According to the legend King Arthur lived in Cornwall in the south-western part of Britain, the place with deeply rooted Celtic mythological traditions and therefore it can be assumed that Celtic mythology left some imprints on the legend. On one hand it cannot be said for sure that the legend has its roots in the pagan Celtic times for the historical records are scarce and often imprecise, on the other hand its Celtic origin cannot be utterly dismissed either for Celtic culture and tradition is deeply interwoven with the history and mythology of Great Britain and Ireland.
Although we are not sure of the precise origins of the Arthurian legend there is high probability that it was influenced not only by Christianity but it can be assumed that it was to a certain extent influenced by the mythology of the Celtic people living on the British Isles as well. The aim of this thesis is to find out whether there are some aspects, themes or symbols of the pagan Celtic mythology that appear in the Arthurian legend and if so, what role they play there and to what extent they influence the legend.
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The legend will therefore be approached not from the traditional Christian point of view but from a less traditional Celtic perspective. The first part of the thesis focuses on Celtic myths and mythology in general — it deals with the origins of Celtic mythology, the sources and the main themes of Celtic myths. It tries to identify their characteristics: what characters play important roles in them, what mood and atmosphere the stories have, what purpose the stories served and what was their place in Celtic society.
Apart from focusing on the texts only, the first part of the thesis deals with the cultural aspect of Celtic mythology as well. It explores the everyday world of the Celts, it shows the origin of Celtic people, their customs and traditions as well as their everyday life and beliefs, which are then reflected in their mythology.
Celtic Mythology in the Arthurian Legend
More recent depictions of Morgan, especially in literature, have attempted to convey some of this complexity. In her book, Mists of Avalon , Marion Zimmer Bradley portrays Morgaine as a defender of the old pagan religion of Britain against the encroachment of Christianity.
Although she attempts to overthrow Arthur, it is primarily to protect this way of life. In the majority of portrayals in film and television, however, Morgan continues to be a villain.
Morgana is given plausible reasons for her change of heart: not only does she have magical powers in a Camelot ruled over by Uther — a king who condemns magical practitioners — but she also discovers that she is his illegitimate daughter and that he has no intention of acknowledging her. But as the series draws to a close a once complex character seems to be motivated solely by hatred and greed — and she becomes a pantomime villain dressed in black.
Her awakening magical powers and her desire to rule over Camelot lead to her moral decline. Arthur, who is no saint himself, has a child out of wedlock — the product of an incestuous union with his half-sister Morgause in some versions of the legend it is Morgan, but the two have often been conflated, especially in more modern retellings.
Yet among this catalogue of venality and treachery, it is Morgan who is usually branded the villain. The story of King Arthur has been told many times, and there is no reason to think that these stories will ever lose their hold over the popular imagination.
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Illustration from Le Morte d'Arthur. Aubrey Beardsley But in earlier tellings of the Arthurian story, Morgan can be a far more benevolent figure. Woman and witchcraft Why is there a shift in the portrayal of Morgan le Fey? Morgan le Fay depicted as witch and temptress.