in the Annales Cambriae we are told that Arthur and Medrawt (Mordred) perished
at Camlan, but we are not told they were on different sides. Geoffrey informs
us that Mordred was Arthur's nephew, the son of Arthur's sister
Anna and her husband, Lot of Lothian. The Dream of
Rhonabwy makes him Arthur's foster-son as well as his nephew. Geoffrey asserts
that, when Arthur was away on his Roman campaign, Mordred seized Guinevere
and the throne, thus paving the way for their final battle. Ly Myreur des
Historires claims Mordred survived the battle, only to be defeated by Lancelot
who executed Guinevere - doubtless because he thought she had willingly
complied in being seized - and incarcerated Mordred with her dead body which
Mordred ate before dying of starvation.
|Arthur deals Mordred a
mortal blow, but in return Mordred gives Arthur a wound which proved
to be fatal.
The incest motif in the story of Mordred's birth appears only latterly.
The earliest occurence is in the Mort Artu. In Malory's version, Arthur
slept with his half-sister Morgause, not knowing they were related and,
as a result, Mordred was born. When Arthur discovered the whole truth, in
an attempt to kill Mordred he had all children born on the day of Mordred's
birth set adrift. The ship carrying Mordred was wrecked, but he survived
and was fostered by Nabur.
As an adult, Mordred became one of Arthur's knights and was for a time a
companion of Lancelot. He took the part of the Orkney family against the
family of Pellinore, slaying Pellinore's son, Lamorak. When Arthur went
to fight Lancelot, Mordred was left as regent in his absence. He proclaimed
that Arthur was dead and then laid siege to Guinevere, so Arthur's return
In Wace, Mordred is not Arthur's son, but Guinevere (whom he seized and
made his queen) was his sister. In the Alliterative Morte Arthure, he and
Guinevere had a child. In Welsh tradition Mordred married Cywyllog, daughter
of Caw, and they had two sons. In the earliest Welsh sources he seems to
have been regarded as a hero rather than a villain.