She stands upon a precipice, her sins for all to see. Yet others hide the self-same-sins hind crown and dark decree. Nurture turns to Malice, light quenched by vain hypocrisy. Her brothers hand she grabbed and ran, the treachery of Mordred. Designs he had on throne and queen, Morgana’s hated rival. He turned her hate to treason – brought evil, for a reason. On the shores of Avalon they felled the mighty king, yet both lay dying, crying, writhing. The wails of Fae progeny brushed their fathers ear and Merlin bound his children’s souls to things they found most dear. And so they live unto this day, forever bound by love and sin. (Quote: Gene Lempp)
Morgana and Mordred
Morgana (a.k.a. Morgan Le Fay) and the treasonous Mordred (originally, Medraut) often appear in Arthurian legends as antagonists. However, these are no mustache and cape villains – these two were driven to evil by a confluence of inner desires and external influences. They were evil for a reason. Good cannot exist without Evil and sometimes, Good creates Evil to justify its own existence – Complex Simplicity. Let me show you what I mean.
In the early stories of Morgana, she is the half-sister of Arthur – a healer, an enchantress (the good kind of sorceress) and generally a good girl. She is a vibrant lover of life. Later, she is caught in one of many trysts with a knight and/or king, publicly reviled by Guinevere, and banished.
While this may be a reason for revenge, it is sweetened with the following: Morgana was aware that Guinevere was also having affairs. Thus, to be publicly shamed and cast out by one hiding the same sin ignites the fiery furnaces of hypocritical injustice. And now we see the driving motivation for Morgana’s change from good girl healer to the Sorceress of Deadly Intrigues that she later became.
Many of Morgana’s schemes were focused on exposing the infidelities of Guinevere. She even went so far as to craft a magical cup that only loyal and true women could drink from. However, Guinevere’s love for Arthur was ever fresh, even when her body was sometimes playing elsewhere, and she defeated the cups enchantment. Imagine Morgana’s frustration – and all she is trying to do is expose Guinevere’s double standard.
Crossing the Line
This is where Mordred comes on the scene. In most stories he is Morgana and Arthur’s nephew, although in some he is her son by Arthur or some other king. In general, he is considered treacherous. A throne stealer. A liege killer. A queen seducer. Perfect for Morgana’s obsessed quest to expose her rival.
And now, Morgana crosses the line from “a woman scorned” to villain. How so? When the game moves from a battle of wits to the crossing of swords and the spilling of blood – then, payback becomes fatal revenge – and murderous betrayal is always an act of evil.
After failing to expose Guinevere with the chalice of fidelity, Morgana enlists the aid of her son/nephew Mordred. Arthur is off fighting somewhere (his “thing”) and Mordred is serving as regent. Proving himself the most trusted of Arthur’s knights – however, ambition gnaws at the loyalties of power seekers. Morgana twists Mordred – a classic tale of “the throne should be yours not his.”
Ah, but why stop at the throne. Mordred takes Guinevere as his wife and in many tales she is a willing partner to him in all ways. For you see, good, sweet, Guinevere loves all men with all her heart. Thus, in her heart, she is never disloyal to any of them – regardless of the facts.
Finally, Guinevere is exposed. Morgana is triumphant: Right up until Arthur finds out and comes home with an army.
Mordred has no desire to give up the throne or his bedmate and Morgana has no desire to answer for her divisive schemes. Battle ensues – and as prophecy would have it, Mordred is destined to bring Arthur to his grave. The cost, Mordred’s own life.
Aftermath of Reason
In a twist, tradition has it that Morgana is one of four enchantresses that carry Arthur to his final resting place on Avalon, “the isle of apples.” An act of remorse that shows the true nature of Morgana. Yes, she was evil – but only because the hidden sins and hypocrisy of others drove her to be so.
Regardless, it is clear that the fire from Morgana’s hatred is extinguished after the death of Arthur and she fades away into legend. For one like her, obscurity is greater than death and yet also a relief from the pressures of public disgrace. All because of: Love and Sin.
When we consider our antagonists we would be well advised to uncover the deep-seated motivation behind their “evil” and discover a compelling character that will challenge our heroes to the depth of their hypocrisies.
What villains have you seen that are driven by love and sin? What would you do to get even with a two-faced “good girl”? Have a favorite Morgana or Mordred story or show?
I’d love to chat with you.
Join me next week when we take a look at the Mayan calendar – just in time for: the end of days? We’ll look at the myths and legends and unearth the truth and its potential.