The Pendragon Cycle
The Pendragon Cycle is a series of historical fantasy books based on the Arthurian legend, written by Stephen R. Lawhead. The Cycle was originally "The Pendragon Trilogy", but after Arthur's rather abrupt ending, and the existence of many unexplored stories and plotlines, Lawhead decided to expand on his trilogy by writing additional books. Avalon is not considered to be a true member of the Cycle, but rather a 'related semi-sequel' to it.
The series is a work of fiction that takes place in the 5th and 6th centuries and attempts to present the Arthurian legends in a historical setting while presenting the story with a reality the reader can connect with. Lawhead bases his stories on the Mabinogion, the History of the Kings of Britain and other works of Geoffrey of Monmouth, the writings of Taliesin, Gildas, and Nennius, and several other legends that he manages to interweave into the Arthurian legend.
The books, with the exception of Taliesin and Avalon, are narrated in the first-person, and, except for Pendragon, Grail, and Avalon, are each split into three sections (Pendragon has four, Grail one, and Avalon five). Merlin and Pendragon are narrated by Myrddin (Merlin). The first third of Arthur is narrated by Pelleas, the second by Bedwyr (Bedivere), and the third by Aneirin/Gildas. Grail is mostly narrated by Gwalchavad (Galahad), with a short narration by Morgian (Morgan le Fay) at the beginning of most chapters. Taliesin follows Taliesin and Charis (the Lady of the Lake), alternating in each chapter; Avalon mostly follows James Stuart (the reborn Arthur), Merlin, and the fictional Prime Minister Thomas Waring.
A listing of the locations and place names used in the series, and their modern equivalents:
(see also List of Roman place names in Britain)
|Series Name||Modern Name|
|Afon Treont||River Trent|
|Avallon||Isle of Man/Avalon|
|Ynys Avallach||Glastonbury Tor/Annwn/Avalon|
|Caer Dyvi||Aberdyfi (Wales)|
|Dal Riata||Dál Riata|
|Edyn Rock||Arthur's Seat|
|Londinium Road||Watling Street|
|Llyonesse||Isles of Scilly|
|Mor Hafren||Bristol Channel|
|Muir Éireann||Irish Sea|
|Muir Nicht||"The Narrow Seas" (English Channel)|
|Ynys Prydein||"Isle of the Mighty" (Great Britain)|
|Rotunda||The Round Table|
|Saecsen Shore||Saxon Shore|
|"Shrine Hill"||Glastonbury Abbey|
|Venta Belgarum/Caer Uintan||Winchester|
|"The Wall"||Hadrian's Wall|
|Ynys Witrin||"Isle of Glass" (Glastonbury)|
Many historical personas (some already included in the Arthurian legend) exist in the Cycle, alongside less "factual" characters: Taliesin, Magnus Maximus, Theodosius, Ambrosius Aurelianus, Vortigern, Constantine III, Myrddin Wyllt, Clovis I, Gwyddno Garanhir, Elffin ap Gwyddno, Horsa, Hengest, Cerdic, Aelle, Gildas, and Aneirin (in the series, it is revealed that the last two are the same person; born with the name Aneirin, he changes it to Gildas after Arthur's death).
|Series Character||Historical/Legendary Basis/es|
|Arthur/Artos/Artorius ap Aurelius||King Arthur|
|Charis||Lady of the Lake|
|Dafyd||St.David of Wales|
|Fergus mac Guillomar||Leondegrance/Fergus mor|
|Ganieda (Merlin's wife)||Ganieda (Merlin's sister in Welsh legend)|
|"Joseph's Thorn"||Holy Thorn|
|Macsen Wledig||Magnus Maximus|
|Morgian||Morgan le Fay/Nimue/Modron|
|Paulinus/Paulus||St. Paulinus of York|
- Taliesin (1987)
- Merlin (1988)
- Arthur (1989)
- Pendragon (1994)
- Grail (1997)
- Avalon (1999)
The series proceeds as told in the following descriptions:
Tells simultaneously the story of the fall of Atlantis, the subsequent travel of Princess Charis and her family to Ynys Prydein (Britain), and the discovery and training of Taliesin as a druid-bard. The two eventually meet, marry, and Myrddin (Merlin) is born, just weeks before a tragedy brought about by Charis' jealous half-sister, Morgian.
Narrated by Myrddin. Tells of Myrddin's dual upbringing among the druids and Christian priests, his capture and mystical training among the Hill Folk, and his brief time as a king of Dyfed. He experiences a doomed romance with Princess Ganieda and long years of madness as a wild man of the woods before finding his destiny.
Narrated by Pelleas (first third), Bedwyr (second third), and Aneirin (last third). Tells of Arthur and Myrddin's attempt to create the paradisaical "Kingdom of Summer." Arthur is made Duke and Battlechief of Britain after drawing the sword of Maximus from a stone, but must fight back the Saecsens and barbarian invaders and unite the peoples of Britain before he can be accepted as High King.
