though some sources say his father’s name was Milo. I find this latter assertion interesting since the Fairy Melusine may have had a son named Milo or Milon according to some less than creditable sources. But that does not explain the link between Lusignan and the Plantagenets.

As it turns out, Fulk’s son, Amalric, had a daughter, Sybilla, who ended up inheriting the crown of Jerusalem and passing it to her husband, Guy of Lusignan. The result is that the link between Plantagenets and Lusignan is only through marriage, making them sort of half-cousins, but the Plantagenets themselves are not direct descendants of Lusignan. At least not through the House of Anjou.

But a later Plantagenet link does exist. Henry III’s mother was Isabella of Angouleme. Isabella was engaged to marry Hugh IX of Lusignan (brother of Aimery and Guy) when King John instead married her and made her Queen of England. As a result, the Lusignans rebelled against the English king. After John’s death in 1216, Isabella returned to France and married in 1220 Hugh X, the son of her former fiancée. (Not so strange since he was within a few years of her age while King John was twenty-four years older than Isabella.) Hugh X and Isabella had many children who would have been the half-siblings to King Henry III. Among those children was Aymer, who became Bishop of Winchester, and Alice, who married the Earl of Surrey, while the other children seem to have remained in France. So again, another Lusignan connection for the Plantagenets, but again, only by marriage.

"The Wandering Unicorn" by Manuel Mujica Lainez

“The Wandering Unicorn” by Manuel Mujica Lainez is a fanciful novel about Melusine watching over her Lusignan descendants during the Crusades.

In any case, what is clear from these genealogical explorations is that if Melusine was the progenitor of the House of Lusignan, she had many, many descendants. But the question remains whether she even lived. The line of Lusignan can only be traced back for certain to Hugh I who lived in the early tenth century, and his son is likely the true builder of the Castle of Lusignan, which is reputed to have been built by Melusine. Searches for Hugh’s ancestry would be difficult and would require going back a century or two to find the ancestress Melusine if she existed at all. However, no records seem to exist of Hugh’s ancestry.

The question also arises whether we even know Melusine’s real name? According to The Serpent and the Swan: The Animal Bride in Folklore and Literature, the name Melusine was used by the first chroniclers of her tale, D’Arras and Couldrette, as an abbreviation of the French words “Mere des Lusignan” which would be “Mother of the Lusignans” in English (Source http://jungiangenealogy.weebly.com/melusine-de-alba.html). In other words, the real Melusine, like so many medieval and ancient women, remains nameless to us.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, including the novels Arthur’s Legacy and Melusine’s Gift. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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Recently, I read Philippa Gregory’s novel The White Queen, about Elizabeth Woodville and the Wars of the Roses, and I liked it enough to read the sequel, The White Princess. I did not read the other books in “The Cousins War” series, but I may feel inclined to at some point. I started with The White Queen because I didn’t know it was part of a series, but also because the book interested me for two reasons:

TheWhiteQueen1. Elizabeth Woodville: She is the lesser reason why I read the book, but I must admit my prejudice here. I am descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, so I am related or descended from several of the major players in the Wars of the Roses. Among them is Gaunt’s daughter Joan Beaufort’s daughters, Catherine Neville (my direct ancestor) and Cecily Neville, who was mother to Edward IV and Richard III. My descent from Catherine Neville is by her daughter, Cecily Willoughby who married Baron Dudley and in time became ancestor to Thomas Dudley, the 2nd Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But Thomas Dudley’s ancestry has always been in question—whether or not he was descended from the Barons Dudley, whose coat of arms he used, but he was always quiet about his ancestry, perhaps embarrassed by his relation to the notorious John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland or John Sutton, 3rd Baron Dudley, commonly known as Lord Quondam because his cousin, the Duke of Northumberland, took the family castle off his hands when he couldn’t pay his debts. Recently, a new theory surfaced that Gov. Dudley was also descended from Thomas Grey, the son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first marriage, which would make Dudley not only a descendant of the Barons of Dudley, but Lord Quondam who married Thomas Grey’s daughter. It also makes Thomas Dudley a cousin to Lady Jane Grey, whom the Duke of Northumberland tried to put on the throne and ended up being executed for. So in short, I wanted to know more about Elizabeth Woodville because of this newfound genealogy connection. Nor was this an easy discovery for me because I’d always sided with the House of Lancaster, but now here I might be descended from a Yorkist Queen—oh well, she had started out as a Lancastrian as well until she fell in love with Edward IV.

