Myth in Fantasy

An Honours Thesis by Amy Yeong Xiao Hui, submitted as part of her BA in English Literature at the University of Singapore


Chapter One: The Importance of Structure in Fantasy
Chapter Two: Kay’s Treatment of Archetypes
Structure within the Five
Paul and Kimberly: The Mentor Archetype
Kevin and Jennifer: Subverting the “Blonde Bimbo” Stereotype
Dave: The Anchor
Chapter Three: The Structuring Aspect of Myth in The Fionavar Tapestry
Arthur’s Doom: Fate and Predestination
Freedom, Anarchy and Free Will


This paper sets out to examine how Myth is used in Fantasy through The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. Chapter One attempts to show the importance of structure and framework that Myth can impart to Fantasy. Chapter Two is a study of how mythic archetypes are used and manipulated by Kay in order to show how archetypes need not be absolute. Finally, Chapter Three examines the notion of free will versus predestination in The Fionavar Tapestry, and how deviance from established mythic archetypes allows freedom of choice in a world where characters and events are otherwise fixed and predestined.

Chapter 1: The Importance of Structure in Fantasy

“…Myth…is simply a way of controlling, or ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” (Eliot 177).

Critics such as Northrop Frye and Joseph Campbell agree with Eliot that Myth has a structuring element. For these critics, Myth gives structure to modern literature, and thus to Fantasy. Yet, Fantasy can also be a vehicle for the renewing of Myth, a renewal of literature that Eliot in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” implies is important. In this paper, I shall attempt to show the importance of structure in Fantasy, and how Myth can be renewed in Fantasy through the re-examination of mythic archetypes.

Firstly, I would like to explain why the concept of structure is important in Fantasy. Fantasy is essentially dependant on structure. Madeleine L’Engle gives two examples of the importance of structure, one of them being an episode in A Wrinkle in Time where a character is told that life is like a sonnet, with a strict form; yet one has complete freedom within that structure (Wrinkle 186). This statement is made in a Fantasy text, which gives one an idea of how important the author regards structure, even (or especially) in Fantasy.

To paraphrase Clute and Grant’s definition of Fantasy in their Encyclopedia of Fantasy, Fantasy presents something that is impossible in our world as we see it, but when set in an ‘otherworld’, it becomes possible. This implies a freedom that is not attainable in our own ‘reality’-the author can create anything he fancies, be they races, creatures, abilities, settings, etc. The illusion of being free from the natural laws of our reality (i.e. the presence of magic, supernatural powers, mythical beasts with great powers, etc), and thus, the illusion of absolute freedom, is one of the first impressions that a reader has of the genre as a whole. The possibilities in Fantasy seem endless. However, this is the most important reason why Fantasy needs structure. L’Engle comments that:

It is . . . our structure, which frees us . . . . Without our structure we would be an imprisoned, amorphous blob of flesh . . . . The amoeba has a minimum of structure, but I doubt if it has much fun (Circle 123)

A little-known author of Fantasy has given the following definition of Fantasy:

Fantasy can be defined as fiction which features a logically cohesive but patently impossible method of operating upon reality. Its key features include the fact that it is rule-bound. If there are no rules – if there is no way of making sense of what is happening, and no logical way to predict what might happen next – then we have escaped from fantasy into the world of surrealism. (Hugh Cook)

Although Cook may not have a very high standing in the world of academia, I believe that his definition of Fantasy has a point. While Clute and Grant, in their Encyclopedia of Fantasy, are in agreement with Cook on the point that Fantasy operates on the premise of something that is impossible in the our natural world , Cook is the only author that I have come across so far who defines Fantasy largely by its need for ‘rules’-in other words, structure. The common conception that many readers have when it comes to Fantasy is that it implies absolute freedom – it makes possible the impossible. To some extent, Fantasy does give the reader an impossible world that is now made possible within the pages of the text. For this reason, I find Cook’s definition helpful as it explicitly acknowledges the importance, or rather, the necessity, of structure and order in Fantasy. It stresses the need for a logical framework within the text, for a structure to follow or deviate from. In what is termed as mythic fantasy, this structure is largely the product of the use of mythic structure and archetypes in Fantasy.

In the Fionavar Tapestry, Kay utilises a narrative framework that at first seems chaotic – you have five different characters from our world running around doing various different things, with their own various different background stories. However, by The Darkest Road, one can see the overarching framework which is given to The Fionavar Tapestry through the use of Arthurian legend as well as Celtic and Norse mythology. By uniting the various mythic archetypes in the metaphor of a tapestry, Kay ties in many different mythic traditions and reworks them to create a myth of his own, thus renewing Myth by making the reader examine other possibilities of mythic archetypes. Within this overarching structure, Kay makes use of several mythic archetypes which I will discuss in detail in the next chapter. The self-sacrifice of Paul on the Summer Tree in The Summer Tree is similar to the Odin’s death on Yggdrasill. The legends of King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot are integral to the resolution of the work. Kimberly’s passage from an ordinary medical student to the Seer of Brennin follows the structure of the hero’s journey as elucidated by Campbell. Dave’s development as a character can be seen in the light of the hero’s journey as well. Kevin’s role, in The Summer Tree at least, is essentially that of the sidekick until Maidaladan in The Wandering Fire, where his sacrifice bears similarities to the fertility rites of the Adonis cult (Frazer qtd. in Coupe 23). In the next chapter, I will show how Kay treats mythic archetype and stereotypes, and what this implies in terms of renewing Myth.

Chapter Two: Kay’s Treatment of Archetypes

In this chapter, I will attempt to identify a few of the archetypes used by Kay, and show how Kay deliberately subverts or deviates from the structure of established mythic archetypes, a structure that can be imprisoning because it appears to dictate the course of events and the choices the characters can make. Through the conflation of multiple archetypes and their properties in his characters, Kay shows that archetypes need not be absolute and restrictive. Kay also takes single archetypes and divides them between several characters to illustrate how archetypes in themselves are neutral, and that they can be used as ‘starting points’ from which characters develop, rather than definitive forms which in themselves prescribe if the characters are ‘good’ or ‘evil’. This treatment forces the reader to re-examine his notions of mythic archetypes, and this re-examination contributes to the renewal of Myth.

In The Fionavar Tapestry, Kay deliberately sets up both character and plot archetypes,
before painstakingly and deliberately deconstructing them. Through this Kay attempts to show the neutrality of archetypes. Through the manipulation of established mythic archetypes, Kay also illustrates his notions regarding free will and structure. Free will is seen as a by-product of freedom, yet Kay does not advocate the latter as the one and only ultimate goal, nor does he align it with ‘good’. In fact, he shows in Rakoth Maugrim that absolute freedom can be evil (I shall elaborate on this in the next chapter). Neither does Kay indicate that structure, order, and framework in Fantasy are right or wrong. Rather, he presents them as neutral concepts, whose ‘good’ or ‘evil’ qualities lie in how one treats them. Kay emphasises on the neutrality of character archetypes by first setting them up and presenting them to the reader before moving away from them, and deliberately making this deviance apparent to the reader.

In this chapter, I would like to look at the archetypes Kay uses in the five characters from our world (who I shall subsequently refer to as ‘The Five’; Wandering xvii) and attempt to show how Kay deliberately subverts or deviates from the forms of established mythic archetypes, forms that can result in the ideas of predestination and fate because of their rigid structure. Kay creates a semblance of structure within the members of the Five through the doubling (or lack thereof) of one character on another. This doubling is a method through which Kay shows how archetypes, despite imparting a sense of organization, need not be rigid and fixed. Characters, despite sharing similar archetypal properties, need not have similar fates or even progress in similar directions.

Structure within the Five

In this section, I would like to draw attention to an internal structure formed by the use of doubling between the members of the Five. I believe this structure is important because it reflects a deliberate organization by Kay of his characters to inject a framework into the text by giving the reader characters who are doubles of one another, and who share similar archetypal properties but maintain their own individuality through deviances from the established archetypal patterns. Kay’s manipulation of obvious archetypal patterns, together with his creation of a semblance of internal structure within the Five, shows that mythic archetypes need not be absolute, and need not be the only way to give a framework to Fantasy.

