«Author(s): Sarah McColvin Title: The weaver at the loom: A discussion of Guy Gavriel Kay’s use of myth and legend in The Fionavar Tapestry Date: ...»
‘Ares grew jealous and, disguised as a wild boar, rushed at Adonis who was out hunting on Mount Lebanon, and gored him to death before Aphrodite’s eyes.’6 Kevin is not
killed here, but is saved by Dave who has been pre-warned by Flidais: ‘[a]nother wood:
Pendaran. Flidais, the gnomelike creature with his eerie chants. And one of them:
Beware the boar, beware the swan, the salt sea bore her body on’ (p. 213). The boar had intended to kill Kevin and targeted him specifically, and this attack takes place in woods just outside the centre of Dana’s power in Gwen Ystrat, thus making it ‘before [her] eyes’ in one sense. Who sent the boar or where it came from is not explained but there is a suggestion that this attack was arranged in order to prevent Kevin from becoming aware of his status as the reincarnation of Dana’s lost lover Liadon. The allusion to Adonis continues after Kevin/ Liadon’s death when the others find ‘red flowers now blooming amid the snow’ (p. 240) just as ‘[a]nemones sprang from his blood’ after Adonis is killed.7
Graves, The Greek Myths, p. 70.
Graves, The Greek Myths, p. 70.
sustain an injury that could hamper his role as the lover of the goddess. Ironically, Kevin had earlier referred to himself as ‘utterly impotent’ in Fionavar, yet his power is closely tied to his sexual prowess (p. 205). After the boar attack, Kevin seems to go
through a process of transformation as he becomes aware of his role as Liadon:
It seemed to Kevin, then, that he had a vision of his past, of chasing an elusive dream, waking or asleep, down all the nights of his life. The pieces were falling into place. There was a stillness in his soul. […]. It was coming together. The boar. The moon. Midsummer. (p.219) Whilst Kevin remains fundamentally himself, he becomes aware that he is also Liadon, and this awareness is shaped from within rather than Kevin being told who he is or was.
After he is dead Jaelle states that: ‘[Kevin] could not have done this, not have been found worthy, had he not been travelling toward the Goddess all his life’ (p.259).
Therefore Kevin’s decision to offer himself to Dana is shown to be him acting in accordance with his predestined circumstance rather than a declaration of his free will.
This also marks him out as similar to the other characters who all seem to adopt predestined roles on Fionavar; Kimberly has been having prophetic dreams for many years, Jennifer is the alter-ego of Guinevere and accepts this role with no argument, and Paul is aware of his connection to something beyond his realm of understanding from the very beginning of the trilogy when he is the target of ‘a searching’ performed by Loren Silvercloak (ST, p.28). After Kevin experiences the epiphany that he is Liadon, he travels to the centre of the goddess’s power, Dun Maura, a cave which is the very manifestation of a woman’s role as a mother: ‘Kevin parted the ferns and stepped through the bushes into the cave. Immediately it was dark. […]. As he waited, he became aware of how warm it suddenly was’ (p.232). There is no denying that the description of Dun Maura is also a description of the female reproductive organs; with the tunnel as the vagina and the chamber where Kevin/Liadon gives himself to the
pagan, there are aspects of Kevin’s narrative which allude to the Christian myths. As Kevin enters the final chamber he goes down twenty-seven steps and this number, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible means ‘agapẽtos’ which corresponds to ‘beloved’.8 In the mythology of Fionavar Liadon is known as the beloved of Dana. The allusions to Christian myths continue once Kevin has entered the final chamber as he must first pass a gate keeper by answering her question correctly and then give a blood offering in cup which manages to convey both the ancient pagan
power of the Mother Goddess and allude to the Holy Grail:
legends of King Arthur and his search for the Holy Grail, which include these tropes.
The inclusion of one of the best known strands of the Arthurian legends at this point in the narrative, especially when Kevin’s sexual relationship with Jennifer is taken into consideration, demonstrates how these legends have permeated the whole trilogy. Kay’s use of the Arthurian legends will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter but the Christian influence on these works is undeniable: ‘One way to understand the survival of the Arthurian cycle is to see it as the folklore of the elite, reinforcing Christian claims to temporal power […], which gave a moral authority to the aristocracy’.9 The influence of Christian mythology on Kay’s work is clear, though what little critical work has been produced on The Fionavar Tapestry has focussed entirely on the
James Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible applies the number twenty-seven to the word ‘agapẽtos’ within his Greek lexicon of the New Testament, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G27 [accessed 17 September 2013].
Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James, A Short History of Fantasy (London: Middlesex University Press, 2009), p. 10.
influence of Christian mythology can be found most obviously in the figures of The Weaver and Rakoth Maugrim. Maugrim is a god but not of Fionavar. He was not born or created there but instead travelled from beyond the realm depicted in The Fionavar Tapestry: ‘[f]rom out of time he had come, from beyond the Weaver’s Halls, and into the pattern of the Tapestry. A presence in all the worlds he was, but incarnate here in Fionavar, which was the First, the one that mattered’ (p. 383). Therefore Maugrim is not only an alien presence in Fionavar; he is alien to all planets and peoples. This separates him from all mythologies and removes from the field of influence which the Weaver has over the design of the universe. Ergo, Maugrim is marked as other to everything and everybody else: ‘the other is defined as evil precisely because of his/her difference and the possible power to disturb the familiar and the known’.10 Maugrim is the embodiment of evil and all of his actions are defined by this malevolence and this is a departure from the behaviour of gods in myths, where gods could be cruel and vindictive but were rarely wholly evil. This concept of an entirely evil, supernatural presence is suggestive of Christian doctrine; where Maugrim adopts the role of the Devil, particularly as found in the New Testament. However, as Maugrim is not of Fionavar nor, we are given to understand, any other world, this analogy is not entirely accurate as the Devil was created by God as all things are, in Christian mythology. The Weaver of Kay’s texts occupies the role of the Christian God and he maintains the distance exhibited by God in the New Testament by not involving himself in the battle against the Dark. Maugrim is also called ‘Sathain, the Hooded One’ (ST, p. 383) which links him to the idea of both Satan and the serpent who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Jackson, Rosemary, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), p. 53.
