The Depiction of Morgan Le Fay in
Various Accounts of The Arthurian
"In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman,
queen." So begins Marion Zimmer Bradley's account of the Arthurian legend, which
places unusual emphasis on the character of Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan Le
Fay. But who exactly is Morgan and how does she vary in the different accounts of the
In order to assess how Morgan Le Fay is depicted throughout history, it is first
important to establish who she is and what part she plays in the legend. Five different
texts: Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings Of Britain, Sir Thomas Malory's
Le Morte d'Arthur, a French version of the Arthurian legend, Mort Artu, written by an
unknown 13th century author and T. H. White's 20th century classic The Once and
Future King, along with Marion Zimmer Bradley's New York Times best-selling novel
The Mists Of Avalon show vastly different versions of the character of Morgan and her
importance in the legend.
In most versions of the legend, Morgan is Arthur's half sister, the daughter of
Queen Igraine and her first husband, the Duke of Cornwall. After her mother's marriage
to the High King, Morgan is trained in magic of some sort. She, whether knowingly or
unknowingly, beds Arthur and is impregnated by him. She bares him a son, Mordred, then
disappears into the "realm of the fairies" After several years, Morgan is married to the
King of Uriens. This is the way Morgan appears most frequently in re-tellings of the
Arthurian legend. However, the character Morgause has often taken on some of the
characteristics and roles of Morgan in the legend; therefore, in order to adequately
compare texts on Morgan, one must explore the depiction of Morgause also.
The original full retelling of the Arthur story, Monmouth's The History of the
Kings of Britain, has few female characters. Morgan Le Fay is once such decided absence.
Not only does she play no part whatsoever in the legend, but she is never even mentioned.
Mordred, who is often her son by an incestuous relationship with Arthur, is instead the son
of Anna and her husband, Loth, the King of Lothian. Anna is as close as Monmouth gets
to a Morgan-like character. She is the sister of Arthur, and daughter of Igraine and Uther.
She gives birth to Mordred, who is the means by which Arthur's death comes about, and
Gawain, one of Arthurs most loyal and trusted knights.
Le Morte D'Arthur by Malory shows an entirely different perspective as to the role
and person of Morgan Le Fay in the Arthurian legend. She is one of Arthur's three
sisters, the others being Morgause and Elaine. Morgause marries King Lot of Lothian and
has four sons including Gawaine while Elaine marries King Nentis. Arthur has an
incestuous relationship with Morgause and she gives birth to Mordred. Meanwhile