Sunday, March 14, 2010
Merlin and the Muse
As I'm sure I've mentioned elsewhere I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to myth and legends, especially ones from the cultures of early Britain about King Arthur's court. You know ... Arthur Pendragon, Merlin the magician, the sword in the stone, Lady Guinevere, the knights of the round table, Sir Lancelot, the Lady of the Lake, etc, etc...
You don't know? Then I'm afraid I'll have to punch you in the nose!
Sorry. I have frustration issues. I named one of my daughters Guinevere and I get so ... saddened ... by people who ask me where her name comes from and then look at me with a totally blank expression when I explain. They have absolutely no idea who Arthur is!
But I digress.
Anyway, I'm finding the Merlin/Arthurian legends hugely inspiring for the YA fantasy novel I'm writing. I think my Muse is a little smitten.
I've read the translations of the Mabinogion, The Green Knight, Sir Gawaine and the Pearl and The History of the Kings of Britain (which isn't really a history at all). I've got Bulfinch's The Age of Chivalry, Marie Trevelyan's Arthurian Legends (a Welsh history) and John Matthew's The Arthurian Tradition. But I thought it might be fun to read some of the more recent literature about these two paragons of our oral history.
I've just finished reading Mary Stewart's fantasy novel The Crystal Cave (1970). It's an oldie, but a goodie. She has basically taken the threads of Merlin's story as written by Geoffrey of Monmouth (He's no historian, but I love his "history") and worked it into a novel length masterpiece.
One thing that did strike me in this book was other than Merlin (Myrddin Emrys) having the power of Sight, he had no other magical abilities of any kind. I guess this made him more realistic, more human, but to be honest I'd not expected that. Perhaps, I've been watching too much of Merlin, the TV series.
The Crystal Cave is the kind of book so well written the words melt away until only the story exists before your eyes. So if you like early British historical/legends I suggest you hunt down a copy.
I've just started reading Merlin by Stephen R. Lawhead (the second book in The Pendragon Cycle). I'm only a few chapters in and so far so good.
What I'd love is some recommendations of adult or YA novels about Merlin or Arthur that I can sink my teeth into. So, please, let me know of any you've stumbled across any in your reading adventures.