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Morgan le Fay

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For other uses, see Morgan le Fay (disambiguation).
Sandys, Frederick - Morgan le Fay.JPG
Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys (1864)
First appearance Vita Merlini (as Morgen, the Queen of Avalon)
Created by Geoffrey of Monmouth
Occupation Enchantress
Title Queen
Spouse(s) King Urien
Significant other(s) Accolon, others
Children Ywain
Relatives Igraine, Gorlois, Morgause, Elaine of Garlot, King Arthur

Morgan le Fay /ˈmɔrɡən lə ˈf/, alternatively known as Morgan le Faye, Morgen, Morgaine, Morgain, Morgana, Morganna, Morgant, Morgane, Morgne, Morge, Morgue, and other names, is a powerful enchantress in the Arthurian legend. Early works featuring Morgan do not elaborate her character beyond her role as a fay or sorceress. She became much more prominent in the later cyclical prose works such as the Lancelot-Grail and the Post-Vulgate Cycle, in which she becomes an enemy of King Arthur and an antagonist of many stories. Her character may be partially derived from that of the Welsh goddess Modron.

The early accounts of Geoffrey of Monmouth in Vita Merlini and Gerald of Wales refer to Morgan in conjunction with the Isle of Apples (Avalon) to which the fatally wounded Arthur was carried off after the Battle of Camlann. To the former, she was a healer and an enchantress, the eldest of nine sisters. In early chivalric romance stories by Chrétien de Troyes, she also figures as a healer. In later stories, Morgan is said to be the daughter of Arthur's mother Lady Igraine and her first husband Gorlois, so that Arthur, the son of Igraine and Uther Pendragon, is her half-brother. She becomes an apprentice of Merlin and a vindictive adversary of Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, with a special hatred for his wife Queen Guinevere. In Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and elsewhere, she is unhappily married to King Urien, with whom she has the son Ywain, and her sisters include Morgause. She has also many lovers and an unrequited love for Lancelot. Morgan is an indirect instrument of Arthur's death, though she eventually reconciles with him and retains her original role, serving as one of the queens who take him to Avalon.

Etymology and origins[edit]

Voyage of King Arthur and Morgan le Fay to the Isle of Avalon by Frank William Warwick (1888)

The earliest spelling of the name (found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini) is Morgen, which is likely derived from Old Welsh or Old Breton Morgen, meaning "Sea-born" (from Common Brittonic *Mori-genā, the masculine form of which, *Mori-genos, survived in Middle Welsh as Moryen or Morien; a cognate form in Old Irish is Muirgein, the name of a Christian, shape-shifting female saint who was associated with the sea). The name is not to be confused with the Modern Welsh masculine name Morgan (spelled Morcant in the Old Welsh period).[1][2] As her epithet "le Fay" (from the French la fée, "the fairy") and some traits indicates, the figure of Morgan appears to have been a remnant of a supernatural woman from Celtic mythology, and her main name could be connected to the myths of Morgens (or Morgans) which are Welsh and Breton water spirits. While later works make her specifically human, she retains her magical powers.[3]

