Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sparks Present: Merlin and Arthurian Legend

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Strap in, 'cause this story meanders a LOT before I get to the point :)

I think one of the things I like about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein is their capacity for embracing myth and legend and through that creating something new. As a young reader, I was not exposed to Arthurian legend, although my father was reading Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy around that time.

No, my first exposure to Arthur and Merlin came through the lens of fairytale despot of the day... Walt Disney; more specifically, through "The Sword in the Stone". I enjoyed the whimsical plot and characters in my youth, and it must have stuck with me, because in college I began reading Mary Stewart as well... too intrigued, I suppose... I conveniently "borrowed" the book from my Dad... I gave it back eventually!!

I loved Stewart's rendition of the legend of Merlin and Arthur. She made use of a lot of history and grounded that legend so firmly in the past that, to me, it seemed like it could exist! And Merlin fascinated me... the idea that he was a man, not just a cartoon, sort of swept me away.

When I had the chance, I picked up "The Wicked Day"... a follow up to the Merlin Trilogy, chronicling the life of Mordred, Arthur's bastard son by his half sister... and again, Stewart astounded me. Mordred, the villain son who is responsible for his own father's death, became so real in his flawed humanity that I cried for him!

The characters Stewart represented for me sparked a curiosity in me for the legend of Arthur... and so I read "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White and was shocked to find Disney's inspiration for "The Sword in the Stone" in the first part of that 3 part epic volume. It was not quite so cutesy and clean as Disney had made it, but the echo of the story was there, resonating out of my childhood and into the now.

In the second (and decidedly more dark) part of "The Once and Future King", White takes the reader to the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland... where Stewart had taken us to hear about Mordred growing up... I wanted to know more about this haunting, harsh landscape... and so, through the magic of Google, I began researching the Orkneys.
I eventually went there, even!
Yep, this photo is by me :)
I found a land rich with its own folklore and mythology there and an idea that had been swirling around in my brain struck a chord in the landscape and folklore... and sparked a NEW idea... one that I'll hopefully bring to life in full in November, since I've decided that will be my focus for NaNoWriMo.

So there you have it. I must say that's quite a ramble! And it took a few different authors and an entire landscape to get me there, but... sometimes that's what it takes!


  1. I found your awesome blog on Christine Tyler's site! What wonderful inspiration! I don't know too much about the whole King Arthur story but (despite my lack of knowledge) I really love what I've heard!

  2. The legend of King Arthur is great inspiration.

  3. What an incredible path you've taken! Thanks for the step-by-step evolution of Arthurian legend in your life. The Once and Future King is in my top five books of all time. Best of luck during NanoWriMo!


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