Other books by Dave Whitaker:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Character Study: Morgan le Fay

In Arthurian legend, Morgan le Fay (also known as Morgan le Faye, Morgane, Morgaine, and Morgana) is typically characterized as King Arthur's half-sister and an evil sorceress. Her mother is Lady Igraine and her father is Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. Her father is killed in battle with Uther Pendragon, who has a son, Arthur, with Igraine. Morgan has two older sisters, Elaine and Morgause.

She was first introduced to Arthurian legend by Geoffrey of Monmouth in Vita Merlini (c. 1150). She was portrayed as an enchantress, shape-shifter, and the oldest of nine sisters. However, her origin may date back to Celtic mythology and the Welsh goddess Modron. Chrétien de Troyes viewed her in Erec and Enide as a healer. In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, she steals King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, and plots to kill him.

image from andyzermanski.com

In Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, Morgan is portrayed as Arthur's half-sister and arch enemy. She is determined to kill Arthur in hopes of ascending the throne. When her plan fails, she disappears in anger at the end of the book, determined to get revenge.

The sequel, Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, will underscore her evil nature and determination to destroy her younger brother. She becomes a composite of several figures in Arthurian legend. In the Otter and Arthur books, she is the mother of Mordred, the traitor who destroys Camelot. His father is King Lot, who had another son, Sir Gawain, from a previous marriage. In Arthurian legend, Gawain and Mordred are both the biological sons of Morgause.

Otter and Arthur and the Round Table will also unfold how Morgan imprisons Merlin by tricking him into giving up his magic. In Arthurian legend, this is typically done by Nivaine, a young sorceress with whom Merlin falls in love.


Resources:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Character Study: Sir Kay

Sir Kay (aka Cai, Caius, Cei, Kai, Kei, Kes, Keu, Kex, or Queux) is one of the earliest figures to appear in Arthurian legend, having surfaced in the tenth century poem Pa Gur, classic early Welsh texts such as Culwch and Olwen, and the 12th century French poem Tristan and Iseult. The Vulgate Cycle and Le Morte d’Arthur established the story of Kay’s father, Sir Ector, adopting Arthur and raising him as Kay’s foster brother. When Arthur became king, Kay became the senseschal at Camelot, which meant he oversaw operations at the castle such as the supervision of the servants. He was one of the first Knights of the Round Table.

The works of Chrétien de Troyes depicted Kay as a troublemaker prone to incompetence, stubbornness, bragging, and a volatile temper. He is often depicted of manipulative of his brother, but ultimately as one of Arthur’s most loyal knights. Different accounts have Kay being killed by the Romans or in the war against Mordred, Arthur’s traitorous son. The 13th century French Arthurian romance Perlesvaus is one of the few sources which characterizes Kay as a traitor with him murdering Arthur’s son, Loholt.

image from tumblr.com/tagged/sir kay of Peter Mooney as Kay in the Starz TV series, Camelot

Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone follows Kay and Arthur as they are tutored by Merlin. The book unfolds the familiar tale of Arthur as a squire for Kay in a jousting tournament. Arthur searches frantically for a replacement when Kay’s sword turns up missing and ends up pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king.

In the sequel, Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, Kay has been made seneschal at Camelot, but is secretly plotting against his brother. He aligns himself with Arthur’s bitterest enemies – King Lot and Morgan, Lot’s wife and Arthur’s half-sister.


Resources:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Character Study: Merlin

Geoffrey of Monmouth introduced the character of Merlin (known in Welsh as Myrddin) to Arthurian legend. He is typically portrayed as a sorcerer with the power to see the future. Some accounts, such as the Vulgate Cycle, suggest these are the result of Merlin's birth to a demon and a mortal woman. He is typically seen as King Arthur's protector, mentor, and the very reason for Arthur's legendary status. For example, it is Merlin who is typically portrayed as the one who thrust the sword in the stone which Arthur later pulls out to secure his place as the rightful heir to the throne.

In most tales, Merlin orchestrates Arthur's birth by using magic to let Uther Pendragon take the form of Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. Uther then sleeps with Lady Igraine and Arthur is conceived.

image from califa.us

Geoffrey adapts a story from Nennius in which Merlin is seen as a child telling the King Vortigern that a castle's walls collapse because of two fighting dragons in an underground pool (see more on that legend here). Geoffrey also tells a story of Merlin being responsible for the creation of Stonehenge.

The Vulgate Cycle says Merlin's death comes at the hands of the Lady of the Lake, also known as Nimue. Merlin falls in love with her and teachers her magic. She then turns on him and traps him for eternity in a crystal cave.

Merlin has been a model for other wizards in history, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gandalf in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Professor Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

image from crystalinks.com

In the Otter and Arthur stories, Merlin is seen in a positive light as Arthur's tutor. The wizard does see the future and orchestrates events to ensure Arthur’s destiny, but is also ruled by a code of conduct which disallows him to alter what is meant to be - including his imprisonment for eternity at the hands of Morgan. See her character study here.

Otter, the mouse, who lives in Merlin’s cottage and observes the tutoring of the young Arthur, becomes a sort-of secondary wizard. There is an implication that Merlin has gifted Otter with powers that will allow the mouse to change the supposedly pre-determined downfall of Arthur and Camelot even after the wizard is gone. At the time of this writing, the intention is to have Merlin trapped in a cave by Morgan's evil doing at the conclusion of Otter and Arthur and the Round Table. While she is never romantically linked to Merlin, she embodies traits of Nimue in that it will be revealed that Morgan knows magic because the wizard taught her when she was a young child. The Lady of the Lake is treated as a completely separate character who is more powerful than Merlin, but is good.


