The Mists of Avalon
by Marion Zimmer Bradley
There is Morgaine, an intense women gifted with the Sight, who has sworn to keep the old religion alive against the growing tide of Christianity that threatens her way of life--even if it means fighting a deadly battle against her beloved brother. And the devout Gwenhwyfar, married to Arthur out of a sense of duty, determined to bring Britain into the light of her God.
From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar live again as the great Arthurian epic unfolds around them. As the two women struggle for control over the fate of Arthur's kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds--and old and new religions--claims its most famous victim.
THE MISTS OF AVALON is a rich, masterful, and spellbinding modern classic in which myth and magic, power and spirituality, struggle and triumph illuminate the legend anew.
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1. The Mists of Avalon revolves around a number of dualities: male/female, Christianity/druidism, duty/desire. How are these dualities represented in the book? Can you think of others that were presented?
2. How does the book strive to challenge common stereotypes? How does it reinforce them?
3. Is Gwenhwyfar a sympathetic character? In your opinion, does Marion Zimmer Bradley treat physical beauty in a positive, negative, or neutral manner? Explain.
4. How responsible is Arthur for allowing the spread of Christianity and ultimate disappearance of Avalon? Was he simply being an honorable husband to Gwenhwyfar? Did you find the Arthur, Lancelet, Gwenhwyfar tryst disturbing? Although Arthur was an indisputably potent leader, can he, in the end, be deemed an effective one?
5. It seemed in several instances that Morgaine disappeared when she was most needed. Was she ultimately successful in representing the Goddess? Would you say that she was a victim to her fate or that she ultimately rose to meet it? What parallels can you draw between Morgaine's life and Igraine's? Between Morgaine and Viviane?
6. The Merlin seems to play an ambiguous role in the story. Do you agree with this statement? In your opinion, was he motivated more by his faith, or by pride and ambition?
7. Throughout history, did the spread of Christianity really lead to a diminishing of tolerance? Does the Goddess have a place in today's world? Do you think that Christianity ever held woman as the principal of evil?
8. What symbolism, if any, would you apply to the dragon slain by Lancelet? What is the symbolism behind Excalibur? The Grail? The Holy Thorn?
9. At the end of Mists, did you feel that the Goddess had truly been absorbed into Christianity?
10. How has Mists changed your perception or understanding of the Arthurian legend? How has it changed your perception of women's roles in the making (and telling) of history?
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"[A] monumental re-imagining of the Arthurian legends... Reading it is a deeply moving and at times uncanny experience...An impressive achievement."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Gripping...Superbly realized...A worthy addition to almost a thousand years of Arthurian tradition."
--The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"THE MISTS OF AVALON is a beautiful book. The characters are alive, multidimensional; I really care about them."
"I loved this book so much I went out and bought it for a friend, and have told many people about it. why did no one ever think before to tell the story of King Arthur from the perspective of the women!"
"Completely compelling! The best retelling of the Arthurian Saga I have ever read."