I suppose it could be said that indeed all my roads to Arthur have led to my novel, The Green Knight's Apprentice. I read Malory when I was very young and my first reading left me with very vivid images that haunt me still: white stags, headless damsels, horns hanging from tree limbs, and giants. Oh yes, I had the usual sword in the stone, lady of the lake, and Holy Grail images, too, I assure you.
But what really, really grabbed my imagination were the more gruesome and dark images, I do confess. Once I discovered Robin Hood and the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I realized that I felt a very deep calling to the Wild forest, the deep forest, the Wood that holds the Deep Mysteries and where the Wild Hunt is run. I saw the Sidhe elements in the Arthuriad, and I felt the deep rhythm of Robin Hood, the Green Knight...the Hooded Man. I am passionate about the Arthuriad, and I have spent my entire life seeking the Round Table, the Holy Grail, and the Wisdom of Merlin. But my root, or at least one of my deepest roots, lies within the wild forest of the Lord of the Forest and his Court.
The Green Knight's Apprentice was first called The Winter King's Dance, and it was, and still is, intended to be tale of Gawain's year and a day in training as the Green Knight. We follow Sir Gawain through the eyes of his Steward and friend, Rhowbyn, who is a Bard from Orkney. We travel with Gawain and Rhowbyn through the Wheel of the Year and experience the magickal training of each man by observing the Sabbats with songs, chants, battles, and festivals.
If this novel attempts to "do" anything, it is to tell the story of what happened to Sir Gawain after the three strokes of the Green Knight's axe and before he returns to Camelot. The reader's experience, and mine as the writer, is through Rhowbyn the Bard because Rhowbyn is our guide and expert. The reader has the same questions as Gawain, and both learn the answers through Rhowbyn's narration and experiences. Rhowbyn's questions are usually answered by Lady Morgan and some other Arthurian Wise Ones: Mabon, Bors, Lady Birtilak, Ganeida, to name a few.
The roots of The Green Knight's Apprentice do go to some obscure chapters of the Arthuriad. I include Arthur's sons, Amr and Llachau, in my tale, and the Welsh figure of Mabon is quite integral to Rhowbyn's personal mysteries. Merlin's Tower makes a few appearances, but it is the deep roots and tall windows that we experience, not the expected innards of a wizard's tower like potions, scrolls, and candles. The novel has eight chapters that are set the Sabbats, with a prologue and epilogue that serve to turn the Wheel, so to speak, of the tale. It is my hope that once the last page is read, the reader will already realize that the tale, in fact, never stops. There will always be another Green Knight and his Apprentice.
Why did I feel compelled to write this particular story? Where does Virginia Chandler reside within it? When I was a child, I always imagined myself as a participant somehow in the tales that captured my heart. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was no different. I knew that Gawain had experienced so much more during this adventure, and so I spent many years visualizing those "missing pages". That is my part in the tale; sharing those missing pages with those who wish to read them.