13

Where did Morgana le Fay come from? From where did she get her power?

As the primary antagonist of many Arthurian legends, it always seems to me that she's just there because she's always been there, she has so much power; but no one else (except Merlin) seems to have access to this sort of power. What's her origin story?

15

There are a few different accounts, detailed here:

  1. She was the half sister of none other than King Arthur himself, the daughter of King Gorlois and Igraine (Arthur's mother). She was most likely the aunt of Mordred, though one or two accounts give her as his mother.
  2. She was one of nine sisters living in the land of Avalon (of course), who had magical, mystical powers, some of which may have been learned from Merlin.

    In Vita Merlini, by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Avalon and Morgana (Morgen) are described:

    "That is the place where nine sisters exercise a kindly rule over those who come to them from our land. The one who is first among them has greater skill in healing, as her beauty surpasses that of her sisters. Her name is Morgen, and she has learned the uses of all plants in curing the ills of the body. She knows, too, the art of changing her shape, of flying through the air, like Daedalus, on strange wings. At will, she is now at Brest, now at Chartres, now at Pavia; and at will she glides down from the sky on to your shores.

    "They say she had taught astrology to her sisters--Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, and Thiten,--Thiten, famous for her lyre.

  3. She was a (perhaps Celtic) goddess, such as Morrigan or Modron (note the similarities in the names), or else a fairy queen. Her magical powers should be self-explanatory from these assumptions.

This and this confirm the stories that she was one of the nine queens of Avalon, and that she learned from Merlin.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.