Narrated by Myrddin. Tells of an invasion of Ireland and Britain by the Vandal army of Twrch Trwyth, the Black Boar, and a subsequent plague that sweeps across Britain, threatening Arthur's Kingdom of Summer while it is still newborn.
Narrated by Gwalchavad (majority) and Morgian (short narration at each chapter's beginning). Tells of Arthur building a shrine to house the Holy Grail and how the beautiful and mysterious Morgaws joins his court. When treachery follows, Arthur's warriors brave the Wasteland of Lyonesse to retrieve the sacred relic.
- Taliesin Book 1: A Gift of Jade (Atlantis segments)
- Taliesin Book 1: A Gift of Jade (Britain segments)
- Taliesin Book 2: The Sun Bull
- Taliesin Book 3: The Merlin
- Merlin Book 1: King
- Merlin Book 2: Forest Lord
- Merlin Book 3: Prophet
- Merlin Prologue
- Merlin Epilogue
- Pendragon Book 1: Hidden Tales
- Arthur Book 1: Pelleas
- Arthur Book 2: Bedwyr
- Pendragon Book 2: The Black Boar
- Pendragon Book 3: The Forgotten War
- Pendragon Book 4: The Healing Dream
- Arthur Book 3: Aneirin
- Arthur Pendragon Prologues & Epilogues
- Avalon Prologue
- Avalon Book 1
- Avalon Book 2
- Avalon Book 3
- Avalon Book 4
- Avalon Book 5
- Avalon Epilogue
It should be remembered that although Lawhead retains an authentic and well researched grasp of the Arthurian legend, he was not concerned with writing a work of pure history. Therefore, any historical inconsistencies in his work should be taken in this context.
- The series begins c. 330AD with the destruction of Atlantis, but the lost island was first mentioned in literature in Plato's Republic, written c. 360BC. Lawhead himself acknowledges this, stating that (within his universe) the disaster Plato mentions is an earthquake that causes much of Atlantis to fall beneath the water, with it not being entirely sunk until later.
- In Taliesin we are introduced to a young priest named Dafyd. He is clearly supposed to be understood to be St. David of Wales, however St David was not born until sometime between A.D. 500 and A.D. 520 and his Cymric name would be "Dewi," not Dafyd.
- In Merlin, a meal was described as "... common - black bread, roasted meat, boiled potatoes - all cooked well enough...". Potatoes were a South American food only, not introduced into Europe, by way of Spain, in 1565 AD. They would have been unavailable in Europe at the time this story takes place.
- In Taliesin, Maximus makes reference to "Imperator Constantine." The last emperor commonly referred to as Constantine in Maximus' time (Constantine II) died in 340, 43 years before Maximus' revolt in Britannia. Even assuming he's referring to Constantius II, there is still a 22-year gap between the death of "Constantine" and Maximus' revolt. In the books, he is portrayed as a younger/middle-aged; it's unlikely he'd have been stationed in Britannia for so long.
- In the second book of Pendragon, which takes place a year or two after Badon Hill, the Vandali invade Britain. The Vandal leader, Amilcar, tells how they were driven from Carthage by the soldiers of the "Emperor of Constantine's great city;" "Amilcar" is a Phoenician name, and Belisarius drove the Vandals from Africa in the year 534, well after Badon. The Vandali are described as Asiatic pagans, when in reality they were Germanic and Arian Christians; and it need not be mentioned that there never was a Vandal invasion of the British Isles.
- In the last part of Arthur, Arthur is sent a message from a certain "[Emperor] Lucius, Procurator of the Republic" of Constantinople, who never existed, although Lawhead here is obviously relating to the History of the Kings of Britain, which mentions such an emperor. In addition, in the Roman Republic, there never was a position called "Procurator of the Republic," and while the early Empire maintained the fiction of the Republic's continued existence, by the 6th Century the Byzantine Empire acknowledged itself as a monarchy. It should also be said that, in the later books, there is still much reference to the Western Roman Empire as a continued polity, despite the fact that it would have fallen by that point.
- In Pendragon, the monk "Paulinus" appears to be St. Paulinus of York; however, St. Paulinus lived three hundred years after the book takes place.
- In Grail, Gwalchavad mentions that Aneirin has encouraged him to write his book. He also mentions his lost brother, Gwalchmai, as still missing. However, in Aneirin's book (Part 3 of Arthur), Gwalchmai returns while Aneirin is still a young man, supposedly before he would begin to write his version of the tale and be of age/influence to encourage Gwalchavad to do so as well.
- Lawhead, Stephen R. "Merlin". Avon Books, 1988, pg 251