Inspiration for her character likely came from earlier Welsh mythology and literature. Additional speculation sometimes connects Morgan with the Irish goddess Morrígan, though there are few similarities between the two beyond the spelling of their names. Instead, Morgan has been more substantially linked with the goddess Modron, a figure derived from the continental Dea Matrona and featured with some frequency in medieval Welsh literature. Modron appears in Welsh Triad 70, in which her children by Urien, Owain and Morfydd, are called the "Three Blessed Womb-Burdens of the Island of Britain,"[4] and a later folktale preserved in the manuscript known as Peniarth 147 records the story behind these conceptions more fully.[5] Arthurian legend's version of Urien is Morgan le Fay's husband in the continental romances, while Owain mab Urien is the historical figure behind their son Ywain. The hystorical Urien had a treacherous ally named Morcant Bulc who plotted to assassinate him, similar to how Morgan attempts to kill Urien in the later version of Arthurian myth.[6] Additionally, Modron is called "daughter of Avallach," a Welsh ancestor deity whose name can also be interpreted as a noun meaning "a place of apples".[7] In fact, in the story of Owain and Morfydd's conception in Peniarth 147, Modron is called the "daughter of the king of Avallach." This is similar to Avalon, the "Isle of Apples" with which Morgan le Fay has been associated since her earliest appearances. According to the chronicler Gerald of Wales, Morganis was a noblewoman cousin of King Arthur who carried him to her island of Avalon (identified by him as Glastonbury), where Arthur was buried. Writing about 1216, Gerald claimed that "as a result, the credulous Britons and their bards invented the legend that a fantastic sorceress had removed Arthur's body to the Isle of Avalon, so that she might cure his wounds there," for the purpose of creating the possibility of King Arthur's messianic return.[8]

In medieval literature[edit]

Early appearances[edit]

Morgan first appears by name in Vita Merlini, written by Norman-Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth about 1150. Purportedly an account of the wizard Merlin's later adventures, it elaborates some episodes from Geoffrey's more famous earlier work, Historia Regum Britanniae (1136). In Historia, Geoffrey relates how King Arthur, seriously wounded by Mordred at the Battle of Camlann, is taken off to the blessed Isle of Apple Trees (Latin Insula Pomorum), Avalon, to be healed. In Vita Merlini, he describes this island in more detail and names Morgen as the chief of nine magical queen sisters who dwell there, capable of shapeshifting and flying.[9] Her sisters' names are Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, Thiten and Thiton.[10][11][12] Morgan retains this role as Arthur's other-worldly healer in much later literature, and Geoffrey might have been inspired by the 1st-century Roman cartographer Pomponius Mela, who described an oracle at the Île de Sein off the coast of Brittany and its nine virgin priestesses believed by the Gauls to have the powers of curing disease and performing various other marvelous magic, such as controlling the sea through incantations, foretelling future, and changing themselves into any animal.[13] In Layamon's The Chronicle of Britain, written about 1215, Arthur was taken to Avalon to be healed there by its most beautiful elfen queen named Argante.[14]

Morgan le Fay by Edward Burne-Jones (1862)

Prior to the cyclical Old French prose, the appearances of Morgan are few. The 12th-century French poet Chrétien de Troyes mentions her in his first romance Erec and Enide, completed around 1170. In it, a love of Morgan is Guinguemar, the Lord of the Isle of Avalon and a nephew of King Arthur, a derivative of the legendary Breton hero Guingamor.[15] Guingamor's own story by Marie de France has him in relation to the beautiful magical entity known only as the "fairy mistress",[16] who was later identified by Thomas Chestre's Sir Launfal as Dame Tryamour, the daughter of the King of the Otherworld, and who shares many characteristics with Chrétien's Morgan.[17] It was noted that even Chrétien' earliest mention of Morgan already shows an enmity between her and Queen Guinevere, and althrough Morgan is represented only in benign role by Chrétien, she resides in a mysterious place known as the Vale Perilous (which some later authors say she has created as a place of punishment for unfaithful knights).[13][18] She is later mentioned in the same poem when Arthur provides the wounded hero Erec with a healing balm made by his sister Morgan. This episode both affirms her early role as a healer and provides the first mention of Morgan as Arthur's sister; healing is Morgan's chief ability, but Chrétien also hints at her potential to harm.[19] Chrétien again refers to Morgan as a great healer in his later romance Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, in an episode in which the Lady of Norison restores the maddened hero to his senses with a magical potion provided by Morgan the Wise. While Modron is the mother of Owain mab Urien in Welsh literature, and Morgan would be assigned this role in later French literature, this first continental association between Sir Ywain and Morgan does not imply they are son and mother; she is first mentioned as Ywain's mother in the early 13th-century Breton lai Tyolet.[14]

