While Mordred is the only child of King Arthur most people remember, in the Arthurian legend’s earliest versions, Mordred was only Arthur’s nephew, and some traditions suggest he was not even related to Arthur but a rival king. By contrast, ancient Welsh traditions provide King Arthur with three sons: Gwydre, Llacheu, and Amr, and the latter may be the earliest version of Mordred. While the Welsh legends state these sons all died before Arthur, other medieval traditions suggest Arthur’s descendants outlived him.
A significant portion of "King Arthur’s Children" also treats modern novelists’ interpretations of the Arthurian legend—including works by Stephen Lawhead, Elizabeth Wein, and Bernard Cornwell—that provide modern readers with a fresh connecting point to the dream of Camelot. Dr. Tichelaar’s striking conclusions about all these treatments of King Arthur’s children and descendants makes for fascinating reading about the psychological impact King Arthur still has upon the human imagination.
King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition
Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D.
Modern History Press (2011)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (2/11)
There are probably very few of us who have not read at least some of the stories and legends featuring King Arthur, and marveled about the ideals of Camelot, which could easily be described as an utopian sort of early democracy. The round table, around which the knights could be seated in such a way that they were all equal, the romanticism, the idealism and magic of the Arthurian legends are rather timeless and very familiar to us. But just like with any other story about somebody who lived so long ago, the details and the truth are rather elusive.
Like so many others I’ve only ever heard of Mordred, Arthur’s son, who tended to be portrayed as villain. Tyler R. Tichelaar changed my perception about that and added several interesting directions to explore. And this was just the beginning of the fascinating tale spun by Tyler R. Tichelaar.
The book is divided into four parts. Part I talks about Arthur’s most plausible other children, the three sons mentioned in the Welsh sources – Gwydre, Amr and Llacheu. Part II is devoted to the mystery of Mordred. Was Mordred Arthur’s son or nephew? Was he a villain or a great king whose crown Arthur tried to usurp? Part III delves into Arthur’s descendants, including the possible link between Arthur and the English royal family and Arthur and the famous clan Campbell. As the author mentioned already in the Introduction, if Arthur indeed had children, and more importantly, if Arthur ever really existed – and who could say that he did not? - quite a few of us could be his descendants. Part IV was, in some ways, the most fascinating to me, talking about possible other children, mentioned in different works during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, as well as the modern fiction featuring Arthur and his children. It was this last part that truly made me realize how very present the Arthurian legends still are, and how relevant they are even in the 21st century.
While this is certainly a scholarly study, the author’s writing style remains accessible to any reader who is curious about the subject of Arthur’s potential children. Even a brief glance at the bibliography at the end of the book tells one about the depth and scope of the research Tyler R. Tichelaar had to perform to write this fresh, fascinating and exciting study. Eight pages of sources should provide even the most curious of readers with lots of additional reading, and the Index decidedly made looking for content of interest much easier when I decided to go back and re-read certain sections. I have thoroughly enjoyed “King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition,” and I recommend it highly to any lover of Arthuriana.