Resources:
  • Ronan Coghlan (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends Barnes & Noble Books.
  • Robert de Boron Merlin (c. 1200)
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136)
  • Justin E. Griffin (2001). The Holy Grail: The Legend, the History, the Evidence. McFarland & Company, Inc.: Jefferson, NC, and London.
  • Sir Thomas Malory Le Morte d'Arthur (1485)
  • Nennius Historia Brittonum (c. 828)
  • Vulgate Cycle: The Estoire de Merlin (c. 1230-1240)
  • Wikipedia.org entry: Merlin

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Character Study: King Arthur

King Arthur is a legendary British leader from the late 5th and early 6th centuries. Arthurian literature gained widespread appeal in the Middle Ages, but waned until a major resurgence in the 19th century. Today Arthurian legend inspires not only literature, but film, television, theater, and other media.

While there is not one definitive source for King Arthur, some of the most popular characters generally included in the tales include the wizard Merlin who tutored him, his son Mordred who destroys Camelot, and his wife Guinevere who has an affair with the king’s best knight, Lancelot. Popular legends associated with Arthurian literature include him pulling the sword from the stone to become king, establishing a Round Table as his form of governing Britain, and the search for the Holy Grail.

image from screened.com

Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone focuses on Arthur before he becomes king. He is raised by Sir Ector with Kay as his brother. Unaware of his heritage, he longs for greatness. The friendship he develops with a mouse nicknamed Otter proves to be just what he needs to fulfill his destiny – pulling the sword from the stone and becoming King of all Britain.

In the sequel, Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, Arthur has been king several years and is continuously fighting against forces trying to usurp his authority. With Otter at his side again, he comes up with the idea of a Round Table as a means of bringing forces together from throughout Britain to govern peaceably.


A Brief History of Arthurian Literature:

Arthur’s actual existence has been argued by scholars, a debate confused by some of the earliest references to Arthur in texts purporting to be factual accounts. The 9th century Historia Brittonum, attributed to a Welsh cleric named Nennius, is considered the first source to mention Arthur. It details twelve battles Arthur fought, including his final battle at Mount Badon in which he is said to have killed 960 men single-handedly.
The 11th century Welsh tales “Culhwch and Olwen” and the “Dream of Rhonabwy” appear to be the first stories to concern Arthur. However, it was Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae which truly popularized King Arthur. The work attempted to place Arthur in the official lineage of British monarchy and establish him as the leader who deterred Saxon invaders and united Britain.
In the late 12th century, French poet Chrétien de Troyes added the character of Lancelot and the quest for the Holy Grail to Arthurian legend. Those tales were expanded in the Vulgate Cycle in the first half of the next century.
Perhaps the most popular of Arthurian literature is Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. While it keeps the Arthur story set in the Dark Ages, it framed the story in the more familiar medieval pageantry settings we know today, such as the fancy court of Camelot, jousting, and knights in shining armor.

Resources:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Some Fans at RenFest

With my stint at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival behind me, I wish to thank everyone who came out to visit me and/or buy a copy of Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. I also made some new friends and fans along the way. So, you may ask, just who is this book for? Well, this is a book perfect for

kings and queens, knights,

jesters, wizards,

princesses,

cooks, lords and ladies,

musicians, wenches,

dragons,

fencers, creatures of all sorts and sizes,

princes, pirates,

people who love horses,

mice...



and, most importantly, kids of all ages with a love of adventure. Pick up your copy today by clicking here!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Highlights of a Great RenFest Weekend

Nine days down, three to go. My fourth weekend at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival proved to be the best yet - in terms of sales, in terms of visitors, and in terms of overall memories.

I revamped my tent design a bit by adding a cardboard castle and table with toy knights and crowns for coloring. In addition, I fashioned a make-shift banner out of card stock and string. Neither lifted my tent to the level of my neighbors, but they did up the appeal factor.

Sunday looked to be a good day early on when I'd sold two books within 15 minutes of RenFest opening. Then I headed off to my first reading of the day where I had to contain myself mid-reading from expressing surprise at seeing a friend in the audience who I'm not sure I'd seen in more than 20 years.

The friends and family kept coming throughout the day, but with all due respect to everyone who visited, my favorite guest was my nephew's four-month-old son, Ross.

Other highlights including meeting four authors from a local writers' group. To my fellow compatriots in the Monday Night Writers group - we need to hook up with these people! They definitely know what they are doing!

Two of my favorite memories from all my days at RenFest snuck their way in toward the end of the day. Crowds for most of my readings are sparse (under 10), but its all about quality, not quantity, right? In any event, my last reading of the day didn't turn out to be a reading at all, but a... a "listening"? I talked to a four-year-old girl who was inspired by the book Library Mouse to make her own book about shapes which she then was determined to sell to friends and family. I told her she better contact RenFest to set up a booth next year!

Back at my tent, I had another four-year-old encounter. This time, I got to be the recipient of a story time. Here's pretty much the whole story: "There was a little volcano. There was a big volcano." Don't get any ideas, though. That story belongs to Hunter.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support me, buy books, or share their writing and storytelling experiences! It was a great weekend.