The Arthurian tale Geraint son of Erbin, based on Chrétien's Erec and Enide, mentions King Arthur's chief physician, Morgan Tud; it is believed that this character, though considered a male in Gereint, may be derived from Morgan le Fay, though this has been a matter of debate among Arthurian scholars since the 19th century (the epithet Tud may be a Welsh or Breton cognate or borrowing of Old Irish tuath, "north, left", "sinister, wicked", also "fairy (fay), elf").[20][21] In his version of Erec, the 12th-century German knight and poet Hartmann von Aue describes the sorceress Famurgan (Feimurgan, Fay Murgan) as a deceased mistress of dark magic who has lived her life "in defiance of God" and was capable of raising the dead and turning people to animals at will, commanding wild beasts, evil spirits and dragons, and having the devil in Hell as a trusted companion.[22] Hartmann has Erec healed by Guinevere with a special plaster that Famurgan gave to her brother Arthur before she died and all of her wondrous knowledge was lost with her. In the 13th-century romance Parzival, another German knight-poet Wolfram von Eschenbach inverted her name to create that of Arthur's fairy ancestor named Terdelaschoye de Feimurgan, the wife of Mazadan, where the part "Terdelaschoye" comes from Terre de la Joie, or Land of Joy.[14] A great sorceress Morgaine also appears in the few surviving verses of Robert de Boron's poem Merlin, described therein as an illegitimate daughter of Lady Igraine and an unnamed Duke of Tintagel, and it is the first known appearance linking Morgan to Igraine and mentioning her learning sorcery after having been sent away for an education.

In cyclical Old French prose[edit]

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880)

Morgan's role was greatly expanded in the 13th-century Old French romances of Lancelot-Grail (the Vulgate Cycle) and the subsequent works inspired by it (the Post-Vulgate Cycle) that make her ways and deeds much more sinister than she was presented by Geoffrey and Chrétien. Morgan is now a dangerous, unpredictable, scheming and lustful nemesis of Arthur and Guinevere, causing mischief at the royal courts of both Arthur and Mark of Cornwall and having few positive values. She has at least two elder sisters, Elaine of Garlot and Morgause, the latter of whom is the mother of Arthur's knights Gawain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Agravain by King Lot, and the traitor Sir Mordred by Arthur. The youngest of Duke of Cornwall Gorlois and Igraine's daughters, Morgan is sent to a nun convent when Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, aided by Merlin, kills Gorlois and rapes and marries her mother. There she begins her study of magic arts, which she later continues under Merlin, but is interrupted when Uther betroths her to his ally King Urien of Gore (possibly Rheged). Unhappy with her husband, she takes a string of lovers until she is caught by the young Queen Guinevere, to whom Morgan serves as a lady-in-waiting, with Guiomar (Chrétien's Guinguemar), and Guinevere intervenes to break their relationship to prevent the loss of honor. This incident begins a feud between Guinevere and Morgan, who leaves the court of Camelot to seek out Merlin and greater powers.

