Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Wicked Day

The Wicked Day : Book Four of the Arthurian Saga (The Arthurian Saga, Book 4)

Mary Stewart

Date: 1983   —   $10.17   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy

Mary Stewart got herself into a bit of a quandary: she removed her principle narrator, but she left the story unfinished. Worse still, she discovered that when she started research that the whole Mordred-as-supreme-villan thing was a later invention, and yet she had set up the traditional evil-bastard-son plot. And worst of all, Mordred as evil didn't pass the smell test, since Arthur treated him with great honor and trust, which seems impossible to reconcile with a version set on bringing Arthur down.

So she did the best she could with what she had, and instead of exploring the possibility that Mordred and Arthur had fought and fallen in the same battle— but not on different sides— she went with a more traditional interpretation, where Mordred is the villain, but not through his own agency or plan. His early upbringing, away from his mother Morgause, is enough to shield him from her machinations, and he is more clear-sighted than his half-brothers, the Orkney children. However, he has a longing for power, enough for a handful of confusions to make it seem as though he seizes at it later.

While this is well-written, and a good portrait of a sympathetic Mordred, it encapsulates the reason I'm not fond of Arthurian myth. Namely, this is an extremely sordid tale, because as much as happy tales have been grafted on to Camelot, they couldn't do much with the ending, and the ending is always that Arthur dies and the country falls apart for centuries. Whee.

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