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Encyclopedia > Morgan le Fay
Morgan le Fay, by Anthony Frederick Sandys (1829 - 1904), 1864 (Birmingham Art Gallery): A spell-brewing Morgaine distinctly of Tennyson's generation
Morgan le Fay, by Anthony Frederick Sandys (1829 - 1904), 1864 (Birmingham Art Gallery): A spell-brewing Morgaine distinctly of Tennyson's generation

Morgan le Fay, alternatively known as Morgaine, Morgain, Morgana and other variants, is a powerful sorceress and sometime antagonist of King Arthur and Guinevere in the Arthurian legend. Download high resolution version (493x700, 117 KB)Anthony Frederick Sandys (British, 1829-1904) Morgan Le Fay; Queen of Avalon Painting Date: 1864 Medium: Oil on panel Size: 62. ... Download high resolution version (493x700, 117 KB)Anthony Frederick Sandys (British, 1829-1904) Morgan Le Fay; Queen of Avalon Painting Date: 1864 Medium: Oil on panel Size: 62. ... Alfred, Lord Tennyson Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and is one of the most popular English poets. ... The Enchanted Garden of Messer Ansaldo by Marie Spartali Stillman: a magician makes his garden bear fruit and flowers in winter. ... A bronze Arthur in plate armour with visor raised and with jousting shield wearing Kastenbrust armour (early 15th century) by Peter Vischer, typical of later anachronistic depictions of Arthur. ... Queen Guinevere, by William Morris Guinevere was the legendary queen consort of King Arthur. ... The Matter of Britain is a name given collectively to the legends that concern the Celtic and legendary history of the British Isles, centering around King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. ...

The early works featuring Morgan do not elaborate her character beyond her role as a fay or magician. She became much more prominent in the later cyclical prose works such as the Lancelot-Grail and the Post-Vulgate Cycle, in which she is said to be the daughter of Arthur's mother, the Lady Igraine, and her first husband, Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall; Arthur is her half brother by Igraine and Uther Pendragon. Morgan has at least two older sisters, Elaine and Morgause, the latter of whom is the mother of Gawain and the traitor Mordred. In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and elsewhere, she is married, unhappily, to King Urien of Gore and Ywain is her son. Though she becomes an adversary of the Round Table when Guinevere discovers her adultery with one of her husband's knights, she eventually reconciles with her brother, and even serves as one of the four enchantresses who carry the king to Avalon after his final battle at Camlann. by Sophie Anderson For other uses, see Fairy (disambiguation). ... The Lancelot-Grail, also known as the prose Lancelot, the Vulgate Cycle, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle, is a major source of Arthurian legend. ... The Post-Vulgate Cycle is one of the major Old French prose cycles of Arthurian literature. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... In the legendary tales of King Arthur, Gorlois was the Duke of Cornwall and married to the beautiful Ygerna (Igraine or Ygraine). ... Duke of Cornwall here refers to the legendary dukes of Cornwall in Celtic Britain as established by such pseudo-historical authors as Nennius, Gildas, and above all Geoffrey of Monmouth. ... Uther Pendragon (pen-dragon = head of the dragons) is the legendary father of King Arthur in the Arthurian legend. ... Elaine (a form of Helen) is a name shared by several different characters in Arthurian Legend. ... In Arthurian legend, Morgause or Morgase (also known as Anna-Morgause or Ann-Morgause) is the half-sister of King Arthur who slept with him and produced Mordred, the incestuous heir that would lead to Camelots downfall. ... Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Gawain (Gwalchmei, Gawan, Gauvain, Walewein etc. ... Mordred or Modred (Welsh: Medraut) is a legendary figure of Britain, known in Arthurian legend as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. ... Sir Thomas Malory (c. ... The Last Sleep of Arthur by Edward Burne-Jones Le Morte dArthur (spelt Le Morte Darthur in the first printing and also in some modern editions, Middle French for la mort dArthur, the death of Arthur) is Sir Thomas Malorys compilation of some French and English Arthurian... Urien, father of Owain mab Urien (later known as Ywain), was an historical king of Rheged in northern England and southern Scotland during the 6th century. ... Ywain rescues the lion Sir Ywain (also called Owain, Yvain, Ewain or Uwain) is a Knight of the Round Table and the son of King Urien in Arthurian legend. ... In the legend of King Arthur, the Round Table was a mystical table in Camelot around which King Arthur and his knights sat to discuss matters crucial to the security of the realm. ... Avalon (probably from the Celtic word abal: apple; see Etymology below) is a legendary island somewhere in the British Isles, famous for its beautiful apples. ... Commanders King Arthur † Mordred † How Mordred was Slain by Arthur, and How by Him Arthur was Hurt to the Death, by Arthur Rackham Camlann redirects here. ...



