In “The Mists of Avalon”, Morgaine (more commonly today known as Morgan Le Fay) is struggling to save the Pagan culture in a country that is being swallowed by the developing Christian religion. She finds herself in the center of a huge sociopolitical struggle which takes over her whole life.
Her impossibly difficult goals leave her torn between her loved ones and her responsibilities. These troubles start when she is taken as a child from her home to train as a priestess and continue through her old age. During her life, she watches Ulther Pendragon come into power. After Ulther’s death, Arthur becomes the new King. With the support of his half-sister, Morgaine, who was one of the priestesses of Avalon as well as Viviane, the High Priestess, he is able to prevent the invasion of the Saxons.
Unfortunately, his wife’s fundamentalist Christianity leads her to believe that they are being punished with infertility for her emotional infidelity and Arthur’s acceptance of a continued Pagan presence in their country. She pressures Arthur until he makes choices that cause problems with Avalon’s priestesses.
Morgaine eventually returns to her home to accept the role of High Priestess. In the end, despite Morgaine’s everlasting love for her Pagan faith, she comes to terms with Christianity and accepts that her Goddess is still with them in the form of the Virgin Mary.The story of King Arthur is well-known, though most of us have been exposed to it via one of many retellings, rather than the classic Arthurian legend.
For example, my children love the Magic Treehouse series, whose basic premise includes references to it. However, short of some college students, not many of us have read it in the original form. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1983 adaptation of the story manages to be remarkably approachable for readers of every educational background.
Unlike the original, Marion Zimmer Bradley writes the story about Morgaine, Gwenhwyfar (usually referred to in modern books as Guinevere), Morgause and Viviane. Arthur and the other knights are involved in the story as supporting roles, rather than the focus. Consequently, more attention is paid to “women’s issues” than to the men’s fighting.
Having read this book in print many times, the only criticism I have of it is the extreme length. There are times that reading a book that long just isn’t practical, especially when listening to them on audio. Here’s where abridged books come in. It’s not a replacement for the original, but to get your feet wet and learn about a new author or to remind you of a beloved favorite, abridged books can be a welcome option.
This version of Mists of Avalon clocks in at an approachable three hours.
Natasha Richardson narrates with her smooth and charismatic voice.