The constant doubling within the Five forces one to re-examine the archetypes that the characters are supposed to fall under. Four of the Five (i.e. Paul, Kevin, Kimberly and Jennifer) can be seen as both parallels and opposites of each other at the same time. Their roles, similarities and differences make them in some ways the ‘doubles’ of one another. Paul and Kimberly can be seen as one pair, while Kevin and Jennifer another. Within each pairing, Kay treats a similar archetype in a very different manner for each character, thus illustrating that the archetype is not absolute and does not dictate the path in which the character will progress. Thus there is room for his characters to exercise free will. Dave stands alone from the rest in the sense that he does not have an ‘Other’. I will talk more about Dave’s role within the text, as well as his significance within the Five itself, in a later part of this chapter.

Paul and Kimberly: The Mentor Archetype

In the first book of the trilogy, The Summer Tree, Kay consciously and deliberately sets Paul and Kimberly into the archetypes of both the ‘Mentor’ and the ‘Hero’. In addition, he deliberately draws parallels and between these two characters and two deities from Celtic and Norse mythology, thus leading reader expectations in a certain direction. In this section, I will show how these Paul and Kimberly may be said to share similar same character archetypes, following which I will show how Kay systematically makes the two characters deviate from the set archetypal pattern. To begin, I would like to state the descriptions of the hero and mentor archetypes as defined by Volger:

The Mentor provides motivation, insights and training to help the Hero [who is] the protagonist or central character. [The Hero’s] primary purpose is to separate from the ordinary world and sacrifice himself for the service of the Journey at hand – to answer the challenge, complete the quest and restore the Ordinary World’s balance. We experience the Journey through the eyes of the Hero. (Myth and the Movies, qtd. in ‘Archetypes on the Path’)

Both Paul and Kimberly fit into the ‘hero’ and ‘mentor’ archetypes-their ‘journeys’ act directly upon the fate of Fionavar, and they are looked to as ‘mentor figures’ for advice, direction and counsel. However, it is the Mentor archetype which the reader will usually readily associate with the two characters. Paul, as the Arrow of the God, possesses knowledge that others do not, knowledge that gives him some degree of power, such as when he calls upon Liranan the sea god to his aid (Wandering 297). Kimberly, as the Seer, has the powers of the Sight, of prophecy. At the same time, she is the bearer of the Warstone, the Baelrath; she is a summoner to war (Darkest 56). Thus, though both are Mentor figures, their roles are extremely different-Paul’s power is more passive, while Kimberly’s is much more active. Despite possessing ‘Mentor’ attributes, Paul and Kimberly fit their archetypal roles in very different ways, an implication that archetypal structures are in essence, arbitrary, and that it is the individual choices and actions that truly define a character and the role he plays within a text. Kay implies through this that character archetypes are flexible rather than fixed. He defies the stereotypes and fixed patterns of character archetypes to emphasise that people must be seen as individuals, rather than grouped together in a general manner as characters ‘belonging’ solely to any archetype. Kay deliberately posits two characters who share the same archetypal properties as the ‘Other’ of one another, thus showing that archetypes do not completely (if at all) define a character, for one archetype may develop in many different ways. Kay thus suggests that an archetype is merely a starting point from which a character ‘progresses’, or that mythic archetypes can be seen as reference points, but not as a fixed ‘configuration’ to which characters must strictly adhere to.

One example of how Kay differentiates the two ‘Mentor’ figures in Fionavar is by contrasting Paul and Kimberly’s ‘rite of initiation’ into their hero/mentor roles. Paul’s ‘rite of initiation’ is his sacrifice on the Summer Tree, the World Tree of Fionavar. His is a sacrifice which, like Kevin’s, is freely chosen. In contrast, Kimberly did not ask to be a Seer nor to be the bearer of the Baelrath. The role is forced upon her by fate and necessity. Thus, the idea of fate versus free will is present even in their ‘initiation’ to power’-Kimberly’s initiation is a ‘fated’ one, while Paul’s is a result of free will. Yet, the results for both are similar-both become mentor figures whom the rest of Fionavar look to for guidance.

Kimberly and Paul both become mentors who possess almost supernatural powers. However, the powers they possess reflect seemingly opposing concepts, an idea that is reinforced by the archetypal patterns the characters seem to be following. Paul can be said to possess elements of the Hanged God archetype of Northern myths, in particular, Odin of Norse mythology, while Kimberly resembles the Morrigan figure of Celtic mythology. The knowledge Paul gains is symbolised by the ravens Thought and Memory, which are the English names of the ravens of Odin, Huginn and Muninn (Crossley-Holland xxvi). Through the ravens, Kay deliberately shows Paul as the primordial Odin of Norse mythology, for Fionavar is the ‘prime creation, which all the others imperfectly reflect’ (Summer 18). Odin, who hangs himself on Yggdrasill for nine days to gain the knowledge of the Otherworld is thus implied to be a reflection of Paul, who is not from Fionavar, and who receives after his three nights on the Summer Tree the knowledge of Fionavar, his ‘otherworld’. It would be more accurate to say that Paul’s character is somewhat based on that of Odin, rather than the other way around. However, Kay subverts this, showing through the concept of Fionavar being the First World that whatever happens in Fionavar will be ‘imperfectly’ reflected in all the other worlds. Thus, the mythic archetypes that we possess right now, of Mentor figures and Odin, for example, are implied to be imperfect renditions of the roles Paul and the other characters play in Fionavar. If Odin is the All-Father in Norse mythology (Crossley-Holland xxvi), Paul, as his implied ‘predecessor’ possesses the same wisdom and knowledge.

Yet, in Norse mythology, Odin is above all, the God of War (Crossley-Holland xxvi). Although Paul has the ravens Thought and Memory, they are for him solely the birds of knowledge. For Odin, ravens represent war as well as wisdom; yet in Paul, they do not have this two-fold symbolism. Paul is only able to use knowledge but not fight. He acknowledges in the battle at Andarien that he is of “no help” (Darkest 343), and whatever power he has is not for warfare on the battlefield. Through this, Kay shows that an archetype may not be definitive. Paul follows the archetype of Odin the Hanged God, but he is not simply a re-packaged version of Odin in Fionavar. He possesses only the power of knowledge, and not the other powers of Odin (i.e. God of the Dead, God of War, God of poetry and prophecy; Crossley-Holland xxvi). In fact, his role as a Mentor is conflated with his integral identity as Paul Schafer, resulting in immense frustration:
He was the Twiceborn, he had seen the ravens, heard them speak, heard Dana in the wood, and felt Mörnir within him. He was the Arrow of the God, the spear. He was Lord of the Summer Tree. And he was achingly unaware of how to tap into whatever any of that meant (Wandering 99).

Kay thus gives us an archetype – Pwyll, Son of Mörnir, Lord of the Summer Tree, the primordial Odin, the Twiceborn who possesses knowledge and power that mere mortals do not have. Yet, he also shows us Paul Schafer the individual who does not know what to do with this new-found and unsought-for power. Paul the individual is contrasted against the ‘archetype-ed’ Paul, resulting in a blurring and dismantling of standard archetypes which can result in their re-examination.

In contrast to Paul, Kimberly is an embodiment of the power of war that Paul lacks. She shows a strong resemblance to the Morrigan figure, the Celtic triple goddess figure of death, battle and prophecy. In contrast to Paul, who ‘inherits’ only the gift of knowledge from his Odin archetype, Kimberly ‘inherits’ practically all the archetypal properties of the Morrigan, who is said to be an inciter of war and terror, as well as being a goddess of prophecy (Joe, ‘Tuatha Dé Danann’). Kim is a ‘Seer, a summoner. A storm crow on the winds of war’ (Darkest 9) – she possesses properties and even names (‘storm crow’) of the Morrigan.

It must be noted that in The Fionavar Tapestry, only two goddesses of war are named-Macha and Nemain. Goddess figures usually come in threes, especially in the figure of the Morrigan, and Kay himself acknowledges this archetype in The Summer Tree by saying ‘The Goddess worked by threes’ (234). I bring this up because Kay makes a very major deviation in the standard Morrigan figure. The Morrigan archetype comprises of three figures-Macha, Nemain and Badb. Kay’s deliberate naming of only two goddesses of war in Fionavar (as well as deliberately keeping their Celtic names) implicitly leaves open a ‘position’ for another character to step into the role of the missing third ‘war goddess’. Kay implies that this role is filled by Kimberly. By possessing the different archetypal properties of the Morrigan figure, Kimberly effectively becomes the mortal aspect of the War Goddesses.

