I’m happy to welcome Persia Woolley to my blog today. I know all my readers will enjoy this great post! Thanks so much. 🙂
GUINEVERE — THE EASY TARGET
I’m sure there’s lots of reasons why Guinevere’s gotten such a bad rap over the centuries and most of them are due to the culture of the times or the particular author’s take on the matter.
For starters, Gwen’s said to be fantastically beautiful; she’s loved by two of the world’s great men — both Arthur and Lancelot — and her people revere her enough to go to war for her. That’s an awfully big target for those who think she needs to be taken down a peg or two.
The Arthurian tales began in pre-Christian times and there are some that portray the inhabitants of Camelot as far from majestic rulers. In the north there’s a very large bolder that is shown to tourists as the rock which Arthur threw at Gwen when she was arguing with him while brushing her hair!
But later, when Christian ideals became the norm and Arthur’s court was cast as the shining example of medieval chivalry, the patriarchal church was stuck with several strong legendary women who might be seen as role models by young girls and what they should do about it.
Simple–you turn them into repentant sinners or witch/villains. (Yes, in the popular medieval stories Morgan Le Fey was very much a villain. It’s mainly since Mists of Avalon that Morgan has been seen as a sympathetic character.)
As for Gwen, she became the haughty, sinful queen the story tellers could count on for texture and dimension, to say nothing of domestic tension. With her love for Lancelot, (whether platonic or not), there’s the implication of both treason and wild, potential passion…always heady stuff in any era.
That’s been the dynamic from the Middle Ages on, though in the Victorian times Gwen’s ‘sins’ were stressed as warnings to women who might be tempted to love more than one man at a time. By then she’d become a wonderfully handy scape-goat when looking for the reason the Round Table broke up.
It’s easy to see how even the modern author could fall into the trap of making Guinevere the beautiful but dumb twit or the scheming bitch. But I took a look at this long-time stereotype and said “what a bunch of nonsense.” For one thing, if Arthur and Lancelot were such fine and thoughtful men, it doesn’t seem reasonable they would love a woman simply because she knows how to manipulate people by fluttering her eyelashes or pouting prettily.
So right there I knocked out two of the most common pictures of Gwen by making her forthright and homely — at least in her own eyes. It also meant that I as the author had to see her as a much more fleshed out character.
Consequently I tried to give the reader a girl who is funny and feisty and running free; a wife who is growing along side her husband as they create Camelot together, and finally a legendary queen who rises to the challenges of both triumph and tragedy presented in terms of a truly glorious spirit. How well I succeeded I leave up to you to decide.
Thanks to Sourcebooks, I have one copy of Persia’s book, Guinevere, the Legend in Autumn to give away to a lucky book lover. To enter, simply leave your email address with a comment on this post. For an extra entry, read and comment of my review of the book. Open to Canada and the US – no PO boxes, please. Contest ends on November 18th.