The pregnant Morgan (she later gives a birth to Guiomar's son) continues her studies of magic under Merlin, whom she enamours and later scorns, all the while plotting her revenge against Guinevere. Morgan uses her skills to foil the Knights of the Round Table, especially Sir Lancelot, whom she alternately tries to seduce and to expose as Guinevere's adulterous lover. Morgan then concentrates on witchcraft to such degree that she goes to live in seclusion in the exile of far-away forests. She learns more spells than any other woman, gains an ability to transform herself into any animal, and people begin to call her Morgan the Goddess.[23] Her attempts to kill Arthur after being banished from Camelot by Guinevere in the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin are repeatedly frustrated by the king's new sorcerous advisor Nimue (the Lady of the Lake), such as when Morgan sends Arthur a supposed gift of forgiveness in the form of a rich mantle (Morgan's messenger maiden is ordered to don the cloak first and its curse burns her to cinders). In the Prose Tristan, Morgan delivers by Sir Lamorak to Arthur's court a magical drinking horn from which no unfaithful lady can drink without spilling, hoping to reveal the infidelity and disgrace Guinevere. With same intent, she also gives Sir Tristan a shield depicting Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.[24] The Estoire Merlin mentions her marriage to King Neutres (Nentres),[25] while some other sources have Nentres as a suitor of young Morgan before marrying her sister Elaine. Her many lovers include Corrant, Gui of Carmelide (Cameliard), Guyanor, Helians of Gomeret, and Kaz of Gomeret,[13][14] as well as one Sir Hemison (also known as Huneson the Bald or Onesun). Huneson is mortally wounded when he attacks Tristan out of his jealously for Morgan's attention and dies after returning to her, and the anguishing Morgan buries him in a tomb. In one version, she then takes possession of the lance that was used to kill Huneson, enchants it, and sends it Mark, who years later uses it to kill Tristan.[14] In one of her castles, Tugan in Garlot, Morgan hid a magic book given to her by Merlin and which prophesied the deaths of Arthur and Gawain and who would kill them, but no one could read this passage without dying instantly.[14][26]

Queen Morgana Appears unto Sir Launcelot, Howard Pyle's illustration from The Story of the Champions of the Round Table (1905)

Morgan's prime object of desire is Lancelot, but he consistently refuses her advances due to his love of Guinevere, even as Morgan either courts, drugs, enchants and imprisons the knight on several occasions. One story has Lancelot captured in Cart Castle (Charyot) by her and two other passionate enchantress, Queen Sebile (Sedile) and the unnamed Queen of Sorestan, each of whom wants to make him her lover, but he refuses to choose and escapes with a help of one of their maidservants, Rocedon.[14] Sebile and Morgan are close companions, working their magic together, but they tend to fall into petty squabbles due to their rivalries and bad tempers, including a conflict between them when they both seduce Lancelot's brother Sir Hector de Maris in Prophecies de Merlin; a resulting contest between them is won by Nimue with a help from Merlin. Their friendship is further tested when a quarrel over a handsome widower named Berengier (captured by Sebile after Morgan kidnapped his child) ends in a violent attack by Sebile which leaves Morgan half-dead; Morgan swears revenge, but their relationship is later restored as usual.[25] Morgan's other allies in Prophecies include the opponents of chivalry such as Mark and Claudas, and she enlists the help of the latter in her failed to ambush and kill her bitter rival, the Lady.[23] Her realm becomes known as the Val sans Retour (the Vale of No Return). Morgan's fancied knights include Lancelot, whom she constantly attempts get him into her bed, as well as some others. Among them is the rescued-but-abducted young Sir Alexander the Orphan (Alisaunder le Orphelin, a cousin of Tristan and Mark's enemy), whom she promises to heal but he vows to rather castrate himself than to pleasure her, but promises her to guard the Fair Guard castle where he was held for a year and continues to do so even after it is burned down.[14] In the Val sans Retour, Lancelot frees about 250 knights entrapped by Morgan from her power, including Morgan's son Uwain and her former lover Guiomars who has been turned to stone by her for his unfaithfulness.[14] Morgan captures Lancelot under her spell and keeps him prisoner in the hope Guinevere would go mad or die of sorrow, and otherwise torments the queen, causing her a great distress and making her miserable until Lady of the Lake gives her a ring of protection from any power of Morgan.[24] On one occasion, she lets the captive Lancelot go to rescue Sir Gawain if he comes back, and he does; she eventually releases him when his health falters and he is near death.[17]

The Death of King Arthur by James Archer (1860)

