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View Full Version : 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight': Is Morgan Le Fay Merlin's lover in other Arthurian tales?


Brynhildr Budladóttir
04-01-2015, 06:36 AM
Since my last thread on this board I turned 21 (last October) and got accepted into uni as an undergraduate student (this January). I'm studying English as one of my majors and one of my classes is on Arthurian literature. Today my tutorial for this subject was on Sir Gawain and The Green Knight , my favourite text in the course so far.

One thing that jumped out at me when reading it is that Bertilak mentions Morgan Le Fay having been Merlin's lover and learning magic from him. Does this possibly have anything to do with the tradition of Nimue/Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, being Merlin's lover? Are there any medieval or modern Arthurian stories with Morgan as Merlin's lover?

Brynhildr Budladóttir
04-01-2015, 07:40 AM
Since my last thread on this board I turned 21 (last October) and got accepted into uni as an undergraduate student (this January). I'm studying English as one of my majors and one of my classes is on Arthurian literature. Today my tutorial for this subject was on Sir Gawain and The Green Knight , my favourite text in the course so far.

One thing that jumped out at me when reading it is that Bertilak mentions Morgan Le Fay having been Merlin's lover and learning magic from him. Does this possibly have anything to do with the tradition of Nimue/Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, being Merlin's lover? Are there any medieval or modern Arthurian stories with Morgan as Merlin's lover?

I forgot to add the words *"the Green Knight"* after Bertilak. His name is spelt Bertilak instead of Bercilak in the translation I'm supposed to read.

Bridget Burke
04-01-2015, 07:45 AM
In the lovely, fantastic Excalibur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excalibur_%28film%29), Helen Mirren played Morgana Le Fay, in a role that included some of Nimue's antics. Of course the film is not "historic"--that plate armor! But the Matter of Britain is myth & legend & psychology--not history.

Here's an Arthurian blog entry with notes on Morgan le Fay (https://allthingsarthurian.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/arthurian-morgan-le-fay/)--& gorgeous pre-Raphaelite illustrations.

She was traditionally simply a powerful sorceress in the Arthurian legends, but over time she evolves into an antagonist to King Arthur. Eventually she becomes his half-sister as well, as she is daughter of Queen Ygraine and her first husband, Gorlois. In Malory’s version, she is married to King Urien and is the sister of Morgause, another prominent antagonist. Though she put down to many evil deeds in some tales, such as stealing Excalibur, sending Arthur a fatal cloak, and exposing Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot, in many versions she is a character capable of good deeds as well. Her healing powers are usually mentioned, and some writers include her in the group of enchantresses who carry Arthur to Avalon at his death. She is also often portrayed as a rival of Guinevere; they alternately try to expose the other’s adulterous affairs in court.

She's a shapeshifter & may be found in ancient & modern guises. Keep reading. And watching movies & TV.

Check JSTOR for academic opinions; there are many, some of which name-drop Tolkien....

Brynhildr Budladóttir
04-01-2015, 07:58 AM
In the lovely, fantastic Excalibur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excalibur_%28film%29), Helen Mirren played Morgana Le Fay, in a role that included some of Nimue's antics. Of course the film is not "historic"--that plate armor! But the Matter of Britain is myth & legend & psychology--not history.

Here's an Arthurian blog entry with notes on Morgan le Fay (https://allthingsarthurian.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/arthurian-morgan-le-fay/)--& gorgeous pre-Raphaelite illustrations.



She's a shapeshifter & may be found in ancient & modern guises. Keep reading. And watching movies & TV. Check JSTOR for academic works; there are many....


Thanks for that, Bridget. Those are beautiful! I actually have to give a presentation on SGGK for my tutorial in three weeks' time after the Easter break next week and then I've got to write an essay on it, so thanks for that suggestion too (though the presentation's on Lady Bertilak, who I personally think actually plotted along with Morgana and Lord Bertilak to humiliate Arthur.)

FeAudrey
04-01-2015, 02:36 PM
If I were doing a presentation and paper on Lady Bertilak, I'd restrict the Morgan le Fay material to that relevant to her actions in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and reserve Nimue/the Lady of the Lake for some other tutorial entirely. A do-able-sized topic generally trumps attractive side issues, particularly with as rich a work as SGGK.

It's a great favorite with me, too -- I read it every Christmas; usually the Burton Raffel translation, a "Bertilak"-using text.

Brynhildr Budladóttir
04-01-2015, 11:13 PM
Audrey, how does your translation deal with the stanza where it's either Lady Bertilak or Gawain thinking about how Gawain isn't going to pay any attention to Lady Bertilak because he's focusing on his impending beheading game with Bertilak? Are the thoughts hers or his?