Thomas Dudley, 2nd Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, from whom countless Americans have descended including John Kerry, Humphrey Bogart, Irene Castle, Herbert Hoover, and Paul Giamatti.

Thomas Dudley, 2nd Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, from whom countless Americans have descended including John Kerry, Humphrey Bogart, Irene Castle, Herbert Hoover, and Paul Giamatti.

2. Melusine: Philippa Gregory works the Melusine legend into the novel by claiming that Elizabeth Woodville’s mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, was a descendant of Melusine. In fact, Melusine is claimed as an ancestor to the entire House of Luxembourg. I was surprised by this since usually Melusine is considered to have lived in the eighth century and have been ancestress to the House of Lusignan, but several royal and noble lines wanted to claim descent from her—although why has never been clear given her strange story. I have written about Melusine in more depth on this blog previously, but in short, she was raised in Avalon (yes, King Arthur’s Avalon) and cursed by her mother always to appear as a mermaid or flying serpent one night a week. I have recently been writing my own novel about Melusine so I was curious about how Gregory depicted her.

My review of Gregory’s novel is then largely based on those interests.

First, Melusine—I honestly don’t know why Gregory bothered to include her in the books. Her story is not told in full in the novel but used instead by Elizabeth and Jacquetta as proof that they are descended from a great water goddess (the goddess term seems going too far to me, although Melusine may have evolved from pagan myths where she was a goddess). As a result, Jacquetta and Elizabeth (they were often thought to be witches anyway) have some witch powers to do minor things like create storms at sea. Fortunately, Gregory doesn’t take this too far, but nevertheless, if she had left Melusine out of the novel, it would not have mattered at all.

In fact, the only time the witchcraft idea works well in the novel is when Elizabeth Woodville curses whoever killed her sons, the princes in the Tower; the curse says that the murderer will lose his first born son and his grandson—the irony here is that Gregory ends up showing that Henry Tudor, rather than Richard III, was probably the murderer, since Henry’s firstborn son Arthur died, and then Henry VIII’s son Edward died, leaving only women to reign—Mary and Elizabeth I. I found this an interesting twist to the novel. I also liked the occasional references to King Arthur—the Tudors loved to believe they were Arthur’s heirs and even descendants, hence Prince Arthur’s name. Unfortunately, as far as Gregory is concerned, this curse is the reason why we never had a new King Arthur.

Melusine not only was a popular choice as a legendary ancestor for many of the royal and noble houses of Europe, but she also inspired the Starbucks coffee logo.

Melusine not only was a popular choice as a legendary ancestor for many of the royal and noble houses of Europe, but she also inspired the Starbucks coffee logo.

I also loved Gregory’s idea that Elizabeth managed to trick Richard III and sent another boy rather than Richard, Duke of York, to the Tower and that Richard escaped and became the illustrious Perkin Warbeck, who may or may not have been a pretender to the throne. Gregory pretty much had me convinced by the novel’s end that Perkin Warbeck may have been the true Richard, Duke of York; at least, it’s a theory I’d be interested in considering further.

I am no expert on the Wars of the Roses, but I did not see any glaring errors in the novel other than Gregory’s continually stating that Jacquetta is related to the Dukes of Burgundy. I am very interested in genealogy, but search as I might, I could find no relationship between her and the Dukes of Burgundy and several other people I discovered online also had to conclude that Gregory made up the connection—why, I don’t know. But other than that, reading these novels really helped me to learn history in an interesting and entertaining way, and I did go online to find out more details about many of the people in the novels and learn more about the period.

