I absolutely loved this Arthurian novel! It is a must read for anyone who enjoys a good story about King Arthur and his crew, especially my favorite, Morgan Le Faye. Mr. Faulkner is a masterful storyteller and this standalone novel won’t disappoint.
Morgan Le Fay,
Queen of ‘Gore’
(Born c.AD 473)
(Welsh: Morgan; Latin: Morganna; English: Morgan)
The much maligned Morgan Le Fay was, to a large extent, the invention of medieval romance writers such as Sir Thomas Malory. In his “Le Morte D’Arthur” Malory tells us that Morgan was one of the half-sisters of King Arthur, daughter of Ygerna and her first husband, Gorlois. The Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian tales tells how she became Guinevere’s lady in waiting and fell in love with the King’s nephew, Giomar. Guinevere, however, put an end to the romance and, as a result, Morgan eventually betrayed the Queen’s affair with Lancelot to King Arthur. She even sent the Green Knight to Camelot in order to frighten Guinevere to death. Morgan herself took a fancy to Lancelot at one point and imprisoned him for some time before he was able to escape.
Chrétien describes Morgan as a giver of healing ointments, but the lady is usually portrayed as a wicked enchantress who learned her initial mysterious skills from her corrupt education in an early Christian nunnery. Later, Merlin helped her to extend her magical powers. The story that she enticed King Arthur into an incestuous affair from which Mordred was born is, however, a misconception derived from the desire of modern authors to merge Morgan with her more sympathetic sister, (Anna-) Morgause.
Malory shows how Morgan hated Arthur for his purity and plotted with her lover, Sir Accolon, to steal both Excalibur and the British throne. Arthur met Accolon in combat without his magical sword, but the Lady of the Lake helped him retrieve it and win the battle. In return, Morgan stole Excalibur’s scabbard and threw it into the nearest lake. She eventually escaped Arthur’s wrath by transforming her entourage into stone.
Morgan retired to Gore (North Rheged) and then to her Castle of Tauroc (possibly in North Wales). The Royal court appears to have thought her dead until Arthur came across her residence while out hunting one day. The two were immediately reconciled. In late life she moved to the Isle of Avalon, and it was to here that she and her allies, the Queens of Northgalis (North Wales) and the Wastelands, took her wounded brother to be healed after the Battle of Camlann.
Malory makes Morgan the wife of King Uriens of Gore, an actual historical mid to late 6th century monarch of North Rheged (what is now Cumberland and Westmorland in Northern Britain). Though technically this may have been just about possible, during this time period it is stretching credulity a little far. Morgan was an elder half-sister of King Arthur who fought at Mount Badon around 495-500 and traditionally died in 537. Urien was assassinated during a military campaign around 590. The earlier Vulgate Cycle, however, makes Morgan a generation younger, being the daughter of King Lot of Lothian (Gododdin). On the other hand, Welsh Tradition tells us that Urien’s wife was Modron ferch Afallach, apparently a sister-in-law of King Maelgwn Gwynedd, and it may be that two ladies have become confused.
Alternatively, this latter identification may betray the lady’s true origins as a Pagan Celtic Goddess. Modron was the name of the Celtic Mother-Goddess, often depicted in Romano-British times as having a triple personality. This may be seen in Arthurian tales through her association with the Queens of Northgalis (North Wales) and the Wastelands. The Lady of the Lake may have been another aspect of the lady. Modron’s father, Afallach, was the titular God of the Celtic Otherworld, Avalon. Morgan is said to have lived here with her nine sisters, a not insignificant group similar to the Greek Muses. Some early sources actually refer to Morgan as “the Goddess,” while her shape-shifting and healing aspects clearly indicate heavenly powers. She appears to have gradually degenerated into “Le Fay” – a fairy – who could fly through the air on enchanted wings: to this day, the Breton name for a water-nymph is a Morgan.
The lady’s wicked character appears to have been the invention of the Cistercian monks who wrote the stories of the Vulgate Cycle. Influenced by memories of the ancient Irish Goddess, the Morrighan (Phantom Queen), another triple-aspect divinity representing life & death, sexuality and conflict, they painted poor pagan Morgan as black as they could. They believed it blasphemous for a healer to be neither male nor a member of a religious order and Morgan paid dearly for her reputation.
Geoffrey Ashe (1990) Mythology of the British Isles.
Peter C. Bartrum (1993) A Welsh Classical Dictionary.
Ronan Coghlan (1991) The Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends.
David Day (1995) The Quest for King Arthur.
Chrétien De Troyes (1160) Erec and Enide.
Chrétien De Troyes (1170) Yvain.
Miranda J. Green (1992) Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend.
Phyllis Ann Karr (1997) The Arthurian Companion.
Thomas Malory (1485) Le Morte D’Arthur.
John & Caitlin Matthews (1988) The Aquarian Guide to British and Irish Mythology.
