What is The Swithen?
The Swithen is a series of novels that aim to present a super-deluxe retelling of the real Arthurian legend, adding in the psychology, connecting material and character development to convey the scope and majesty of the original legend to contemporary readers.
How does The Swithen differ from most Arthurian fiction?
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. This series also begins with the birth of Merlin, where most tellings begin later, with the birth of Arthur.
What are the rules of The Swithen?
Nothing from the original legends from sources written from 1136 – 1485 can be changed. Scenes and characters can only be enhanced or added. If there are different versions of the same scene or character, the author is then free to choose the one that works best for his telling. For more detail, see Rules of The Swithen.
Are these novels historically accurate?
No. But in that way, they are faithful to the original legends, which are also not historically accurate. The legends take place in the 500s, but were written from 1136 – 1485, and contain numerous anachronisms. For example, in the 500s, people did not have castles made of stone or plate armor, two elements endemic to the Arthurian legends.
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. Additionally, the original sources are difficult for contemporary readers to read and understand. Finally, since epic fantasy is more popular than ever, with the prominence of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, it’s time for readers to get a chance to discover the legends that inspired those works in a version that is understandable and also takes the time necessary to convey the epic scope of the work.
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, Chretien 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 an Old Norse 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.
How many novels are there going to be?
A total of 25 novels are planned in order to tell the full legend in all of the depth, scope and majesty that it deserves. Even so, certain subplots, such as the entire story of Tristram, will be left out. I have a spreadsheet detailing what will happen in each novel, when everyone is born and when they die, and numerous other details, so you can know that the elements placed in the first books are there for a reason, and will pay off five, ten or twenty novels down the line. One main difference between The Swithen series and the majority of other fantasy series is that here, there is no making up the story as we go along.
What works has King Arthur inspired?
Anything with a “chosen one,” a legendary weapon, an orphan hero, and grand quests is directly inspired by King Arthur. Anything 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 a name invented for her. In the actual legend, after Merlin leaves her at age seven (portrayed here at the beginning of Book 2), 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 qualities we love about them.
Will we see Meylinde again?
Yes. I had initially thought to emphasize the brutality of the tales by following the tales and having her vanish, but after some more research, was able to come across a way that she can remain in the story while still remaining true to the original sources. After all the suffering we go through with her, and the way she has become close to so many readers’ hearts after this first novel, it was simply too cruel to toss her aside as she is in the original tales.
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. You can read an expanded explanation of what is from the legend and what is new in Legend to Novel: Our Man on Earth.
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.