King Arthur's Enchantresses: Morgan and Her Sisters in Arthurian Tradition

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Interest in the Arthurian myths is running at perhaps unprecedented levels, and has become a thoroughly mainstream preoccupation. This is evidenced by the stream of novels, non-fiction works and films - such as Antoine Fuqua’s movie King Arthur, released in 2004 - about the perennially powerful legend of the charismatic King who dies and who will one day return again. Carolyne Larrington is an expert on myth and is an authority on all aspects of the Arthurian story. In this fascinating book she offers a novel and thoroughly contemporary take on the myth by focussing on the various powerful, magical women who play a central part in Arthur’s life and exploits. These women are mysterious, often sexually alluring figures, capable of harnessing magic for good as well as for subversive ends. The author focuses in turn on Morgan-le-Fay, Arthur’s half-sister, a complex enchantress of great cunning and power; the benevolent Lady of the Lake, protector of Lancelot and the polity of Camelot; Viviane, the ambivalent and dangerous nemesis of Merlin; and Morgause, Queen of Orkney and Arthur’s other sister, whose lack of magical power renders her vulnerable to honour-driven male violence. She places the medieval tales about these women within their social and political contexts, and goes on to uncover the new roles these women play in both Victorian and modern culture, ranging from Viviane’s machinations in poetry to Morgan’s powerful presence on the Internet. Encompassing film, art, history, opera and literature, Arthur’s Enchantresses shows how important and culturally resonant the enchantresses have been - and continue to be - in the collective European cultural imagination. Whether they be wise healers, beguiling seductresses, tempters of good knights, or enemies of Arthur and all he stands for, the enchantresses continue to speak to us of a dynamic female tradition in Arthurian mythology which is as compelling and provocative as the women themselves. Arthur’s Enchantresses will be essential reading for anyone with an interest in cultural history, mythology, religion and medieval literature.
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Published on
Jun 30, 2006
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History / Europe / Medieval
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Social Science / Folklore & Mythology
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