This, in itself, however, is a subversion of the Morrigan archetype, thus emphasising again that an archetype need not be absolutist, and can be looked at in another way. Kimberly does fulfil the archetypal properties of the Morrigan figure, but only partially. Kay intentionally shows us that Kimberly cannot truly be a war goddess through the fact that she is mortal, with a strong conscience and a streak of stubbornness from the very beginning. She is a mortal, and therefore she can choose, unlike the gods and goddesses of Fionavar who are bound by the laws of the Weaver. This allows her to exert her own will over that of the Baelrath in The Darkest Road, thus refusing the power of war altogether and rejecting any form of submersion into any fixed archetype that will result in a loss of her own identity as Kimberly the ‘half-way decent intern from Toronto’ (Summer 213). Kimberly is human, not superhuman, and thus, unlike Macha and Nemain who are constrained by the Weaver’s will, she is able to make her own choices, thus affirming her individuality and humanity. She rejects her power because she is only mortal and her acts of ‘summoning’ of Arthur and the Paraiko are acts against her conscience and are deeds that she finds hard to reconcile to her integral (as opposed to her archetypal) identity as a healer in our world. Her final refusal of the Baelrath’s power, the power of war, is a vivid example of the human ability to choose.

Through Kimberly, Kay shows that the concept of free will can override the fixed patterns of archetypes. Unlike Paul, whose choice (to sacrifice himself on the Summer Tree) results in a gaining of power, Kimberly’s choice is a direct refusal of power. Thus, even while appearing to share the same archetypes, along with similar connotations of divine powers and roles, Kimberly and Paul progress towards very different destinations from one another in terms of character development because of the choices they make.

Kimberly and Paul are examples of how archetypes need not be a form of predestination. Kay implies that an archetype can be seen as neutral on its own, without necessarily being good or evil. This neutrality thus imparts an element of choice – how this neutral archetype is developed is what is important, rather than the archetype itself. The absolutist structure of archetypes is also questioned through having Paul and Kimberly represent opposing concepts – one of structure, and the other one of freedom – despite sharing similar archetypal properties.

Kimberly is a mortal representative of the wild magic of which the Baelrath is the ‘first great force of the wild magic. . . [that] . . . cannot be controlled even by the Weaver’ (Taylor, ‘The Double-Edged Gift’). Her power is akin to that of Owein’s Hunt, ‘wild and merciless’ (Darkest 70). The freedom she seems to represent culminates in her rejection of the Baelrath’s power, a deliberate act of free will, free will that is only present because of the concept behind Owein’s Hunt, and consequently that of the wild magic of which she is a representative:
She thought upon the evil that good men had done in the name of the Light, remembered Jennifer in Starkadh. [ . . . ] “No,” said Kimberly Ford quietly, with absolute finality. “I have come this far and have done this much. I will go no farther on this path. There is a point beyond which the quest for Light becomes a serving of the Dark.” (Darkest 292)

Kimberly recognises that the Warstone is uncontrollable and has no respects for the difference between Light and Dark. By refusing to go ‘further on this path’, Kimberly rejects the possibility that she will become the mortal equivalent of Owein’s Hunt, absolute freedom with no control and no respect for good or evil. Note that in the above passage, Kay uses Kimberly’s name and identity in our world: ‘Kimberly Ford’. He doesn’t refer to her as the ‘Seer of Brennin’, or the ‘Bearer of the Warstone’. He refers to her by the name s
he is known in our world, and thus he is pointing the reader to the fact that it is the so-called ‘original’ Kimberly, the Kimberly who was a medical intern in our world before becoming a Seer in Fionavar, who is making the choice here. The individual Kimberly takes precedence over the ‘archetype-ed’ Kimberly-the Seer and the Bearer of the Warstone. Like Paul, the individual is seen to be sometimes at odds with the archetype. Kay shows thus that an archetype is not all-encompassing, and that individual choices are possible. In Kimberly’s case, it is not too surprising as she herself is a representative of wild, untamed, and thus totally free power in Fionavar. One can say that her choice to reject her powers and their responsibilities is a declaration of her freedom and individuality over blind adherence to the decrees of ‘absolute need’ (Darkest 68). This thus magnifies the concept behind the wild magic to show that its absolute freedom means that it has no alliances, not even to itself. It is absolutely free, and it is a freedom that can be seen as anarchic.

In contrast, Paul’s power is one that is restricted and confined to the Loom. His power is that of the God Mörnir, the Summer Tree, and thus rooted to the tapestry (Taylor, ‘The Double Edged Gift’). He is constrained by the various rules and limitations imposed by the Weaver on the deities of Fionavar, as shown through his conversations with the sea god Liranan:
“But I am barred from acting on the Tapestry. All the gods are. Twiceborn, you must know that this is so.” (Wandering 299)

“We were enjoined when first the Unraveller came into Fionavar that we might not interfere of our own will. Green Ceinwen will have answer to make ere long, and for more than the gift of a horn, but I will not transgress against the Weaver’s will.” (Wandering 349)

As a son of Mörnir, it is understood that Paul is likewise constrained by the rules and limitations imposed by the Tapestry on all the gods. Even in his summoning of Liranan to his aid against the Soulmonger, Liranan can not act until Paul is able to find a ‘source’ in Gereint who is rooted in the land of Paul’s power (Wandering 345-6). The gods are constrained by the Weaver, even though they may want to intervene. Liranan himself admits that it has been a ‘bitter grief’ (Wandering 349) to see the Soulmonger consume the lios alfar. Kimberly may defy the ‘rules’ because her rejection of the Baelrath may be seen as her own expression of the freedom behind the wild magic she represents, rather than a transgression against the Weaver’s will. Paul, on the other hand is, through his role as the Hanged God and the Son of Mörnir, constrained by the Weaver’s rules and forced to abide by them, just as everything outside the wild magic appears to be controlled and limited by the Weaver.

Paul and Kimberly thus are the ‘Other’ of each other-one representing structure through the Loom, constrained by various rules and limitations, and the other representing both compulsion and freedom of choice, freedom made only possible by Owein’s Hunt and the randomness it conveys through its wild and uncontrolled killing. The two major concepts of structure and free will are thus personified in two characters who in one sense, resemble each other through their archetypal roles, and who are also, in another sense, are each other’s ‘The Other’. Kay thus emphasises the point that an archetype need not necessarily follow the definitions set out by theorists such as Campbell and Volger. Instead, an archetype should be seen as a flexible and adaptable pattern rather than something draconian in its rigidity. A single archetype may show two opposing concepts, as illustrated through the characters of Paul and Kimberly. It is how the author treats the archetypes that determines how the character turns out, if he is to be ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Kay makes it clear here that traditional mythic archetypes need not be limiting, but rather, should be adapted, renewed and made subject to the choices made by the individual characters.

Kevin and Jennifer: Subverting the ‘Blonde Bimbo’ Stereotype

Previously, I have shown how Kay treats established mythic archetypes of the Mentor and the Hero, as well as the mythic archetypes of the War Goddess and the Hanged God, with particular reference to Celtic and Norse mythology. In this section, I will attempt to show how Kay constructs his own archetypes and proceeds to deviate from them in a similar manner to how he veers away from the standard mythic archetypal patterns in Paul and Kimberly.

At first, Kevin and Jennifer do not seem to belong to any particular mythic archetype. Their archetypal identities are only revealed to the reader in The Wandering Fire. Before that, our impressions of the two are that they are both bright, ‘golden’, ‘fair’, and beautiful – qualities that link the two together. Unfortunately, these are qualities which are often associated with the ‘blonde bimbo’ stereotype – characters who look good, but essentially are rather redundant. However, Kay deliberately presents us this stereotype before subverting it by creating his own character archetypes from it. Kay stresses, through this, that stereotypes, and not only archetypes, may be flexible instead of predetermined, and that the structure imposed by any pattern can and should be re-examined.

