Exerpts from:
"The First and Last Love Morgan le Fay and Arthur"
by Raymond H.Thompson

Originally appearing in The Arthurian Revival: Essays on Form, Tradition and Transformation ed. Debra N. Mancoff, N.Y and London, Garnland, 1992.

"Five works, all published in the 1980s, take the final step of focusing upon the love between Morgan le Fay and Arthur: Parke Godwin's Firelord (1980), Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (1982), Joy Chant's The High Kings (1984), Joan Wolf's The Road to Avalon (1988), and Welwyn Wilton Katz's The Third Magic (1988)."

"...Welwyn Wilton Katz's fantasy The Third Magic differs from the other books in that it departs radically from tradition in developing the characters of Arthur and Morgan. Most of the action takes place on the world of Nwm, where a ruthless struggle is being waged between the First Magic of the Circle, weilded by women, and the Second Magic of the Line, weilded by men. As part of their efforts to bring other worlds under their control both sides 'mission' representatives to Earth. The Morrigan is reborn as Morrigan, daughter of Ygerne and half-sister of Arthur; the M'rlendd becomes Merlin the magician; both seek to influence Arthur with their teachings.

The Morrigan, however, has a twin brother named Arddu, who is taken prisoner by the Line. Using his mental pattern, the Line tries to draw back the Morrigan, but instead catches Morgan Lefevre. Morgan is a modern Canadian teenager, over on a visit to Tintagel. She is also a descendant of the Morrigan and almost identical to her remote ancestor.

Morgan and Arddu succeed in escaping from the Line. They find the sword Excalibur and take it to its resting place in a Castle of Glass, where they also find the Grail Cup, the Bleeding Head that talks to them, and a stone ring. By inserting Excalibur into the ring they are taken to Earth in time for Arthur's attempt to claim the kingship by drawing the same Excalibur from the same stone ring.

Although Morgan and Arddu initially resent each other, as companions in adversity, however reluctant, they learn to appreciate and take care of each other, and eventually they fall in love almost without realizing it. By contrast the Morrigan loses her struggle with Merlin, who succeeds not only in gaining dominance over Arthur, but also in raping her. The child of this union is Mordred. In a last desperate act of revenge she kills Arthur when he draws the sword from the stone ring. Moreover, driven to madness by Merlin's magic, she also kills her twin brother when he tries to prevent her, then herself starts to dissolve in flames. Amid this ruin Morgan works powerful magic in her turn, for she is the descendant of both the Morrigan and Merlin, weilder of the Third Magic that reconciles the opposition of the first two. 'Make things right,' she wishes (199), and looks up to find that she has become Morgan LeFay; that Arddu has become King Arthur, triumphantly brandishing Excalibur; 'and the legends were there, waiting to be made' (200).

Among these legends is Mordred, whom Morgan must preserve. He is, after all, her ancestor and thus crucial to her existence. 'And so Mordred must live to kill Arddu, and she, who loved Arddu, had no choice but to allow it' (200). Yet she also has a vision of 'herself on a raven-strewn battlefield taking Arddu's dead body in her arms and then thrusting his sword into this same flat, holed stone, taking them both back to Nwm' (201). 'So that,' she realizes, 'was the source of the legend of Morgan LeFay taking the dead King Arthur to be reborn in a magical land!' (201)...."

"...In the accounts by Bradley, Chant, and Katz Morgan helps Arthur win Excalibur and its protective sheath, and to dispose properly of the sword after the Battle of Camlann. Only Bradley has her plot to steal them back earlier, although Katz makes her keeper of the stone ring in which the stone is set. By taking over the role traditionally assigned to the Lady of the Lake, Morgan gains stature as Arthur's benefactor, without whom many of his achievements might have proved impossible. This feature we may call the Excalibur motif..."

"...This is not to claim that Morgan attains freedom of choice without difficulty or cost. She must constantly struggle against pressures to conform to convention. In the novels of Wolf and Katz her decision not to marry Arthur leads to the sorrow of separation, as she herself recognizes...."

"...Moreover the choice to follow the path of duty is Morgan's own, as is the later choice to resume her affair with Arthur; here, as in the novels of Bradley and Katz, she emerges as the more self-reliant of the two..."

"...As a consequence she places herself alongside those other heroes of Arthurian tradition who demonstrate heroic defiance and self-assertion, even in the face of daunting odds. Like them Morgan accepts that there is a price to pay for making one's own choices in life. But she is no more afraid to pay it than are they. A new hero is emerging in Arthur's realm, a queen truly worthy, at last, not only of the Once and Future King, but also of a new generation of women who are seizing responsibility for their own lives. She is Morgan le Fay, Arthur's first love. And his last."

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