Evaporating the "Mists"
by L.A. Solinas
Page 1 of 2
When I mention the words "Mists of Avalon" to many women, something strange
The eyes glaze over, the mouth falls open, and a stream of jargon falls from
the lips: "goddess within," "magical," "feminine divine," "changed my life,"
"feminine energies," and so forth.
I find it kind of alarming, actually. All right, I exaggerate, but the sway
that this historical romance holds over many women is almost eerie. It has
topped the list of Arthurian bestsellers, produced three sequels/prequels, and
spawned a line of teeth-grinding ripoffs like "Guinevere: Queen of the Summer
Country" and "Merlin's Harp." But does "Mists" deserve the adulation that it
gains, from the media and many readers?
Looking at the reviews for this novel, one would expect a true classic,
something that reaches beyond the bounds of gender, race, religion, and wealth.
But when seen with an impartial eye, it appears to simply be an 850-page
historical romance, with some highly inaccurate religious clashes and history
lessons thrown in. But the religion and culture are inaccurately portrayed, to
degree that often made me shudder.
The Celtic mythos is one of the most intriguing and interesting in the
but from the author's own admission, she did not investigate it. The Celtic
faith is given the appearance of modern Wiccan beliefs. Therein lies one of the
basic problems: the entire book is riddled with constant references to
goddess-worship and its importance to the natives of Britain.
The problem is that while the Celts had a mother goddess (Dana/Danu) they
also had a pantheon of other gods who were honored and worshiped, and most of
them were more interesting and active than the mother goddess (I confess a mild
crush on Aengus Og). Perhaps the most alarming detail is people have actually
changed their religion, believing that this book chronicles the ancient Druids
as they actually were.
The Celts themselves are misrepresented. Morgaine and the other pagan women
are strong, intelligent priestesses; the men are submissive bards, and all is
peaceful and tolerant. Sorry to burst the bubble: the Celts knew how to fight,
even the bards. My distant ancestors actually had their clan lands taken away
for being too violent towards their neighbors.
But it IS fiction, many argue. But even then, is it GOOD fiction?
Recently I sat down in a bookstore and flipped through this weighty volume.
found many, many pages of sex (both ritualized and spur-of-the-moment), rape,
incest, a lot of preaching from Morgaine and Viviane, and a constant flurry of
emotional hand-wringing that would shame many daytime soaps. In short, I found
very heavy romance novel.
A woman nearby spotted me. "Oh, I love that book!" she exclaimed. "Did you
see the miniseres? What do you think of it?"
I put it back on the shelf. "Seems like a big romance novel to me."
She frowned immediately. "You need to regain your feminine side. Then you'll
I was startled by that. I hadn't known that I'd lost my feminine side.
it would have called me and asked to be picked up? The implications seemed to
that women who are in touch with their "feminine side" would see worth in
Which brings me to the main reason why I do not believe that Mists of Avalon
is a classic. A classic should be a book that has the potential to speak to
everyone, regardless of their race, gender, and religion. "Little Women" is not
just for middle-class Caucasian Protestant women. Nor is "The Brother
a work only for Russian males who want to kill their fathers. Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 L.A. Solinas, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.