Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Mists of Avalon: Dualism

I started reading Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan today. It's shorter than I expected. It's better than I expected. Paul feels very real to me.

Which means that I finally finished Mists of Avalon. Fantastic book. Lots to think about. With "reader's circle" questions in the back, which I'm looking forward to answering on here. Avoid those if you're planning on reading it and don't want to be spoiled.

Before I get into the first of those questions...let's have a quote. Lyrics, actually.

"Hey Molly, can we go to the dance? 
If you don't want to, then I'll understand.
But if you like me, then won't you come take my hand
And if you'll love me, I'll never play Halo again."

-Mike Lombardo in "Hey Molly" from Songs For A New Day.

That song is amazing. And that last line (I wonder what this says about me) might be the most romantic thing I've ever heard. Maybe it's just that I know a few guys who love their Halo. Maybe it means I haven't heard much romantic stuff. Sometimes you've got to forgo the flowery language and be honest.

"The Mists of Avalon revolves around a number of dualities: male/female, Christianity/Druidism, duty/desire. How were these dualities represented in the book? What others can you think of?"

NOTE: In the answering of this question, when I talk about Christianity, I mean Christianity within the book. Not (necessarily) in general.

Male/female was constantly explored because in the religion of Avalon, sex (well, the bond between lovers) is one of the most powerful of magics, as well as one of the most powerful Mysteries. Plus, everyone in the entire book is pretty much lusting after everyone else.
It's the core of magical realism: the paradox of the union of opposites (according to the dictionary definition). Which means...magical sex, I guess, in this case. Some of the biggest magic Morgaine did was through the power of priest/priestess united. In this case, the male/female duality was very strong- especially when considered that it was alongside the Christianity/Druidism duality.

I liked the C/D duality best. Throughout the book, various characters are constantly saying that "All Gods are one God, all Goddesses are one Goddess." meaning that Christians should be okay with the Druids. Morgaine was constantly fighting against the Christianization of Britain, but in the process became just like those she fought - uncompromising, intolerant, and bigoted. 
Example: Morgaine mocks the priests for claiming they are doing the "will of God" when really they're just doing what they want, but she falls prey to that as well, claiming to do the "will of the Goddess," when really she's just clinging to the religion she holds near and dear.
While I adore the Mysteries of Avalon and their entire thing, I actually agreed with Merlin Kevin (there were two- the traditional Merlin and then he died and Kevin Harper took up the mantle) in that the Holy Druidic Regalia should have been put to use in Christianity. The age of Avalon was over, so why not preserve what remnants of the Mysteries that could be saved?
The entire message of the book (well, the religious message, anyway) was "all religions are one- so be tolerant of each other."

Okay, maybe I liked the duty/desire duality best.

Gwenhwyfar...I mostly despised her. She hated herself for loving Lancelet, but then she'd decide not to care anymore, and then she'd go back to hating herself...
Morgaine initially refused Lancelet because she'd sworn an oath to the Goddess to keep her virginity until the proper time...but everything would have turned out better if she'd ignored her oath. For Avalon, anyway.
Arthur was in love with Morgaine (his sister), but obviously couldn't do anything about that or even acknowledge the son they'd accidentally had together (long story- it was a Mystery rite for Arthur's kingmaking, and neither of them knew it was the other.)
Everyone would have ended up happy if they'd given over to their desire, but because they stuck with duty they accomplished more, whether for better or for worse.
And Morgause...hilarious character. We initially meet her with the description "looks lustfully on anything shaped like a man," and she doesn't change. Over the course of the entire book, she and her lovers were the talk of the court. And her husband was pretty much the same. She eventually turned over to blood sorcery- sacrificing dogs to gain power and plotting against her family in order to get her sons nearer the throne.
She and Nimue were the only ones who got to go with both. And Nimue ended up committing suicide because of it (VERY long story involving more of these famed Mysteries. I love the Mysteries.)

In this case, I think the book was saying "Stick to your duty because it's the right thing to do...but things might turn out better if you act impulsively...but you can't know until afterwards, and too bad for you."

As for other I thought of one earlier today.


  1. You may stop playing Halo for someone you love, but you'll take a sniper shot for someone you Nerdfighterlike.

  2. David Levithan is a genius, Are We there Yet was incredibly good(despite the fact that one of the main character spent basically the entire book smoking pot and hanging out with his girlfriend) and may be one of the scariest books I've ever read. Dash and Lilly's Book Of Dares was also fantastically entertaining.

  3. David Levithan also edited Mockingjay which shows that he has taste.

  4. Not just Mockigjay- the first two as well.


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