Kay constantly reminds the reader of the link between the Jennifer and Kevin. We are never completely certain of Kevin’s relationship with Kimberly, yet his relationship with Jennifer as a former lover and dear friend is constantly brought up, thus suggesting a doubling of the two in one another, a doubling that is further reinforced by the similarities they both share through in their physical beauty and charm. On the surface level, one is very tempted to fit the two of them into the ‘brainless blonde’ stereotype, especially since both characters are blonde. However, Kay very quickly subverts this stereotype by showing both Kevin and Jennifer to have extremely strong individual personalities in The Summer Tree, where the two are able to understand each other better than others understand them (13). Yet, Kay appears to quickly revert back to the original stereotypes of blondes being more ornamental than interesting characters (Summer 122), thus switching back and forth between stereotypes and individual characters. I do not believe that this is meant to confuse the reader; rather it emphasises once again that people cannot be pigeonholed into any ‘type’, that each characters are free in their own ways to defy or to adhere to whatever archetype or stereotype they seem to ‘belong’ to.

The evidence supporting the ‘blonde bimbo’ stereotype is most obvious during their first sojourn in Fionavar. Both characters appear to be somewhat ‘useless’ in The Summer Tree in the sense that they are not the movers and shakers of the events in Fionavar. They are passive, rather than active, characters, in contrast to Kimberly and Paul. Kevin, for example, appears to be merely a spectator and not a major player in the events around him. His major ‘accomplishments’ in The Summer Tree can be summarised as follows: He hatches the ‘plot’ (12) to ‘rescue’ Loren from the academic meeting, saves Erron in the crossing of the Saeren river (95) and sings the song that propels Paul to his sacrifice (163). The best that can be said about his involvement in The Summer Tree is that he can be seen as a catalyst (through his song that propels Paul to the Summer Tree). He wields no supernatural power and cannot move or shape events the way Kimberly and Paul can. He feels like ‘excess baggage’ (Summer 96), impotent and useless-feeling ‘a bit superfluous’ (147), with ‘a bitterly honest awareness that he was just along for the ride’ (Wandering 209). Kay thus gives us a character who more or less fits into the ‘blonde bimbo’ stereotype. At the same time, however, Kay subverts this stereotype by giving Kevin a very strong personality. In fact, much of The Summer Tree is perceived through Kevin’s emotions and thoughts.

Only when Kevin realises his archetypal identity as Liadon the Beloved Son, is he able to act (Wandering 224) in a manner that affects the world of Fionavar directly. His death appears to have much more impact than his actions during his lifetime. His death ends the crippling winter, much in the same way as Paul’s sacrifice ended the drought. His death is essentially a rite of fertility. His death breaks through Jennifer’s self-imposed emotional exile through the spring he makes possible, with the first day of spring marking Jennifer’s release from her own emotional prison (Wandering 279). It is the end of his life, brought on by his discovery of his archetypal identity, which has the most impact on everything and everyone around him.

Similarly, Jennifer appears relatively unimportant (in contrast to Kimberly and Paul) until her abduction. Prior to this, Jennifer has felt ‘abandoned’ (Summer 123) by the others, being merely an observer and not doing anything else other than to witness petty fights among the court ladies in Paras Derval (Summer 122) and watching the seemingly unimportant game of the ta’kiena that marks out Finn for the Longest Road (Summer 127). At this point, the reader does not understand the importance of any of these seemingly minor events, and is thus inclined to believe that Jennifer herself is only a minor character. It is only after her rape that she becomes a major player and mover in the events of Fionavar through two major decisions that are forceful assertions of the human ability and right to choose one’s own path – firstly, to continue living despite Rakoth’s explicit order for her death; secondly, to give birth to Darien, overriding the protests of the other four.

Even in Starkadh, Jennifer’s steadfast will marks her as an advocate for the freedom of choice. She knows she is about to be tortured. She also knows that she has some degree of choice in not giving in and breaking down under such torture:

So Jennifer rose from the mattress on the floor, her hair tangled, filthy, the odor of Avaia on her torn clothes, her face stained, body bruised and cut, and she mastered the tremor in her voice and said to him, “You will have nothing of me that you do not take. ” And in that foul place, a beauty blazed like Light unleashed, white with courage and fierce clarity. (Summer 368, emphasis added)

One must add here that these all-important decisions are made before her realisation of her true archetypal identity as Guinevere. This thus implies that Kay is saying that the most important decision one can make is the decision you make as your own self, with your ability to choose and decide as to what you think is best; not as a blind follower to any pre-fixed archetype or pattern laid out before you, doing something simply because you are meant, pre-destined or fated to do so.

In contrast to Kevin’s sacrifice and literal death after he makes love to the goddess Dana in Dun Maura, Jennifer’s ‘death’ is rape at the hands of Rakoth, a stripping away of her self identity in contrast to Kevin’s finding of his archetypal reality as Liadon. The paths and fates of the two diverge and become the opposites of each other, resulting in a doubling that is deeply disturbing. Unlike Kevin, who is a ‘sacrifice come freely’ (Wandering 244), Jennifer makes no such sacrifice – she does not willingly give anything; instead, ‘everything’ (Summer 369) is taken away from her: her memory of her loved ones, her own sense of self and her pride. Unlike Kevin, whose realisation of his archetypal identity is one of absolute joy, her progress towards her archetypal self is a journey filled with pain, grief and loss. Kay thus shows the reader again and again how paths diverge and how characters stemming from the same archetype can ‘progress’ in very different directions.

Jennifer’s ‘sacrifice’ is more like Kimberly-the ‘sacrifices’ that are made by the two are not made willingly. Both are stripped of their innocence, albeit in different ways. Both rebel, unlike Paul and Kevin, against what they have become. By ‘not allowing [herself] to live’ (Wandering 278), Jennifer fights against what she deems to be fate, instead of embracing her identity as Guinevere. In this manner, she becomes a direct opposite of Kevin, who willingly embraces of his identity as Liadon. She becomes Kevin’s ‘Other’, a reverse image of her former lover. She also becomes Kimberly’s ‘Other’ as her ordeal in Starkadh leaves her battered, broken, with no power whatsoever except that of her choices, unlike Kimberly who emerges from her ‘rite of initiation’ possessing Ysanne’s soul, the Baelrath, and the Sight. In these multiple doublings, Kay shows how archetypes need not be forces of predestination. By conflating multiple archetypes in single characters, and by splitting single archetypes between multiple characters, Kay shows that archetypes are not absolute and need not dictate the paths of the characters.

Kevin’s archetypal role as the Beloved Son is in direct contrast to Jennifer’s role as Guinevere the Doomed Queen. Both Kevin and Jennifer seem to start at the same point-being bright and beautiful characters, sharing similar characteristics and a history together-but diverge from there. Kevin does not ‘become’ anything. Kay seems to use Kevin as an illustration that the ‘Twelve Stages of the [Hero’s] Journey’ as prescribed by Christopher Volger does not have to be followed exactly. In Kimberly’s words at the close of the trilogy, ‘Kevin had remained exactly what he always was, with his laughter and his sadness and the sweetness of his soul’ (Darkest 424). This appears to be a direct opposition to the archetypal patterns set out by Volger in The Writer’s Journey (qtd. in ‘Archetypes on the Path’) which imply that a character is transformed by his experiences. Kevin does not change, is not transformed, and does not ‘become’ anything other than what he has always been. Through Kevin, Kay shows that the notion of solely ‘becoming’ something is not always necessary, and thus implies that what we often refer to as ‘character development’ should not be confined to showing an obvious progression of a character from point ‘A’ to point ‘Z’. The state of being what we already are is seen to be just as important, and I quote Madeleine L’Engle here: ‘Being does mean becoming, but we run so fast that it is only when we seem to stop . . . that we are aware of our own isness, of being’ (Circle 32). In the light of this, I would like to suggest that Kevin’s apparent ‘passiveness’ in the trilogy is actually a ‘stopping’ that allows him to be aware of his archetypal being. Thus, not only does Kay subvert archetypes and stereotypes, he also seems to subvert the conventional notions of approaching a character in a text.

