The Three Damosels Critical Essays

Vera Chapman


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Chapman was among the first to explore the feminist angle of the Arthurian tales. Most earlier works had concentrated on the chivalrous deeds of the knights or on the tragic fate of Arthur himself. It was only after Chapman’s work that others turned their attention to the female characters in the legends. The most successful was Marion Zimmer Bradley, with The Mists of Avalon (1983). Chapman’s main contribution to Arthurian literature is her demonstration that the strength of the Arthurian world was not with the knights, who were usually driven by a longing for glory, but with the women behind them. Through their own desires for fortune, rather than fame, these women established a web of fortitude throughout the Arthurian world that was difficult to dissolve. It was only the treachery of Morgan le Fay that destroyed the kingdom.

Chapman’s technique in viewing the Arthurian world through a variety of individual perspectives brings a more complete picture of the characters and the world in which they existed, thus drawing reality from legend. The final volume brings a new interpretation to the belief that Arthur will come again. Through her creation of new characters and development of ones who previously were incidental to the main Arthurian myth, Chapman is able to demonstrate that Merlin’s scheming enabled the Arthurian world to survive, safe through the mother-line. Genealogy and blood relationships are key themes throughout the...

(The entire section is 484 words.)