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Character Name Variants: Modred, Medrawd, MedrautBackground Essay Author: Emily Rebekah Huber
Mordred (Modred, Medrawd, or Medraut) has become the quintessential traitorous villain in the Arthurian tradition. According to the majority of texts, he is Arthur's bastard son by his half-sister Morgause, the wife of King Lot. This incestuous begetting, alternately an innocent mistake on the part of both parties, as the French Vulgate portrays it, or a perverted seduction on Morgause's part, as in the film Excalibur, can in part explain why Mordred's character and sense of loyalty is so twisted. However, his reputation has not always been quite so bad.


In Welsh tradition there is no hint that Mordred is a dishonest traitor. The Annales Cambriae records the battle of Camlann, "in which Arthur and Medraut fell" in the year 537, and includes no details describing whether the two fought each other, whether they were related, or what the circumstances of the battle were. In another Welsh text, the Dream of Rhonabwy, we learn that bad blood erupts in an already tense diplomatic relationship between Arthur and his nephew Medrawd because of a messenger, Iddawg, the "Churn of Britain" who is eager for battle. Iddawg delivers Arthur's kind request for peace in the "rudest possible way," and thus causes the war.

In the Historia Regnum Brittonum of 1136, Geoffrey of Monmouth first makes Mordred the traitor causing the downfall of Camelot and the death of Arthur. The villain is as yet Arthur's nephew, the youngest son of King Lot and Anna, King Arthur's half-sister. Interestingly, he fills the adulterous role with Guinevere that Lancelot will eventually play. While Arthur is away fighting the Roman general Lucius, Mordred marries Guinevere and attempts to claim Arthur's


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Byrne, Muriel St. Clare (1895 - December 2, 1983)
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Campbell, Wilfred LL.D. (1858 - January 1, 1918)
Fawcett, Edgar (1847 - 1904)
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Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100-1155)
Giles, J. A. (1808 - 1884)
Hawker, Robert Stephen (c. 1803 - 1875)
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Lupack, Alan (1946 - )
The Death of Arthur [by Layamon] - 1962 (Translator)
The Death of Arthur [by Wace] - 1962 (Editor, Translator)

Newbolt, Henry (1862 - 1938)
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Rhys, Ernest (1859 - 1946)
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