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And yet another novel has been written featuring King Arthur’s children. This one focuses on the child from Welsh tradition, Amir or Amr, here named Amhar. He is one of the main characters in Aenghus Chisholme’s 2014 novel AD 517: Arthur the King.

AD 517: Arthur the King makes King Arthur’s son Amhar its hero.

Actually, two of Arthur’s children are in this novel. Amhar is the legitimate son of Arthur and Gwenhwyvar, and heir to the kingdom. Mordred is the illegitimate son of Arthur and Morgan. For most of the novel, Mordred is a bit in Amhar’s shadow, and the two act together, which is not surprising given that Amr’s story is one in which he is slain while fighting his father, and he may likely have inspired the development of Mordred’s role as the son who slays his father. (In the original Welsh legends, there’s no indication Mordred and Arthur are even related to one another. For more on the development of both of these children in early Welsh sources, see my book King Arthur’s Children.)

Aenghus Chisholme has previously written three other Arthurian novels, the stories of which are occasionally referenced in the novel, although AD 517: Arthur the King can be read as a stand-alone novel. Amhar appears in all of the earlier novels, but he is just an infant and small child in them and not a major character.

Before I describe the plot of AD 517: Arthur the King, I will give a spoiler alert here since it’s impossible to discuss this novel without giving away the ending.

The story begins with Arthur defeating the Saxons at Badon. He now rules more of Britain than any previous king. That said, he has not driven away all the invaders of Britain. The Saxons, Jutes, and Angles still exist on his shores. Arthur wants to rid the island of all these invaders, but his son Amhar is against this, trying to convince his father that many of them were born in Britain and are as much Britons as the Britons themselves. Arthur does not want to hear this and begins a program of ethnic cleansing that enrages Amhar. Arthur is upset by his son’s attitude, even though Gallahalt tries to explain to him that Amhar, who is twenty-five, is too young to remember the earlier years when war was necessary.

Meanwhile, a sorcerer named Ivorwulf has been spying on Arthur’s castle at Caerleon. Morgan eventually realizes this and warns Merlin. They decide they will kidnap Ivorwulf to prevent him from aiding their enemies. Ivorwulf is working for the Saxons, Jutes, and Angles, who are forming an alliance against Arthur. However, before Morgan and Merlin can get Ivorwulf back to Caerleon, they are themselves abducted by Nimue and other fairies. Ivorwulf manages to free them and tells Merlin and Morgan he realizes they must be allies against the fairies who are the true enemies of Briton. (There’s a lot of stuff about fairies in the book and how they can no longer reproduce because Christianity is weakening them. The fairy stuff was a bit much for me. I like a little magic in Arthurian novel, but these fairies were over the top, especially in their sexual appetites. A couple of sex scenes with fairies were nothing but erotica and too gratuitous in my opinion since they added hardly anything to the plot.)

Arthur continues his ethnic cleansing program. Amhar and Mordred decide to go to Camlann to rally the people to pledge their loyalty to Arthur and show they are true Britons, even though many of them are Saxons, Jutes, or Angles. Arthur accidentally learns of their plans and takes a troop to Camlann to punish them or at least quell their rebellion, as he sees it. Ivorwulf, Merlin, and Morgan accompany him. Ivorwulf is pretending to be on their side, but upon arrival at Camlann, he shows his true colors. Through various spells, Arthur and Mordred end up fighting each other, each thinking the other a Saxon. Of course, they kill each other and regret it when they realize what they have done.

As he is dying, Arthur then gives Excalibur to Amhar, making him king. Meanwhile, Ivorwulf reveals to Merlin and Morgan his plan not to betray the invader kings so he can become Caesar of Britain himself. Merlin and Morgan become prisoner to his spells, but in a last act of strength, they help Amhar defeat Ivorwulf.

Here is the most interesting part of the novel. Amhar is now King of Britain, but rather than stay king, he wants all people to live in freedom in Britain, so he abdicates and goes to live in Galloway. He gives Excalibur to Sir Pellus to return to Matrona, the Lady of the Lake.

The novel’s ending is idealistic, and while I sympathize with its message, I’m afraid it’s not very realistic. I’m left thinking Amhar a bit of a fool. After all, who ever heard of him? By abdicating, he leaves Britain ripe for chaos and the resulting Dark Ages.

I also find the date of the novel strange. Only probably a few months at most pass during the time of this novel. Camlann was fought in 537 or 539 traditionally, certainly not 517, which is a year after the traditional date of 516 for the Battle of Mount Badon.

Overall, AD 517: Arthur the King was a bit over the top for my tastes, but I did like the treatment of Amhar and Mordred and the twist on how Camlann happened. The book is a fast-paced read and never dull, although it has more typos than it should. Arthur is a bit too much of a hot-head, but that’s to be expected in a novel that tries to explain how his sons were not the villains history has made them out to be. Some of the scenes felt a bit pointless, especially Arthur’s showdown with a witch, which did nothing to advance the plot. Even so, it’s a fun read and does make you wonder yet again what really might have happened at Camlann.

