Thursday, October 22, 2009


Okay, THE MISTS OF AVALON is a huge bestselling book with the miniseries to prove it.

But I had a lot of trouble getting through it, because I felt that Marion Zimmer Bradley did a terrible thing to Morgan le Fay: she made her a reasonable person. MZB's Morgan is a kind, loving person. The whole problem with Arthur is not her fault.

C'mon. Morgan was a Celt. The Celts did not value "being a reasonable person." They valued honor, and revenge.

Arthur's father Uter Penndragon murdered Morgan's father. It would be her duty to take vengeance upon Uter's family. To a pagan Celt, killing someone in Arthur's family would be a good and righteous thing; only a coward would fail to do it, or die trying.

But more importantly: Morgan pulls down the entire House of Britain. That's crucial to the King Arthur story. Arthur is the only thing standing between Britain and the oncoming Saxon invasion. After Arthur's death at Camlann, the Saxons push the British into the mountains of Wales. It is the destruction of the entire people Morgan springs from.

What kind of a woman would do that? Not a reasonable woman. A very angry woman.

A very angry woman whose anger is what makes her powerful. It is the anger that fuels the sorcery.

Because I don't, y'know, hold with the Harry Potter notion that magic is something you do between sandwiches. Magic costs. It has to be powered by something. Talent gives you the ability to shape it, but talent alone doesn't make a witch. Talent + will, that's where it comes from.

(In the Wicca I was taught, the four elements were Air ("to know"), Fire ("to will"), Water ("to dare") and Earth ("to keep silent."))

If Morgan hadn't been so angry, she couldn't have been the witch that she was.

Making her an angry woman makes her a great tragic character. It makes her maybe not a "good" a person, but you don't want "good" people in your stories, do you? If Othello hadn't been jealous, he wouldn't have got a play, would he? If Hamlet had been decisive, or if Romeo and Juliet had just chilled out a little before playing with knives ... no story.

Morgan's anger explains the other odd thing. After Arthur is mortally wounded, who comes to get him to take him to the eternal isle of Avalon? Morgan le Fay, his half sister.

Morgan loved and hated her half-brother Arthur. She loved him as a man and a king and as her own blood; she hated him as the son of his father.

The Circle Cast doesn't get into the whole King Arthur story. But it is very much about a girl who has to choose between vengeance and grace. She's a girl whose anger saves her, but also hurts her.

1 Comments:

I liked the Mists of Avalon, but I never got the idea that Morgan was obsessed/loved the Lancolaut (insert spelling here) character in the book. He seemed like some sort of wuss, or something, not like what a strong character would be interested in anyways. If you want a great mzb read, try The Firebrand, or the The Atlantis Series, Web of Darkness, Web of Light.

By Blogger merianne, at February 18, 2010 at 2:04 AM  

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