Thursday, 16 June 2011

Circle of Legends

The Muse has been trotting up the Wye Valley along the border of England and Wales. It’s the kind of place you might meet a unicorn in the woods on a misty morning, so it was no surprise to discover King Arthur Pendragon huddled in conference around a standing stone with King Offa, King Tewdrig, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Eleanor of Provence and the fish-tailed water sprite Hafren.

A rather strange mix of characters, you might think, until you realise they are all local heroes and heroines. Offa was a Saxon chief who built the famous Offa’s Dyke to mark the frontier of his kingdom and keep out the Welsh, and King Tewdrig was a 6th century Welsh chieftain who may have been the grandfather of the real King Arthur. Eleanor married Henry III and influenced local architecture with her French style, while Geoffrey of nearby Monmouth wrote many fantastic stories including one about Hafren, a local girl who was drowned in the river and became a water goddess, giving her name to the River Severn.

All six characters are life-sized wood carvings (five made from oak and one from sweet chestnut), created by sculptors Neil Gow and John Hobbs in 2003. Known as the Circle of Legends, they stand under the trees near the old Tintern station, hidden from the road, with the river flowing past them as it would have done when they walked the land.

What do you think they are talking about? Is Offa making a peace treaty with King Tewdrig? Has Arthur Pendragon just pulled Excalibur out of that stone? Could Eleanor be having a secret love affair with one of our heroes? How long can Hafren stay out of the water before she has to return? What story is Geoffrey writing? (Something about time travel, perhaps?)

The interesting thing about this Circle of Legends is the mixture of legendary and real historical characters, which is the kind of mix you’ll find in Katherine’s books. Some books set in modern times use the same idea – for example, a vampire or werewolf interacting with human characters.

Anyone can create a fantasy Circle of Legends, bringing together characters from myth and legend with real characters to spark off a story.

The Muse’s ideal Circle of Legends would be:
Arthur Pendragon
Queen Boudicca
A unicorn (naturally!)
The Faerie Queen
A red Welsh dragon

Who (or what) would be in your Circle?


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