Those interested in reading Aenghus Chisholme’s other Arthurian novels can visit his website at www.AenghusChisholme.com.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

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Today, I will be interviewing Arthurian novelist Nicole Evelina about her new novel, Camelot’s Queen, the second of three books in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy following Daughter of Destiny. (You can also read on this blog my review of her two novels Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen and my previous interview with her about Daughter of Destiny.)

Nicole Evelina, author of "Camelot's Queen" about Guinevere's years married to King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina, author of “Camelot’s Queen” about Guinevere’s years married to King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina has spent the last fifteen years researching the Arthurian legend, Celtic Britain, and the various peoples, cultures, and religious practices that shaped the country after the withdrawal of Rome. She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society.

Nicole holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in media communications, as well as accreditation from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a distinction that tests writing and communications skills, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide. Her goal in writing Arthurian fiction is to create a strong female protagonist in the person of Guinevere in the series. And it looks like she’s succeeded because Daughter of Destiny has so far won:

  • Book of the Year – Chanticleer Reviews
  • Gold Medal – Next Generation Indie Book Awards
  • First Place, Legacy/legend category – 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romantic Fiction

Short list – 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction

SelectedLibrary Journal’s curated SELF-e Select module

Hopefully, we’ll find out Nicole’s secret for writing great Arthurian fiction here today.

Tyler: Welcome back, Nicole. I’ve been anxious to find out what happens to Guinevere, and I wasn’t disappointed in the second book in the series. The first book, Daughter of Destiny, focused on the years leading up to Guinevere’s marriage, which are usually fairly ignored by Arthurian writers, but this second book follows the main tradition from her marriage to King Arthur until Lancelot rescues her from being burnt at the stake. Consequently, you had a lot more material to work with here, but also less license to be wholly imaginative, so would you say writing Camelot’s Queen was easier or more difficult as a result?

Nicole: Thanks for having me here again. Always a pleasure! To answer your question, it made it easier and harder. Having more source material gave me more to work with, but I also had more to cull through and in the early drafts, I had a tough time bringing focus to the book because I wanted to cover everything. It also means readers have a lot more expectations coming into this book than they do with the others, so I had to keep in mind both the story I wanted to tell with what most people would expect, and if I was going to change something, give them a darn good reason for it.

Tyler: One of the most detailed sections of the book concerns what happens when Guinevere is abducted by Malegant. You made a lot of interesting changes to the story in this section that I thought made it very powerful. What made you decide to tell the tale in the way you did here?

Nicole: I felt like it was part of the tradition that couldn’t be ignored. Here I am telling this woman’s life story from her point of view, so there’s no logical way to skip over it without the gap being really obvious. I kept in mind the tenant that “every villain is the hero of their own story” when creating Malegant and defining his personality and back story. I wanted the reader to be able to understand why he did the terrible things he did and that in his mind, he was in the right. He wasn’t just some mustache-twirling villain who was there because tradition dictated it; he had an untapped back-story, just like Guinevere.

As for the changes around Arthur and Morgan’s roles, without spoiling anything, I’ll say I did that because I wanted to do something other than have her be his sister. When I eliminated that possibility, I had to think hard about what their relationship would be and how that would impact the rest of the story. What would make these characters still act in accord with tradition? Luckily for me, Celtic law provided the perfect answer.

Tyler: Did you have a favorite scene or section in the novel that you enjoyed writing?

Nicole: The whole section around Guinevere’s kidnapping is my favorite, hands down. But I also love three of the scenes with Aggrivane: when he and Guinevere talk after he comes back to Camelot, what happens after Lancelot is invested as champion, and their scene together right before the burning.

Tyler: While most of the characters will be familiar to readers of Arthurian books, you do introduce some new characters such as Sobian. Why did you decide to create her?

Nicole: She created herself, believe it or not. Originally, she appeared when Arthur, Guinevere and a group of knights were traveling around the kingdom, visiting all of the people, much like the famous progress Queen Elizabeth I made around England every year. When she popped into my head she was very mysterious, and much like I had to do with Arthur, I had to force her to open up and give me a clue who she was. Obviously, that section evolved over various drafts, but Sobian remained. I think that it is important for you to see someone from Arthur’s past and know that he had a life, lovers, friends, before he became king. She’s also an incredibly strong woman, one who adds to the court tremendously, while also helping keep the men in check.

Tyler: I think one of my favorite scenes in the novel was how you treated the Holy Grail when it is first discovered. Will you tell our readers a little about that scene and what your goal was with it?

Nicole: Do you mean the scene where they all see it for the first time? For those who haven’t read it, the grail changes form so that everyone sees it according to their own faith or cultural tradition. So a Christian sees the traditional chalice, while a pagan sees a cauldron or a drinking horn, depending on their background, etc.

It was important to me that whatever I do, I not take away from or slight anyone’s personal idea of the grail. It has been so many things over the years—a cauldron, a drinking horn, a stone, a chalice, a cup, even Mary Magdalene—that I wanted every reader to be able to see their own beliefs reflected in it, just as the characters do. Regardless of whether or not the grail actually exists, it’s a powerful symbol to so many people and I wanted my version to represent unity through diversity.

