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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon (original 1982; edition 1982)

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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12,074230212 (4.1)2 / 547
Title:The Mists of Avalon
Authors:Marion Zimmer Bradley
Info:Ballantine Books (1982), Paperback, 912 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Arthurian Legend, Fantasy

Work details

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1982)

Recently added byHellsure, Uasal, eastlake_uk, olschool, cherobula, private library, BooksOn23rd, DanKoboldt, Kassilem
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English (211)  Dutch (9)  German (3)  Italian (3)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  All languages (229)
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
. . . I really want to like this. Arthurian mythology told from the point of view of the women, with a pro-pagan, Goddess-oriented slant ticks so many boxes for me. However, I still had a hard time getting into this. This is the second time I’ve attempted to read this book and it is quite the slog for me.

My problems with it . . . well, for instance, this is billed as a “feminist" retelling of the Arthurian myths, as it is told from the point of view of the female characters. And sure, the main characters who are women are strong and smart and capable . . . but we’re constantly told throughout the narrative how STUPID and USELESS women - like ALL other women in the world - are. This is not feminist. It says that only EXCEPTIONAL women are strong and smart, 99% are weak, vapid, twittering morons.

”Yet [Morgaine] found Gwenhwyfar’s company, and Elaine’s, endurable; most of the other women had never had a single thought beyond the next meal or the next reel of thread spun.” (p.308)

And then there’s a bit about how “ugly” pregnant women are:

”[Gwenhwyfar] smiled at [Lancelet] and felt comforted. Perhaps it was just as well that she was not pregnant and ugly . . . she saw that he looked on Meleas with a faint scornful smile, and she felt that she could not bear to be ugly before Lancelet.” (p. 309)

um, what?

Also, for a “feminist” retelling, the main characters are mostly preoccupied with if the cute boy likes them or not. Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar both spend a ton of time wangsting about pretty-boy Lancelet.

Gwenhwyfar’s thoughts are also full of her angsting about her angst and what an “impure” awful girl her lustful thoughts make her. Which, I get is MZB’s criticism of Christianity and how it warps women’s perceptions of themselves and their feelings - but it makes reading Gwen’s parts incredibly annoying!

I found by the midway point the book started catching my interest again. There are some reveals about Lancelet’s feelings that are more complex - and interesting - than I would have given the narrative credit for, and the interesting way in which the Arthur/Gwen/Lancelet love triangle plays itself out in this version is a really original take on the storyline that I personally enjoyed.

But it was impossible to like Gwenhwyfar the character - she spends all of her time internally whining about Arthur or Lancelet or her own emotions, then takes all the guilt and oppression her Christian religion inflicts upon her and projects that into a full-on vendetta against Avalon, the Lady of the Lake and the pagans living in Britain. She refuses to listen to Arthur’s level headed and fair opinions and instead badgers him non-stop, whines, pleads and makes him feel sorry for her until he betrays Avalon and sets about making Britain a Christian nation. But she’s certainly not above going to pagans like Morgaine for help and supernatural assistance when it suits her,and again, whining and crying until they feel sorry enough for her to help her.

MZB’s version of Gwenhwyfar has to be the worst, the most unlikable, and one of the most annoying and unlikeable characters I’ve come across in fiction, period. It’s not so much the side she’s on that does it for me - but her lack of actual internal reasoning behind the side she’s so adamantly in support of and the way she goes about getting what she wants - whining, crying and playing the “oh poor little me” card until the people around her give in to her demands out of sheer annoyance.

I also found it a shame that we didn’t get to see more of the priestesses of Avalon and their religion. Despite it being more favourably treated by the narrative - I think we’re clearly suppose to sympathize with Morgaine more than Gwen - it is quite vaguely described, despite Morgaine being a main character and her being a priestess of Avalon. I wish that more time was spent on Avalon, describing the lives of the priestesses and their rituals and rites. Those parts were always pretty rushed-over and vague. And I didn’t really enjoy how Morgaine spent so much of the book in angst about how she had betrayed Avalon and her goddess and how she felt unworthy, etc. etc. it is the same sort of oppressive, controlling hold over people that Christianity is criticized for in the book. The only difference, really, is that the pagans have priestesses, but they aren’t really more “free” than the Christians as depicted here - both feel bound in service to their higher powers, like pawns, forced to do and endure unpleasant tasks and trials and always made to feel unworthy and small. So in the end, what’s really the big difference between them? Maybe that was MZB’s point, but I personally would have liked to see both sides explored a little more in-depth. ( )
1 vote catfantastic | Nov 4, 2015 |
crazy long but crazy good ( )
1 vote katsmiao | Oct 23, 2015 |
crazy long but crazy good ( )
  katsmiao | Oct 23, 2015 |
crazy long but crazy good ( )
  katsmiao | Oct 23, 2015 |
Read this in college for a class in Arthurian literature. Amazing book; very long! ( )
1 vote glindaharrison | Oct 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
In ''The Mists of Avalon,'' Marion Zimmer Bradley's monumental reimagining of the Arthurian legends, the story begins differently, in the slow stages of female desire and of moral, even mythic, choice. Stepping into this world through the Avalon mists, we see the saga from an entirely untraditional perspective: not Arthur's, not Lancelot's, not Merlin's. We see the creation of Camelot from the vantage point of its principal women - Viviane, Gwynyfar, Morgaine and Igraine. This, the untold Arthurian story, is no less tragic, but it has gained a mythic coherence; reading it is a deeply moving and at times uncanny experience.

» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marion Zimmer Bradleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bralds, BraldtCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herranen, PaulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"...Morgan le Fay was not married, but put to school in a nunnery, where she became a great mistress of magic."
- Malory, Morte d'Arthur
First words
Morgaine speaks...In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman, queen.
a land ruled by priests is a land filled with tyrants on Earth and in Heaven
the faith of Christ is a fitting faith for slaves who think themselves sinners and humble
What of the King Stag, when the young stag is grown?
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The French edition is divided into 2 volumes.
The Brazilian and Spanish editions are divided into 4 volumes.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345350499, Paperback)

Even readers who don't normally enjoy Arthurian legends will love this version, a retelling from the point of view of the women behind the throne. Morgaine (more commonly known as Morgan Le Fay) and Gwenhwyfar (a Welsh spelling of Guinevere) struggle for power, using Arthur as a way to score points and promote their respective worldviews. The Mists of Avalon's Camelot politics and intrigue take place at a time when Christianity is taking over the island-nation of Britain; Christianity vs. Faery, and God vs. Goddess are dominant themes.

Young and old alike will enjoy this magical Arthurian reinvention by science fiction and fantasy veteran Marion Zimmer Bradley. --Bonnie Bouman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:33 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Morgan le Fay (Morgaine) has to sacrifice her virginity during fertility rites, the man who impregnates her is her younger brother Arthur, whom she turns against when she thinks he has betrayed the old religion of Avalon.

(summary from another edition)

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