Search

Arthurian Romances

The World Pertaining to King Arthur

Tag

Sir Thomas Malory

Arthurian Quote of the Day!

  

Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England.

                                                         -Inscription, 7

This prophecy is what opens the door for Arthur to claim his birthright of the crown. Arthur pulls the sword from the stone with the intention of giving it to his foster brother Kay. He has no idea of its implication, or of his fate. This acts lays the foundation of Arthur’s chief characteristic – he is first a man, and then a King, which seemingly separates him from the other lesser kings of England. The pulling of the sword from the stone makes Arthur High King, although he already has a legitimate claim to the throne. A case of mistaken identity, one of the reoccurring motifs throughout the text, prompts the Kings of the North to declare war on Arthur. They claim he is not of noble birth, and is too young to rule. Arthur, with the aid of Merlin, conquers the Kings of the North, thus proving he is worthy of his crown, by birth and by prophecy.

Advertisements

Arthurian Quote of the Day!

image

This is the oath of a Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table and should be for all of us to take to heart. I will develop my life for the greater good. I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth, I will never boast, but cherish humility instead, I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word, I will defend those who cannot defend themselves, I will honor and respect women, and refute sexism in all its guises, I will uphold justice by being fair to all, I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship, I will abhor scandals and gossip-neither partake nor delight in them, I will be generous to the poor and to those who need help, I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven, I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward.
King Arthur, Le Morte d’Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table

Arthurian quote of the day!

image

Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross.

Sir Thomas Mallory

Fanni Bogdanow obituary

20130905-145932.jpg

In the 1450s, Sir Thomas Malory sat down at his prison table to write his glorious Le Morte d’Arthur. He had sent for a rich and exciting library of Arthurian romances, a few of them in middle English but far more in French, and these he translated, condensed and extended, amended and dramatised to create the Arthurian story as it is known to English-speaking audiences worldwide. That we understand just what he translated, and how, we owe to the devoted, painstaking life’s work of my former colleague Professor Fanni Bogdanow, who has died aged 86.

Fanni’s life story was as remarkable as any romance. She was born in Düsseldorf, Germany. When she was 11, in 1939 and just in time, her parents loaded her on to a Kindertransport train bound for Britain. She was taken in by a Quaker family in Manchester to whom she remained very grateful. In 1945, she won a scholarship to study French at Manchester University; she was to stay at Manchester, as undergraduate, postgraduate, lecturer, reader and professor, for the rest of her life. Her parents, astonishingly, survived between them Dachau, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen; to Fanni’s intense joy, her mother later joined her in Manchester.

Meanwhile, however, inspired by Eugène Vinaver, then the pre-eminent Malory scholar, Fanni encountered what was until then an invisible romance, the post-Vulgate Grail. The Vulgate cycle of Arthurian romances, incorporating the story of Arthur’s kingdom, the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, and of the grail, is a product of the early 13th century. What Malory knew was not that version, which is canonical in French, but another Arthuriad, the post-Vulgate “Graal”, which Fanni herself reconstructed from an incomplete version in French and major segments in Spanish and Portuguese: not just reconstructed, but published, in five sizeable volumes, under the title La Version Post Vulgate de la Queste del Saint Graal et de la Mort Artu, between 1991 and 2001.

Perhaps no one other than Fanni would have had the stubborn commitment to complete the edition: when the publishers got her typescript, but told her that unless the romance was in camera-ready form they could not contemplate it, she taught herself to word-process and produced – perhaps to their dismay – thousands of perfectly accurate pages. Every page, every word of this magnum opus required her to compare and collate; she needed to master two further romance languages; she scurried across Europe in pursuit of manuscripts; and she published hundreds of articles, many of them entitled “Another Undiscovered Manuscript of …”, which charted her crusading exploration of her chosen texts.

All this industry, all this dedication, meant that she was not the easiest of colleagues. She had little or no sympathy for anything written later than 1300 and if driven to teach subsidiary students elementary French, or approaches to Gide or Sartre, she would do so with amiable but determined perplexity.

Medieval literature she taught with a bright-eyed enthusiasm that mystified generations of undergraduates – but they remember her vividly, when they have long forgotten more tedious conventional seminars.