As her name indicates, the figure of Morgan appears to have been originally a fairy rather than a human woman. Later transformed into a woman, and King Arthur's half sister, she became an enchantress to continue her powers.[1] Inspiration for her character came from earlier Welsh mythology and literature; she has often been compared with the goddess Modron, a figure derived from the continental Dea Matrona featured with some frequency in medieval Welsh literature. Modron appears in Welsh Triad 70, in which her children by Urien, Owain and Morvydd, are called one of the "Three Blessed Womb-Burdens of the Island of Britain",[2] and a later folktale preserved in Peniarth MS 147 records the story behind this conception more fully.[3] Urien is Morgan le Fay's husband in the continental romances, while Owain mab Urien is the historical figure behind their son Ywain. Additionally, Modron is called "daughter of Avallach," a Welsh ancestor deity whose name can also be interpreted as a noun meaning "a place of apples";[4] in fact, in the story of Owain and Morvydd's conception in Peniarth 147, Modron is called the "daughter of the king of Avallach". This is similar to Avalon, the "Isle of Apples" with which Morgan le Fay has been associated since her earliest appearances. Additional speculation sometimes connects Morgan with the Irish goddess Morrígan, though there are few similarities between the two beyond the spelling of their names. Welsh mythology, the remnants of the mythology of the pre-Christian Britons, has come down to us in much altered form in medieval Welsh manuscripts such as the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin and the Book of Taliesin. ... The term Welsh literature may be used to refer to any literature originating from Wales or by Welsh writers. ... In Welsh mythology, Modron (divine mother) was a daughter of Avalloc, derived from the Gaul goddess Dea Matrona. ... In Celtic mythology, Dea Matrona (divine mother goddess) was the goddess of the river Marne in Gaul. ... The Welsh Triads (Welsh, Trioedd Ynys Prydein) is used to describe any of the related Medieval collection of groupings of three that preserve a major portion of Welsh folklore and Welsh literature. ... Owain mab Urien (or Owein) (d. ... In Welsh Arthurian legend, Morvydd is the daughter of Urien Rheged by Modron, and twin sister to Owain. ... In Welsh mythology, Avalloc was the father of Modron. ... For other uses, see Apple (disambiguation). ... The Morrígan (terror or phantom queen) or Mórrígan (great queen) (aka Morrígu, Mórríghan, Mór-Ríogain) is a figure from Irish mythology who appears to have once been a goddess, although she is not referred to as such in the texts. ...

Morgan first appears by name in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini, written about 1150. Purportedly an account of the wizard Merlin's later adventures, it elaborates some episodes from Geoffrey's more famous earlier work, Historia Regum Britanniae. In the Historia, Geoffrey explains that after Arthur is seriously wounded at the Battle of Camlann, he is taken off to Avalon, the Isle of Apples, to be healed. In the Vita Merlini he describes this island in more detail and names "Morgen" as the chief of nine magical sisters who dwell there. Morgan retains this role as Arthur's otherworldly healer in much later literature. Wikisource has original text related to this article: Geoffrey of Monmouth Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. ... Merlin is best known as the wizard featured in Arthurian legend. ... Geoffrey of Monmouths Historia Regum Britanniæ (English: The History of the Kings of Britain) was written around 1136. ...

Before the cyclical Old French romances, appearances of Morgan are few. Chrétien de Troyes mentions her in his first romance Erec and Enide, completed around 1170; he says one guests at the titular characters' wedding, a certain Guigomar, lord of the Isle of Avalon, is a friend of Morgan. She is later mentioned in the same poem when Arthur provides a wounded Erec with a healing balm made by his sister Morgan; this episode both affirms her early role as a healer and provides the first mention of Morgan as Arthur's sister. Chrétien again refers to Morgan as a great healer in his later romance Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, in an episode in which two ladies restore the maddened hero to his senses with a concoction provided by Morgan.[5] Chrétien de Troyes wrote in Champagne, France, during the last half of the twelfth century. ... Erec and Enide (French: Erec et Enid) is Chrétien de Troyess first romance, completed around 1170. ... Sir Erec, the son of King Lac, is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend. ... Yvain rescues the lion Yvain, the Knight of the Lion (French: Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion) is a romance by Chrétien de Troyes. ...

