The Women Behind King Arthur
The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is not only an example of a Medieval Romance, but also tells the story of the women who stood behind King Arthur during his infamous reign in the Middle Ages. This novel explains the reasoning and decisions that Arthur made in the women's perspective. The Mists of Avalon is a twist on the Arthurian tales as told by the four women instrumental to the story: Gwenhwyfar, his wife; Igraine, his mother; Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, High Priestess of Avalon; and his sister and lover, heiress to Avalon, Morgaine. The story is told by each, as they saw it happen. The struggle between Christianity and the religion of Avalon is a central part of the story, and Arthur's loyalty to and betrayal of Avalon another part.
In this novel, the legend of King Arthur is for the first time told through the lives, the visions, and the perceptions of the women central to it.
The Arthurian world of Avalon and Camelot with all its passions and adventures is revealed as it might have been experienced by its heroines: by Queen Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's wife; by Igraine, his mother; by Viviane, the majestic Lady of the Lake, High Priestess of Avalon; and, most important, by Arthur's sister, Morgaine, who has come down to us as Morgaine of the Fairies, a sorceress who, in this epic retelling of the story, plays a crucial role both in Arthur's crowning and destruction. Above all it is a story of profound conflict between Christianity and the old religion of Avalon.
The term "Medieval Romance" does not necessarily mean that the piece using it contains any sort of "romance." Most Medieval Romance pieces told the tales differently from those of the realistic novel.