In the Post-Vulgate Queste, Mordred spots the images of Lancelot's love for Guinevere that Lancelot painted on her castle's walls while he was imprisoned there, and Morgan shows them to Gawain and his brothers, encouraging them to take action in the name of loyalty to their king.[27] In the chapter Mort Artu (Death of Arthur), she vanishes for a long time and stops troubling Arthur, who assumes her to be dead. One day, he wanders into Morgan's remote castle while on a hunting trip, and they instantly reconcile with each other. Morgan welcomes him warmly and the king is overjoyed of their reunion and allows her to return to Camelot, but she refuses and declares her plan to move to the Isle of Avalon to live there with other sorceresses. However, the sight of Lancelot's wall paintings and Morgan's confession finally convinces Arthur about the truth to the rumours of two's secret love affair (about which he has been already warned by his nephew Sir Agravain). This leads to a great conflict between Arthur and Lancelot which brings down the fellowship of the Round Table. The goddess Fortune, who appears to Arthur to foretell his death towards the end the Vulgate Cycle, is regarded by some as a double for Morgan.[28] At the end of Mort Artu, Morgan is the first among the ladies who take the dying Arthur to his final rest in Avalon.

Queen Morgana Loses Excalibur His Sheath, Howard Pyle's illustration from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

English writer Thomas Malory follows much of that portrayal of Morgan in his 1485 compilation book Le Morte d'Arthur (The Death of Arthur), though he expands her role in some cases. Malory's Morgan too has studied nigromancy (meaning black magic, sometimes mistaken with "necromancy") in the nunnery where she was raised, before being married to Urien as a young teenager.[6] Through magic and mortal means, she tries to arrange her hated half-brother Arthur and half-sister Guinevere's downfall whenever she can, most famously when she arranges (in conspiracy with Sir Damas) for her devoted lover Sir Accolon of Gaul to obtain the enchanted sword Excalibur and use it against Arthur in single combat. Failing in this, Morgan steals Excalibur's protective scabbard (which has been previously entrusted to her by Arthur himself as he had trusted her most) from the sleeping Arthur and, pursued by Arthur, throws it into a lake; this is the action that ultimately causes the death of Arthur, who would otherwise be protected in his final battle. This attempt on Arthur's life too has been first featured in Suite du Merlin, but with several differences, including Morgan's lover being unnamed and Merlin saving her from Arthur's wrath and enabling her to escape.[26] Morgan also attempts to murder her sleeping husband Urien with his own sword, but is stopped in act by their son Ywain, who pardons her when she protests she has been under the devil's power and promises to abandon her wicked ways. Later, she saves Arthur's knight named Manassen (Manessen, Manasses) from a certain death, and enables him to kill his captor, when she learns Manessen's cousin was Accolon. Failing to avenge Accolon's death, Morgan retires to her lands in Gore and then to her castle near the stronghold of Tauroc (possibly in North Wales), and Malory mentions Arthur's attempts to conquer at least one of her castles which was originally his gift to her. She also plots an elaborate ambush to kill Lancelot in "The Book of Sir Tristrams de Lyons", after learning that he has slain one of her favourites in a tournament, and then furiously swears vengeance against Tristan for defeating her thirty knights when the ambush ends in a disaster. In Malory's version, Morgan is the leader of the four (not three) witch queens who capture Lancelot (the others being the Queen of the Northgales, and the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Outer Isles), who also rescues the young Elaine of Corbenic (Galahad's mother) when she is trapped in an enchanted boiling bath by Morgan and the Queen of the Northgales, both jealous of Elaine's beauty. Despite all of their prior hostility towards each other and her numerous designs to destroy Arthur, Morgan eventually redempts and ends up being one of the four grieving enchantress queens (the others being Nimue and two of Morgan's allies, the Queen of the Northgales and the Queen of the Wasteland) who arrive in a black boat to transport the wounded king to Avalon so he could be healed, with Morgan's lament affectionately referring to him as her "dear brother" (dere brothir).

