A brilliant professor once told us that desire always lurks at the heart of Arthurian legends. Desire for glory, for love, for kingdoms, for power over one’s own life. While the desires of Arthurian women often led to unflattering depictions (depictions that Feminist retellings of the legends strive to rehabilitate or explain with a backstory), they also make them some of the legends’ most compelling characters. This is particularly true when magic is involved! With this in mind, today we offer a discussion of our top five most magical women of Arthuriana.
Each morning the sun rolls across the sky. In Estonia it was the hatched egg of the enchanted swallow bird, an emu’s egg bursting into flames in Australia, and a golden piece of bacon for the Nama people of South Africa. In the evening, it descends into the sea, as a bridegroom or warrior, golden rays transformed into spears or robes of light, hissing with heat as the waters close over it, before swimming back to the east. Sometimes in gloom-shrouded nights, we may imagine it will never return and we will be plunged into unyielding darkness, but still it rises and always will, at least for the next five billion years or so!
The story of William of Cloudesly is found in a 16th century ballad, Adam Bell, Clym of the Cloughe and Wyllyam of Cloudeslee, but may be older. It was included in the influential 19th century collection, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, as ballad 116, by Francis James Child. Although it is a male dominated, rip-roaring, all action story, three women play a significant part, emerging at points to influence events. Presented here is a short retelling followed by a brief discussion on the influence of the three females on the story.
Wild Edric was an Anglo-Saxon earl from Shropshire who was also known as Eadric Salvage, Eadric Silvaticus and Eadric the Wild. Tradition says he was a great huntsman, hunting areas of the Forest of Clun, Stiperstones and the Long Mynd. Although he was a real person many myths and legends became attached to him.
King Leir and his youngest daughter, Queen Cordelia, were legendary rulers of the the Britons. Their story appeared in History of the Kings of Britain, (Historia regum Britanniae) by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th century and presented here is a retelling of that story.