"Camelot's Queen," the second book in Nicole Evelina's trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere's marriage to King Arthur.

“Camelot’s Queen,” the second book in Nicole Evelina’s trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere’s marriage to King Arthur.

Tyler: I was struck that Bishop Marius plays a rather villainous role in the novel. It seems quite common in Arthurian literature, at least since Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, for Christianity to come off negatively. Do you think that’s a fair statement and why do you think the negative depictions of Christianity in the legend are so popular today?

Nicole: I love Bishop Marius. He is so much fun to write.

I do think it’s a popular way to portray Christianity. I’m not sure what reason other authors have for that, but I would guess it may have something to do with Christianity representing the establishment and people being tired of it. Therefore, they glorify the other, which in this case is paganism.

For me it was more a matter of exploring the tension between pagan religions and Christianity at the turn of the fifth/sixth century, which is when these books are set. Yes, Marius is evil, but that’s because there have always been orthodox and power-hungry men in the Church, no matter the time period (Cardinal Richelieu in the 1600s comes immediately to mind as an example of the power hungry). With the conflict between the old and new religious being what it was, there no doubt would have been those zealous souls who wanted to wipe out all trace of the old religion.

That doesn’t mean that all of them are evil, however. That’s why you see a bit of Father Dafydd, who is one of the good men of the Church. He originally had a larger part, but even with what remains in the story, I hope you can see that he represents the positive side of the Church.

Tyler: I also find Morgan a fascinating character, and I love how she continues to thwart Guinevere throughout the series. Will she continue to play a role in the third novel, and will we ever find out the secret of her parentage?

Nicole: Yes, she’s definitely in the third book. As of right now I do plan on revealing who her parents are, but because the book isn’t finished, I can’t 100% guarantee that will stay in. But I bet it does.

Tyler: I hope you do leave it in. I can’t wait to find out. You’ve also stated that you wanted to create a strong female protagonist in this series, but at times, I admit that Guinevere seems a little too hot-headed and even childish, and I think as the author you were aware of that since even Merlin tells her she’s selfish at one point. Do you feel like she’s always justified in her behavior, or is she just fallible like the rest of us?

Nicole: Oh no, she’s not always justified. She’s flawed just like the rest of us, which I hope makes her more relatable. If you think about the way she was raised, her selfishness makes sense. She was the treasured only living child of parents who suffered much disappointment and loss as they watched a dozen children die at various points in life. So from the beginning she had only to think of herself. Then she was sent to Avalon, which was an honor not bestowed upon many. Granted, while she was there she had to learn some humility and how to live with others, but not long after she leaves she becomes queen. This role elevates her above all others and helps her default selfishness kick back in again. It’s only over time that she matures and learns to see beyond her own nose.

Tyler: I know you have another book coming out soon not on an Arthurian topic but on Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, back in the nineteenth century. I admit I never heard of her until I heard about your book, so will you tell us a little about this other book and why you chose this non-Arthurian topic since I suspect you see Woodhull as not too dissimilar from Guinevere as a strong woman?

Nicole: Sure. I picked Victoria exactly because she is a strong woman and those are the type I aim to portray in my writing. I found out about her by accident. I saw a pin on Pinterest of a beautiful woman who caught my eye. When I read the caption, I knew I had my next book subject. It said “Known by her detractors as “Mrs. Satan,” Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age fifteen to an alcoholic and womanizer. She became the first woman to establish a brokerage firm on Wall Street and played an active role in the woman’s suffrage movement. She became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Her name is largely lost in history. Few recognize her name and accomplishments.”

I hadn’t learned anything about her in school, and I suspected many others hadn’t either. So I wanted to do what I could to restore her to her rightful place in history by telling her story. She’s a woman of many accomplishments including being the first woman to run a stock brokerage on Wall Street, the first woman to testify before Congress, one of the first women to run a weekly newspaper, and the first female presidential candidate. Her family is crazier and pulls more stunts than I could ever make up. (Truth really is stranger than fiction.) And while Victoria is certainly no saint, I think people will enjoy reading about her.

Tyler: Nicole, for authors, writing can be a lonely task and you work on your books for years hoping people will like them. How has your view of writing changed since you’ve now published these first two Arthurian novels and have you learned anything from the feedback you’ve received from readers?

Nicole: It’s been a while since I’ve thought of writing as lonely, thanks to the amazing writing online community, especially on Twitter. But I will admit to feeling a bit more pressure now that I know people like the first two Guinevere novels. I always wanted to end the series strong, but now I feel like I owe my readers a great story, rather than just owing it to Guinevere or myself. That’s both good and bad in that it’s motivating, but could turn paralyzing if I think about it too much.

I’ve learned from readers that there has been a thirst for stories about Guinevere that’s gone untapped for a long time. My story has been what a lot of people were looking for. But not all. That’s another thing I’m learning—no book can satisfy everyone. Readers will sometimes read things into books that aren’t there or that you don’t intend; that can color their feedback and there’s nothing as the author you can do about it.