John Matthews (1994) The Arthurian Tradtion.
Geoffrey of Monmouth (1150) The Life of Merlin.
As an Arthurian scholar and enthusiast, I love Morgan Le Faye. She has a very sensual and powerful je ne sais quoi. On the other hand, I also like the Morrighan in Irish mythology. These two women share so many characteristics could they be one in the same? I did a little research, and below you’ll see what I found.
The Morrigan, the Great Queen, the Phantom Queen and the Monster Queen and her sisters Babd and Macha, are a triple Fairy Queen. They are mistresses of war, magic and prophesy. The Morrigan’s animal form is a crow, and thus she appears as the fairy of death in battle.
It was by her valor, future sight and druid’s magic that Tuatha Dé Danann, the Tribe of Danu, defeated the Fir Blogs in the first battle of Mag Tuired. That the Celtic war diety is female, and not male, says a lot about the deep cultural chasm between bronze age Keltic folk and their Greco-Roman, Levantian and Egyptian contemporaries.
More than with most Irish mythic characters, the tales and personas of The Morrighan vary from time to time and place to place. As a cattle fairy she reigns over property, sovereignty and fertility. But as fairy of death in battle she transforms into crows, bansees, and the death eaters of the Harry Potter cycle.
Morgan Le Faye
Morgan Le Fay: popularly known as Arthurian sorceress, benevolent fairy, priestess, dark magician, enchantress, witch, sea goddess, shape-changer, healer, and the sole personage of Avalon the Isle of Apples, not to mention daughter of Ygerna (Igraine) and Gorlois, half-sister to King Arthur, mother of Mordred, lady-in-waiting to Guinevere, wife of Uriens, lover of Sir Accolon, fancier of Sir Lancelot, and ‘as fair a lady as any might be’.
Morgan Le Fay was first introduced into Arthurian legend by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the Vita Merlini (c. 1150) but her true origin, as with many Arthurian characters, leads back into Celtic mythology and inevitably develops with each new rendition of the tale. Morgan Le Fay’s character is interesting enough, but so is her name.
The name ‘Morgan Le Fay’
In Celtic terms, Morgan (or Morcant) is a man’s name. The feminine version is more correctly Morgain (or Morgue or Morgne). Also Morrigan equates with Morrigu of Irish mythology. According to Celtic tradition the Morrigan (a Triple Goddess of Celtic myth, thought of as the Goddess of Death) flew over battles, shrieking like ravens and claiming dead soldiers’ heads as trophies. Or the answer may lie in Uriens – in early Welsh literature Modron (a version of Matrona) was the daughter of Avallach, wife of Urien, and mother of Owein. The Welsh and Arthurian story lines were later merged, forming a link between Modron and King Arthur. Further, there was a sixth-century Cumbrian ruler called Urien Rheged who presided over a loose coalition of kings (according to some accounts there was also an Arthur, son of King Aedan of dal Riada). Urien had a loose ally: Morcant Bulc – a man – who eventually plotted to assassinate him, which could have been Sir Thomas Malory’s inspiration for the plot in Le Morte d’Arthur where Morgan Le Fay attempts to kill Arthur and Uriens.
‘Le Fay’ is an ancient word for a fairy and to this day, apparently, the Breton name for a water-nymph is a ‘Morgan’.
The possible roots of the Arthurian character Morgan Le Fay therefore run deep into early British mythology and can be traced across several hundred years up to her final act as one of the three women who transported the fatally wounded King Arthur in a barge to the Isle of Avalon to be healed (outcome unrecorded). A speculative summary, based on Welsh and other Arthurian legend, suggest an identification with Modron and also with the river goddess Matrona, possibly derived from the Irish goddess Morrigan. Given the superstitious Christian attitude to supernatural women in the medieval era, the more she is humanised, the more the name Morgan Le Fay descends into an easy literary metaphor for devious, sometimes evil mischief.
Nonetheless the much-maligned Morgan Le Fay never becomes purely evil. Her attractive qualities remain – a healer, she is associated with art and culture, she is sexy, and in the end is worthy of redemption.
What do you think? Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and questions.
Arthur the Legend
Arthur was the first born son of King Uther Pendragon and heir to the throne. However these were very troubled times and Merlin, a wise magician, advised that the baby Arthur should be raised in a secret place and that none should know his true identity.
As Merlin feared, when King Uther died there was great conflict over who should be the next king. Merlin used his magic to set a sword in a stone. Written on the sword, in letters of gold, were these words: “Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone is the rightwise born king of all England.” Of course all the contenders for the throne took their turn at trying to draw the sword, but none could succeed. Arthur, quite by chance, withdrew the sword for another to use in a tournament. Following this he became King.
He gathered Knights around him and fought back against the Saxons who, since the Romans left Britain, were slowly but surely taking the country over. After many great battles and a huge victory at Mount Badon the Saxons’ advance was halted.