also be applied to Maugrim:
(1) he is the personification of evil; (2) he physically attacks or possesses humans; (3) he tempts people to sin in order to destroy them or recruit them in his struggle against God; […] (5) he leads a host of evil spirits, fallen angels, or demons; (6) he has assimilated many evil qualities of ancient destructive nature spirits or ghosts; (7) he will rule this world until the coming of the kingdom of God, and in the meantime will be engaged in constant warfare against Christ; (8) he will be defeated by Christ at the end of the world.11 Throughout the trilogy Maugrim is described as the personification of the Dark and the association between darkness and evil has long been established and Kay utilises this association to full effect. Whilst Maugrim does physically attack Jennifer when she is taken to Starkadh, most of the violence done in Maugrim’s name is committed by one of his servants. Maugrim also has the power to use mental violence against the human, and andain, characters. Jennifer is not only physically raped by him; she is also psychologically raped as Maugrim takes on the appearance of her loved ones whilst attacking her.12 Maugrim tempts Metran and the Dwarves, Kaen and Blöd, to join him by offering them the thing they most desire; which turns out to be the same magical item, The Cauldron of Khath Meigol. The army Maugrim controls, mostly comprised of svart alfar and urgach, is ‘so huge it numb[s] the mind’ (DR, p. 312) and these fantasy creatures are described in terms which could apply to demons or evil spirits. None of the svart alfar and only one urgach, Uathach who is ‘an urgach, but much more than that’ (DR, p. 313), are named individually but the names of their breeds have no associated signification: ‘They are inverted and invented ‘nonsense’ (non-sense) words, indicating nothing but their proper density and excess. The signifier is not secured by
Arvind Sharma, ‘Satan’ in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade, Vol. 4 (New York:
Macmillan, 1987), pp. 81-84, pp. 82-83.
‘Possession’ can be defined as ‘Domination or control of a person by a demon or spirit;’ and as ‘Domination of a person's heart, mind, or soul by a person or other agent.’ Both of these definitions can be applied to what happen to Jennifer in Starkadh.
http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/148352?rskey=6ZYEPQ&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid [accessed 19 September 2013]
signified meaning which is connected to the idea of Maugrim as the Unraveller;
Maugrim is not of Fionavar, or any other world, and therefore his minions are also disconnected from the universe and the ‘non-sense’ names symbolise this. The final two of the characteristics listed above are subverted by Kay but can still be applied.
Maugrim is engaged in war against the force of the Light throughout the trilogy in order for him to gain supremacy in Fionavar; he has not already achieved this. Maugrim is engaged in constant battle against the people of Fionavar through his use of environmental warfare. Therefore his attacks affect not only the virtuous but all people and he does not single out a specific Christ-like figure. Instead of including an easily identifiable figure to adopt the role of saviour this role shifts between characters, such as Paul, Aileron and finally Darien. Darien is able to kill Maugrim because, as his son, he is able to withstand his mental assaults. The fierceness with which Maugrim attacks his son is what pushes Darien towards the Light and Darien is able to find redemption in his final act.
The sixth characteristic ‘he has assimilated many evil qualities of ancient destructive nature spirits or ghosts’ shows that there is a connection between the pagan gods and Christian mythology. Most of the critical work which discusses Kay’s trilogy focusses on his use of Norse and Celtic mythology. This is most likely due to Kay’s admission that he drew his characters from these fields, just as he has acknowledged the influence Tolkien’s works have had on his own.14 Analogies have been drawn between Maugrim and the Norse god Loki but whilst Loki was a trickster god he was not the embodiment of evil. The most obvious allusion to the myths of Loki concerns Maugrim
Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, p. 40.
Kay discusses his inspiration and the influences on The Fionavar Tapestry in his interview with Nancy Pearl, Pearl, Nancy, ‘Book Lust featuring Guy Gavriel Kay’, Book Lust Podcast (3 March 2007).
blasted north, a figure writhed in chains, eaten by hate to madness’ (ST, p.16). One of the Norse myths associated with Loki tells that he was chained in a cave and ‘twists his body so violently that the whole earth shakes, […]. There he will lie bound until Ragnarok’.15 Maugrim was also supposed to remain chained for all time and his release marks what the peoples of Fionavar fear will be the end of the world. Maugrim is connected to Fenris, the mythical wolf who was the child of Loki according to some versions of the myth, through Galadan the andain wolf-lord. It was Galadan who ‘[cut] off, with his own sword, the hand of Maugrim when Ginserat’s chain could not be made to break’ (DR, p. 47). In the Norse myth the gods wanted to chain Fenris and he was only persuaded to put the chain, Gleipnir, on because Tyr placed his hand in Fenris’s mouth as surety; as he tried to free himself he ‘bit off Tyr’s hand’.16 The connection between the wolf and the lost hand cannot be an accident. The concept of Maugrim’s hand dripping poison is also taken from the myth ‘The Death of Balder’ where, after Loki has been chained, ‘Skade took a serpent and fastened up over him, so that the venom should drop from the serpent into his face.’17 Maugrim is not the only character who combines pagan and Christian imagery;