Tyler: Thanks again for joining me today, Nicole. Before we go, will you remind us when the last book of the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy will be out, and what your website is so we can watch for it?

Nicole: Thanks again for having me! The last book in the trilogy, Mistress of Legend, will be out in early 2017. I don’t have a firm date yet. My website is http://nicoleevelina.com/. I’m always happy to hear from readers by email, snail mail or on social media.

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Daughter of Destiny: Guinevere’s Tale Book One is the latest addition in the plethora of Arthurian novels being published every year. Yes, there have been plenty of novels about Guinevere before, but this one stands out for several reasons.

Nicole Evelina's new novel is the first in a trilogy that allows Guinevere to tell the tale of Camelot from her own point of view.

Nicole Evelina’s new novel is the first in a trilogy that allows Guinevere to tell the tale of Camelot from her own point of view.

Author Nicole Evelina states that she was inspired to write this book after reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and loving it but hating how Bradley depicted Guinevere in the novel. Admittedly, I agree that Guinevere is the weakest character in that otherwise powerful novel, and Evelina’s Guinevere is a remarkable improvement as she tells her story in first person narration.

In Evelina’s version, Guinevere is far from the frightened Christian girl of Bradley’s novel. Instead, she is the strong-willed daughter of a Roman-descended king and a mother who was part of the Votadini tribe. Guinevere’s maternal family are believers in the old religion of Avalon, and so Guinevere is sent there to study, where she learns beside several other well-known characters from the legends, including Viviane and Morgan. This first part set in Avalon was probably my favorite section of the novel since I have always loved the idea of Avalon and tried to envision what it is like and have depicted it in my own Arthurian novels. Evelina is obviously influenced by Bradley in her depictions, but she also gives the story twists of her own, especially in the rivalry that develops between Guinevere and Morgan. Yes, like Morgan, Guinevere has her gifts—she has the gift of the sight—she can see events at a great distance as they happen—it’s like her brain is able to Skype! But perhaps most surprising in the novel is the young man who becomes Guinevere’s love interest—I think every reader will be surprised by this plot twist—it isn’t Lancelot or Arthur who captures Guinevere’s heart. The shocking Beltane scene in Mists also influences the Beltane scene in this novel, but again, Evelina makes surprising choices in how she depicts it, including Guinevere’s involvement in the rituals.

The novel moves forward when Guinevere returns home to find her father greatly changed and herself disinherited. While she thought, as his only child, she would inherit her father’s throne, he has now decided it will go to her male cousin. Then, so Guinevere can learn proper Christian ways, her father also decides to send her to live at King Pellinore’s court, where she meets two other young ladies, Pellinore’s daughter, Elaine, and his ward, Isolde, heir to the Irish throne. Despite her newfound friends, Guinevere finds life with Pellinore’s family—especially his cruel wife Lyonesse—far from pleasant.

Overall, I found the entire plot refreshing—it is familiar, yet original, bringing together many well-known characters and placing them in new relationships to each other, and then developing those relationships in unexpected ways. At the same time, Evelina has clearly done her research and uses it to determine other relationships among characters. For example, King Lot is married to Arthur’s half-sister, Ana, a character usually written out of modern novels in favor of Morgan le Fay or Morgause, but Ana actually dates back to Geoffrey of Monmouth and has more historical clout, therefore, as Arthur’s sister. As for Morgan, she is an orphan whose origins are unknown—though I suspect we’ll find out she’s Arthur’s sister in a future book. Evelina also draws on Geoffrey of Monmouth in depicting the “Kingmaker” comet in the novel that prophesies the birth of a great king.

Hopefully, I don’t give too much away by saying that at the end of the novel, King Arthur makes his appearance and claims Guinevere for his future wife. Of course, she has to marry him—her situation as well as the literary tradition demand it—but given that she already loves another man, I’m sure we’re in for some more interesting plot twists in the future novels. The second novel will be out later this spring and the third novel of this trilogy will be published in 2017. I suggest watching for both of them after you read this one. I read Daughter of Destiny in two days, almost unable to put it down. Evelina’s writing style is visual and smooth, so it is a pleasure to read; I felt taken back to the Arthurian time without being weighed down by too much detail or historical facts. I felt like I was living the story, rather than reading it, and that’s how a good writer should make her reader feel. I’m grateful for any chance I get to live in Camelot, so I thank Evelina for a pleasant time there.

For more information about Nicole Evelina and Daughter of Destiny, visit her website at www.NicoleEvelina.com

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, and the upcoming Lilith’s Love and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly work King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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The following excerpt is from my book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition upon a little discussed aspect of Arthur’s perhaps forgotten brother in early Arthurian legends:

Sir Mordred at the Battle of Camlann

Before we leave Mordred, we should notice that there may be some confusion between him as either Arthur’s son or brother, and between Mordred and a brother of Arthur’s named Modron. The confusion is further increased since Modron usually appears as Arthur’s sister rather than brother.

