dhampyresa: (Sarcasm shall be the way)
[personal profile] dhampyresa
Alright everybody settle down, it's story time! I'm going to talk to you about the Arthurian legend as I know it in the hope of making you see how wrong on the internet you are.

But first, some context: my first memory of anything Arthuriana related is being wee (let's say six years old or so) and reading a book. I'm pretty sure the book was La Forêt aux 100 sortilèges or at the very least another from that line of illustrated choose-your-own-adventure books. I was reading the book and I stopped. I carried the book all the way to where my mother was, taking care not to lose  my place.

The book was wrong.

On the double-page spread, one I can still see in my mind, the choice you had to make was how to save an emprisonned knight of the round table. So far, so good, right? No, because Morgane had put him there and that simply couldn't be right. I mean, water is wet, fire burns, Morgane is good, everyone knows that.

So I asked what was wrong with the book, why was Morgane evil in it? "Sometimes, in books, Morgane is evil."

That was the moment I started paying attention to Arthurian legend(s).

What's interesting to me, though, is that I have absolutely no recollection of ever learning about Morgane, Viviane and Merlin before this incident -- it was just of those immutable facts of the universe that you just know. Because of this, there are moments in what I'm going to retell where I could tell you who told me (my uncle, my grandma, my great-uncle, that one dude from [town on the other side of Brittany where they get the story wrong]...), but mostly I can't, so you'll just have to take my word for it that that's how the story goes.

(I don't know if you've ever tried to build a narrative out of oral tradition, but it's hard and I'm no Elias Lönnrot. Also, I translating from French and breton French at that, so cut me some slack. Seams are gonna show.)

So!

Our story starts a long, long time ago, in the Monts d'Arrée, right in the heart of Brittany. In the marshes of Yeun Elez, was a gate to Hell. It's quiet hard to see now, because they built a nuclear power plant on it, but it's still there.

The Devil came walking out of Hell and set about the roads of Brittany.

(Here, I should point out that I'm using "Devil" as a short-hand. He's not the Devil in all the versions I know -- and the breton Devil is pretty far from pop-culture Satan to begin with -- because sometimes he's a forest spirit or an ancient god or all of the above. Sometimes he's even a mortal man.)

Long story short: the Devil fathers Merlin. There's at least one version of the story I know in which he does this explicitly to create an Antechrist. (There's also one version where Merlin ages backwards, btw.)

Until the age of seven, Merlin is brought by his mother and this dude named Blaise who is either the village priest and/or part-man, part-wolf. The fact that he's a werewolf (Bleiz means wolf in breton) has absolutely zero bearing on his actions, not now, not after when he's chronicling Merlin's life. He's just, randomly, a werewolf.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, King Vortigern is being a douchebag, as is his wont. (Okay, y'all are supposed to scream in fear -- "waaah!" -- when I say his name, because fuck the neighbours.)

Vortigern "waaah!" is trying to build the biggest, greatest, bestest tower the world has ever seen, but it keeps crashing down, so he goes to see the druids. The druids grab a raven -- a white one, none of those crappy black ones everyone's got -- and tell Vortigern that he needs to mix the blood of a seven year old child born without a father to the mortar so the tower can stand.

When Vortigern asks where he can find such a child, the druids grab another raven -- because druids just have ravens on hand for sacrifice 24/7, obvs -- and tell him. Vortigern sends some men to the place.

On the way, Vortigern's men meet this kid who's like "'Sup? You, like, the folks Vortigern sent for the fatherless child for, like, sacrifice? Totes awesome, I'm, like, he.". Off they go back to Vortigern.

Once there, Merlin staves off his impending sacrifice by telling Vortigern to dig a hole in the ground in which they find two dragons, one red, one white, who fight to the death.Merlin does a little speech on how this symbolises the coming fight between Vortigern and Uther Pendragon, in which they will both die and omg shut up Merlin, nobody likes a show-off.

This is where the timeline goes wonky as all get out, because Vortigern is also Uther's grandfather and the fight between the two happens within the week and yet Uther manages to father Arthur and have him be born before he dies and basically I'm not entirely sure I can make this part of the timeline make sense.