Other appearances[edit]

Morgan turns up throughout the High and Late Middle Ages in a variety of roles, generally in works related to the cycles of Arthur or Charlemagne. They often feature Morgan as a lover and benefactor of various heroes, sometimes also introducing her additional offspring or alternate siblings. At the end of the 14th-century Middle English romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of the best known Arthurian stories, it is revealed that the entire Green Knight plot has been instigated by Gawain's aunt the goddess Morgne, who takes and appearance of an elderly woman, as a test for Arthur and his knights and to frighten Guinevere to death. Morgan's importance to this particular narrative has been disputed and called a deus ex machina[29] and simply an artistic device to further connect Gawain's episode to the Arthurian story. The Middle English romance Arthour and Merlin, written in 1270, casts Morgan in the role of the Lady of the Lake and residing near Ninniane, and introduces Morganor as an illegitimate son of King Urien.[14] In the 14th-century Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur, the Bishop of London receives Arthur's dead body from Morgan and buries it at Glastonbury.[14] In the Catalan poem La Faula, Guillem de Torroella claims to have visited the Enchanted Isle and met Arthur who has been brought back to life by Morgan and they both of them are now forever young, sustained by the Holy Grail. In the 15th-century Spanish romance Tirant lo Blanch, the noble Queen Morgan searches the world for her missing brother and finds him as an entranced prisoner in Constantinople; Morgan brings Arthur back to his senses by removing Excalibur from his hands, and they depart together after big celebrations. In such texts, Avalon is often described as an other-worldy place ruled by Morgan. In the legends of Charlemagne, she is most famous for her association with the Danish legendary hero Ogier the Dane, whom she takes to her mystical island palace in Avalon (where Arthur and Gawain are also still alive) to be her lover for 200 years and later protects him during his adventures in the mortal world. In some accounts, Ogier begets her two sons, including Marlyn.[14] In the 13th-century chanson de geste of Huon of Bordeaux, she is a protector of the eponymous hero and the mother of the fairy king Oberon (Tronc) by none other than Julius Caesar,[30] while Ogier le Danois calls Oberon a brother of Morgan. In another chanson de geste, La Bataille Loquifer, Morgan and her sister Marsion (Marrion) bring the hero Renoart to Avalon, where Arthur is the king, and Renoart and Morgan's union gives him an illegitimate son named Corbon (Corbans).[14] The 14th-century Italian novella La Tavola Ritonda (The Round Table) makes Morgan a daughter of Uther Pendragon and a sister of the Lady of the Lake.

Fata Morgana; Nude Study by John Macallan Swan (1905)

Her enchanted realm would be placed elsewhere in the mythological landscape of medieval Europe. Morgan le Fay, or Fata Morgana in Italian, has been associated with Sicily at least since the Norman conquest of southern Italy,[31] and European folklore describes her as living in a magical castle located at or floating over Mount Etna.[14] As such she gave her name to the form of mirage common off the shores of Sicily, the Fata Morgana.[31] References linking Avalon to Sicily can be found in Gervase of Tilbury's encyclopedic work Otia Imperialia (c. 1211) and in Torroella's La Faula, as well as in Breton and Provençal literature, for example in Jaufre (an Occitan language Arthurian romance from c. 1180), in La Bataille Loquifer (c. 1170) and in "Parzifal" (Wolfram von Eschenbach ca. 1210). The 13th-century romance Floriant et Florete places Morgan's secret mountain castle of Mongibel (Montgibel, Montegibel; derived from the Arabic name for Etna), where she spirites away and raises Floriant, the son of a murdered Sicilian king and the hero of the story who eventually reunites with Morgan at her castle when he returns there with his wife Florete.[14] The 14th-century Italian romance La Pulzella Gaia (Merry Maiden) features the beautiful young daughter of Morgan by Hemison, who is kidnapped by the knight Burletta of the Desert (Burletta della Diserta) and rescued by Lancelot, and later defeats Gawain (Galvan) in her giant serpent form before becoming his lover; she and her fairy army save Gawain from the jealous Guinevere (who wants Gawain dead after having been rejected by him) but she gets herself captured in her mother's castle Palaus (as Morgan wants to marry her to Tristan), until Gawain in turn frees her from a cursed dungeon. The 15th-century French romance La Chevalier du Papegau (The Knight of the Parrot) gives Morgaine the Fairy of Montgibel (Morgaine, la fée de Montgibel) a sister known as the Lady Without Pride (la Dame sans Orgueil), whom Arthur rescues from the Knight of the Wasteland.