The multiple doublings within the Five is an indicator that archetypes, no matter how fixed they may appear, can always be adapted and reinterpreted by the author, an act of writing which in itself is a deliberate exercise of free will. While Paul is the ‘Other’ of Kimberly, with whom he shares archetypal qualities, he is also the ‘Other’ of Kevin. They share a deep camaraderie and even archetypal properties, but this does not imply that their paths will be similar. In fact, their paths diverge radically, one from the other, just as Kevin’s path diverges from Jennifer’s despite their commonality.

Kay thus shows us a reality – people are not one-dimensional and cannot be expected to fall neatly into any single archetype or stereotype. The conflation of several archetypes in each character is a deliberate example of this, an illustration of the multiple roles each person carries within oneself. Kay thus blurs the lines between fixed archetypes and implies that people are more complex than the rigid mythic archetypes proposed by theorists such as Campbell, Volger and Jung suggest.

Dave: The Anchor

It is little coincidence that Dave appears somewhat ‘outside’ the circle of Kevin, Paul, Kim and Jennifer in the opening scenes of The Summer Tree, and later when he breaks away from the circle during their first crossing into Fionavar. Dave appears to me as a root linking the Five back to our world-the world of normalcy and familiarity. From the beginning of his sojourn with the Dalrei when he sees Ceinwen hunt, he is fated to leave Fionavar (Darkest 408-9). Unlike the others, he has no choice in this particular matter. And unlike the others, Dave has no double, no doppelganger within the Five. Thus, his choices and actions are in no way limited by any ‘double’ or ‘The Other’, who he would be a contrast to. There is no reference point to which Dave needs to be compared to or identified with within the Five. Without a double, Dave is in a sense more ‘free’. He can be seen as a wild card – with the other characters, Kay has already shaped their stories and personalities in a manner that balances them out between one another through doubling and manipulation of archetypal properties. With Dave, there is no Other, no obvious archetype, and therefore there are little, or no rules, as to how Dave should be like – he can be anything he chooses, and Kay makes him a normal figure, learning the basic lessons of self-respect, self-assurance, acceptance, friendship and loyalty.

Dave does change, but not through any deliberate act of great sacrifice or brutal loss of innocence like the other four-he changes as a result of being accepted, respected, and liked by the Dalrei, his surrogate family. His time spent with the Dalrei becomes a process of realising his importance to the people around him and establishing his own sense of self. While Kevin Laine ‘discovers’ his true identity, Dave in contrast establishes his identity. The ‘lessons’ he learns in Fionavar have little to do with the great acts of power that the others are a part of-in fact, his most memorable act is his calling of the Wild Hunt. Otherwise, he is not a spectacular mover of the events in Fionavar. He is instead, the emblem of the Everyman (or in this case, the Every Soldier) whose normalcy is an anchor back to our world from the ‘otherworld’ of Fionavar.

The idea of Dave being a form of anchor in the text, for both the reader as well as the other characters, is hinted through Dave’s physical description in addition to the experiences he goes through. Throughout the text, Kay’s descriptions of Dave constantly emphasises his stature (‘tall, broad-shouldered, Summer 10; ‘huge and fell’, Wandering 56; ‘big man’, Wandering 60), which in turn, gives the reader a sense of solidity, and thus of being rooted to something. Dave is, to us, a familiar figure, because he does not become a Son of the God like Paul, or a Seer like Kimberly, or worse still, someone totally different and alien, like Kevin and Jennifer. He remains as himself, from the beginning to the end. He is a symbol of stability and solidity, a way of keeping the reader reminded of our world and its values. Even if Kimberly does say that he is a different person from who he had been before their journey to Fionavar (Darkest 424), to me, Dave has simply become a better version of his former self. Even without being linked to any single archetype, Dave himself imparts a sense of structure to the world of Fionavar by constantly emphasising the idea that Fionavar is not an isolated world, but linked to our world as well. Through this, and through the fact that Dave is not readily associated with any mythic archetype, Kay shows that mythic archetypes need not be the only form of structural devices in Fantasy.

Chapter Three: The Structuring Aspect of Myth in The Fionavar Tapestry

As mentioned previously, Myth imparts a sense of structure to Fantasy, thus becoming a structuring device. A sense of order and progression is given to the text by making certain mythic archetypes obvious to the reader. Readers recognising these archetypes will expect the character or plot, or both, to progress in a manner is similar to that of the archetype they have recognised. Yet, structuring in this manner can also result in a sense of predestination, a sense that characters will have no choice but to stick to their allotted archetypes and the paths these archetypes are supposed to follow. This is where the elements of fate and predestination which are found in almost all mythological branches can come into play. Predestination can result from, or even act as a ceaseless repetition of a certain idea, plot, event or ending. It is also a significant theme in The Fionavar Tapestry where the reader is informed of the seemingly never-ending doom of Arthur.

For example, in the Greek myths, one hears of the Oracles of Delphi, through whom the Sun God Apollo supposedly spoke to the people in the form of ambiguously worded prophecies (Morgana, ‘Ancient Oracles: Oracles at Delphi’). One of the most well-known instances of prophecy and predestination in classical Greek mythology is the tale of Oedipus. At his birth, Oedipus is prophesised to be the future murderer of his father. The steps his parents Laius and Jocasta take to prevent this tragedy in fact lead to it; another oracle, eighteen years later, tells Oedipus that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Consequently, Oedipus flees from Corinth, where he has been brought up, and returns to his (unknowingly) native city of Thebes, where the prophecies of the oracles are entirely fulfilled (Hamilton 268-272). The story of Oedipus is a classic example of Myth’s implication that man is subject to fate, and that he is predestined to follow a certain path, thus having no freedom of choice at all.

In The Fionavar Tapestry, the same idea of fate is imparted to the reader. The characters in the tale are seen to be fighting against what fate has decreed, largely through the use of the Arthurian myth. The Arthurian legend gives The Fionavar Tapestry some of its structure, a structure that Kay shows might become imprisoning at times. Although various myths, such as the Norse myth of Odin’s hanging on Yggdrasill and the Celtic tales of Grainne and Diarmaid, are used in the trilogy and subverted at various points, the overarching framework of the whole trilogy is still mostly based on the events of the Arthurian legend.

The Arthurian Myth lends its backdrop, in the themes of endless repetition and predestination, to the whole trilogy, thus shaping it. The Summer Tree can be seen as an introduction of sorts by which Kay establishes the world and inhabitants of Fionavar, as well as the five major characters from our world: ‘in the . . . The Summer Tree, the sense of destiny . . . and the archetypal identities of the characters are all [sic] introduced’ (Taylor). The Wandering Fire, on the other hand, is where the Arthurian myth is revealed to be the pivot on which all the other stories hinge. Kay shows this structure to be potentially crippling and imprisoning-the archetypal patterns of the Arthurian myth are portrayed in a negative manner, as fates and destinies that have been predestined and must be repeated again and again simply because things can never be otherwise:
“Must it be repeated?”
“Over and over,” she said. . . . “Until he is granted release.”
“Then grant it,” said Leila simply. . . .
“It is not mine to grant!” she cried. “I loved them both!” (Wandering 186)

The ideas of predestination and fate are constantly brought up through names and negative descriptions. Arthur’s fate is constantly referred to as his ‘doom’ (40), ‘curse’ and ‘bitter grief’ (182) in The Wandering Fire. The structure of the role he is to play in Fionavar is thus one that has been pre-ordained, with an ending that seems to have been already pre-scripted by the Weaver.

Arthur’s Doom: Fate and Predestination

Arthur’s doom, first described to the reader in Chapter 3 of The Wandering Fire, is one of the most obvious examples of a pre-fixed, rigid shape imparted by Myth in The Fionavar Tapestry: ‘[Kimberly] was about to do something terrible, to set once more in motion the workings of a curse so old it made the wind seem young’ (Wandering 39). Here, Kay implies that Arthur’s fate is never-ending through its ancient history of repetition. Thus the idea of repetition develops into the idea of fate and predestination. The reader receives the impression that if the ‘curse’ is so ancient that it seems to predate the forces of nature, it will outlive nature itself and thus is something eternal, there being no hope for release from it.