R.S. Loomis tells us that the ravens of The Mabinogion who battle with Arthur’s knights are Arthur’s nephew Owain’s mother, Modron, and her sisters, the daughters of Avallach (Wales 96-7). Loomis also states that Morgan le Fay and Modron have a connection because both are daughters of Avallach (Celtic Myth 192). If Morgan le Fay and Modron are sisters, we must first wonder whether they are Arthur’s sisters, making them the daughters of one of Arthur’s parents, or are they the children of Avallach? If Modron is Owain’s mother, it seems strange that Morgan is also frequently credited with having a child named Owain. Perhaps the two are not sisters, but merely the same person with a confused identity. This situation may be a similar case to Arthur’s Welsh sons becoming confused or integrated into Mordred.

Celtic scholars are in agreement that Modron, who seems to be Morgan le Fay’s sister, is the old Gallo-Roman goddess Matrona, who gave her name to the river Marne, and therefore, seems to be connected with water (Loomis, Celtic Myth, 193). If this connection to a river is true, it should not surprise us that Modron is sister to Morgan, who is often the Lady of the Lake.

When the Welsh wrote of Modron in their legends, they made her the mother of both Owain and Mabon (Loomis, Celtic Myth, 193). This son, Mabon, can be traced back to Apollo Maponos, who was worshiped in both Gaul and Britain (Loomis, Celtic Myth, 4).

What is strange is that if Modron were a female, she should later appear as Arthur’s brother in a modern novel such as in Edward Franklin’s The Bear of Britain (1944), where he is treacherous, along with Mordred, who is here Arthur’s nephew (Thompson 41).

In other works, Mordred has been depicted as Arthur’s brother, which may be another confusion with Modron, but more likely authors just taking license with the story. In Edison Marshall’s novel The Pagan King (1959), Mordred is Arthur’s half-brother. Why would Arthur have both a treacherous brother and nephew? In Marshall’s opinion, it must have seemed easier to combine the two into one character. We may then wonder whether Mordred and Modron have an older mythological connection or at least these writers are drawing upon what they want to believe is a lost connection.

In the Prince Valiant comic strip, begun by Hal Foster in 1937 and still running in more than 300 newspapers each Sunday, Mordred is also Arthur’s half-brother. In this case Mordred has a daughter, but she is not King Arthur’s direct descendant as a result. Mordred’s daughter Maeve marries Arn, the son of Prince Valiant. Arn and Maeve’s daughter Ingrid (born in the 1987 comic strip) has been designated as Arthur’s heir. Mordred has been removed from the line of succession. My guess is that Foster chose to depict Mordred as Arthur’s half-brother to avoid the issue of incest in a comic strip; I doubt Foster was interested in the relationship between Mordred and Modron.

Modron cannot be readily accepted as an early brother of Arthur. Nowhere in early traditions does he appear as such. However, in Welsh tradition is a tale where Arthur speaks to an eagle, which reveals itself to be his deceased nephew, Elewlod, the son of Madawg, son of Uthr (Bromwich, Arthur Welsh, 58). That Madawg’s son should become an eagle, may remind us of Modron as a raven, and also the legends which tell of Arthur being turned into a raven rather than dying. Perhaps then we can accept Madawg as being Modron.

Modron’s reasons for becoming confused with Mordred may also have explanations. We have seen Modron’s possibility as a sister to Morgan le Fay, Lady of the Lake. Modron herself is connected to river goddesses. Mordred definitely has a connection to water through his mythological ancestor, Dylan. Suggested connections have also been made betwen Pryderi and Rhiannon and Modron and Mabon, who was also taken away when three nights old from his mother (MacCana 83). In “Culhwch and Olwen,” Cei and Gwrhyr search for Mabon and must ask all the oldest animals where he may be. In her chapter “Chrétien de Troyes,” Jean Frappier points out that in Yvain are blended in traditions of Modron as a water nymph (Loomis, Arthurian Literature,163), and in an Irish tale, a character named Fraech is wounded by a water-monster and is then carried away by his fairy kinswomen to be healed. In her chapter “The Vulgate Cycle,” Jean Frappier makes notice of another Irish tale that tells of Fergus mac Leite being wounded by a water-monster, and as he lays by the lake dying, he charges his people that his sword Caladcolg (the original of Excalibur) should be preserved till it can be given to a fitting lord (Loomis, Arthurian Literature, 310). Could Mordred then have an origin as a water monster or as a female goddess of the sea? Or could there be a lost tradition that Mordred is the son of Modron? Why not, since we already have Morgan le Fay and Morgause as possible mothers for him.

Accurate connections between Mordred and Modron have not yet been made, but the similarities may point to a need for further investigation into this matter.

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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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Camelot has gotten a lot of attention, not all of it good. I find in the end I’m quite disappointed with the show, although the final episode was intriguing for a few twists and what it left open for the next season, which since the show has been cancelled, is not likely to happen unless the series is picked up by another network – highly doubtful.

