Modernized Versions of Sword in the Stone


By: Cary Hardwick

Stories are eternal. Which means that overtime, as people retell these stories they evolve them to fit modern theologies. Some of these are similar to those of the past like bravery and love, while others can be drastically different like feminism. As this page continuous you will explore modern retelling’s of the Sword in the Stone through both novels and movies.

The Mists of Avalon:

Character Descriptions:

Gwydion Son of Igraine, half brother to Morgaine

Arthur Pendragon
High King
The Horned one
The king Stag
IgraineMother to Arthur and Morgaine
Married to Gorlois and the later to Uther Pendragon
High Queen
MorgauseSister to Viviane and Igraine
Aunt to Arthur and Morgaine
Foster Mother to Gwydion
GorloisFather of Morgaine
Duke of Cornwall
Uther PendragonKing of Britain
Father to Arthur and stepfather to Morgaine
High King
MorgaineDaughter of Igraine and Niece to Viviane
Cousin of Galahad and Half sister to Arthur
Mother of Mordred
Morgaine of the Faries
GalahadSon of Viviane
Cousin to Arthur and Morgaine
GwydionSon of Morgaine and Arthur
Foster son of Morgause

Mordred: ” Evil Counsel”
KevinSuccessor to MerlinDruid
MerlinFather of Igraine, Morgause, and VivianeDruid
VivianeSister of Morgause and Igraine
Aunt to Morgaine
Mother of Galahad
Lady of the Lake
Lady of the Holy Isle of Avalon
GwenwhyfarWife of Arthur

The Mists of Avalon written by Marion Zimmer Bradley in 1983, is a retelling of the story of Arthur and the sword in the stone, however it is told through the feminist perspective. The book starts by following the viewpoints of Igraine, and Viviane before switching perspectives to Morgaine and Gwenwhyfar. In the beginning of the book there is a faction between Great Britian ( The Christians) and the Celtic people( who believe in the Goddess and Avalon) who are both trying to fight off the Saxons. The narrative focuses on Igraine who is originally married to Gorlois, a Roman war general. To him she bears a daughter Morgaine. When the original king dies, Uther Pendragon is set to be the next king of England. Viviane tells Igraine that she must seduce Uther, for through him she will bear a son who will one day unite all of England and the Celtic peoples. Upon Goloris’s death, Igraine marries Uther and sub sequentially has Arthur. Eventually Arthur is sent to be fostered under Sir Ector and Caius his son, meanwhile Morgaine is sent to learn how to by a priestess under the tutoring of Viviane. As time passes Uther dies and it is time for Arthur to become king. For this to happen Arthur must participate in a ritual where acting as the Horned One must sleep with a priestess from Avalon to reenact the rebirth of the land.However he ends up sleeping with Morgaine, his sister, who eventually becomes pregnant with Mordred. Once the ritual is over Arthur is accepted by the tribes who worship the old religion and he is presented with Excalibur and a magical scabbard which will stop the bleeding of any wound. This is where the journey of the sword truly starts.

As shown in the timeline above Arthur swears to govern all people fairly and to never force Christianity upon those who believe in the old religions. Morgaine who flees Avalon after discovering the identity of the ” Horned one” ends up in the castle of her aunt Morgause who gives her shelter. Upon giving birth to Mordred, she leaves the child under her aunts care and goes to the court of Arthur to become a women in waiting for Gwenwhyfar. After he is crowned Arthur marries Gwenwhyfar, a pious girl who is fearful of all things. Under her influence Arthur begins to revoke his vows to Avalon. This creates a great conflict between Avalon and Great Britian. When Viviane comes to remind Arthur of his vows she is killed. This then leaves the task of Lady of the Lake to Morgaine, putting her at odds with her brother. After many tries of stealing the sword, and a sucessful attempt at stealing the Scabbard which she tosses into the lake, Morgaine watches her son and his father battle to the death. As Arthur lies dying in Morgaine’s arms, Lancelet tosses the sword into the lake, much to the reluctance of Arthur. As he dies Morgaine takes him with her to Avalon.

There are some important comparisons and ideas to point out about the summary above. First off we see how the evolution of values that Arthur holds to the sword changes over time. The sword was a uniting factor for Britain and the Celtic people, however the idea of the power of the sword over the people of Britain is something that sticks with Arthur. He doesn’t want to give up the power that the sword possesses. We see this very prominently in the end when Arthur is reluctant to throw the sword into the lake, even going as far to cling to it. The second concept to note is that the Story follows the English version of the sword in the stone very closely.

For more information on the English story of the Sword and the stone click on the link below!

Modern Movie Magic:


The Movie Excalibur has almost the exact same plot line as in the Mists of Avalon, however it portrays Morgana ( Morgaine) in a more negative light. However the main focus for this clip should be the the betrayal of morals to the sword. Due to the fact that Arthur used the sword for his own personal gain, he breaks ” The sword which cannot be broken.” A common theme through out these movies are the values with which others hold themselves to. When Arthur betrays the sword he breaks what unifies his land.

Quest For Camelot

In quest for Camelot we again see a predominately female focus of the story. As with the Mists of Avalon, and demonstrated in the video above, the Sword is a uniting factor for the people. When the sword becomes lost in the movie the land and the people start to fall apart until it is retrieved.

In a way one could compare the Sword in the Stone to the United States Flag. It is what it symbolizes that unites the people, and when someone betrays the symbol of the flag they are betraying themselves, their people, and their country. Much like how in the book version of the story Arthur betrayed the people of Avalon. Which one could argue, eventually led to his demise at the hands of Mordred.


Bradley, Marion. The Mists of Avalon. London: Penguin Books, 1993.

Quest for Camelot. Warner Bro’s Pictures, 1998

ExcaliburExcalibur. Orion Pictures, 1981