Daily Archives: June 23, 2015

In which Mordred is really not a bad guy….


In case there is anyone left who has missed the memo: I prefer villains and anti-heroes to straight-cut heroes. I’ve always found them so much more interesting, even if they sometimes are saddled with a “just because” motivation. And that is way it’s always bugged me that Mordred is evil just because he is. Sure, we needed a formidable enough enemy for Mr I-Kill-Giants-In-My-Free-Time but surely there had to be more in the story. I may love medieval literature but it cannot be denied that when it comes to complex motives and conflicting loyalties, well, unless it’s a love story, they kind of are ignored in favour of a more standardised Good vs. Evil plot.


tumblr_mbik3r0mUP1qbq8v8 And then I read the Alliterative Morte Arthure. And suddenly this guyis not the root of all evil. If anything,  when Arthur makes him Regent he respectfully declines. Truly the sign of a power-hungry usurper. It’s a  small thing, but Mordred has a surprisingly small number of lined dedicated to him and his sub-plot. What  is more, he expresses genuine regret towards the death of his brother, without the melodramatics that  Arthur deems necessary. Call me insensitive, but if you’re in the middle of a civil war and practically a  sitting duck, then you’ll refrain from ad-libbing a eulogy until you are safely on the throne again. Geez, no  wonder Guinevere couldn’t stand the guy!


Also, might I point out that in every account of the Morte Artu episode I have come across (that was composed before the 1900s), Mordred is crowned king by popular demand?  To paraphrase a line from the text itself, the people preferred him to Arthur because with him they had peace and prosperity but with his father they only had wars. And wars might be all well and good when you have 60kg of armour protecting you, but not when your only weapon is a sharp stick because you couldn’t afford anything else. Also, considering that “the people” are the ones making sure the nobles have food on their tables, I think Mordred had appealed to the right demographic.


Whether you choose to follow the Morte Arthure as cannon or pick another strand of the tradition, the point remains. All versions of the episode agree that Mordred was trusted by both Arthur and the court, hence the regency. I just think there must be something more to the story, something that was brushed aside in order to draw clearer moral lines.