This final episode drags through its first half. Arthur shows himself to be fairly stupid in remaining behind at Bardon Pass to fight Morgan’s soldiers by himself just to prove himself to the men, after they are upset with him for sleeping with Leontes’ wife Guinevere. Arthur doesn’t really prove anything except his stupidity. He does make some entertaining traps to stop the enemy, but in the end, he needs the other men to come back and help him anyway. The best part of this whole scene was when one of the opposing soldiers tells Arthur they fight for Morgan and adds, “You’re a fucked up family all right.”

Leontes gets mortally wounded in the battle. As he’s dying he tells Arthur to “treasure her.” Of course, Leontes knows Arthur and Guinevere will get together–this isn’t permission so much as his accepting reality and Leontes is a gentleman to the end. Too bad he has to die; to bad he wasn’t king and Arthur couldn’t die instead. What a waste to create a fake Arthurian character only to kill him off. Why not start out with Lancelot in the first place since Lancelot is apparently going to show up in season 2? Later in the show, the Round Table is built and a special seat is created in Leontes’ memory until someone as good as him can take it. Gawain says it will remain empty, but I suspect it’s the Siege Perilous which normally in the legend only Galahad is pure enough to take, but the writers probably planned to have Lancelot take instead–thus beginning the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle.

Merlin also decides to leave after Morgan’s plot is foiled. He should have left a long time ago. While Arthur has been away fighting, Morgan almost ends up being crowned queen, under the belief that Arthur has died. Merlin is tied up and helpless and completely useless to stop the crowning. As I’ve said previously, he’s the most pathetic version of the great wizard in any film or written version of the Arthurian legend to date.

I’d like to mention here that a lot of people have posted about Camelot online besides me, and I’ve read several of the other posts. One I think particularly worth reading is at: http://www.denofgeek.com/television/938298/camelot_episode_10_review_reckoning_season_finale.html because the reviewer thinks the show as ridiculous as I do.

That said, I disagree with this reviewer, as well as most of the others, that Merlin was the best part of Camelot. In fact, as I’ve pointed out in every post I’ve written about Merlin so far, he’s the worst depiction of the famous sorcerer I have ever seen, and totally incompetent when he’s not doddering. Other than getting Arthur a sword and getting him elected king, what has he done of any real value? Did all his stupidity in going with Igraine to Morgan’s castle reflect a deeply thought out plot to get Morgan to Camelot to seize the crown so she can be exposed? If so, he didn’t foresee that Igraine would get killed in the process; and his being tied up and unable to escape during the crowning ceremony just makes him look all the more unimpressive.

Then, after Arthur accuses Morgan of treason and Sybil takes the blame for it, Merlin has to be a total prick by going to watch Gawain behead Sybil and tell her, “There is no God.” Perhaps he’s just that small that he needs to taunt her, to kick his enemy when she’s down, but seriously, how stupid is he to think there’s no God? How else do you explain the other supernatural elements in the show like magic and witchcraft. It’s possible the god in this show isn’t a Christian god, but there’s got to be some godlike force in this program, and God isn’t going to be nice to Sybil after all the bad things she’s done anyway. Saying there’s no God implies there’s no afterlife. But the show obviously makes it clear that’s untrue when Morgan prays at Sybil’s grave and then hears a voice telling her what to do. Sybil is able to influence Morgan from beyond the grave, and since Merlin is now going off to “find himself” as one reviewer put it, I imagine Sybil will have more power than ever, even if it’s filtered through Morgan. At the end of the day, if you had Sybil and Merlin match wits, odds are Sybil would come out ahead. Too bad we can’t give Sybil and Merlin I.Q. tests. I’d rather have a clever villain than a stupid good wizard any day.

I admit I was impressed by the final twist. When Guinevere showed up in Arthur’s bedroom I thought she must be a total slut–Leontes is barely dead and she’s throwing herself at Arthur already–wait at least 30 days, I thought. But we then find out Guinevere was really Morgan in disguise–something I should have guessed from Sybil’s voice telling Morgan to sire a king. This plot twist completely worked for me and solved the problem of Morgan getting pregnant with Arthur’s child–Mordred. In fact, other than Marion Zimmer Bradley’s depiction in The Mists of Avalon of how Arthur and Morgan come together to have a child, I thought it the best explanation for the incest twist in the legend that I have seen. I admit, it made me anxious to see the next season–the season that will not be.

My personal opinion, in the end, is that Camelot had great potential but just about fell flat on its face. Ultimately, only Sybil was able to capture my imagination and retain it through the 10 episodes, although Morgan came close. And if the show is cancelled, we’ll never know just exactly what that wolf was that Morgan slept with. 😦 Oh well, there’s always season 4 of Merlin to look forward to.

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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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I had intended to write one blog post about the last four episodes of Starz’ Camelot, but so much happened to comment in the final episode that I’ll leave that for one final post.

Camelot on Starz

Through the first six episodes, I wasn’t yet completely won over into even thinking Camelot was a good show, but episodes 7-9 did not drag as much for me and they actually seemed like there was a forward moving plot beginning with episode 7. I did enjoy watching them, but I can’t say, other than there being a plot, that the show got any better since the plot bordered on being ridiculous as times.

