The Mists of Avalon: the Women Behind King Arthur

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The Mists of Avalon: The Women Behind King Arthur

Kate Wrigley period 3

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 fashion than most Medieval Romances, I would consider it an example because over-all, it contains most of the important traits that those types of pieces contain. Even though,The Mists of Avalon also contradicts many of these typical traits that are commanly used/defined as writings of the Arthurian legends.

The Mists of Avalon, as stated before, tells the story of the women behind Arthur's throne, but in a different way. In this novel, the women have the strength and power to control their men, and unlike any other Arthurian legend/story, they are also the heroes. However, this novel does contain quests and the same heroes as most of the Medieval Romance stories, but the women are portrayed as the heroes over the strong and brave knights that actually did control High Britain in that era. The four women that tell most of the story, Morgaine, Igraine, Viviane, and Gwenhwyfar, feel that they are the reason why the men, who were greatly honored back then, had positions in society as high as they did.

Most Medieval Romance novels only tell the story of certain...
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