Anyway, Uther goes to rest at Tintagel, where he falls madly in lust with Ygraine, convinces Merlin (who is no longer seven years old, because see above re: timeline not making sense) to disguise him as Ygraine's husband so he can sleep with her before she learns her husband died in the battle against Vortigern, because Uther Pendragon is a stand-up dude! And so's Merlin.

(This is the part where I point out that Ygraine is potentially Merlin's daughter, if the above wasn't creepy enough for you. MERLIN'S A++ PARENTING, everybody.)

Then Merlin magically prevents Ygraine from killing herself while she's pregnant with Arthur, but doesn't stop her once the baby's born. Her daughter, Morgane, is there when Ygraine throws herself the battlements of Tintagel. It's for this reason that I tend to be of the Viviane taught Morgane magic school of thought, instead of the Merlin taught Morgane magic school of thought.

Viviane, by the way, is the Lady of the Lake and busy raising Lancelot, son of Ban of Benoïc, from a baby to age eighteen. Long story. (Am I the only one who wants to read about the adventures and shenanigans of wee!Lancelot and wee!Morgane?) She's also distributing swords like that's any basis for a system of government.

(Short addendum to the above on DW and on LJ.)

There's a lot of different versions of the relationship between Merlin and Viviane -- that they're lovers, that she's Ygraine's mother, that they don't know each other, that he taught her magic, that she taught him magic, etc...

I'm going to skip right over everything involving Arthur, because quite frankly nobody in my family have the singlest fuck to give about Arthur, and land us back in this tale right after the death of Arthur.

Arthur's dead, Gwenevere reigns supreme. The King is dead, long live the Queen!

Morgane carries Arthur's utterly dead body to Avalon, so he can be buried with all the honours due to a king of his stature.

Viviane gets her sword back in the following way: While Arthur is dying, he gives the sword to one of his knights and tell him to throw it in the lake. The knight can bear to do it and tells Arthur he did. When Arthur asks what happens, the knight just says it went "plouf!", so Arthur sends him back to the lake. This time, the knight -- who still hasn't thrown the sword into the lake -- says it went "PLOUF!". Arthur sends him back again, the knight really does throw the sword and a hand shoots out of the lake to catch it before it goes plouf. The knight comes back to Arthur, tells him this and Arthur dies. In most of the versions I know, the knight in question is Mordred. (In one version, it's Mordred and a random knight having this conversation after Arthur's death.)

Then Viviane (or Morgane, or both) trap Merlin into the not-entirely-appropriately named Tombeau de Merlin (Grave of Merlin), because Merlin has basically engineered this entire war and Camlann thing, not to mention he's a stand-up dude. In some versions he's also been having uncontrollable rages too, because there is always, always, even in the stories that are most sympathetic to him, something fundamentally wrong about Merlin. (There are also versions of the story where he begs Viviane/asks Morgane to trap him in the rock, so that he'll stop being a danger to everyone.)

You can actually visit the Tombeau de Merlin in Brocéliande forest if you want and even leave a wish for him to grant when he wakes up, but I'd advise against it.

Because, see, in the breton version of the myth, it's not Arthur who comes back, it's bloody Merlin and I don't think that's a trade-up.

Okay, that should cover most of it, I think. (Also the Fisher King/le roi pecheur is Perceval's grandfather.)


(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 02:24 pm (UTC)
gingerschnapps: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingerschnapps
This is utterly amazing. I'd heard bits of this woven into different versions but never all of it spelled out like this. It's fascinating. I like it. One of the things I always had a difficult time with was how all the women in classic Arthuriana were either evil or uselessly weepy. This corrects SO MUCH OF THAT. I am in love.

Also..."Vortigern - waaaahh!!"

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 02:55 pm (UTC)
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12
Thank you so much for writing this all out! I have seen fragments a lot of this popping up in other stories (Merlin being the son of the Devil, Merlin ageing backwards, Viviane training Morgane), but never in the one place.

In some versions he's also been having uncontrollable rages too, because there is always, always, even in the stories that are most sympathetic to him, something fundamentally wrong about Merlin.

