De-Mythifying King Arthur With Linda Windsor

Author Linda Windsor shares a look at her inspirational historical romance series by focusing on two of the characters in her books who play a large role in modern myth, King Arthur and Merlin.

When I began researching ancient Scotland for my Brides of Alba series, I had no idea that my story of the O’Byrne brothers finding their lady loves amidst Dark Age swash and buckle would become intricately woven with the Scottish Arthurian saga and historical traditions that rattled me to the roots of my faith. To my amazement, I first found that "arthur" and "merlin" were titles held by kings and sages/priests from the 4th and 5th centuries. The arthur I chose for this series was the last—the only one who was historically documented and actually bore the name Arthur as well. (It was taboo to call a person of great importance by his/her given name under penalty of death in the 4th and early 5th centuries.)

No wonder there are Arthur place names from Wales to Scotland. There were at least three, if not more, arthurs spanning over a hundred years who lived and fought in all those places. Arthurian expert Nora Lorre Goodrich suggests even Guinevere to be a title, all perhaps associated with the Grail Church. And titles explain the varying personalities of the characters in the later accounts.

Suddenly, the Dark Ages weren’t so dark.

My three Scottish O’Byrne brothers and I became caught up, not only in the well-known Briton/Saxon conflict of the late 6th century, but the lesser known one of Modred’s Druidic Christian Grail Church versus Arthur’s Roman Church. It’s a time of priest against priest, druid against druid, and science—or nature magic—against superstition and the dark arts that culminates in book three, Rebel, with the romance of Alyn O’Byrne and the tragic clash of Arthur and Modred. Neither side is totally right and neither wins.

And oh, the metaphor and nature magic/science that once made Arthurian traditions seem like fairytales, impossible, even silly! Merlin takes off Gawain’s head and then puts it back on? Today we’d call it an attitude adjustment. The magic sword Excalibur? What made it magic was that it never needed polishing and could cut iron swords in half. Scientists today would call it stainless steel. Yes, there were a few Celtic smiths, called magicians, who used metal found in stones that fell from the heavens to make such a weapon.

So what’s the deal with the Grail Church? Well, based on historical traditions from Judah to Egypt to Erin, the descendants of the 6th century BC marriage of King Zedediah’s daughter Tamar to the high king of the Milesian Irish preserved the Davidic royal bloodline after Judah fell. Early British church history tells of the first century British royals intermarrying with the families of Joseph of Arimethea and Jesus’ inner circle of family and friends when they sought refuge in Britain.

I seized on Chadwick’s idea that the hopes of the Grail Church was to produce messiah-like rulers to spread and preserve early Christianity (not to be confused with the Roman Christianity that clashed with it four centuries later.) This holy matchmaking gone wrong is cause of a clan war and a dying mother’s prophesy that will place the eldest O’Byrne of the line of kings into the healing hands of his worst enemy, the fugitive witch Brenna, of Arimathean descent. Love makes the best match.

And that brings me to Thief, in which the middle O’Byrne brother Caden, exiled in shame and wounded in battle, accepts a mission to go into enemy Saxon territory to find a British lady’s long-lost daughter. But the lovely, larcenous Sorcha has been raised as a Saxon and will have no part of him or the rescue…until a murder forces them both to run for their lives. Add to this volatile mix a princess astrologer, a capable dwarf, a scheming witch, an uncommonly handsome and mysterious stranger, and you have an addictive saga of intrigue, treachery, second chances, and the liberating power of love. All this while Modred and Arthur drift further and further apart and the Saxons encroach more and more…

Rebel, book three of the O’Byrne clan is coming June 2012!

- Linda Windsor

Before Rebel hits shelves, you can catch up on the first and second books in the series, Healer and Thiefin stores now!