The White Queen has recently been made into a Starz television series, which I haven’t watched and I’ve read reviews of it not being very historically accurate. Considering the atrocity that Starz made out of the Camelot series (see my reviews on this blog), I probably won’t watch it. But the novels are very readable, especially The White Queen, which was a true page-turner I didn’t want to put down. If you love British history and good historical fiction, you will probably enjoy reading these novels. If you want to learn more about Melusine, look elsewhere or wait for my novel, Melusine’s Gift: The Children of Arthur, Book Two, when it comes out in 2015 following Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One coming summer 2014.

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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 upcoming novel Arthur’s Legacy, The Children of Arthur: Book One. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com

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Melusine

I’ve always been fascinated with genealogy and famous people’s descendants. The possibility that King Arthur may have had children besides Mordred and that his descendants live today led to my researching the topic and writing my book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition.

But King Arthur is not the only legendary or mythical person who may have had descendants. Here are just a few others who have always fascinated me.

Melusine: The fairy Melusine, who was supposedly half-serpent or a mermaid, is another whom royal and noble people have tried to claim descent from over the years, specifically the House of Lusignan, which would make her ancestress to the Plantagenets who became rulers of England as well as people like Guy of Lusignan, who was King of Jerusalem until Saladin removed him from his throne and he ended up instead as King of Cyprus. One branch of Melusine’s alleged descendants continues today in the Weir family, who are descended in turn from the de Vere family who were Earls of Oxford.

Vlad Tepes

Dracula: While the vampire Count Dracula is fictional, he is based on Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, commonly called Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476). Claims have frequently been made by various people that they are descendants of Dracula, although all of these claims appear to be either false publicity stunts or misuses of the term “descendant.” In Dracula, Prince of Many Faces, the authors Radu R. Florescu and Raymond T. McNally devote a chapter to discussion of Vlad Tepes’ descendants that reveals all of his children’s known lines died out by the seventeenth century. It is possible that some of Vlad Tepes’ descendants are still alive that have not been documented. However, those claims to be descendants are usually a stretch of the truth and really these people are descendants of one of his brothers. Recently, Charles, Prince of Wales, stated that genealogy proved he was a relative to Vlad Tepes. Some websites state Charles is a descendant, but the truth is that the Prince of Wales and his mother Queen Elizabeth II are descended from Vlad Tepes’ brother. Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Mary of Teck, was the granddaughter of Countess Claudine Rhédey de Kis-Rhéde, who was the 10th great-granddaughter of Vlad IV “the Monk” who also ruled Wallachia (1482-95); he was Vlad Tepes’ half-brother. (See Countess Claudine’s entry at Wikipedia). So Vlad Tepes is an ancestral uncle to the British royal family and probably many of the royal and noble families of Europe, but not a direct ancestor.

Cassandra of Troy: Another fascinating descendants theory comes from ancient Troy. When Troy fell, it’s a well-known story that Aeneas escaped and eventually founded Rome. His descendants included Brutus, who traveled to Britain and became it’s king and for whom Britain is named. But Marion Zimmer Bradley, in her novel about the Trojan War, The Firebrand (probably her best novel after The Mists of Avalon) offers an interesting possibility about the Princess Cassandra, daughter of King Priam. In the novel’s Postscript, Bradley states that while the Iliad says nothing of Cassandra’s fate, there is a statement on tablet #803 in the Archaelological Museum in Athens that says, “Agathon, son of Ekhephylos, the Zakynthian Family, consuls of the Molossians and their allies, descended for 30 Generations from Kassandra of Troy.” I wish we knew for sure whether this statement is true. Even if it were, who Agathon was and his descendants have equally been lost to history.