Quotes from Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur

20130320-154234.jpg

Quotes from Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur
*Cited by page and line(s)

Quote #1
“But I fele by thy wordis that thou haste agreed to the deth of my persone: and therefore thou art a traytoure – but I wyte the lesse, for my sistir Morgan le Fay by hir false crauftis made the to agré to hir fals lustis.” (90.30-33)

One of Arthur’s own knights, Accalon, betrays him, hoping to become king by marrying the current king’s sister, Morgan le Fay, and killing Arthur. Yet Arthur… forgives him? Later, Arthur’s kingdom will be brought down by a similar betrayal by his own son. Maybe if Arthur should’ve made an example of Accalon instead of being so soft on him.

Morgan Le Faye

Morgan Le Fay

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.

Morgan Le Fay pre-Malory

In Monmouth’s Vita Merlini, Morgan was the chief among her nine sisters: Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Cliton, Tyronoe, and Thitis, and Morgause. She could change shape at will (and to be young or old, beautiful or ugly, or an animal or other object) and to fly with wings, hence – ‘Le Fay’, or Faerie. There was no suggestion of a blood relationship between Arthur and Morgan – she was simply his healer. In Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec and Enide, Morgan le Fay was a friend of Guingamar, Lord of Avalon and one of the guests at the wedding of Erec and Enide. Chrétien descibes her as a giver of healing ointments but she is more typically portrayed as a wicked enchantress who learned her crafts in a Christian nunnery, powers which were subsequently extended with the help of Merlin. She was referred to later as Arthur’s sister (and again as a healer), and in Le Chevalier au Lion her ointments cured Yvain’s madness. Neither Geoffrey of Monmouth nor Chrétien de Troyes described her as the wife of Uriens.

In the The Vulgate Cycle (1215 to 1235) Morgan Le Fay is however married to Uriens. She is also Queen Guinevere’s lady in waiting and fell in love with the King’s nephew, Giomar, but Guinevere put an end to the romance. Morgan responded by betraying the Queen’s affair with Lancelot to King Arthur. She had herself become infatuated with Sir Lancelot though he consistently refused her attentions, despite being imprisoned by her several times. The suspect nature of Morgan Le Fay’s character appears to have been fuelled by the Cistercian monks who wrote the stories of the Vulgate Cycle, prejudiced by the earlier concept of the Morrighan. They undoubtedly considered the idea of a non-religious female healer to be the mark of blasphemy.

In another well-known work – the anonymous late 14th Century poem ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ (the Green Knight was, like Morgan, a ‘shape-shifter’) – she was the instigator of the plot which began the story. Here, the Virgin Mary (as the female archetype representing spiritual love, obedience, chastity, and life) is contrasted with Morgan Le Fay’s representation of courtly love, disobedience, lust and death.

Morgan Le Fay in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur

In Le Morte d’Arthur Morgan Le Fay is fully established as wife of Uriens, sister of Arthur, but is not, truly, a major character. Her best-known part in the tale is as follows:

When Uther Pendragon married Igraine (Book 1), Morgan was the youngest of her three daughters from her previous marriage to Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, who had been slain by Uther’s army just before he raped her at Tintagel Castle (and begat Arthur). Morgan was then sent to a nunnery. According to Malory’s timescale, at the time of Uther’s death two years later, Morgan would have been between thirteen and sixteen and already married to Uriens. At any rate, when the young King Arthur waged war against the five kings Morgan had a grown son, Uwaine, who was close to knighthood.

King Arthur and Morgan Le Fay first came face to face when he sent for Igraine to verify his parentage. At that stage there are no indications of any feelings either way between Morgan and Arthur, but at the burial of Lot and the eleven kings (Book 2) Merlin told Arthur, “Sir, take care with the scabbard of Excalibur, for ye shall lose no blood while ye have it upon you, no matter how many wounds ye have.” Arthur passed the scabbard to Morgan Le Fay for safekeeping, but she loved another knight more than she did her husband (or King Arthur) so she secretly had made a replica of the scabbard and gave the real one to her lover, Sir Accolon of Gaul to protect him.

