Good day to you, Champions! Today I wanted to talk about why I ended King Arthurs the way I did.
As I mentioned previously, I knew how I was going to close out Britt’s story even before I started writing the first book. The reason for that is very specific: At its heart, the legends of King Arthur are tragedies. I’m sure this has you going “whaaat?” but it’s true.
King Arthur and his knights start out really well. Knights like Gawain, Percival, and Lancelot right wrongs and save dozens of people. As Arthur and the knights grow older, younger generations of knights step forward and also act honorably. Annnd then they start dropping like flies.
It begins with the occasional knight dying while questing, all so other knights have an excuse to set out and avenge him. But the death toll reaches a new height when Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere is discovered. Lancelot flees, but Guinevere is to be killed for her transgression. (In most versions of the story, Arthur’s hands are tied in the matter–he doesn’t really want to kill Guinevere, but the law demands it.) Lancelot returns to Camelot to free her, and in the process kills a large number of knights–most notably Gawain’s little brothers.
This action deeply wounds and angers Gawain, who then convinces Arthur to attack Lancelot and declare war. Even more famous knights die in the battle between Arthur and Lancelot. Gawain himself is grievously wounded. Eventually Lancelot and Arthur make peace, with Arthur taking Guinevere and sending her home.
Back in Camelot, Mordred holds a coup, and crowns himself king. (In many versions, he marries Guinevere to solidify his claim.) Arthur learns about this and rides back to face Mordred in battle. Many knights fall in the fight against Mordred–one of them being Gawain. Arthur and Mordred face off, and though Arthur slays Mordred, Mordred fatally wounds Arthur. Bedivere is the only knight who is still alive (though some legends have additional knights as well) and it is he who throws Excalibur into the water, summoning faerie ladies who then carry Arthur off to Avalon in hopes of healing from his wounds. Traditionally, it is said that if Arthur does not return he has passed away, but some of the more modern interpretations of the legends claim he’s still mending from his wounds and will return when he is well.
So. The most notable knights who actually survive are Bedivere and Lancelot. And the fun doesn’t end there. Guinevere becomes a nun, and Lancelot a hermit. After Arthur dies, Guinevere realizes what her affair with Lancelot caused, and refuses to see him even on her deathbed.
Super happy and joyous, right?
The tragic ending to King Arthur made my take on the legends particularly difficult. I really enjoy putting content from the original legends in my books, but I am also 100% committed to having a happy ending, so how was I going to pull it off? First of all, instead of shattering the kingdom for a humongous battle, I decided to bind it together for an equally humongous battle. Instead of using Lancelot as the enemy, I chose Emperor Lucius–who Arthur and his knights did fight and defeat in many different legends and stories. I knew I needed to have Britt grievously wounded, but what next? And so came the idea of sending Britt back to her time in the same way Arthur is supposed to be taken from Britain–by throwing Excalibur into the water and having magical ladies send her off.
I still include Lancelot’s treachery as he is partially responsible for Britt’s wound, and hinted at Guinevere’s maturing character in the last few scenes she appears in.
The story of Merlin and the knights being sealed in the cave actually has its origins in legends, too. In the original stories, Merlin fell hook line and sinker for Vivian–who was not a Roman spy, but was a black magic user. Vivian in turn sealed Merlin into either a tree, stone, or in some stories a tomb, where he would essentially be stuck forever. Sending a group forward in time also let me wipe away all of those knights’ deaths. (They disappeared suddenly as if they were dead, but in my version they were trying to rejoin their King.)
And that is how I made a happy ending out of a tragedy. The sad thing is that while I manipulated events and the timeline, the major thing I changed was characters’ attitudes. (It really shows that the way you chose to react to something will have huge consequences.) With what she thought was her dying breath, Britt forgave Lancelot and changed Camelot’s future. If she hadn’t, Britain really would have been torn apart by war as her knights would have done everything in their power to see Lancelot and his lands destroyed. In doing so, Britt teaches her knights the most powerful lesson of all: the healing power of forgiveness over the all-consuming darkness of hatred, which is the same final lesson of the original King Arthur.
Thanks for reading, Champions! Have a lovely day!