The Death of Roland by N.C. Wyeth

Roland the Paladin: Recently, in researching the Charlemagne legends, I came across several websites that listed Charlemagne’s nephew, Roland, as having had descendants. Roland is often regarded as mythical although it seems there was a Roland who was the military governor of the Breton march. Roland traditionally is said to have died at the Battle of Roncesvaux Pass in 778. At the time of Roland’s death, he was engaged to Alda, who died of grief having heard of his death. But there exists a tradition that by an unknown woman Roland had a son named Faralando d’Angleria. This son married a woman named Flora Valdez and they had a child named Diego Valdez. In turn, Diego’s descendants would measure in the thousands today and among them are King George I of England and all his descendants, Otto Bismarck, and Winston Churchill. Could Roland have lived through the Battle of Roncesvaux Pass and married a woman living in what today is Spain? Furthermore, while I have found this list of descendants for Roland on a few different websites, I have not seen any source for it, although at least one notes that Roland’s descendants are likely false. If any of my readers know of the source for Roland having descendants, I would really like to hear from you.

Can we prove that any of these or other famous legendary people had descendants? To do so is even more difficult than proving they were historical people since that criteria would need to be proven first. But it is great fun to think such descendants live on, mixed in among us and perhaps we might even be among them.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can also visit him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Today, I am honored to be a guest blogger at my friend Nicole Alexander’s blog, “The Mists of Time.” She asked me to write about my trip to Turkey and the connections between Turkey and the Arthurian legend. You can read my guest post at: http://nicoleevelina.com/2012/04/11/guest-post-searching-for-king-arthur-in-turkey/

I have blogged several times here also about the French fairy, Melusine of Lusignan, whom I consider a marginal part of Arthuriana since Melusine was raised on the Isle of Avalon.

Image of Medusa in Ephesus, Turkey, which closely resembles depictions of Melusine.

While I was visiting in Turkey the ruins of Ephesus (best known for St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and because the Apostle John and Virgin Mary settled there after Jesus’ ascension), I was stunned to see a depiction of Medusa. We all known Medusa as the woman in the story of Perseus who has a head of snakes, and if you look upon her, you would be turned to stone. Perseus uses his shield so he only has to look at her reflection and can cut off her head.

At Ephesus, the image of Medusa closely resembles many images of Melusine. Medusa is depicted with what look like two fish (possibly serpent or snake) tails. This image is close to that well-known image of the mermaid in the Starbucks logo and many other depictions of Melusine.

Melusine is herself believed to be based in earlier mythologies of water spirits or goddesses and Medusa is probably one of her literary or religious grandmothers. Their stories have similarities. According to Wikipedia: “Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, “the jealous aspiration of many suitors,” priestess in Athena’s temple, but when she was caught being raped by the “Lord of the Sea” Poseidon by Athena‘s temple, the enraged Athena transformed Medusa’s beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. In Ovid’s telling, Perseus describes Medusa’s punishment by Minerva (Athena) as just and well earned.” Well-earned is questionable. Does being raped deserve such punishment? Melusine also acquires her serpent form at the rage of another–her mother Pressyne, who curses her after Melusine and her sisters lock up their father in a cave where he dies.

A typical depiction of Melusine.

I’m not the first to note the similarities between Melusine and Medusa. An interesting book that discusses Melusine’s connection to more classical myths is Gillian Alban’s Melusine the Serpent Goddess in A. S. Byatt’s Possession and Mythology.

Anyone interested in ancient goddesses and the Turkey connection might enjoy a tour of Turkey with Rashid Ergener, who was my own tour guide of Turkey, and the most knowledgeable tour guide I have ever known. He even leads tours in search of the Ancient Mother Goddess. Find out more at: http://rashidsturkey.com/?nav=g&dir=&g=

Turkey is a beautiful country and well worth a visit, whether or not you are in quest of ancient myths and legends.

Julius Hubner's 1844 painting of Melusine.

