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Morgause, known in earlier works as Anna, is the sister or half-sister of King Arthur in the Arthurian legend. In her earliest appearance she is Arthur's full sister by Uther Pendragon and Igraine; and is the mother of the heroic Gawain and the villainous Mordred. In later works she is the daughter of Igraine by her first husband, Gorlois, and she becomes pregnant with Mordred after sleeping with Arthur while they were unaware of their relation. Her husband is King Lot, an enemy of Arthur in the rebellions following Arthur's coronation.

Her other siblings include sisters Elaine and Morgan le Fay. The later material gives her five children, all sons, while earlier works named daughters as well. From eldest to youngest, the sons of Morgause are Gawain, who becomes one of King Arthur's greatest knights, Agravaine, a wretched traitor, Gaheris, Gareth, a gentle and loving knight, and Mordred, her son with Arthur. Her children play key roles in the story of Arthur and his kingdom. She is active in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate versions of Merlin.

In Le Morte d'Arthur and the Post-Vulgate, her husband is killed by King Pellinore in battle, starting a blood feud between the families of Pellinore and Lot. Pellinore is killed by Gawain and Gaheris, and Morgause later has an affair with Lamorak, son of Pellinore and one of the best knights of the Round Table. Her son Gaheris catches them together, and kills Morgause in bed, though he lets Lamorak go. Thinking it is Lamorak who killed their mother, Gawain, Agravain, and Mordred (Gareth takes no part) join Gaheris to ambush Lamorak and kill him. The brothers do eventually find out that Gaheris was the real killer, and he is banished from the court (though he appears later in the narrative).

In modern variations, Morgause's character is sometimes combined with Morgan le Fay's, and her role as the mother of Mordred is transferred to Morgan.

T. H. White named one of the four volumes in The Once and Future King, The Queen of Air and Darkness, in reference to Morgause, who is a major figure in the book. A later section deals with Morgause's death at the hands of her own son; White transfers the crime to Agravaine rather than Gaheris.

Marion Zimmer Bradley in her novel The Mists of Avalon made Morgause the sister of Igraine and Viviane and the aunt of Morgan le Fay. After Morgaine delivers Mordred, Morgause takes Mordred as a foster child and rears him for Morgaine. In the film adaptation, Morgause attempts to kill the child until she tricks Morgaine into revealing Mordred's parentage. She then decides to raise him as her own, thus taking on the role of mother to the infant.

In Gerald Morris's Squire's Tale series she is the widow of King Lot, mother of his four sons, and an incarnation or avatar of "the Enchantress," bent on ruling the world of men by removing the world's kings and princes. She is defeated at the end of the first book, The Squire's Tale, by Sir Gawain's squire; in a subsequent book, The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight, she is revealed to be still alive and still plotting.

In Patricia Kennealy-Morrison's Keltiad, she appears as the evil Marguessan, attempted usurper of the Throne of Scone and twin sister to Morgan.

See also


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