Here's an article
(http://www.medievalists.net/2009/12/24/sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight-as-a-christmas-poem/) on Christmas in SGGK. I think it's really significant that the story both begins and reaches its climax in the Christmas season, a time when otherworldly things traditionally happen.

Nava
04-02-2015, 04:56 AM
Here's an Arthurian blog entry with notes on Morgan le Fay (https://allthingsarthurian.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/arthurian-morgan-le-fay/)--& gorgeous pre-Raphaelite illustrations.

For accuracy's sake, the pictures in question have pre-Raphaelite influences but are all from Romantic artists.

FeAudrey
04-02-2015, 11:51 AM
... the stanza where it's either Lady Bertilak or Gawain thinking about how Gawain isn't going to pay any attention to Lady Bertilak because he's focusing on his impending beheading game with Bertilak?...
A stanza or line number would help me look it up ...

There is extensive scholarship on the Christmas (and Christian) imagery and subtext of the poem; the linked-to article is kind of late to the party, so to speak, even as of its 1970 publication date.

FeAudrey
04-02-2015, 11:59 AM
Missed the edit window; was recasting second sentence as:

There is extensive scholarship on the Christmas (and Christian) imagery and subtext of the poem. The linked-to article is from 1970; lots of stuff both before and since then.

Lightray
04-02-2015, 12:39 PM
If you have a class on Arthurian literature, you might want to consider getting your hands on the Arthurian Companion (http://www.amazon.com/Arthurian-Companion-Legendary-Camelot-Pendragon/dp/1568820968/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=) by Phyllis Ann Karr.

It's an encyclopedic listing of the people, places, & things in the Arthurian canon, drawing from Mallory, the Vulgate, Chrétian de Troyes, and quite a few others. It was originally written at the behest of Greg Stafford, author of the Pendragon role-playing game, but it's an excellent source for reference. My only quibble is that the updated edition misses some appendices in the original that have lists of all the damsels, sorceresses, and other Arthurian archetypes.

robert_columbia
04-02-2015, 12:52 PM
...

She's a shapeshifter & may be found in ancient & modern guises. Keep reading. And watching movies & TV.

Check JSTOR for academic opinions; there are many, some of which name-drop Tolkien....

Good points.

Also, if you haven't seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, do so now. It's not only falling-down funny and a nerd classic, but it's really good at staying somewhat close to the older source materials. Lancelot is still quite the ladies' man, and Bedevere is still the last remaining knight. Ni!

Also, check out The Vision of Sir Launfal, one of the only lasting American contributions to the Arthurian cycle. Bonus points if you read it on anything as rare as a day in June.

Brynhildr Budladóttir
04-02-2015, 06:28 PM
A stanza or line number would help me look it up ...

There is extensive scholarship on the Christmas (and Christian) imagery and subtext of the poem; the linked-to article is kind of late to the party, so to speak, even as of its 1970 publication date.

My translation's the Finch one and the lines are 1280-1286 in Fitt 2.

Also, if you haven't seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, do so now. It's not only falling-down funny and a nerd classic, but it's really good at staying somewhat close to the older source materials. Lancelot is still quite the ladies' man, and Bedevere is still the last remaining knight. Ni!

Also, check out The Vision of Sir Launfal, one of the only lasting American contributions to the Arthurian cycle. Bonus points if you read it on anything as rare as a day in June.

I've definitely seen a bit of it. I think we've got a copy at home. My dad might have bought it years ago.

Elendil's Heir
04-02-2015, 10:47 PM
As an avid Arthurian myth fan and lover of Excalibur, for all its departures and anachronisms, may I also suggest Thomas Berger's Arthur Rex? His retelling of the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is just great.

Brynhildr Budladóttir
04-03-2015, 07:48 AM
Thanks for all the suggestions! I'll definitely check them out.

FeAudrey
04-03-2015, 04:38 PM
... the stanza where it's either Lady Bertilak or Gawain thinking about how Gawain isn't going to pay any attention to Lady Bertilak because he's focusing on his impending beheading game with Bertilak? Are the thoughts hers or his? ... My translation's the Finch one and the lines are 1280-1286 in Fitt 2.

(side note: In both translations I have (Burton Raffel and Brian Stone), it's Stanza 51, early in Fit 3; line numbers a bit, er, flexible.)

Gawain was cautious, walked with care
and tact. -- "Were I the most beautiful on earth,"
She thought, "his heart would hang slack, thinking
Of the reason
For this journey, and the blow
This season
Will bring him." And knowing
It was time, she took her leave.

Raffel is unambiguous, but I gather it's a minority opinion.

Brynhildr Budladóttir
04-04-2015, 03:57 AM
IMO it "works" better translated that way. Not just because it's more faithful to the text but because it means Lady Bertilak has more of an active role.

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