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I’ve long been interested in the story of Melusine, the fairy with a serpent’s tale. However, it is very difficult to find any scholarly works in English about her – most are in French, so I was delighted to discover Gareth Knight’s recently published “Melusine of Lusignan & The Cult of the Faery Woman.”

Gareth Knight is well-known in esoteric circles and for his work on myths and legends. His previous book on European faery tradition was “The Faery Gates of Avalon,” which I have not read but now am curious to.

“Melusine of Lusignan” is a relatively short book – 124 pages, and I wouldn’t consider it an academic work but rather an attempt just to shed light upon the tale of Melusine. In fact, Knight retells the story at length blending together various versions without specificying which piece he got from where so that I wish he had been more academic about it since bits of the legend that he cites I have not seen elsewhere. That said, I admit I have only read what I could find online about Melusine and a translation of Coudrette’s “The Romans of Partenay” and Lainez’s “The Wandering Unicorn,” which I previously reviewed here. I am no expert but rather an enthusiast on the subject.

What I most valued about Knight’s book is how he retells the story, then breaks it into pieces and offers commentary on each section, including what was added later to the legend and what might be the earlier versions. For example, Melusine’s ten children, excepting Geoffrey, seem to be mostly fictional and added as ways to link the genealogy of several European houses as descendants of Melusine. It’s also interesting that Pressyne’s curse on her daughters for how they punished their father is probably an addition to the story made by chroniclers to explain her serpent’s tale. I think Knight is probably correct that in reality Melusine needed each Saturday alone because it was the Sabbath day, a day of rest, a day for her to reenergize after a week of masquerading as a human.

Knight also offers a lot of historical commentary to the other children of Melusine and the sources for the tales of her sisters which do not appear to be original.

Finally, he speculates that Melusine’s mother Pressyne could be the sister of Morgan le Fay, which links her to Arthurian literature, although I don’t think this connection will ever be fully clarified.

I wish I could find more scholarly works in English about Melusine and also how the Arthurian legends influenced the French romances of Melusine and Charlemagne, since Avalon is connected to both.

Anyone interested in Melusine will want to read Gareth Knight’s book. Much remains to be said on this subject, but Knight has provided a good start for English audiences interested in what is probably France’s most famous fairy tale or legend. Like King Arthur, we will probably never know just who the historical Melusine or who her real descendants are, but it’s always fun to speculate.

Gareth Knight’s “Melusine of Lusignan & The Cult of the Faery Woman” is available at Amazon and at http://rjstewart.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 legend of Melusine has long fascinated people, although it is less well-known today than in the past. For centuries royal and noble houses tried to claim lineage from the fairy Melusine, although their reasoning for why has never been exactly clear. More interesting to Arthurian scholars and enthusiasts is how Melusine has been linked to the Arthurian legend.

Julius Hubner Melusine

German Painter Julius Hubner’s depiction of Melusine

For those who don’t know Melusine’s story, here is a summary of the legend as it appears on Wikipedia:

Elynas, the King of Albany (an old name for Albania) [Note that Wikipedia is wrong here – Albany was the old name for Scotland.] went hunting one day and came across a beautiful lady in the forest. She was Pressyne, mother of Melusine. He persuaded her to marry him but she agreed, only on the promise — for there is often a hard and fatal condition attached to any pairing of fay and mortal — that he must not enter her chamber when she birthed or bathed her children. She gave birth to triplets. When he violated this taboo, Pressyne left the kingdom, together with her three daughters, and traveled to the lost Isle of Avalon.

The three girls — Melusine, Melior, and Palatyne — grew up in Avalon. On their fifteenth birthday, Melusine, the eldest, asked why they had been taken to Avalon. Upon hearing of their father’s broken promise, Melusine sought revenge. She and her sisters captured Elynas and locked him, with his riches, in a mountain. Pressyne became enraged when she learned what the girls had done, and punished them for their disrespect to their father. Melusine was condemned to take the form of a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. In other stories, she takes on the form of a mermaid.