Later medieval literature

Morgan's role is greatly expanded in the 13th century Lancelot-Grail (Vulgate Cycle) and the subsequent works inspired by it. The youngest of Gorlois and Igraine's daughters, she is sent to a convent when Uther Pendragon kills her father and marries her mother. There she begins her study of magic, but is interrupted when Uther betrothes her to his ally Urien. Unhappy with her husband, she takes a string of lovers until she is caught by a young Guinevere, who expels her from court in disgust. Morgan continues her magical studies under Merlin, all the while plotting against Guinevere. In subsequent chapters she uses her skills to foil Arthur's knights, especially Lancelot, whom she alternately tries to seduce and to expose as Guinevere's adulterous lover. In the Prose Tristan, she delivers to Arthur's court a magic drinking horn from which no unfaithful lady can drink without spilling, hoping to reveal the infidelity. This article is about an abbey as a religious building. ... The Prose Tristan is an adaptation of the Tristan and Iseult story into a long prose romance, and the first to tie the subject entirely into the arc of the Arthurian legend. ...

Thomas Malory mostly follows the portrayal of Morgan in the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate Cycles in his book Le Morte d'Arthur, though he expands her role in some cases. Through magic and mortal means, she tries to arrange Arthur's downfall, most famously when she arranges for her lover Accolon to obtain the sword Excalibur and use it against Arthur in single combat. Failing in this, Morgan throws Excalibur's protective scabbard into a lake. When King Arthur entrusted Excalibur into Morgan le Fays care, she had a duplicate made; the real scabbard was then passed from her to Accolon. ... How Sir Bedivere Cast the Sword Excalibur into the Water. ...

The Fay turns up throughout the High and Late Middle Ages, generally in works related to the cycles of Arthur or Charlemagne. At the end of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it is revealed that the entire supernatural episode has been instigated by Morgan as a test for Arthur and his knights, and to frighten Guinevere. In the legends of Charlemagne she is most famous for her association with Ogier the Dane, whom she takes to her mystical island palace to be her lover. In the chanson de geste of Huon de Bordeaux, Morgan is the mother of the fairy king Oberon by none other than Julius Caesar. The cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, a significant architectural contribution of the High Middle Ages. ... Dante by Michelino The Late Middle Ages is a term used by historians to describe European history in the period of the 14th and 15th centuries (1300–1500 A.D.). The Late Middle Ages were preceded by the High Middle Ages, and followed by the Early Modern era (Renaissance). ... A portrait of Charlemagne by Albrecht Dürer that was painted several centuries after Charlemagnes death. ... Green Knight redirects here. ... The Matter of France, also known as the Carolingian cycle is a body of legendary history that springs from the Old French medieval literature of the chansons de geste. ... H.P. Pedersen-Dans statue of Holger Danske at Kronborg castle, Denmark Ogier the Dane (Holger Danske) is a fictional Danish hero who first appears in the Old French chanson de geste. ... The chansons de geste, Old French for songs of heroic deeds, are the epic poetry that appears at the dawn of French literature. ... Huon of Bordeaux is the title character of a 13th century French romance (chanson de geste). ... Oberon, also Auberon, King of the Fairies, is most well-known as a character in William Shakespeares play, A Midsummer Nights Dream, written in the mid-1590s. ... Gaius Julius Caesar [1] (Latin pronunciation ; English pronunciation ; July 12 or July 13, 100 BC or 102 BC – March 15, 44 BC), was a Roman military and political leader and one of the most influential men in classical antiquity. ...

Popular culture

The modern image of Morgan is often that of a villain, a seductive, megalomaniacal sorceress who wishes to overthrow Arthur. Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court depicted her as a degenrate feudal lady, living a life of luxury wjile keeping helpless prisoners for decades in her castle's dungeons. Contemporary interpretations of the Arthurian myth sometimes assign to Morgan the role of seducing Arthur and giving birth to the wicked Mordred, though traditionally Mordred's mother was Morgause, another sister. In these works Mordred is often her pawn, used to bring about the end of the Arthurian age. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910),[1] better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American humorist, satirist, writer, and lecturer. ... A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court is an 1889 novel by American humorist and writer Mark Twain. ... In Arthurian legend, Morgause or Morgase (also known as Anna-Morgause or Ann-Morgause) is the half-sister of King Arthur who slept with him and produced Mordred, the incestuous heir that would lead to Camelots downfall. ...

