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316 pages, Hardcover
First published January 1, 2010
What substitutes for psychology in Tolkien and his followers, and keeps the stories from seeming barrenly external, is what preceded psychology in epic literature: an overwhelming sense of history and, with it, a sense of loss. The constant evocation of lost or fading glory—Númenor has fallen, the elves are leaving Middle-earth—does the emotional work that mixed-up minds do in realist fiction. We know that Westernesse is lost even before we know what the hell Westernesse was, and our feeling for its loss lends dimension to those who have lost it.
...Uther fell in love with Gorlois's wife, the lovely Igrayne, and there was a battle between them, until Gorlois fell, and Uther married his widow.
He visited her first in the haunted castle of Tintagel, the dark castle by the Cornish sea, and Merlin the enchanter watched over their love. One child was born to Uther and Igrayne - but what became of that baby boy only the wise Arthur could have told, for he carried it away by a secret path down the cliff side in the dead of night, and no word was spoken of its fate.
The Queen Igraine waxed daily greater and greater, so it befell after within half a year, as King Uther lay by his uqeen, he asked her, by the faith she owed to him, whose was the child within her body; then she was sore abashed to give the answer. Dismay you not, said the king, but tell me the truth, and I shall love you the better, by the faith of my body. Sir, said she, I shall tell you the truth. The same night that my lord was dead, the hour of his death, as his knights record, there came to my castle of Tintagil a man like my lord in speech and in countenance, and two knights with him in likeness to his two knights Brastias and Jordans, and so I went unto bed with him as I ought to do with my lord, and the same night, as I shall answer unto God, this child was begotten upon me. That is the truth, said the king, as ye say; for it was I myself that came in the likeness, and therefore dismay you not, for I am the father of the child; and there he told her all the cause, how it was by Merlin's counsel. Then the queen made great joy when she knew who was the father of her child.
Day by day Igraine grew greater with child. Uther lay with her one night and asked her, on the faith she owed to him, whose offspring it was. She was too ashamed to answer. 'Do not be dismayed,' he told her. 'Tell me the truth, I shall love you all the more for your honesty.'
'I will speak the truth to you, my lord. On the night that my husband died a stranger came to Tintagel in his shape; he had the same speech, and the same countenance,as the duke. There were two companions with him, who I thought to be Sir Brastias and Sir Jordans. So I was deceived. I did my duty, and lay beside him in our bed. I swear to God that, on that same night, this child was conceived.'
'I know, sweet wife, that you are speaking the truth. It was I who came to the castle. I entered your bed. I am the father of this child.' Then he told her of the magic of Merlin, and she marvelled at it. But she was overjoyed, too, that Uther Pendragon was the sire of her offspring.
"So when our Grandfather and Granny were winning the sieges, and it looked as if King Uther would be utterly defeated, there came along a wicked magician called Merlyn --"
"A nigromancer," said Gareth.
"And this nigromancer, would you believe it, by means of his infernal arts, succeeded in putting the treacherous Uther Pendragon inside our Granny's Castle. Granda immediately made a sortie out of Terrabil, but he was slain in the battle --"
"And the poor Countess of Cornwall --"
"The chaste and beautiful Igraine --"
"Our Granny --"
"-- was captured prisoner by the blackhearted, southron, faithless King of the Dragon and then, in spite of it that she had three beautiful daughters already whatever --"
"The lovely Cornwall Sisters."
"And if she had these lovely daughters, she was forced into marrying the King of England - the man who had slain her husband!"
They considered the enormous English wickedness in silence, overwhelmed by its denouement. It was their mother's favourite story, on the rare occasions when she troubled to tell them one, and they had learned it by heart.
"The chaste and beautiful Countess of Cornwall," resumed Gawaine, "spurned the advances of King Uther Pendragon, and she told our Grandfather about it. She said: 'I suppose we were sent for you that I should be dishonoured. Wherefore, husband, I counsel you that we depart from hence suddenly, that we may ride all night to our own castle."