In modern culture[edit]

Morgana Le Fay, Anikó Salamon's art for the video game King Arthur II (2012)

Morgan le Fay has been featured many times in various works of popular culture, commonly (albeit not always) appearing in conventionally villainous roles, often as a mere caricature.[32] A stereotypical portrayal of Morgan is that of an evil witch and an irreconcilable enemy of Arthur, often in league with Arthur's son Mordred, be it in the time of the legend or still continuing her feud even in the modern era. In such works, she is an antagonist character for Arthur, Merlin and their followers to overcome and save Camelot, Avalon, or even the world. Mark Twain, in his satitical novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), casts her as Arthur's antagonistic sister, a sorceress of great personal charm who is also capable of the most vicious behavior. Other notable examples of this pattern are the comic book supervillainess Morgan le Fay and Morgaine le Fey featured in Marvel and DC comics universes, respectively. Many of these stories effectively merge Morgan with Morgause (originally Morgan's sister and the mother of both Mordred and Gawain) and combine her with the less savory aspects of the Lady of the Lake (this is further positioning a modern Morgan as a nemesis for Merlin, who has never been her direct foe in Arthurian tradition). Such a composite character is often called Morgana. An example is 1981's Excalibur, John Boorman's film adaptation of Le Morte d'Arthur, in which the evil Morgana le Fay (Helen Mirren) dies at the hands of Mordred, who is her son in the film, instead of accompanying Arthur on his final journey to Avalon as in the original material. Nevertheless, some other modern representations of Morgan are more complicated or ambiguous, and some even cast her as an entirely positive character, or feature her as a protagonist. There have been also several retellings of Morgan's life, sometimes told in first person from her point of view, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (1983) and its television miniseries adaptation (2001), Welwyn Wilton Katz's The Third Magic (1988), Fay Sampson's Daughter of Tintagel (Morgan Le Fay) series of novels (1992), Vera Chapman's The Enchantresses (1998), Nancy Springer's I Am Morgan le Fay (2001), J. Robert King's Le Morte D'Avalon (2003), Alex Epstein's The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay (2011), Felicity Pulman's I, Morgana (2014), and Clara Winter's Tintagel (2014). Most modern works feature Morgan as a sorceress or priestess, and usually a half-sister of Arthur, but some also have her in other roles, including being a fairy or an otherwise non-human character. Additionally, she has become an archetype serving as a source of tropes for many characters in various other works, some of them borrowing her name in the form Morgana.

