ARTHURIAN DREAMING by John Matthews
|The Sword of Ice and Fire, book one of the Red Dragon Rising sequence|
More years ago than I care to remember, I read T.H. White’s wonderful quartet of novels published under the collective title of The Once and Future King. I fell in love at once with the subject of the books – the saga of Arthur, that wonderful ragbag of myth, history, and folklore. By the time I finished White’s book I knew that this was a subject I wanted to write about, and I went in search of every book I could find. What I didn’t realise at the time was that they were actually thousands of books on the subject. It just happened that my local library had a specialist collection of folklore, and that there was almost a whole bay devoted to the Arthurian legends. So I started reading. I knew right away that what I really wanted to write was a novel, but as things fell out, the first book I published was about the history of the Grail legends. After that, one thing led to another, and I fell into a pattern of work that resulted, over the next 40 years, with more than a 100 books, many of them about the Arthurian and Grail legends, as well as folk lore, the history of pirates, shamanism, and Celtic myth.
But I never forgot my desire to write a novel about Arthur and over the years I kept making notes and writing scraps and occasional chapters that I knew would one-day form part of what was going to be very large book. But somehow, as is often the way in the writer’s life, I never seemed to have the time to settle down to writing that particular book. Then, a few years ago, I began to make notes for a smaller book, about Arthur’s childhood. I remember wondering what it would be like to be educated by Merlin, to not know who your parents were and what your future might hold. So I started writing, quickly realizing that this was not one book, but four - each one devoted to the young Arthur’s search four sacred objects, known as the Hallows, which contain the essence of the land over which he would one day rule.
I began with Avalon, in the mysterious castle where Arthur spent his first years, watched over by the Nine, otherworldly women who are guardians of the world byond. As Arthur grows up and begins to explore the place where he lives, he learns that he is an orphan, and from the lips of the great wizard Merlin that he is the son of a King. From here on his world expands. He meets the mysterious knight Sir Bercilak, who teaches him how to fight and of course the Wizard Merlin, who teaches him about magic. Other encounters include a strange creature known as the Questing Beast, some extraordinary beings, half-man half-creature, known as the Eldest. And at the centre of this world is an ageless boy named Mabon, a golden youth who might just possibly be a god.
From here on Arthur’s adventures include an encounter with a terrifying adversary with an army of fearsome monsters. And now at last he begins to learn something about his future, and about the momentous tasks that lie before him to gather the four sacred Hallows before his enemies can do so.
The sequence as a whole is called Red Dragon Rising, and the first volume is The Sword of Ice and Fire. The Red Dragon is the ancient power of the land over which Arthur will one day rule. His journey will be long, and fraught with terror, sorrow, and love. He has much to learn, and much to experience as she grows towards the time when he will become the Once and Future King.
Given my busy schedule this took longer than I expected it to, but it was completed in 2017, and will finally see the light of day from Greystones Press in April of this year. Even after nearly 40 years and over 100 books, I still felt a thrill when I received the first copies of the book. Even though it’s not the big novel, it is a gateway into the world that I have lived in for more than half my life. I’m now working on the second of the four volumes, after which, at long last, I hope to start pulling together all the threads and fragments of the big book, set in the great mysterious forest of Broceliande, in Brittany, where according to local folklore Merlin and the Lady of the Lake still dwell.
|The Forest of Broceliande|
The Sword of Ice and Fire is published by The Greystones Press on the 14th April 2018, in paperback and priced at £8.99. A Kindle version can be preordered from the 15th January, with an ePub edition to come. See www.hallowquest.org.uk for more details about the novel sequence.
Volume 2 of the sequence, The Cauldron of Light and Dark, will follow in 2019, with The Spear of Earth and Air and The Chessboard of the Land to come in due course.
John Matthews is the author of many Arthurian titles including the recent Arthurian Magic. See www.hallowquest.org.uk for details of his books, courses and events.