Raymond of Poitou came across Melusine in a forest in France, and proposed marriage. Just as her mother had done, she laid a condition, that he must never enter her chamber on a Saturday. He broke the promise and saw her in the form of a part-woman part-serpent. She forgave him. When during a disagreement, he called her a “serpent” in front of his court, she assumed the form of a dragon, provided him with two magic rings, and flew off, never to return.

What fascinates me about the legend is two-fold: the fact that Melusine is a fairy who grows up in Avalon (did she know Morgan le Fay and King Arthur?) and how royal lines, including the House of Lusignan, and their descendants, the royal family of England, claim descent from her–why want to be descended from a cursed fairy?

Recently, I discovered Manuel Mujica Lainez’s novel The Wandering Unicorn (1965). More than just a retelling of the Melusine legend, Lainez tells the story in first person from Melusine’s viewpoint but quickly sums up the known story in the first few pages. Rather than a retelling of the story, Lainez continues Melusine’s tale. Tired of hanging around the castle of Lusignan and being invisible, Melusine decides to accompany her strikingly gorgeous descendant Aiol (a fictional character to the best of my knowledge), on his quest to find the lance that pierced Christ, reputedly hidden somewhere in the Holy Land. The novel takes place during the time of the Crusades, and for those familiar with the movie, Kingdom of Heaven(2005), it basically recounts the same events surrounding the reign of the Leper King, Baldwin IV, his death, and the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin.

“The Wandering Unicorn” by Manuel Mujica Lainez

Today, the novel is a bit hard to find but used copies can be bought online. Some reviewers at Amazon have complained that it’s slow. I admit it isn’t an action-adventure novel or even one fully rich on character development, other than Melusine’s character. It reads less like a novel than an old-fashioned French romance or chronicle, with a touch of magical realism. In most of the narrative, Melusine describes what she sees since she is invisible and cannot interact with the other characters. Later, she is granted her request by her mother to be made human–only to be tricked by being transformed into a man so she cannot possess Aiol, whom she is crazy in love with. But Lainez’s prose is musical and magical, and his research into Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the 12th century must have been extensive for Lainez knows the gossip and autobiographical details (some of which I’m sure he makes up) for many of the key and minor players in the politics of the Holy Land during the Crusades.

I found The Wandering Unicorn a fascinating novel, and I can’t say how thrilled I was to discover it because as many of my readers know, my book King Arthur’s Children was written as a form of research into the legend and background for the series of novels I am currently writing about King Arthur, in which I plan to carry King Arthur’s descendants up to modern times, and I have long planned to have both Melusine and the Crusades play a role in those books, so it was fascinating to me that nearly half a century ago, someone else had the same idea. And why not? If Melusine grew up in Avalon and did know King Arthur and Morgan le Fay, how could she not be a significant character in the aftermath of events that happened following Camlann? If Morgan le Fay can show up in the Charlemagne legends, why not Melusine? Even one of my other favorite literary characters, the Wandering Jew, makes a cameo appearance in The Wandering Unicorn. What’s not to like?

It may be years before I finish writing my own novels and creating a new story for Melusine, but she leaves much room for imaginative possibilities; she has definitely become one of my muses, and as one of her descendants (through my descent from the Plantagenets), who can say that she is not guiding me to retell her story? I hope to post more about her in the future. Meanwhile, I encourage people to read Coudrette’s late medieval work The Romans of Partenay or of Lusignen: Otherwise known as the Tale of Melusine and Lainez’s fascinating The Wandering Unicorn. As Melusine herself says in The Wandering Unicorn:

“My name is Melusine, which should tell you all you need to know. But alas, at present it may not be enough. Indeed, what is enough these days, when students have to absorb so much abstruse and futile information that they have no time left for the fundamentals?”

Melusine’s legend is definitely one of the fundamental great legends of Western literature. Explore it.

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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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