Today, Passages to the Past is pleased to welcome Rachael Pruitt, who is currently touring virtually her novel, The Dragon's Harp, the first book in her Arthurian historical fantasy series.
To follow her virtual tour and check out the reviews, guest posts and interviews please see the tour schedule HERE.
Thanks to Rachael I also have one eBook copy of The Dragon's Harp to give away to a lucky reader!
And now, please enjoy this guest post from Rachael Pruitt...
Goddesses, Queens, & Mermaids: Women of the Arthurian Legend
When Geoffrey of Monmouth first popularized the Arthurian legends in the early 12th century, he started an unfortunate precedent regarding the women of Camelot. Once regal queens became faithless sluts, powerful goddesses became demonic, and once multi-faceted and mysterious princesses became cardboard cut-outs, sighing their lives away when not being rescued from dragons.
If you dig a little deeper into the mythological origins of the famous females that populate Arthur’s fabled kingdom, you will find a very different story. The Gwenhwyfar that inhabits the pages of my novel Dragon’s Harp is based on careful research into both the mythology and history of 5th century Britain—a time when women did not have the luxury of prancing about on endless picnics or sighing boring afternoons away, waiting for knights to kidnap them.
Since the 5th century is the most likely time a historical Arthur would have lived, it’s interesting to compare women of this earlier Celtic culture to the ladies portrayal by medieval troubadours and Victorian poets more than a thousand years later. These early queens and priestesses lived at a time when Goddesses were still worshipped by British tribes. These women too were deeply romantic, only in a different, grittier, and more ancient—less“sanitized”--way.
Nor could Arthurian women’s true origins be totally glossed over, even by pompous Victorians. Where, for example, would Arthur have been without the Lady of the Lake? I doubt that many Victorians knew that this mysterious female guardian of the great sword Excalibur comes from early Celtic tradition. In ancient times it was believed that bodies of water held sacred power and thus a Goddess who lived in a Lake was able to gift a king with his right to rule. Perhaps because she was so enigmatic, later authors left this “Lake Lady” alone, to shimmer her magic for countless generations.
Human queens and priestesses were a different story. Gwenhwyfar herself is a prime example of how powerful women lost ground in the Medieval & Victorian versions of the Arthurian legends. In her case, a powerful queen who gifts Arthur with the very same Round Table that made his reputation, degenerates into a shallow twit whose flirtatious ways led to the destruction of Camelot. A sad progression indeed!
For readers interested in more about Gwenhwyfar’s origins, another little-known fact is that she was often seen as a Queen of the Faeries in early Celtic tradition. One of the earliest forms of her name is the lovely “Guenhuiuar,” meaning “white Fairy” in early Welsh! For anyone interested in further details about Gwenhwyfar’s origins, please do visit my website where I will be posting several books and resources.
One final note about Gwenhwyfar: If you have not yet seen Jo Jayson’s beautiful painting of Gwenhwyfar, please look for it on the cover of Dragon’s Harp. Jo & I can also tell you an amazing story of how we met--a meeting and collaboration that has us both convinced Arthur’s unfairly maligned Queen is very much alive and kicking in our hearts today—and determined to set the record straight. Although the story is a bit too long to tell here, if you are interested, please visit my website blog after March 17th for the “scoop”.
To conclude this look at Camelot’s women: Marion Zimmer Bradley was, perhaps, the first modern novelist to give Arthurian women a voice. Her ground-breaking novel Mists of Avalon, became a best-seller almost overnight because it tapped into the yearnings of women to reclaim the Arthurian legend for themselves. It was an exciting time for women and Bradley’s ability to give the long-maligned Morgana la Faye a sympathetic voice still resonates with readers to this day. I am also a big fan of Persia Woolley’s Guinevere Triology which did the same for Arthur’s tragic queen.
I feel very blessed to be joining the ranks of these novelists who, like me, are determined to give the women of Camelot their true voices back so that new generations of women—and men—can experience the full range of mystery and magic that is only apparent when both men and women are given full-bodied expression.
These early queens and priestesses were powerful, mysterious, and courageous. It is time their once-dismissed and distorted magic is celebrated fully again. May you too be enchanted as you journey into the mysteries of this once and future kingdom!
About The Dragon's Harp
ENTER THE WORLD OF THE DRAGON’S HARP ARTHURIAN HISTORICAL FANTASY FOR THE 21st CENTURY
Before Gwenhwyfar became Queen - before Arthur met Merlin - a tribal Welsh princess met a young Heatherlands Mage. Together, they will create a legend. Inside a mist of beauty and brutality waits the Arthurian legend as you’ve never heard it before. Enter the world of THE DRAGON'S HARP, a realm of blood lust and vengeance, of spellbinding magic from the beginning of time. The realm of Princess Gwenhwyfar: a young girl torn between magic and desire, born with magical powers she can either wield to save her people from destruction - or deny to save her soul. IN AN ERA OF DRAGONS A YOUNG GIRL COMES OF AGE First in a five book series of historical fantasy, Rachael Pruitt’s unique take on a beloved legend reintroduces the mythic characters of Gwenhwyfar, Merlin, and Vortigern against the gritty backdrop of sixth century Wales, where scenes of shape-shifting and heartbreaking romance vie with torture, murder, and battle in a dragon-haunted land. ERA OF DRAGONS: THE LOST TALES OF GWENHWYFAR: BOOK ONE JOURNEY INTO THE WORLD OF THE DRAGON'S HARP YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!
About Rachael Pruitt
Author Biography Rachael Pruitt is a writer, storyteller, and teacher with a lifelong fascination for Celtic mythology and the Arthurian legend. Her Arthurian poetry has been published in "Paradox" magazine (2008 and 2009) and her article “To Dream a Dragon” appeared in the award-winning 2011 writing anthology, MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT. THE DRAGON'S HARP is her first novel, and the first in a projected series of five books following the life of Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere), King Arthur’s famous Queen: ARTHURIAN HISTORICAL FANTASY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY ERA OF DRAGON'S: THE LOST TALES OF GWENHWYFAR
Here's what readers are saying about THE DRAGON'S HARP:
“From the first page I was drawn deep into Pruitt’s beautifully-realized Celtic realm, so vivid I felt as if I’d stepped right into the tale . . . With shades of The Mists of Avalon, the story is a magical blend of Welsh and Arthurian myth. "All the characters are so vividly rendered they soon lay siege to your heart, and you find yourself loving them, rooting for them, terrified for them, and utterly captivated by them." —-Jules Watson, bestselling author of The White Mare Trilogy, The Swan Maiden, and The Raven Queen
"Rachael Pruitt is a gifted storyteller, able to create vivid, three-dimensional characters in prose that is, by turns, lyrical and powerful. Readers who enjoyed the novels of Parke Godwin, Persia Woolley, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Marion Zimmer Bradley will love THE DRAGON'S HARP, in which Gwenhwyfar comes of age; best of all there are four more books to come… —Sharon K. Penman, New York Times Bestselling author of Lionheart, Here Be Dragons, & Time and Chance
“Rachael Pruitt is a natural story teller, and her love of the Guinevere character shines through every page of The Dragon’s Harp. It’s a pleasure to discover her take on this very old story.” —Persia Woolley, author of The Guinevere Trilogy.
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