††††††††††† The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a long and detailed novel consisting of different episodes and events that could be stories within themselves, linked by a common thread.† The archetypes that each character fits change with each story in the novel and so are rather difficult to characterize definitively.† The gender roles are also rather conflicting.† The character of Morgaine completely revolutionizes the conventional gender roles seen in other versions of the Arthurian legends.† The story can be considered an epic on the grandest scale and its conclusion is rather bittersweet though not entirely tragic.† The Mists of Avalon is a very unique novel that changes the readerís perception of the Arthurian legends.
The archetypes in the story do not stay constant because each character speaks and acts differently in the various situations they are placed in.† King Arthur is in most situations, the hero, though by no means the only hero.† He always behaves in the most chivalric sense.† His traits of honor, bravery, and camaraderie fit him as a hero admirably.† His birth is most definitely mysterious.† He is conceived when Uther Pendragon masquerades as Gorlois and sneaked into Tintagel.† Before he pulls the sword out of the stone, it is still disputed whether he is the true son and heir of Uther.† He is fostered away from his home and is unrecognized until he is made High King.† The rites on Dragon Island are an embodiment of a heroís test and rebirth.† Arthur develops as a character throughout the novel.† We see his strength of will and practicality yet also his tenderness and pliancy in regards to Gwenhwyfar.† Arthur is not a perfect hero.† He does not uphold his pledge Avalon, deserting the old-way in favor of the beliefs of his over-pious wife.† The stuff of legends, he still is only human with human emotions and reactions.
Morgaine is undoubtedly the most important character in the novel.† The story is told from her perspective and follows her wherever she goes.† She also is a hero of this story.† She exemplifies strength of will and discipline as a priestess of Avalon.† When she realizes what Viviane has contrived for her future, she demonstrates great courage in the face of adversity.† She is compassionate and caring, sacrificing her own well being to protect others.† She suffers many trials and the rites of Beltane where she is the Spring Maiden are her test.† She casts herself out of Avalon and must make a life for herself.† She descends into the dark of the real world and must survive and become a new person.
However, she hardly follows the typical gender roles of that era.† The most typical roles are the helpless damsel and the evil sorceress.† In other stories, women always require the protection of men.† Those who do not, those that are independent and strong-minded are automatically labeled witch.† However, Morgaine is in a class of her own.† She has a very independent spirit, unwilling to let anyone manipulate her life and her Fate.† Because she has magic and is a priestess of the old religion, she is feared by many Christians.† By no means however, is she evil.† She is also compassionate and loving.† Full of paradoxes, this woman is extremely powerful but also fair.† She does nothing that is unwarranted or cruel.† Her life is full of purpose, to serve her cause.†
The Mists of Avalon is an intriguing novel, full of complexities.† The story is grand is scale, spanning over all of Britain, accounting for Arthurís entire life, from the moment of his conception to his untimely death.† The use of archetypes and gender roles make this retelling unique and interesting.† It puts a new twist on a well known tale.† It is a new perception, a new way of looking at things.† It teaches the readers not to accept things at face value, to question, and to discover the truth.† Bradley tells the story from Morgaineís point of view, which makes it vastly different from other versions of the same story.† Her actions are the same but the reader no longer considers her evil because her motives are understood.† Bradley is able to take the Arthurian legends to a whole new level in this unique retelling of this story.