Episode 7 doesn’t start off that well. Morgan’s having another dinner party like she had earlier, only this time more than Arthur and Merlin are invited. At least this time Merlin has enough brains to be accompanied by half the court and some knights. Of course, Morgan has ulterior motives, such as making people believe the castle is attacked, that people are turning against Arthur, and that her own men have defeated the enemy. I love Eva Green so I think whatever faults she portrays as an actress in this show are due to bad scripts–Morgan is given some truly over the top lines, and in this episode I found myself actually becoming irritated by her. The delivery of her lines is so over the top that she sounds like Norma Desmond trying to impersonate Katherine Hepburn. The problem is Morgan’s behavior and dialogue is so corny that it’s unbelievable often when she’s trying to deceive people; Green can only do what she can with the strained and unbelievable plotting and dialogue. One gets the sense from watching her that even she knows how ridiculous her lines are and she’s doing all she can not to laugh.

In this episode, a knight named Harwel confesses his love for Morgan, resulting in his lying about the supposed attack and turning against the king for her sake. She’s attractive, so I don’t completely blame him, but why make up a character named Harwel? Where’s Accolon, her usual lover whom she seeks to control and who she charges to kill Arthur? There are so many intriguing characters in the legend that there’s no need to make up new characters.

In this episode, Merlin continues to be his stupid self. It’s like he is completely incapable of acting or taking control of the situation–he’s the most incompetent wizard imaginable. He makes a point of telling Igraine in this episode that Morgan poisoned Uther but that no good can come of Arthur’s knowing. What good can come of keeping it a secret and letting Arthur think his sister might really loves him? Of all the criticism I have seen about Camelot, most people think Merlin is the redeeming grace of the show, but I cannot see that at all. Joseph Fiennes may be a fine actor, like Eva Green, stuck in a bad role, but that’s the most good I can say about Merlin.

Meanwhile Morgan comes to realize that she can destroy Arthur by bringing out the secret of the Arthur-Guinevere affair. She does so by disguising herself as Igraine and returning with the others to Camelot while Igraine is kidnapped and imprisoned in Castle Pendragon.

In Episode 8, Morgan keeps causing trouble in her disguise as Igraine. There are a few moments when one thinks perhaps Morgan has a heart, such as when a small boy, who is friends with Igraine, accidentally dies, but the moments are few. She couples with Merlin, but the reason for her doing so is lacking. And again, how stupid is Merlin if the great sorcerer can’t figure out Igraine isn’t who she claims to be. Finally, we get to the point of the episode when Igraine/Morgan gets Guinevere to confess she’s slept with Arthur and then Igraine/Morgan blabs it to Leontes to make him angry at Arthur, something she hopes will turn Arthur’s knights against him.

Meanwhile, Vivian has a moment of sense when Igraine manages to kill the guard and escape and Vivian does nothing to stop her. Vivian isn’t much good for anything. She’s not a good villainess obviously. Why is she even in the program? She’s been subplanted by Sybil early on. The episode ends with Igraine arriving at Camelot to be confronted by her own image–Morgan in disguise.

In episode 9, Igraine tells Merlin what has been truly going on. He thinks she’s mad at first to claim she was imprisoned by Morgan, but he finally believes her. Then this brilliant wizard decides he and Igraine will go to Castle Pendragon to confront Morgan. Of course, they go with no other warriors to accompany them. This move would be okay if Merlin could shoot balls of fire from his hand or something to protect them, but instead, he and Igraine get captured and hauled back to Camelot in chains, while Arthur is away fighting at Bardon Pass. Seriously, Merlin is the most incompetent wizard ever–have I made that clear yet? I want to think Merlin allows himself to be arrested so Morgan will go to Camelot and show her true colors to the people, but I have a hard time thinking Merlin is really smart enough to manipulate things that way.

Disney's Merlin from The Sword and the Stone - now here's a smart Merlin

Meanwhile, at Bardon Pass in the middle of fighting off invaders whom Arthur and his knights don’t realize are really Morgan’s men, hostility between Arthur and Leontes makes Kay realize something is wrong, and eventually, Arthur confesses that he slept with Guinevere on the same day she wed Leontes. The men are disappointed in him and Kay tells Arthur what any television viewer with half a brain has already figured out, “You’re not a worthy king.”

As I watch these episodes, waiting for the climactic final episode and watching how the plot thickens toward it, there are moments where I find myself curious about what is going to happen, but in summarizing the plot, I can’t help realizing how silly the whole storyline is and the characters’ motivations and actions.

I will admit there is a lot of interesting stuff that happens in the final episode, so stay tuned for my next post–but don’t be surprised that there are some more stupid things that happen as well.

In the end, what has been the best part of Camelot? I’m intrigued by the nun, Sybil, and as over the top as Morgan is, I still like a good villainess. But the true kudos go to the castle of Camelot–it’s beautiful, and perhaps because it doesn’t have any badly written lines, it escapes criticism as part of the supporting cast.

