Hammering in an outlier – Tristan and Iseult
Happy New Year!
The story about Tristan and Iseult appears very late in the evolution of the Arthurian myths, and some experts say that it was only included as a morality tale, to warn Christians about the dangers of straying from the marital bed, as the story is a tragedy.
In fact, there is a lot of extra-marital affairs inside the Arthurian myths and stories. The Mabinogion, one of the earliest sources of Arthurian lore, had wives and husbands entertaining multitudes of lovers, and the sky didn’t fall in on them, although there were a few petty jealous moments which drove a few of the stories. But when the stories in the Mabinogion were first being told, in late Celtic society, taking a lover was not considered a sin. It wasn’t even wicked. In fact, long term lovers could claim legal right to property owned by their married lover.
Women were as free to have affairs as men. Their spouse didn’t have to like this, by the way, and many didn’t (which is why they spark stories in the Mabinogian), but affairs were neither a sin, nor illegal. If a wife had an affair, the husband might presume it was because he had failed her in some way and take it as a warning to straighten himself out. Affairs were not considered a good reason for a marriage to end.
It wasn’t until Christianity arrived in Britain in full force, when the Saxons had been settled for centuries, that the idea of marital fidelity took root.
Lancelot and Guenivere and their love affair was also a very late medieval addition to the romance cycle, and was possibly included for the same reason; as a warning to Christians about the disasters of infidelity — for Guenivere’s sin brought about the doom of Camelot.
I’ve pitched most of my series toward the earlier tales and renditions of Arthurian lore, for they more properly reflect the historical period. There is no plate armor, no knights or “sirs”, no ladies and derring do. No one calls the high king “your majesty” or “sire”.
Instead, there are tribes and clans, as there would have been in the fifth & sixth centuries, and Arthur’s greatest skill was coaxing the tribes to stop fighting each other and fight the Saxons, instead. There are also no castles, but instead hillforts that borrow the best of Roman architecture and technology.
And into this almost-authentic sixth century landscape, I had to fit the medieval story of Tristan and Iseult, just as I could not possibly fail to include Lancelot and Guenivere’s story. That made this book very difficult to properly shape and include in the series.
To begin, I could not make Tristan and Iseult the hero and heroine of the story, as much as I would have liked to, because their romance has a tragic ending–and these books are, at their core, romances. I’ve always had a soft spot for Tristan since the terrible, teeth-grindingly inaccurate King Arthur movie in 2004, which featured Mads Mikkelsen as a wild-souled Tristan.
In fact I used that actor’s appearance as inspiration for my Tristan. Feel free to keep that image in your mind as you read!
I won’t tell you how I fitted everything together, for that would involve spoilers, except to say that when I turned my focus away from Tristan, and found the real romance in this story, it all fell together with clicks and whirs.
The Downfall of Cornwall was released yesterday.
Can Anwen help Sagramore find a way out of the darkness?
Sagramore and Tristan are closer than brothers, sharing wine, women and an affinity for feral, furious fighting. As heir to both the King of the Magyars and the Eastern Roman throne, Sagramore is an outsider who has never been fully accepted by King Arthur’s court, or King Mark’s either.
Calm, composed Anwen Idria, oldest daughter of the King of Strathclyde, is adored by all of Camelot the moment she arrives. She refuses the attention of the passionate, fiery Sagramore, for his wildness and blistering emotions remind her too much of her father, a former slave called Idris the Slayer, who terrifies her.
When Tristan becomes obsessed with his uncle’s new Queen, Iseult, and sinks into a black maw of hate and bitterness, Sagramore must avoid being pulled in with him, for Tristan’s attachment to Iseult, a Princess of Ireland, threatens the peace of Arthur’s Britain. Can Anwen help Sagramore find a way out of the darkness? Or will the shadows which loom over Britain consume them all?
This novel is part of the ancient historical romance series, Once and Future Hearts, set in Britain during the time of King Arthur.
1.0 Born of No Man
2.0 Dragon Kin
3.0 Pendragon Rises
4.0 War Duke of Britain
5.0 High King of Britain
6.0 Battle of Mount Badon
7.0 Abduction of Guenivere
8.0 Downfall of Cornwall
9.0 Vengeance of Arthur
10.0 Grace of Lancelot
11.0 The Grail and Glory
Readers have described Tracy Cooper-Posey as “a superb story teller” and her ancient historical romances as “written art”. Get your copy of Downfall of Cornwall today!