The consequences of Arthur’s actions has resulted in his being ‘marked down [by the Weaver] for a long unwinding doom’ (Wandering 40). The term ‘marked down’ has, in this passage, the negative implications of Arthur’s fate being stained by the blood he shed in his first life, and of his consequent doom. The term ‘unwinding’ however, suggests a disentangling of thread. This, in the context of the trilogy, which uses the idea of the Weaver and the Loom as the basic framework, suggests that Arthur’s role is to ‘tidy up’ the ‘messes’ made by either the Weaver or the Children, through his identity as the Warrior ‘who may be called only at the darkest need’ (Summer 139). However, the term ‘unwinding’ also hints at the possibility of being free, for the term ‘unwind’ is synonymous with the verb ‘free’. Kay injects the ‘positive’ term ‘unwinding’ between two negative ones – ‘long’ and ‘doom’. The effect that this has on the reader is that he will first have the idea of a ‘long doom’, and the hint of release through the word ‘unwinding’ will probably elude him for some time. Through this, Kay manipulates the expectations and perceptions of the reader, by giving the reader the notion that the ending has been fore-told, while in actuality, showing that the freedom of choice still exists.

The idea of predestination is conveyed by names of people and places. Names are used as a structural device, preparing the reader for what might or might not happen next in the story. Jennifer’s name, for example, is a derivation of the name ‘Guinevere’, ‘the fair one’. Even before her archetypal identity is revealed in The Wandering Fire, the idea of her path being predestined is put across to the reader through her very name itself. In The Summer Tree she is described by Brendel as “the golden one” who is so fair that she “alone made the waiting tolerable” (Summer 74). Her name gives us hints of her character as well as her archetypal identity. Her attitude towards Diarmuid when she is first introduced can only be described as queenly. Before she is revealed to be Guinevere in The Wandering Fire, she is abducted by Galadan, the Wolf-Lord; a replay of her abduction by Meliaguant in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur (McLennan). As the “agent of the Weaver’s will” (Wandering 279), she appears doomed to relive tragic reworking after tragic reworking, an echo of the immense grief there had been when she was Guinevere (Wandering 278), this time in Fionavar as the first victim of Rakoth in a thousand years. She feels that she is doomed, along with Arthur and Lancelot:

“Because I broke him once, long ago. And because I was broken here last spring. He is condemned to joylessness and war, and I cannot cross, Leila. Even if I did, I would smash him in the end. I always do.” (Wandering 186, emphasis added)

The theme of predestination, of repetition becoming destiny, is a recurrent one in the trilogy. The terms Kay use in describing the fates of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot constantly run along the lines of grief, doom, betrayal, and curse -the ‘saddest story of all the long tales told’ (Wandering 132). Arthur himself is resigned his cursed fate, with his resignation shown most vividly when he wakes Lancelot from the dead at the close of The Wandering Fire:

“My lord Arthur,” said Diarmuid painfully, “you do not have to do this. It is neither written nor compelled.” [ . . . ]
“He will be needed,” [Arthur] said. “He cannot but be needed. I should have known it was too soon for me to die.”
“You are willing your own grief,” Paul whispered.
Arthur turned to him at that, and his eyes were compassionate. “It was willed long ago.”
(Wandering 369-370, emphasis added)

Like Jennifer, Arthur sees no way out of their fate, believing it to have been willed and pre-ordained long ago, so much so that repetition has over the ages has turned into a predestination of what will happen every time he is called back. Repetition, which can be a structural device, has instead become predestination, with little room for freedom of choice. Throughout The Wandering Fire the notion that things will always be predestined, and predestined in a most tragic manner, is drummed repeatedly into the reader through the constant invocations of the Arthurian tragedy: ‘A chasm of grief, of deepest love, deeply returned, most deeply betrayed, saddest story of all the long tales told’ (Wandering 132). Kay’s language in describing the tragedy of the Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere resembles that of a litany through its repetition. The idea of it resembling a litany brings to mind the formal aspect of liturgical prayers. The repetitive aspect of it is a reflection of the repetitive nature of the trio’s fate, but the idea of petition is also present through the notion of a litany being a formal set of prayers. Kay thus seems to be pleading against a repetition of fate, while ironically using a literary construction that relies on repetition. The reader is thus led to believe that Arthur’s, and thus everyone else’s, fate has been written in stone. The reader is given the idea that there is no room for free will, with things having been “willed long ago” (380) and repeated so many times that it will repeat itself again.

Freedom, Anarchy and Free Will

It is notable that the first obvious episode that the notion of free will does exist and can make a positive impact in Fionavar takes place at Aideen’s grave, as Aideen is an example of the triumph of free will over what seems to be the more important constraint: love. Aideen was the source who betrayed the evil mage Nilsom despite her love for him by killing herself, thus leaving him powerless and unable to wreck further destruction in Brennin. By doing so, Aideen committed the greatest crime against the Order of Mages. Yet, what she did was a deliberate exercise of free will, an act which in its very rebellion against rules (and therefore structure) directly resulted in the salvation of Brennin. It is even more noteworthy that the first memorable speech regarding free will is uttered against this backdrop:
“Oh Matt, for what should I hope? He has been cursed to this. I am the agent of the Weaver’s will. For what should I hope?”
[. . . ]
“Never believe it!” Matt Sören cried. “We are not slaves to the Loom. Nor are you only Guinevere-you are Jennifer now, as well. You bring your own history to this hour, everything you have lived. You bring Kevin here within you, and you bring Rakoth, whom you survived. You are here, and whole, and each thing you have endured has made you stronger. It need not be now as it has been before!”
(Wandering 279, emphasis added)

The phrases “We are not slaves to the Loom” and variations of “It need not be now as it has been before” become a recurring motif in The Darkest Road, the final text of the trilogy. Being the final text, it plays a very major part in showing Kay’s attitude towards structure and predestination, as well as anarchy and freedom. At the beginning of The Darkest Road, while Jennifer is waiting for Arthur’s return, she is allowed a shard of hope through Flidais’ explanation of the meaning behind the Wild Hunt:
“. . . the Hunt was placed in the Tapestry to be wild in the truest se
nse, to lay down an uncontrolled thread for the freedom of the Children who came after. And so did the Weaver lay a constraint upon himself, that not even he, shuttling at the Loom of Worlds, may preordain and shape exactly what is to be. We who came after. . . have such choices as we have, some freedom to shape our own destinies, because of that wild thread of Owein and the Hunt slipping across the Loom. . . . They are there . . . precisely to be wild, to cut across the Weaver’s measured will. To be random, and so enable us to be.” (Darkest 113-114)

This is probably the most crucial passage in the entire trilogy regarding freedom and choice. Freedom is neutral in and of itself – it is the way freedom is used, exercised, or even subjected to structure, that matters. Freedom can be a harbinger of hope, as Brendel tells Jennifer: “Jennifer, if all this is true, if the Weaver put a check on his own shaping of our destinies, it would follow-surely it would follow-that the Warrior’s doom is not irrevocable” (Darkest 115). Freedom allows one choices, yet these choices can lead to evil, for “Rakoth was made possible” (Darkest 114) because of the freedom of the Wild Hunt.

Kay does not lionise the idea of free will. In his portrayal of the Wild Hunt, he emphasises in The Darkest Road the Hunt’s absolute freedom, or in his words, that they are meant to be ‘random’ (Darkest 114). Owein’s Hunt, as one of the most obvious representatives of the Wild Magic, is a personification of anarchy, wild and uncontrolled. The Hunt embodies the potential consequences of free will, both positive and negative:
“The Weaver wove the Hunt and set them free on the Loom, that we, in turn, might have a freedom of our own because of them. Good and evil, Light and Dark, they are in all the worlds of the Tapestry because Owein and the Kings are here, following the child on Iselen.”
(Darkest 114, emphasis added)

Just as Owein’s Hunt kills both the armies of the Light and the Dark indiscriminately, free will means that the choice can go in either direction:
For if Darien was random, truly so, he could do anything. He could go either way. Never, Brendel of the lios alfar had said, never had there been any living creature in any of the worlds so poised between Light and Dark. (Darkest 83)

The ‘Darkest Road’ refers to Darien’s ‘road’ and the choices he has to make. Around him, people try to coax him to their side, with Jennifer being the only person who is adamant about leaving him alone to choose. Darien is the child of Rakoth Maugrim who is outside the Weaver’s Loom and therefore outside any form of structural constraints that the Weaver may impose. Yet, he is also the child of Jennifer/Guinevere, a figure who has been bound to the Loom as an agent of his will in working out the seemingly endless curse of Arthur’s doom. His parents are the antitheses of each other, with one the personification of anarchy, chaos, evil and absolute freedom, and the other the personification of order, structure, goodness, repetition, fate, and predestination. Caught in between, Darien has to make a choice as to which way he wants to go. Jennifer knows that “If we bind him, or try, he is lost to us!” (Darkest 123) and is adamant that the choice he makes is truly his own (‘She had sent him away because the choice was his own, and she was the only one willing to allow that to be so’; Darkest 168).

