What is The Swithen?
The Swithen is a series of novels that honors the original tales of King Arthur and the people associated with his court in new tellings, retaining the plots, characters and weirdness of the original tales, but interpreting them for modern readers.
How does The Swithen differ from most Arthurian fiction?
Where the majority of contemporary Arthurian fiction invents new stories, or new characters that take place in the world of the original tales, The Swithen tells the ORIGINAL stories of King Arthur and his associates, set down between the 11th-15th centuries.
Why do these stories need to be retold?
These stories have lasted thousand of years and inspired some of our most popular and enduring pieces of poetry, art, literature and popular entertainment. Yet in the majority of the original stories, the emotions are extremely sparse, the characters are vague and inconsistent, and their motivations murky. This is partly because the stories were conceived separately, with only the slightest effort put toward drawing them all into one, consistent story. One of the aims of The Swithen is to unify the stories into one epic tale with consistent characters.
What are the sources of The Swithen?
The Swithen draws on Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur of 1485, the Prose Merlin of approximately 1450, the Prose Lancelot (or Vulgate Cycle) of 1215-1240, Chretin de Troyes Arthurian Romances of 1170-1181, and Geoffery of Monmoth’s History of the Kings of Britain, written in 1136.
What is a “Swithen?”
“Swithen” is a Middle English word that means “burning,” and is an agricultural term that refers to the act of burning a field in order to make it fertile for a new harvest of crops. As to how this concept applies to this series of books, you will find out in book three, and the concept will appear again later in the series.
What works has King Arthur inspired?
Anything with a “chosen one,” a legendary weapon, or largely concerned with warring factions of warriors, kings, queens and wizards or sorcerers, has its roots in King Arthur and his legend. Therefore, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones are just a few of the popular entertainments that have their roots in Arthurian legend.
Is there a Meylinde?
The character of Merlin’s mother is never named in any of the sources, so “Meylinde” is my made-up name for her. After Merlin leaves her at age seven, she is never heard from again! It seems incredibly hard-hearted that, after everything she has been through, she is just tossed aside—and never so much as named!—but these stories are brutal, and that’s one of the things we love about them. Still, it seems quite unfair to poor Meylinde, or whatever her real name may be.
Will we see Meylinde again?
Yes. The original sources do not even name her and she is viciously abandoned by the story after being left by Merlin at age seven—evidence of how many women are treated in these historical legends. I had thought to emphasize the brutality of the tales by making a note in the next novel that she is never mentioned again—or even named—but then I came across a way that we can visit her again, and see how she turned out, while still remaining true to material in the sources. After going through the whole first novel about her, and getting to know her so well, it seemed heartless to just toss her aside and never revisit her again.
What were the sources used for this novel?
Geoffery of Monmouth’s version has Merlin’s mother visited many times by the demon, and is compelling, but says nothing of the trial. I didn’t use that version except for reference. The Lancelot-Grail (approx. 1225 AD) tells a longer version of the story that is still only 20 pages, and the Prose Merlin (approx. 1450 AD) is 442 lines.
What did you change from the original story?
As mentioned, Merlin’s mother is never given a name in the sources and she vanishes entirely once he leaves. The family is never named, and only the Maven character has any dialogue of note, so all family members are vastly expanded from the sources. The midwives are not given names and only a few lines of dialogue, so their characters are greatly expanded. The judge is not named and the only thing we know about him is that he learns news of his father, and then his judgment, so his character is greatly enhanced.
It’s so Christian! Is the rest of the series going to be this way?
As for the entire series, not just this novel, one of my goals is to unify the material even further than it has been, and a huge, indispensible part of the series (the Holy Grail) could not possibly be more Christian. I am not Christian (nor am I against Christianity), and the novels are not intended to promote any religion or belief.
As for this novel, however, it begins in hell, is set in motion by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and God is an active character. And Christianity is one thing that unifies the entire story, from beginning to end. But it is a very different, centuries old, weird and mystical Christianity, one that had some very brutal practices, extremely harsh judgments, and wild psychedelic visions.
The source material is extremely bare-bones on character and emotion, and what fascinates me is to imagine what it is like for these people, who are ordinary people (or extraordinary people) forced into truly monumental events and forces beyond their control, because those forces are metaphysical and incomprehensible. Like in Greek myths, these people truly are at the mercy of a realm of Gods—and these Gods just happen to be Christian. There’s just no getting around it.
That said, while Christianity will be ever-present and ever-respected, the majority of the novels will have it as more of a constant background force.