Arthur’s base was at a place called Camelot. Here he built a strong castle. His knights met at a Round Table. They carried out acts of chivalry such as rescuing damsels in distress and fought against strange beasts. They also searched for a lost treasure, which they believed would cure all ills – this was the ‘Quest for the Holy Grail’.
Under the guidance of Merlin, Arthur had obtained a magical sword from The Lady Of The Lake. This sword was called ‘Excalibur” and with this weapon he vanquished many foes.
Queen Guinevere, Arthur’s beautiful wife brought romance to the story while his equally beautiful half sister Morgan le Fay added a dark side.
Unfortunately, as peace settled over the country things turned sour within the court of Camelot and civil war broke out. In the final battle at Camlan both Arthur and Mordred, Arthur’s traitorous nephew, were mortally wounded. Arthur was set upon a boat and floated down river to the isle of Avalon. Here his wounds were treated by three mysterious maidens. His body was never found and many say that he rests under a hill with all his knights – ready to ride forth and save the country again.
The Conspiracy of Morgan le Fay
When Arthur, King Urien and Accolon of Gaul (France) went hunting for a hart, they came upon a ship, filled with women. They were entertained on board. As each of them retired for the night in separate chambers, Urien was magically transported back to Camelot, while Arthur found himself in prison of unknown castle that belonged to Sir Damas.
The damsel told Arthur that he could gain freedom if he fight in single combat. This young woman was actually Morgan le Fay, disguised as an ordinary damsel. Morgan le Fay also visited Accolon who became her lover. She asked Accolon to fight a knight, and give her enemy’s head to her. Morgan gave her lover, Excalibur and Arthur’s magic scabbard. While she gave the bogus Excalibur and scabbard to her brother.
When Arthur engaged the other knight, he did not recognise Accolon. They fought until Arthur realised he had been betrayed. His sword did no damage to Accolon, while he received wounds from his enemy. He realised his sword was counterfeit. He tried to bravely defend himself as best he can, but his shield was soon in tatter, while he received many wounds. What was even worse, was that Arthur’s sword (the fake Excalibur) broke in two. Rather than yielding to his enemy, Arthur rushed at his enemy with what left of his shield.
The timely arrival of Niniane (Nimue), the Lady of the Lake, saved Arthur’s life. Niniane knew that Morgan le Fay was plotting her own brother’s death, because Merlin had told her. Niniane cast a spell, which caused Accolon to drop Excalibur to the ground. Arthur immediately seized the advantage, regaining Excalibur. Arthur then set about defeating his enemy. Accolon was mortally wounded.
Arthur then discovered the identity of his opponent. Accolon told of how Arthur’s sister stolen Excalibur from him. Accolon confessed that when Arthur was killed in combat, then she would murder her husband, King Urien of Gorre. Thereupon, she would marry and make Accolon, who will become king of Logres and Gorre. By night-time Accolon had died from his wound.
Morgan le Fay thought her brother was dead. At night, she was going to murder her husband, while Urien was asleep. Their son, Yvain, discovered the plot against his father. Yvain rescued his father, but he would not harm his mother. Yvain allowed his mother (Morgan) to escape.
The next day, Morgan le Fay heard news that Arthur had survived and was now returning to Camelot, and that her lover (Accolon) had died. When Arthur was asleep in an abbey, Morgan went into her brother’s room to steal Excalibur again. But Arthur had slept with Excalibur in his hand, so Morgan stole the magic scabbard, before fleeing.
When Arthur woke and found that his sister had stolen his scabbard, he set off in pursuit. Before Arthur could catch her, she threw the scabbard into the lake. Then she changed herself and her attendants to look like rocks. Not able to find her, Arthur was forced to continue his journey to Camelot without his magical scabbard.
Later, Morgan sent one of her damsels to her brother, in Camelot. The damsel brought to Arthur a beautiful robe, as a gift and peace offering. Arthur accepted, but Niniane, the Lady of the Lake, advised Arthur not to wear the robe. Arthur immediately ordered the damsel to wear the robe. The damsel reluctantly put on the robe and immediately died. Arthur was angry that his sister was still seeking his death.
At Camelot, Arthur knew his brother-in-law (Urien) was innocent of his sister’s plot against him, since Accolon said that Morgan wanted to kill her husband. However, he was uncertain about the innocence and loyalty of his nephew Yvain. Arthur banished his nephew from his court.
Gawain loved his cousin, enough to accompany Yvain in an adventure where they meet the Irish knight Marhaus (Thomas Malory called him Morholt). After the companions’ individual adventure of the three damsels of the fountain was completed, Arthur welcomed Yvain back to the Round Table, and Marhaus also became the newest member of the fellowship of the Round Table. (See Three Damsels of the Fountain for the full account of the adventures of Gawain, Yvain and Marhaus in Sir Gawain.)
Perhaps another depiction of Morgan Le Faye?