I used to be a medievalist, and I'm absolutely certain I've come across medieval Welsh material in which Merlin (or Myrddin) is a sort of wild man of the woods figure, roaming around in the wilderness and spouting prophecies. So this certainly chimes with what you're saying.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 04:05 pm (UTC)
dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12
Also, do you mind if I link this in tomorrow's links roundup? It's absolutely wonderful.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12 - Date: 2015-09-13 09:28 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12 - Date: 2015-09-13 09:34 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12 - Date: 2015-09-16 12:30 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12 - Date: 2015-09-19 01:32 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 07:49 pm (UTC)
yhlee: Fall-From-Grace from Planescape: Torment (PST FFG (art: maga))
From: [personal profile] yhlee
This is really fascinating, thank you! Parts of it I had seen in other places, but I hadn't known the bit about Merlin being the devil's son--Simon R. Green uses this in his Nightside urban fantasy books ("Merlin Satanspawn") and I had thought he was making it up, but apparently not! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 09:35 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
I don't actually remember where I first encountered Arthurian stories, but I do have a vague impression that the only woman mentioned was Guenivere and that she was barely in the story at all. Chances are that the Disney adaptation of The Sword in the Stone was something I saw early (it came out in 1963. I was born in 1967). I'm pretty sure that most of my early encounters with anything Arthurian were the sort of glancing stuff that one finds in, say, Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] the_rck - Date: 2015-09-11 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12 - Date: 2015-09-13 09:37 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 10:36 pm (UTC)
alasse_irena: Photo of the back of my head, hair elaborately braided (Default)
From: [personal profile] alasse_irena
This story makes sense of a whole lot of bits and scraps of Arthurian mythology that I already know (chiefly, "Why was Merlin imprisoned in a tree?"), and continues not making sense of a whole lot of others (see timeline issues). All the pre-Arthur stuff is approximately as I heard it, but I've never been all thatclear on what happened after, beyond "He will awake in the nation's hour of need". I also want to know now how Viviane ended up raising Lancelot...

Thank you for telling this story.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-11 12:53 am (UTC)
saturnofthemoon: (Morgan)
From: [personal profile] saturnofthemoon
This is really awesome and I will take it over the traditional story anyday. It's too bad most of the TV/Movie adaptations portray Morgane as evil.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-11 03:54 am (UTC)
yuuago: (Manuscript)
From: [personal profile] yuuago
This was fascinating. And... very different from the versions of the story I've read, but then again my favourite Arthurian stories don't have Merlin in 'em to begin with, so.

[/bookmarks] :)

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] yuuago - Date: 2015-09-12 02:35 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] ljlee - Date: 2015-09-14 03:01 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] yuuago - Date: 2015-09-14 03:06 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] ljlee - Date: 2015-09-14 09:00 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] ljlee - Date: 2015-09-14 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] yuuago - Date: 2015-09-14 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] ljlee - Date: 2015-09-14 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] yuuago - Date: 2015-09-14 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] yuuago - Date: 2015-09-15 01:49 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12 - Date: 2015-09-16 12:39 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] yuuago - Date: 2015-09-16 01:57 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] dolorosa_12 - Date: 2015-09-16 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] yuuago - Date: 2015-09-16 03:48 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-11 11:45 am (UTC)
schneefink: River walking among trees, from "Safe" (Default)
From: [personal profile] schneefink
Thank you! :)
I've heard most of this before at one point or another, but there are so many different versions out there and mostly I didn't care which ones were connected to the actual myth and when authors just used the basic set-up for whatever they wanted.
I also don't care about Arthur much, but the stories surrounding his knights are often hilarious.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-11 10:05 pm (UTC)
thebonesofferalletters: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thebonesofferalletters
Ooooh, I liked this. I never never grew up with the Arthurian legends or delved into them in school, so my framework for what they're "supposed" to be is minimal. I like this a lot though, it kind of makes me really happy and I think I am keeping it.