Starting in the later 20th century, however, some feminists adopted Morgan as a representation of female power; in this context she is sometimes connected to interpretations of Celtic feminine spirituality. Such is the case in Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, which presents a different view of Morgaine's opposition to Arthur, her actions stemming from her fight to preserve the pagan religion against what she sees as the treachery and oppression of Christianity. Feminism is a collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies largely motivated by or concerned with the liberation of women. ... Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley (June 3, 1930 – September 25, 1999) was a prolific author of largely feminist fantasy novels such as The Mists of Avalon and the Darkover series, and a steadfast encourager of equality (and quality) in writing. ... The Mists of Avalon is a 1979 novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley, in which she relates the Arthurian legends from the perspective of the female characters. ... Heathen redirects here. ... Christianity is a monotheistic[1] religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. ...

In John Boorman's 1981 film Excalibur (in which she is played by Helen Mirren), Morgan takes up one of her traditional roles as Merlin's student, though her competition with her mentor assumes a new prominence in the film. In the 1998 made-for-television movie Merlin (where she is played by Helena Bonham Carter), Morgan is a hapless pawn of Queen Mab. She appears in Roger Zelazny's short story "The Last Defender of Camelot", helping an immortal Lancelot fight an age-crazed Merlin. She has been widely portrayed in comic books, for example Treasures of Britain by Simon Bisley, where she helps the hero Slaine recover her brother's lost artifacts. She has also appeared in comics from the two main comic book publishers in the United States: In DC Comics, "Morgaine le Fey" is a villainess who has battled The Demon and Wonder Woman, while Marvel Comics has long featured "Morgan le Fay" as one of their biggest female threats, with notable appearances in comics starring Spider-Woman and The Avengers. John Boorman (born January 18, 1933 in Shepperton, Surrey, United Kingdom), is a British filmmaker, currently based in Ireland, best known for his feature films such as Point Blank, Deliverance, Excalibur, and The General. ... Excalibur is a 1981 film which retells the legend of King Arthur. ... Dame Helen Mirren DBE (born on July 26, 1945) is an Academy Award-winning English stage, television and film actress. ... Merlin is best known as the wizard featured in Arthurian legend. ... DVD Cover Merlin is a 3 hour made-for-television movie released in 1998 that retells the famous legend of King Arthur from the perspective of the wizard Merlin. ... Helena Bonham Carter (born May 26, 1966) is an Oscar-nominated English actress. ... In English folklore, Queen Mab is a fairy. ... Roger Joseph Zelazny (May 13, 1937 – June 14, 1995) was an American writer of fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels. ... The Last Defender of Camelot is a fantasy short story by Roger Zelazny. ... A comic book is a magazine or book containing the art form of comics. ... In ancient Celtic mythology, the Thirteen Treasures of Britain were as follows: Dyrnwyn the sword of Rhydderch Hael: if any man drew it except himself, it burst into a flame from the cross to the point, and all who asked it received it; but because of this property all shunned... Simon Bisley is a British comic book artist who was very popular in the 1990s for his work on ABC Warriors, Lobo and Sláine. ... Sláine graphic novel cover by Mike McMahon 1986 Sláine (pronounced slawin-uh) is a comic book hero from the pages of 2000 AD - one of Britains most popular comic books. ... DC Comics is one of the largest American companies in comic book and related media publishing. ... In DC Comics, Morgaine Le Fey is a major opponent of The Demon Etrigan, and has also shown up as one of Wonder Womans foes. ... The Demon is a DC Comics superhero series created by comic book master, Jack Kirby. ... Wonder Woman is a fictional DC Comics superheroine co-created by William Moulton Marston and wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston. ... Marvel Comics (Stan Lee is behind many of the superheros) is an American comic book line published by Marvel Publishing, Inc. ... for the DC Comics character, see Morgaine Le Fey (DC Comics) Morgan le Fay is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics Universe, based loosely on the Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend. ... The Teotihuacan Spider Woman was a goddess of the Pre-Columbian Teotihuacan civilization, in what is now Mexico. ... The Avengers are a fictional superhero team that appear in the Marvel Universe. ...

