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Morgan le Fay

Morgan le Fay

Character Name Variants: Morgana, Morgen, Famurgan, Morgan la FeyBackground Essay Author: Leila K. Norako
Like many characters in the Arthurian legends, Morgan le Fay has been consistently transformed and interpreted by authors and artists for nearly a millennium. Her character and her narrative significance have varied widely from text to text, and while no easy description of these changes can be made, some general trends and developments can nevertheless be observed.

Celtic Origins

Morgan le Fay likely originated in Celtic mythology (Welsh in particular).  Because the Morgan of medieval romance and legend is often presented as the wife of King Urien and the mother of Yvain, some have linked her to the the Welsh goddess Modron, who is described in the Welsh Triads as the daughter of Avallack, wife of Urian of Reghed, and mother of Owain. Scholars such as Norris Lacy and Lucy Allen Paton assert that these connections all but prove that she is descended from the Welsh Modron, and that her name may also have come from the folklore of Brittany (where certain fairy-sprites are referred to as "mari-morgans"). Another popular theory on Morgan's Celtic origins is that she is based upon the Irish battle-goddess Morrigan. There is, however, little textual evidence to support this theory, though the similarity of the names and Morgan's unpredictable (and often inimical) behavior in the later medieval tradition are vaguely correlative to the depiction of the Morrigan.  In sum, it is possible that Morgan le Fay originated out of some type of Celtic goddess figure, and that such a tradition can be found, at least in glimmers, even into the fourteenth century Gawain-poet’s work (who refers to her as a "goddes" in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight); however, the specific goddess (or goddesses) from which the character...

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