The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon retells the legend of King Arthur. Like most versions of what has come to be known as the “matter of Britain,” the story chronicles the monarch’s rise to power, his glorious but troubled reign, and his downfall and eventual death. Bradley’s tale also offers a revised view of Arthur, of his changing world, and, more specifically, of the transition from pre-Christian Goddess worship to Christianity. Narrated by Arthur’s half-sister, Morgaine, The Mists of Avalon brings to life the Cult of the Goddess, paying homage to the women in Arthur’s life.

Arthur’s rise to power begins with his and Morgaine’s mother, Igraine. As Igraine’s fate unfolds, so do the futures of both Great Britain and Avalon, the sacred island of the Goddess. In her role as High Queen to Uther Pendragon, Igraine serves the Goddess by keeping Ava-lon, her homeland, alive in the minds and hearts of her subjects. As giver of life to Morgaine and Arthur, she is also mother to both Avalon and Great Britain, for through her, Avalon finds a successor to Viviane—the reigning high priestess—and Great Britain acquires its next High King.

Aided by the women of Avalon, Arthur ascends to the throne and marries Gwynhwyfar, the antithesis of his female relatives. She becomes a defender of the Christian faith and an enemy of Avalon, and thus a source of conflict and a catalyst for change. To appease...

(The entire section is 470 words.)