Following the war with the five kings, Arthur, Uriens, and Accolon went on a hunt (Book 4). Their horses exhausted, they found themselves near nightfall by a great lake where they saw a silk-clad ship approach. Venturing on board, they were greeted by twelve damosels, banqueted, then shown separate chambers. Once in a drug-induced sleep, each was magically transported away, Uriens back to Camelot (where he awoke beside Morgan), Arthur to the prison of the evil Sir Damas (minus his sword and scabbard), and Accolon to a well close to manor of the good Ontzlake, younger brother of Sir Damas.

Morgan Le Fay’s wicked plan

Despite being brothers, Sir Damas and Sir Ontzlake had become mortal enemies, the younger offering to resolve their differences in combat but the latter always refusing, preferring to elect another knight to fight for him. But Damas was too hated ever to find such a knight. At this point a damsel came to Arthur with an offer from Damas that he and his fellow-prisoners would be freed if he would take on the fight, to which Arthur agreed. The damsel was of course ‘false’, having been sent by Morgan Le Fay.

At the same time a dwarf came to Sir Accolon by the well, sent by Morgan to remind him of his earlier (secret) promise to fight an unspecified knight whenever she chose the moment. Accolon would bring her the knight’s head and Morgan Le Fay would become Queen. And now was the moment. The dwarf gave him Excalibur and the scabbard, sent by Morgan, and Accolon made himself ready for combat, on behalf, as it turned out, of Sir Ontzlake against his brother. As Arthur in turn readied himself another damsel came, once again sent by Morgan, and gave him a sword like Excalibur and its scabbard, from which he took reassurance not knowing they were nothing more than poor replicas. The whole monstrous ruse, evidently, had long been planned by Morgan Le Fay so that she could replace Guinevere as Queen.

Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, saves King Arthur

The duel, watched by Nimue, the Lady of the lake, was prolonged and bloody and Sir Accolon, boldened by Excalibur, almost won after Arthur’s useless sword snapped off at the handle. Nimue took pity and with the help of her enchantment Arthur was able to deal such a blow to his opponent that the real Excalibur fell to the ground and he leaped to it and took it in his hand. About to kill Accolon, he asked his name and Accolon confessed all, and thus was spared but died from his wounds soon after, prompting Arthur to despatch his remains to his half-sister at Camelot as a warning.

In the meantime Morgan would have slain her husband, confident of Accolon’s success with Excalibur and the scabbard, but Uriens was saved at the last moment by the intervention of Uwaine, his son, by whom Morgan would herself have been slain had she not agreed to leave Camelot forever. She rode to the nunnery where Arthur was recovering from his wounds and tried to steal back the real Excalibur and scabbard while he slept, but was only able to take the scabbard because the sword was in his hand. When Arthur awoke he set off with Sir Ontzlake in pursuit of Morgan, but she cast the scabbard into a deep lake. She then used her shape-changing powers to disguise herself and her entourage as standing stones to escape further pursuit.

Morgan Le Fay then retreated to her domains (still Book 4). En route she came across a knight leading another bound knight, Manassen (a cousin of Accolon) to be drowned in a fountain for adultery with his wife. For her lost love, and because Manassen swore his innocence, she released him and let him bind and drown his accuser.

At this point Morgan fades somewhat from the mainstream of the story. She went to occupy her lands in Gore, and then to her Castle of Tauroc. To thwart any reprisal by Arthur she sent a damosel to give him a rich mantle embellished with precious stones (in atonement for her sins). But the mantle was laced with poison – Nimue intervened to save Arthur, who made its bearer put it on, who fell down and burnt to coals. Uwaine was later suspected by Arthur of being instrumental in Morgan’s earlier escape from Camelot, and was banished from the court.

The Royal court appears to have thought Morgan Le Fay dead, until King Arthur came across her residence while out hunting one day, and the two were reconciled. In later life she moved to the Isle of Avalon, where she and her allies, the Queen of Northgalis, and the Queen of the Wastelands (and also many damosels, including Nimue) took her dying half-brother to be “healed” after his last battle.

20130219-042423.jpg

Knights of the Round Table

The Round Table – first mentioned by Wace in his “Roman de Brut” – was not only a physical table, but the highest Order of Chivalry at the Court of King Arthur. Its members were supposedly the cream of the British military who followed a strict code of honour and service. Sir Thomas Malory outlines this as:

To never do outrage nor murder

Always to flee treason

To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy

To always do ladies, gentlewomen and widows succor

To never force ladies, gentlewomen or widows

Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels for love or worldly goods

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: