King Arthur: the very name summons visions of courtly chivalry and towering castles, of windswept battlefields and heroic quests, and above all of the charismatic monarch who dies but who one day shall return again. The Arthurian legend lives on as powerfully and enduringly as ever. Yet there is an aspect to this myth which has been neglected, but which is perhaps its most potent part of all. For central to the Arthurian stories are the mysterious, sexually alluring enchantresses, the spellcasters and mistresses of magic who wield extraordinary influence over Arthur's life and destiny, bestriding the Camelot mythology with a dark and brooding presence. Carolyne Larrington brings these dangerous women vibrantly to life. Here is Morgan-le-Fay, a complex sorceress of great cunning and skill, immortalised by Helen Mirren's Morgana in John Boorman's film "Excalibur". Here too are the mystical Lady of the Lake; the beguiling Viviane, Merlin's deadly nemesis; and Morgause, Queen of Orkney, mother to Mordred, Arthur's incestuously-conceived son and his bitterest foe.
Echoing the search for the Grail by the knights of the Round Table, Larrington takes her readers on an intriguing quest of her own - to discover why Arthurian enchantresses continue to bewitch us. Her journey takes in the enchantresses as they appear in poetry and painting, in politics and the theatre, on the Internet and TV, in high culture and popular culture. Whether they be chaste or depraved, necrophiliacs or virgins, benevolent or filled with hatred, the enchantresses represent a strain of femininity which continually challenges male chivalric values from within. These women are survivors. They outlive the collapse of Camelot and all it stands for. And it is as archetypal manifestations of the feared, uncontainable Other that they continue to inspire admiration, fright and fascination in equal measure. "King Arthur's Enchantresses" makes a unique contribution to contemporary writing on the Arthurian myths. It will intrigue and delight anyone with an interest in mythology, religion, cultural history and medieval literature.