As a writer of medieval dark fantasy, like many others, I’ve read several versions of King Arthur, including Sir Thomas Malory’s work, Mary Stewart, and Marion Zimmer Bradley (who focused on the women of the stories). Of the films, my favorite is “Excalibur” with great actors, beautiful cinematography, and so what the amour was not of the period? The scene as they charged through the cherry blossoms stands clear in my mind with a great accommodating score.
With so many versions and so many characters, it’s challenging to point out a favorite, other than Arthur and Merlin. The women tend to be confusing amongst the stories as well, with Morgause, Morgan Le Fay, and Morgaine; sometimes they’re the same character, and sometimes not. At least Guinevere is fairly consistent.
To me, of all the characters, the most tragic and complex is Mordred. His name is synonymous with “traitor” and “evil,” though not all of the stories have him in that context; in some he is “victim.” My question is why was Mordred evil? He betrayed Arthur and was killed by him. OK, I get it. But was Mordred ever liked in the first place? No. Why was that? In most of the stories he was a known child of incest, considered taboo then (and now) and was hated from the beginning. Therefore, Mordred became a traitor because he was always hated; not for something he did, but for something he was and had no control over; meaning the identity of his birth parents.
When a character hates another character for hating them just for what they are, I call it “The Mordred Complex.” Such characters never have a chance, and as born enemies are only destined to become greater enemies. For fantasy, such characters make great tragic figures or horrific antagonists. In my novellas, Shevata’s child-warrior equals were assassinated on the same day, because they were bred for a war that was long over. The people of the Gastar hated the children for what they were.
“The Mordred Complex” can be seen every day in hard news, as conflicts either arise or continue around the world, and sometimes it’s just for someone being what they are at birth, instead of by deeds. Whatever the reason, “The Mordred Complex” makes for a dangerous character, which stands nothing to lose by hating those who’ve hated him/her since birth.
So again, new authors, create more great literature. I think we can learn a lot from the classic Arthurian tales, and the story of Mordred can be related to on a number of levels.