She appears as the character Ru Fe Morgan in the anime film Oh My Goddess!, and showed up on the television series Stargate SG-1 as an ascended Ancient, who assists the characters in their search for a weapon left behind by Merlin (in Stargate continuity, another ascended Ancient). In 2006 she appeared in the middle-grade novel The Revenge of the Shadow King. Nancy Springer's I Am Morgan le Fay is told from her perspective, while she becomes a major antagonist in the Christian fantasy book series Dragons in Our Midst. Morgan Le Fay ) is a character in the anime film Ah! My Goddess The Movie. ... Oh My Goddess! (ああっ女神さまっ, Aa! Megami-sama!), also known as Ah! My Goddess, is a seinen manga series by Kosuke Fujishima currently serialised in Kodanshas monthly Afternoon magazine first published 1988-08-25 (was the September issue however). ... Stargate SG-1 (often abbreviated as SG-1) is a science fiction television series, part of the Stargate franchise. ... Daniel Jackson and a Zen Monk meditate on the complexities of Ascension. ... The Ancients, also known as the Alterans and Lanteans, sometimes calling themselves Anqueetas in their language, are a humaniod race in the fictional Stargate universe. ... Cover The Revenge of the Shadow King is the first volume in the Grey Griffins Book series written by American authors Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis, published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. ... Nancy Connor Springer (born 1948 in Montclair, New Jersey) is an American author of fantasy, Young adult literature, mystery, and science fiction. ... Dragons In Our Midst is a Christian fantasy series written by Bryan Davis about two teenagers who are anthrozils- fully human, and yet somehow fully dragon at the same time. ...

Poul Anderson used her in Three Hearts and Three Lions, based on the Ogier the Dane story. In Anderson's vesrion, a modern Dane finds that he is the reincarnation of Ogier, and Morgan tries unsussfully to seduce him once again; he is tempted but resists her charms and sticks to his quest. In Anderson's depiction she is clearly on the side of "The Bad Guys" in the ongoing struggle, but is still given a rather symapathetic treatment (she has an overt interest in luring Ogier away to her island, but also seems quite a bit genuinly in love with him, and is truly saddened by his rejection). Poul Anderson portrayed on the cover of a special edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; painting by Kelly Freas. ... The original alignment system of Dungeons and Dragons (which grouped all players and creatures into Law and Chaos) was derived from the Three Hearts and Three Lions novel by Poul Anderson, where a troll is also described from whence derived the D&D description of the monster. ... H.P. Pedersen-Dans statue of Holger Danske at Kronborg castle, Denmark Ogier the Dane (Holger Danske) is a fictional Danish hero who first appears in the Old French chanson de geste. ...

Le Fay is also mentioned prominently in the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne as a "good" character who serves as the librarian of Camelot. Dinosaurs Before Dark book cover Magic Tree House is a book series for young children by Mary Pope Osborne. ... Osborne at a book signing at the Phoenix Zoo Mary Pope Osborne (born May 20, 1949) is a childrens author who wrote the Magic Tree House book series for children. ...

See also

A fata Morgana, named after Morgan le Fay, the faery shapeshifting half-sister of King Arthur, is a mirage, an optical phenomenon which results from a temperature inversion. ...


  1. ^ Briggs, Katharine (1978). "Morgan le Fay". In Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, p. 303. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 0-394-73467-X.
  2. ^ Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, p. 195.
  3. ^ Preserved in Peniarth 147. See Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, pp. 449–451.
  4. ^ Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, pp. 274–275
  5. ^ It should be noted that while Modron is the mother of Owain in Welsh literature, and Morgan would be assigned this role in later French literature, this first continental association between Ywain and Morgan does not imply they are son and mother.


  • Briggs, Katharine (1978). Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 0-394-73467-X
  • Bromwich, Rachel (1963). Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain. University Of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1386-8.
  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (1991). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.

Katharine Mary Briggs (November 8, 1898 – 1980) is the author of The Anatomy of Puck, the definitive 4-volume Dictionary of British Folk-Tales, and various other books on fairies and folklore. ...

External links

  • Morgan le Fey at the Camelot project, University of Rochester: brief text and images

  Results from FactBites:
Arthurian Biographies: Ambrosius Aurelianus (758 words)
The much maligned Morgan Le Fay was, to a large extent, the invention of medieval romance writers such as Sir Thomas Malory.
Morgan herself took a fancy to Lancelot at one point and imprisoned him for some time before he was able to escape.
Morgan is said to have lived here with her nine sisters, a not insignificant group similar to the Greek Muses.
  More results at FactBites »



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