Darien is a personification of the concept behind Owein’s Hunt. He is what Paul describes as ‘The wild card in the deck of war’ (Darkest 83). Jennifer herself recognises his similarities with Owein’s Hunt:
He is my Wild Hunt, she whispered over and over in her soul. My Owein, my shadow kings, my child on Iselen. All of them. She was not blind to the resonances. She knew that they killed, with joy and without discrimination. She knew what they were. She also knew, since Flidais’ tale on the balcony, what they meant. (Darkest 123)

Rather than ‘moulding’ Darien’s character so as to suit the purposes of the Light, Jennifer deliberately leaves him on his own in an apparent act of rejection, an act that Darien recognises later as a show of his mother’s trust and love for him (Darkest 168). As Jennifer’s own Wild Hunt, he is as random as Owein and his Shadow Kings. He is forced to choose, even though “it was easier this way [to die], easier to surrender that need to decide’ (Darkest 168). His freedom is thus seen to be more of a burden than a blessing. He is ‘too finely balanced’ (Darkest 123), and it is through him that Kay shows how freedom itself does not mean much until one decides how to use it.

The Wild Hunt is the ultimate symbol of perfect freedom, freedom without alliances and compunctions. Other than Darien, two other major figures within The Fionavar Tapestry can be seen as representatives of two different and opposing aspects of freedom. One is Diarmuid dan Ailell, the other is Rakoth Maugrim. Both are ‘Trickster’ figures, an archetype which is in itself problematic and almost contradictory:

Tricksters relish the disruption of the status quo, turning the Ordinary World into chaos with their quick turns of phrase and physical antics. Although they may not change during the course of their Journeys, their world and its inhabitants are transformed by their antics. The Trickster uses laughter [and ridicule] to make characters see the absurdity of the situation, and perhaps force a change (Vogler qtd. in ‘Archetypes of the Path’).

The Trickster is greedy, selfish and treacherous; he takes on animal form; he appears in comic and often disgusting situations, and yet he may be regarded as a kind of culture hero, who provides mankind with benefits like sunlight and fire (H.R. Ellis Davidson qtd. in Crossley-Holland, xxix).

Rakoth Maugrim embodies the wild and anarchic aspects of the Trickster figure. These qualities are shown in the massive erupting of the Rangat as a rebellion against all forms of order and peace. His freedom is thus of a destructive nature. Rakoth, being outside the Tapestry, embodies unbridled anarchy and chaos. He can be seen to represent absolute freedom, freedom that is not controlled, tamed or restrained. Rakoth thus personifies freedom which is taken to the extreme. He is called the Unraveller, the destroyer of the Weaver’s creation, a force made possible solely because of the freedom the Weaver has injected into the World Loom. He is thus inextricably linked to the idea of freedom, and is also an example of how any quality, taken to the extreme and uncontrolled, can be destructive.

Rakoth personifies the uncontrolled aspect of The Wild Hunt, which kills indiscriminately, with no alliance to either Dark or Light. The Wild Hunt is neutrality personified. It is of the wild magic, absolutely untamed and uncontrollable, and we are made clear that their uncontrolled freedom is a destructive force (Wandering 335). Kay makes it clear that it is the absolute freedom given by the Wild Hunt that allows the potential of evil, personified in Rakoth Maugrim (“He is the price we pay”, Darkest 114). Freedom, in the case of the Unraveller, is displayed through anarchy and destruction. Kay does not gloss over the fact that it is absolute freedom that enables Rakoth’s existence, and consequently the evil and pain that is part of that. Instead, Kay seems to indicate that freedom is not the ultimate end-rather, it is how freedom is exercised that really matters.

Diarmuid is an embodiment of freedom that is controlled and always kept in check. He always knows what he is doing. The ‘wild anarchy’ (Darkest 324) of his nature is always controlled and channelled into positive actions. It is Diarmuid’s charm and use of words that goad Kevin and Paul into accompanying his party on the raid in Cathal, a manipulation that Kevin recognises: “If you think you can manage, you may find it interesting. Not altogether safe, but I think we can take
care of you.” It was the smile on the last phrase that got both of them-which, Kevin realized, was probably what the manipulative bastard had intended. (Summer 61)

Diarmuid can be regarded as a manipulative figure, but one rarely doubts that he channels his manipulative tendencies to good purposes, an example that can be seen in the very tense period following Lancelot’s awakening by Arthur. Diarmuid suggests a friendly match between Lancelot and himself, when he knows that Lancelot is by far his superior. His motive is not to best Lancelot, but to lighten the heavy mood weighing down upon everyone: [Paul] thought about interceding,. . . but even with the thought he became aware of his own racing pulse, of the degree to which Diarmuid had just lifted him-all of them-into a mood completely opposite to the hollow silence of fifteen minutes before. . . . The Prince, he realized, knew exactly what he was doing. (Darkest 86)

Unlike Rakoth, Diarmuid uses the freedom he has to make choices for the good of others. He channels ‘the wild anarchy of his nature’ (Darkest 324) into a positive and noble deed:
Because it was for Arthur and Lancelot, and for Guinevere, that Diarmuid, in all the wild anarchy of his nature, had claimed this dance as his own.
It was against the weaving of their long doom that he had defiantly rebelled, and had channelled that rebellion into an act of his own against the Dark. Taking Uathach unto himself, that Arthur and Lancelot, both, might go forward past this day. (Darkest 324)

Diarmuid is a case in point of anarchy and wildness that is mastered and channelled into a positive force. He embodies the wild, anarchic, yet positive aspects of the Trickster archetype. Through him, Kay shows that freedom per se need not be ‘bad’, or regarded in a negative light. Diarmuid is described at various points in the trilogy as being unpredictable, mercurial in mood and temperament, and one who enjoys deviating from standard procedures. His seduction of Sharra of Cathal could have killed all his men, including Paul and Kevin, his guest-friends. The same act could have also caused a war between Brennin and Cathal. His attitude towards Jennifer in their first meeting in The Summer Tree (44) defies the normal rules of courtesy, as Jennifer realises and reprimands him immediately (“Are you always this rude?”). Yet, he guides this unpredictable, mercurial, anarchic spirit into a self-sacrificing cause for the sake of giving others the chance to overcome their fated doom. He is a personification of how freedom can be a positive force. For Diarmuid, his right to choose enables Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot to move past their doom.

As trickster figures, Rakoth and Diarmuid may be said to share certain qualities, such as the “wild anarchy” of their natures. Yet, one is the Evil that all must defeat, and the other is one of the instruments who aid in the destruction of this evil. Rakoth’s freedom and anarchy are completely set on power, domination and destruction. Diarmuid’s, on the other hand, is mastered, controlled and channelled into a final selfless act which is a giving up of power and control, as much as Rakoth’s evil is a symptom of his incessant craving for utmost power and control. Kay shows through this doubling that freedom is not the ultimate end – it is the choices that one can make with that freedom that matters. Even more, he shows that there must always be a form of self-control and awareness of how one’s own freedom can impact other people.