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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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In my last post I pointed out everything that I thought was wrong with Starz’ Camelot, based solely on watching the first three episodes. Of course, that was a first impression based on only seeing part of the series, and as I suspected, once I got all my preconceived notions out of the way of what the King Arthur story should be, I was ready to focus on and better understand what the series actually was doing right.

Arthur and Morgan in Starz' Camelot

Arthur and Morgan in Starz' Camelot

I remain unimpressed with Merlin, who doesn’t strike me as being very bright for a great wizard. While in episode 4, I do somewhat like that he becomes tormented by Excalibur’s death (he accidentally kills the swordmaker Caliburn and Caliburn’s daughter, Excalibur, then takes the sword and tries to flee, resulting in her drowning by accident and Merlin naming Arthur’s sword for her out of a sense of guilt). Even the program’s explanation for the naming of the sword works for me, but I still don’t think Merlin seems to be very wise (Colin Morgan’s Merlin has more brains in his head I think). Merlin especially doesn’t win any IQ points when in episode 7 he’s dumb enough to let Arthur make another trip to Castle Pendragon to visit Morgan, considering what happened last time, although this time at least they are smart enough to be accompanied by their knights, but not smart enough to leave the women behind.

But what has started to redeem the series for me is episodes 5 & 6, both of which depict justice being given to people by Arthur and Morgan. Here we finally have a hint that Arthur may be capable of becoming a good and wise king–despite his obsession with Guinevere. This Arthur has not yet developed his ideas to the degree that King Arthur does in the musical Camelot of creating a court of justice and understanding that it is not “might is right but might for right,” but there is a start here. In episode 5, Arthur comes upon a man about to be hanged for killing another man. Rather than letting the local villagers carry out their own form of justice, Arthur holds a trial and gets to the heart of the matter, eventually understanding why the man about to be hanged tried to kill another man, and Arthur dispenses justice accordingly. The episode is a bit slow, but it works for depicting Arthur’s slow maturing as a king.

Episode 6 somewhat parallels 5 by showing Morgan dispensing justice. Through manipulation, she has convinced several of the people that she cares about them, more so even than Arthur, and soon she has the people coming to her with their problems and to give them justice. In the first case, she takes on a female King Solomon role. In the Bible, two women come to King Solomon, both claiming the same child is their own, and Solomon solves the dispute by suggesting the child be cut in half. The true mother then agrees to give up the child to the other woman rather than have it killed, a sure sign she loves the child, and consequently, Solomon gives the child to the true mother. In similar fashion, Morgan is presented with a woman who wants to keep her bastard son, but his father is demanding the child go to work with him. In determining who should have “custody,” Morgan offers to buy the child. The man is willing to sell him while the woman is not, resulting in Morgan giving the child to his mother. That Morgan is wise enough to dispense such justice shows that she is shrewd, and she gets to the heart of matter faster than Arthur–the viewer can’t help thinking she’s smarter than Arthur and feeling somewhat sorry for her not to have the throne, instead having to see her untried younger half-brother receive it. But her thirst for power, for reasons that do not exist other than power, make her remain unlikable.

Morgan outdoes herself later when Sybil, a nun from the monastery where Morgan studied, is accused of burning down the monastery and killing another woman’s child. Although Sybil has become Morgan’s ally and right hand, Morgan is forced to dispense justice by burning Sybil’s hand as punishment. This scene is highly effective, both by making Morgan look just to her people, as well as showing how wisely she averts killing Sybil, whom she apparently needs.

In the battle for who is wiser, as evidenced by these two episodes, it is clearly Morgan who is stronger and more qualified to rule, even if she isn’t nicer. Arthur’s chasing after his friend’s wife isn’t all that noble anyway. Nor is the Arthur/Leontes/Guinevere love triangle plot very interesting. Morgan’s evil is far more captivating to watch.

Morgan le Fay studied the Black Arts in a nunnery; painted by Anthony Sandys in 1864

Finally, I’d like to add that I find Sybil a fascinating character. She quickly pushes Vivian to the sidelines so that for several episodes you wonder why Vivian is even in the program as Morgan’s assistant–although she’s integral to the plot in episode 8. I love that Morgan, who is frequently depicted in Arthurian legend, including in Malory, as having been raised in a nunnery where she learned the “black arts,” has her past in that nunnery treated in this series by having a nun of questionable past in the program. In fact, Sybil admits that she did begin the fire, explaining that in the nunnery they still followed some of the old ways, and when church officials were coming to investigate pagan rituals in which girls were “chosen,” she had to burn the nunnery to hide the evidence. (The program hints that Morgan’s witch-like powers have something to do with her participating in such a ceremony.) Evil and pagan doings in nunneries–it’s so very nineteenth century Gothic that I can’t help but love it. I look forward to finding out more about Sybil and Morgan’s nunnery past in future episodes.

So, my opinion of Camelot slowly improved by the time I reached episode 6. I’ve now watched through episode 8 and I like the show more the farther into the series I go. I’ll discuss the last four episodes of Camelot in my next post.

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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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