Tintagel Castle

Was Arthur conceived at Tintagel Castle?  That Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed he was is reason enough to doubt the veracity of the legend, but that’s not to say that the castle doesn’t have a fascinating history. Geoffrey writes:  “They then went their way toward Tintagel, and at dusk hour arrived, swiftly unmade the doors, and the three were admitted. For what other than Gorlois if Gorlois himself were there? So the king lay that night with Igrene, for as he had beguiled her by the false likeness he had taken upon him, so he beguiled her also by the feigned discourse wherewith he had issued forth of the besieged city for naught save to see the safety of her dear self and the castle wherein she lay, in such a sort that she believed him every word, and had no Read more…

The Fictional King Arthur (rant!)

Yes, I have some issues with King Arthur as a fictional character. King Arthur, as usually written, comes off as either as a flat character, someone whom the author employs as a backdrop to explore the personalities of other characters (Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot), or as unheroic and human, tripped up in the end by the overwhelming burden of his imperfections. Arthur is either a pawn, buffeted by the winds of fate, or so flawed, one has to ask how he was remembered as a hero in the first place.  Only the most recent example of this is Starz’s aborted Camelot series, at least the bit I watched, where it is inexplicable that Merlin would come to him as the hero (in a totally deserted castle) and expect anything good to happen. There is a simple reason for this: it is very Read more…

The Thirteen Treasures of Britain

Dyrnwyn, the flaming sword, lost for centuries beneath the earth. A hamper that feeds a hundred, a knife to serve twenty-four, A chariot to carry a man on the wind, A halter to tame any horse he might wish. The cauldron of the Giant to test the brave, A whetstone for deadly sharpened swords, An entertaining chess set, A crock and a dish, each to fill one’s every wish, A cup that bestows immortality on those worthy of it, And the mantle of Arthur. His healing sword descends; Our enemies flee our unseen and mighty champion. –Taliesin, The Thirteen Treasures, The Black Book of Gwynedd I wrote that poem (on behalf of Taliesin) for my Last Pendragon Saga, but it has deep roots in Celtic mythology. When JK Rowling talks about the deathly hallows in the Harry Potter books, she is giving a Read more…

Dinas Ffareon (Dinas Emrys)

Dinas Ffareon is an Iron Age hill fort near Beddgelert which overlooks Lyn Dinas in Snowdonia. It is one of the more remote castles in Wales and “it was here that King Lludd ab Beli buried the two dragons which fought each other, as told in the Welsh epic the Mabinogion.” Later tales (Nennius’ and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s among them) tell of King Vortigern retreating back into Snowdonia and choosing Dinas Ffareon as the place to build his fort. Unfortunately for him, each night the ground was shaken such that the fort fell down. The King’s advisors stated that a fartherless child had to be sacrificed in order to stop the fort tumbling. Myrddyn Emrys (Merlin) and Emrys Wledig (Ambrosius Aurelianus) come into the story as well. “Merlin prophecised that the Red Dragon represented the Britons and the White Dragon the Saxons and that the event Read more…