In The Fionavar Tapestry, Kay uses the framework that Myth provides to Fantasy, and creates his own framework by re-interpreting traditional mythic archetypes. By showing that archetypes are essentially neutral, Kay dispels the misunderstanding which has resulted in a substitution of ‘stereotype’ in place of ‘archetype’ in the minds of many readers. Kay strips away the various confusing associations with the archetypes by conflating them with apparently opposing archetypes. Through the merging of opposites, Kay shows us that there is no particular ‘standard’ that one must adhere to. Kay implies that archetypes are simply patterns which one can adopt, adapt, or reject. Likewise, the notions of predestination and free will which are hinged on the idea of ‘structure’ are taken apart and re-examined. Myth’s ‘structure’ in Fantasy has resulted in the notion of fate and predestination simply from being repeated so often. Kay shows that predestination stems from repetition, and that once the pattern is broken, as in Andarien, formerly called Camlann where Arthur is said to die in every world (Darkest 318), the pattern need not be repeated again.

Before the final battle at Andarien, at the challenge of Uathach, Arthur tells Guinevere: “We are caught in a woven doom of no escape. You know I must go down to him” (Darkest 319, emphasis added). Kay shows that it is not a ‘must’-that the pattern can be broken, and is broken by a character who embodies freedom, anarchy and disruption, but channels all these potentially destructive qualities into the ‘final deed of his days’ (Darkest 327), a ‘dance [ . . . ] against the dark’ (Darkest 324). Freedom, controlled and mastered, is thus seen as positive. Free will resulting from such freedom enables Diarmuid to change the pattern and render the “woven doom” broken: “But Diarmuid chose otherwise. He made it become otherwise. We are not slaves to the Loom, not bound forever to our fate. Not even you, my lord Arthur. Not even you, after so long.” (Darkest 393)

This sums up Kay’s message – that one is given a structure, but not imprisoned by it. The structures of myth in its various guises, such as archetypes, names, connotations and plotlines, can be seen as forms of predestination and fate; but they do not have to be, and they do not rule out freedom and free will. It is one’s own choices, made out of free will that comes from freedom that is mastered, that determine the destination of the character and the story.


Much gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Susan Ang, for her unfailing support, encouragement, as well as introducing me to the works of Guy Gavriel Kay; and my family, for their support, love, understanding and encouragement.

List of Works Cited

Clute, John and John Grant (editors). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.
London: Orbit, 1997. Cook, Hugh. “Brief Notes: genre fiction essay notes”. 2003.
Zen Virus: Poems, Short Stories, Novels, Writings. 12 Feb 2004.
Coupe, Laurence. Myth. London: Routledge, 1997. Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. Camosy, Joseph Jr. “Archetypes on the Path”. 2001. Divine Paradox.
20 Feb 2004.
Eliot, T.S. Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot. Eds. Kermode, Frank.
London: Faber and Faber, 1975 Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.
New York: Warner Books, 1942. Joe, Jimmy. “Tuatha Dé Danann”. 1999. Timeless Myths. 10 Mar 2004.
Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Summer Tree. The Fionavar Tapestry: Book One.
New York: ROC, 2001 __________. The Wandering Fire. The Fionavar Tapestry: Book Two.
New York: ROC, 2001 __________. The Darkest Road. The Fionavar Tapestry: Book Three.
New York: ROC, 2001 L’Engle, Madeleine. A Circle of Quiet. San Francisco: Harper, 1972 __________. A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1962. McLennan, Shelley. “The Themes of Fate and Free Will in The Fionavar Tapestry“. 2002. Bright Weavings: Scholarship. 20 Feb 2004.
Morgana. “Ancient Oracles: Oracle at Delphi”. Morgana’s Observatory.
02 Mar 2004.
Taylor, Dena. “The Double-Edged Gift: Power and Moral Choice in The Fionavar Tapestry“. 2004. Bright Weavings: Scholarship.
20 Feb 2004.
Volger, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.
Michael Wiese Productions, 1998. Qtd. in Archetypes on the Path. 8 Mar 2004.
Myths and Movies Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.
Qtd. in Archetypes on the Path. 8 Mar 2004

Other Works Consulted

Barbour, Douglas. “The Malahat Review”. #79, June 1987. Bright Weavings: The Worlds of Guy Gavriel Kay-Reviews of The Fionavar Tapestry. 20 Feb 2004.

Billington, Sandra and Miranda Green, eds. The Concept of the Goddess.
London and New York: Routledge, 1996.

Birzer, Bradley J.. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth. USA: ISI Books, 2002.

Bromwich, Rachel, A.O.H. Jarmen and Mrynley F.Roberts, eds. The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature.
Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991.

Campbell, Joseph, eds. Betty Sue Flowers. The Power of Myth: With Bill Moyers.
New York: Doubleday, 1988.

__________. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1949.

__________. “Bios and Mythos: Prolegomena to a Science of Mythology,” Myth and Literature: Contemporary Theory and Practice, ed. John B. Vickery. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Cassirer, Ernst. Language and Myth, trans. Susan K. Langer. New York: Dover Publications Inc, 1953.

Chambers, E. K.. Arthur of Britain. New York: October House Inc, 1967.

Coghlan, Ronan. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends. London: Vega, 2002.

Cole, Joanne Schraith. “The Raven”. 23 Nov 1998. 10 Mar 2004. .

Cooper, Susan. The Dark is Rising Sequence. London: Puffin Books, 1984.

__________. Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children. New York: Margarert K. McElderry Books, 1996.

Curtin, Jeremiah. Myths and Folklore of Ireland: Twenty Traditional Tales of Celtic Adventure, Magic and Romance, Translated directly from the Original Gaelic. New York: Wings Book, 1975.

Delaney, Frank. Legends of the Celts. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1989.

de Lint, Charles. “Review for Fantasy Review“. Bright Weavings: The Worlds of Guy Gavriel Kay-Reviews of The Fionavar Tapestry. 20 Feb 2004. .

de Troyes, Chrétien. Arthurian Romances, trans. and ed. by D. D. R. Owen. London: Orion Everyman Classic, 2000.

Dixon-Kennedy, Mike. Arthurian Myth and Legend: An A-Z of People and Places. London: Brockhampton Press, 1998.

Frye, Northrop. “The Archetypes of Literature,” Myth and Literature: Contemporary Theory and Practice, ed. John B. Vickery. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Goodrich, Norma Lorre. King Arthur. New York: Harper and Row, 1986.

Gould, Eric. Mythical Intentions in Modern Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Guerber, H.A.. The Myths of Greece and Rome. Eds. Stuart, Dorothy Margaret. London: Harrap, 1938

Joelle. “Celtic Deities of Scotland, Wales and Britain”. 2000. 10 Mar 2004. .

Johnson, Honor. “Morrigan”. The Druid Grove. 1998. 10 Mar 2004. .

Jones, Diana Wynne. Eight Days of Luke. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1975

Jones, Gwyn, trans. Tales from Wales. Oxford University Press, 1955.

Karr, Phyllis Ann. The Arthurian Companion: The Legendary World of Camelot and the Round Table. Chaosium Publication, 1997.

Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Lions of Al-Rassan. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.

__________. The Last Light of the Sun. New York: ROC, 2004.

L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wind in the Door. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1973.

MacCana, Proinsias. Celtic Mythology. Feltham, Middlesex: Newnes Books, 1985.

Meletinsky, Eleazar M.. The Poetics of Myth. London: Routledge, 1998

Mikkelsen, Nina. Susan Cooper. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

Ordway, Holly E. “The World Building of Guy Gavriel Kay”. 1998. Bright Weavings: Scholarship. 20 Feb 2004. .

O’Shea, Pat. The Hounds of the Mórrígan. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1985

Rosenberg, Teya, et al, eds. Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2002.

Ruthven, K. K. . Myth: The Critical Idiom. London: Methuen & Co Ltd, 1976.

Segal, Robert A., ed. Theories of Myth. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1996.

Stockwell, Peter. The Poetics of Science Fiction. London: Person Education Ltd, 2000.

Tolkien, J.R.R.. Tree and Leaf. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.

Watson, Victor. Reading Series Fiction: From Arthur Ransome to Gene Kemp. London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2000.

Winslow, Matthew. “Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry Series”. The Green Man Review. 23 Feb 2004. .

Yeoh, Paul Leonard. Refractions of Rhetoric: Exploring Literature and Language in Nineteenth-Centure England. Thesis. National University of Singapore, 2001.

This entry was posted in Student Papers. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.