*stores in bookmarks and keeps*

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-05 04:30 pm (UTC)
endeni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] endeni
/She's also distributing swords like that's any basis for a system of government./ - LOL
/Arthur's dead, Gwenevere reigns supreme. The King is dead, long live the Queen!/ - Yesss, I can totally get behind this! *_*
/In most of the versions I know, the knight in question is Mordred./ - Was this version of Mordred responsible for Arthur's death in some way too? That would give his mission to get back his sword a very interesting twist.
/because Merlin has basically engineered this entire war and Camlann thin/ - No, wait, you mean it was Merlin's fault all along?
/there is always, always, even in the stories that are most sympathetic to him, something fundamentally wrong about Merlin. (There are also versions of the story where he begs Viviane/asks Morgane to trap him in the rock, so that he'll stop being a danger to everyone.)/ - OMG, I love this version so much.
/Because, see, in the breton version of the myth, it's not Arthur who comes back, it's bloody Merlin and I don't think that's a trade-up./ - Oh my, this is terrific.
This was such a fascinating read... *_*
Arthurian Legends are like fanfic in its purest form, with millions of different variations on the theme, spinning of even more variations and combining in all kind of different ways. I'll never get tired of it.
As gingerschnapps says up-thread, I'm familiar with bits and pieces of tale but I never saw them interwoven together in this particular way, so fascinating!
Thanks so much for sharing! <3
Edited Date: 2015-12-05 04:34 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] endeni - Date: 2016-02-11 09:37 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 11:10 pm (UTC)
rachelmanija: (My brother and my mother?!)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
That was great, thank you. I already knew a lot of that (from books read as a kid? God knows what books) but not in that exact narrative - like, I knew about Vortigern and the raven, and the red and white dragons, and the hand coming out of the lake and so forth.

But I NEVER before heard what is now my absolute favorite part:

Until the age of seven, Merlin is brought by his mother and this dude named Blaise who is either the village priest and/or part-man, part-wolf. The fact that he's a werewolf (Bleiz means wolf in breton) has absolutely zero bearing on his actions, not now, not after when he's chronicling Merlin's life. He's just, randomly, a werewolf.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-25 11:48 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
From: [personal profile] sovay
(There are also versions of the story where he begs Viviane/asks Morgane to trap him in the rock, so that he'll stop being a danger to everyone.)

Weirdly, that is both one of the oldest versions of Merlin's imprisonment under stone/in a tree that I know and the first piece of Arthuriana I tried writing as a child (it was terrible). The other is the story of Vortigern and the tower. My feelings toward Merlin are otherwise generally positive on account of imprinting on Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave—but not necessarily the rest of the series—at an early age.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-03 07:29 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Terribly late to the party, but this is great and I loved it.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_profiterole_/
Ce n'est pas que j'ai un problème avec le fait que la BBC ait fait un AU avec un gentil!Merlin, c'est que j'ai un problème avec le fait que la BBC ait fait un AU avec un gentil!Merlin et un tyran!Uther qui sont du même côté. *does not compute* *hugs Morgana*

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-11 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dhampyresa.livejournal.com
BBC Merlin est très... bizarre. Franchement, plus j'en apprends plus je me demande ce qu'ils ont fumé au moment de l'écriture.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_profiterole_/ - Date: 2015-09-11 01:48 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-10 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
This is great! I've read a lot of different Arthurian versions, but I'm not from somewhere where it's an active oral tradition, so it's interesting to see what parts I recognize and what I don't.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-11 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dhampyresa.livejournal.com
Thank you! Out of curiosity, what do/don't you recognise?

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com - Date: 2015-09-11 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dhampyresa.livejournal.com - Date: 2015-09-15 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com - Date: 2015-09-15 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dhampyresa.livejournal.com - Date: 2015-09-16 12:12 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-12 01:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morbane.livejournal.com
In the marshes of Yeun Elez, was a gate to Hell. It's quiet hard to see now, because they built a nuclear power plant on it, but it's still there.

... I really hope you start another story with that, someday. Nuclear power plant built on a gate to Hell, what's not to love?

Poor irrelevant Arthur.

Extra fascinated by Viviane now.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-14 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dhampyresa.livejournal.com
I think I just might! I've been toying with the idea of doing some sort of French folk tales thing, possibly all with the same narrator as this one.

It's currently a decommissioned nuclear power plant, but for a while there, it wasn't. (There was even a bombing at the site, because what could possibly go wrong with bombing a nuclear power plant built on a gate to Hell?)

Viviane is the best. THE BEST.

Profile

dhampyresa: (Default)
dhampyresa

June 2017

S M T W T F S
    123
45 678 910
11 1213141516 17
18 19 2021222324
25 2627282930 

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags