Designing from Bones ~ Evil For A Reason: Morgana and Mordred

Morgana and Mordred by SMitchell1973

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

Sir Mordred by H.J. Ford Wiki CC

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

Four enchantresses comfort the dying Arthur at Avalon – Morgana is present.

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.

Peaceful Journeys.

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. “Only the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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11 Responses to Designing from Bones ~ Evil For A Reason: Morgana and Mordred

  1. Wow. I didn’t know this story. At all. *blushes* Shouldn’t I know this story? I love that irony that Guinevere was able to pass the test of the chalice because she loved all men with all of her heart so she was not being disloyal. Good stuff. I am less interested in the two-faced good good than the women who choose to work things out with partners who have been disloyal. I’ve never understood that. Infidelity has pushed me out the door without looking back, and I never blamed the woman. It takes two, baby. Awesome post.

  2. This is totally awesome. A welcome reminder for us storytellers to make sure our villains are multi-dimensional, that their reasons for being evil are understandable. I like to say that the villain is the hero of his own story.

    Thanks, Gene!

  3. Patricia says:

    I never knew all of that “other stuff” about Mordred and Morgana. I’m familiar with the classic Broadway story about King Arthur and Camelot. This is interesting stuff.

    Yes, I suppose I should examine my antagonists a little closer. I just write bad guys and girls becasue, well, they are a necessary evil (bad pun) to all good stories.

    Thanks for sharing the story.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. Jess Witkins says:

    I love this duo! But I always picture Helena Bonham Carter as Morgan in Merlin and how she talks with a lisp so she pronounces Mordred as “Mordwid.” It cracks me up!

  5. Wow, I had never heard the stories where Morgana tries to unveil Guinevere’s infidelity. And ick, she had an affair with Mordred too. That’s especially creepy if Mordred really was Arthur’s son. Thanks for this new angle on the Arthurian tales. Better than soap operas 😛

  6. Jane Sadek says:

    I’m with the rest of them. I didn’t know about all this and for years I read everything I could get my hands on concerning the legend. That is until Marion Zimmer Bradley published the book I’d been writing in my head. She didn’t write it exactly like I would have, but close enough that mine would have been redundant. Anyway, in most of the accounts I’ve read, Guinevere is barely a character – more a symbol. These tales flesh her out a bit. I’ll be thinking about this for days to come.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Renee: Every story is really two stories: The one that the words form AND the one that is Implied by those words. Often when reading a story, especially for the first time, the Implied Story only registers on the subconscious level. By going back and intentionally looking for this shadow story, we can find all sort of things, like the true nature of Guinevere. I hope that the issues you’ve faced are in the past and agree with your method – it does indeed take two to tango. Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Christine: “I like to say that the villain is the hero of their own story” – exactly! After all, what is more compelling – a bad guy running around causing havoc OR a motivated champion of personal desire that has equivalent depth and motivation to succeed at their quest, just like the hero? The first one can be fun, but the second one will live beyond the day it is read. Great comment, thanks 🙂

      Patricia: The thing about the “old stories” is that so many variants of them have been written, with contradictions galore between them, that we all tend to cling to the first concept of the story we experience and assume it is the whole thing. This is rarely the case. I did laugh at your pun – well done 🙂

      Jess: Actually – I haven’t watched the current TV incarnation of Merlin & Co. Actually, I almost never watch TV unless its a commercial free movie. I do love a character with a fun lisp though – always entertaining. Thanks, Jess 🙂

      Reetta: The past was a slutty affair. Both in fiction and life. It has always interested me how self-conscious our society has become, given the fact that we were at one time presumed to be one of the most open with our sexuality. Perhaps a societal phase. And I agree – the old tales, better than any soap opera could ever dream of being. Thanks 🙂

      Jane: I’d still write the story, even if is seems redundant – “She didn’t write it exactly like I would have.” I’d bet you have a few insights and interesting drama’s attached to this that could add more depth to an ever-growing tale. Redundancy can, at times, be a strengthening action, just as the blowing of the breeze strengthens the stem of a flower. I’m glad the post inspired you 🙂

  7. Jane Sadek says:

    Thanks Gene. What I loved about Bradley’s take on Camelot was that she gave life and breath to the women. In the older accounts the men were running around having a marvelous time with fully blown personalities and characters. The women came and went without revealing who they were – probably because the men who told the stories didn’t care. In the more modern stories the women seemed to be so preoccupied with their love interests that they had no lives of their own. Bradley’s tale turned them into real people with real motivations and real problems. It remains one of my favorite tellings of the tale.

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