The Mists of Avalon: The Women Behind King Arthur
The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is not only an example
of a Medieval Romance, but also tells the story of the women who stood behind
King Arthur during his infamous reign in the Middle Ages. This novel explains
the reasoning and decisions that Arthur made in the women's perspective. The
Mists of Avalon is a twist on the Arthurian tales as told by the four women
instrumental to the story: Gwenhwyfar, his wife; Igraine, his mother; Viviane,
the Lady of the Lake, High Priestess of Avalon; and his sister and lover,
heiress to Avalon, Morgaine. The story is told by each, as they saw it happen.
The struggle between Christianity and the religion of Avalon is a central part
of the story, and Arthur's loyalty to and betrayal of Avalon another part.
In this novel, the legend of King Arthur is for the first time told
through the lives, the visions, and the perceptions of the women central to it.
The Arthurian world of Avalon and Camelot with all its passions and adventures
is revealed as it might have been experienced by its heroines: by Queen
Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's wife; by Igraine, his mother; by Viviane, the majestic Lady
of the Lake, High Priestess of Avalon; and, most important, by Arthur's sister,
Morgaine, who has come down to us as Morgaine of the Fairies, a sorceress who,
in this epic retelling of the story, plays a crucial role both in Arthur's
crowning and destruction. Above all it is a story of profound conflict between
Christianity and the old religion of Avalon.
The term "Medieval Romance" does not necessarily mean that the piece
using it contains any sort of "romance." Most Medieval Romance pieces told the
tales differently from those of the realistic novel. In other words, the plots,
like those of the romance, (1) divide into sharply separate episodes that often
do not seem joined in in any obvious causal fashion and (2) generally take the
form of tests that they must pass to attain some goal. Frequently, (3) the
generally male protagonist
fails tests, which often involve acts of moral and spiritual perception, until
such point that he finally follows advice. Also, the pieces stress honor and
courage, but use much emphasis on the characters rather than the over-all plot.
Instead of concentrating on the women and the "peasant folk," or poor people,
the piece concentrates on the "gallant" knights or the kings and their courts.
They also do not span over the entire life of a certain individual. This book
contains the certain traits that a Medieval Romance contains. It has a heroine,
in this case the female , Morgaine. It also contains the supernatural powers
that were believed in during the Middle Ages. Also it has activity and
adventure that the knights of the round table take part in. Though it is
written in an entirely differently...