Since the late 20th century, some feminists have also adopted Morgan as a representation of female power or of a fading form of feminine spirituality supposedly practised by the Celts or earlier peoples.[33] These interpretations draw upon the original portrayal of Morgan as a benevolent figure with extraordinary healing powers.[33] According to a 2010 essay by Dr. Leila K. Norako of the University of Rochester, "in addition to her appearances in literature, television, and film, Morgan le Fay is also frequently mentioned in the context of neo-pagan religious groups. She is alternately worshipped as a goddess, hailed as a symbol of feminine power, and adopted as a spiritual name." This development was attributed to the influence of The Mists of Avalon, a revisionist retelling of the legend from a feminist and pro-pagan perspective.[13] Norako wrote: "Like many characters in the Arthurian legends, Morgan le Fay has been consistently transformed and interpreted by authors and artists for nearly a millennium. [S]he is alternately cast as a healer, villain, enchantress, seductress, or some combination thereof, depending on the needs of the work in question. This versatility has no doubt played a part in the continued cultural relevance that this character has enjoyed across the centuries and continues to hold in contemporary culture as well."[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lot, Ferdinand, "Morgue la Fée et Morgan-Tud", in: Romania 28 (1899), pp. 321-28.
  2. ^ Koch, John, Celtic Culture, ABC-CLIO, 2006, p. 16; 458; 537; 702; 1602
  3. ^ Briggs, Katharine (1978). "Morgan le Fay." In Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, p. 303. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 0-394-73467-X.
  4. ^ Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, p. 195.
  5. ^ Preserved in Peniarth 147. See Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, p. 449–451.
  6. ^ a b "Morgan Le Fay; the Arthurian Sorceress Facts & Information". Retrieved 2014-07-06. 
  7. ^ Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, p. 274–275.
  8. ^ "Two Accounts of the Exhumation of Arthur's Body: Gerald of Wales". Retrieved 2015-01-01. 
  9. ^ Hebert, Shapeshifter, p. 43.
  10. ^ Philippe Walter (1999). Le devin maudit: Merlin, Lailoken, Suibhne: textes et étude, p. 127, ISBN 2843100186.
  11. ^ Frédéric Lachèvre (1968). Mélanges, p. 251, ISBN 1175272361
  12. ^ Algernon Herbert (1836). Britannia After the Romans, p. 11, ISBN 1104627353
  13. ^ a b c d e "The Camelot Project: Morgan le Fay". Retrieved 2015-01-01. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Bruce, Christopher W. (1999). The Arthurian Name Dictionary. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-8153-2865-6. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Pérez, The Myth of Morgan la Fey, p. 91.
  16. ^ Pérez, The Myth of Morgan la Fey, p. 73-75.
  17. ^ a b Hebert, Shapeshifter, p. 69.
  18. ^ Larrington, King Arthur's Enchantresses, p. 40.
  19. ^ Hebert, Shapeshifter, p. 44.
  20. ^ Paton, Lucy Allen. Studies in the Fairy Mythology of Arthurian Romance, Ginn, 1903, p. 259-274.
  21. ^ Loomis, Roger Sherman. Arthurian Tradition and Chretien de Troyes, Columbia Univ. Press, 1949, p. 488.
  22. ^ Larrington, King Arthur's Enchantresses, p. 11.
  23. ^ a b Larrington, King Arthur's Enchantresses, p. 13.
  24. ^ a b Larrington, King Arthur's Enchantresses, p. 42-43.
  25. ^ a b Larrington, King Arthur's Enchantresses, p. 41.
  26. ^ a b Larrington, King Arthur's Enchantresses, p. 33.
  27. ^ Larrington, King Arthur's Enchantresses, p. 45.
  28. ^ Pérez, The Myth of Morgan la Fey, p. 3.
  29. ^ Albert B. Friedman, "Morgan le Fay in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in Speculum, volume 35, p. 260-274.
  30. ^ Sion, C.M.H. (translated). Saints and She-Devils (Foundation Werkplaats Wetenschap, NL). Rubicon Press, 1987. ISBN 0-948695-06-4.
  31. ^ a b Adeleye, Gabriel; Acquah-Dadzie, Kofi; Sienkewicz, Thomas J.; McDonough, James T. (1999). World Dictionary of Foreign Expressions: a Resource for Readers and Writers. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 142. ISBN 0-86516-423-1. 
  32. ^ "The Camelot Project: Interview with Fay Sampson". 28 June 1993. Retrieved 2015-01-01. 
  33. ^ a b Spivak, Charlotte, in Popular Arthurian Traditions p. 18-23. ISBN 0-87972-562-1.


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Bromwich, Rachel (1963). Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain. University of Wales Press. ISBN 0708313868.
  • Hebert, Jill Marie (2008). Shapeshifter: The Manifestations of Morgan le Fay. ISBN 0549756647.
  • Larrington, Carolyne (2006). King Arthur's Enchantresses: Morgan and Her Sisters in Arthurian Tradition. I.B.Tauri. ISBN 1784530417.
  • Pérez, Kristina (2014). The Myth of Morgan la Fey. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1137332980.