Pendragon Cycle

Pendragon Cycle

The "Pendragon Cycle" is a series of fantasy or semi-historical books based on the Arthurian legend, written by Stephen R. Lawhead. They are:

*"Taliesin" (1987)
*"Merlin" (1988)
*"Arthur" (1989)
*"Pendragon" (1994)
*"Grail" (1997)
*"Avalon" (1999)

The Cycle was originally the "Pendragon Trilogy", but after "Arthur"'s rather abrupt ending, and the existence of many unexplored stories and plotlines, Lawhead decided to expand on his trilogy by writing two prequels. "Avalon" is not considered to be a true member of the Cycle, but rather a 'related semi-sequel' to it.


The series is work of fiction that takes place in the 5th and 6th Centuries and attempts to present the Arthurian legends in a historical setting while presenting the story with a reality the reader can connect with. Lawhead bases his stories on the "Mabinogion", the "History of the Kings of Britain" and other works of Geoffrey of Monmouth, the writings of Taliesin, Gildas, and Nennius, and several other legends that he manages to interweave into the Arthurian legend.

The books, with the exception of "Taliesin" and "Avalon", are narrated in the first-person, and, except for "Pendragon", "Grail", and "Avalon", are each split into three sections ("Pendragon" has four, "Grail" one, and "Avalon" five). "Merlin" and "Pendragon" are narrated by Myrddin (Merlin). The first third of "Arthur" is narrated by Pelleas, the second by Bedwyr (Bedivere), and the third by Aneirin/Gildas. "Grail" is mostly narrated by Gwalchavad (Galahad), with a short narration by Morgian (Morgan le Fay) at the beginning of most chapters. "Taliesin" follows Taliesin and Charis (the Lady of the Lake), alternating in each chapter; "Avalon" mostly follows James Stuart (the reborn Arthur), Merlin, and the fictional Prime Minister Thomas Waring.


A listing of the locations and place names used in the series, and their modern equivalents:

(see also List of Roman place names in Britain)

Series NameModern Name
Afon TreontRiver Trent
AvallonIsle of Man/Avalon
Ynys AvallachGlastonbury Tor/Annwn/Avalon
BaedunMons Badonicus
BritanniaGreat Britain
CelyddonCaledonia (Scotland)
Dal RiataDál Riata
Caer EdynEdinburgh
Edyn RockArthur's Seat
Glevum/Caer GloiuGloucester
GuaulAntonine Wall
Caer LegionisCaerleon
Caer LialCarlisle
LloegresLogres (England)
Londinium/Caer LondeinLondon
Londinium RoadWatling Street
LlyonesseIsles of Scilly
Caer MelynCamelot
Mor HafrenBristol Channel
Muir ÉireannIrish Sea
Muir Nicht"The Narrow Seas" (English Channel)
Caer MyrddinCarmarthen
Ynys Prydein"Isle of the Mighty" (Great Britain)
RotundaThe Round Table
Saecsen ShoreSaxon Shore
"Shrine Hill"Glastonbury Abbey
"The Summerlands"Somerset
Caer UiscExeter
Venta Belgarum/Caer UintanWinchester
"The Wall"Hadrian's Wall
Ynys Witrin"Isle of Glass" (Glastonbury)


Many historical personas (some already included in the Arthurian legend) exist in the Cycle, alongside less "factual" characters: Taliesin, Magnus Maximus, Theodosius, Ambrosius Aurelianus, Vortigern, Constantine III, Myrddin Wyllt, Clovis I, Gwyddno Garanhir, Elphin, Horsa, Hengest, Cerdic, Aelle, Gildas, and Aneirin (in the series, it is revealed that the last two are the same person; born with the name Aneirin, he changes it to Gildas after Arthur's death).

Series CharacterHistorical/Legendary Basis/es
Arthur/Artos/Artorius ap AureliusKing Arthur
AvallachFisher King/Avalloc
AureliusAmbrosius Aurelianus
CharisLady of the Lake
Ector/EctoriusSir Hector
Fergus mac GuillomarLeondegrance/Fergus mor
Ganieda (Merlin's wife)Ganieda (Merlin's sister in Welsh legend)
"Joseph's Thorn"Holy Thorn
Llwch Llenlleawg/LlencelynLancelot
Macsen WledigMagnus Maximus
MorgianMorgan le Fay/Nimue/Modron
Paulinus/PaulusSt. Paulinus of York
"Sea Wolves"Scotti
Urien RhegedUrien

Book Descriptions

The series (so far, at least) proceeds as told in the following descriptions:


Tells simultaneously the story of the fall of Atlantis, the subsequent travel of Princess Charis and her family to Ynys Prydein (Britain), and the discovery and training of Taliesin as a druid-bard. The two eventually meet, marry, and Myrddin (Merlin) is born, just weeks before Taliesin is murdered by Charis' jealous half-sister, Morgian.


"Narrated by Myrddin"


"Narrated by Pelleas (first third), Bedwyr (second third), and Aneirin (last third)"


"Narrated by Myrddin"


"Narrated by Gwalchavad (majority) and Morgian (short narration at each chapter's beginning)"


Chronological Order

*"Taliesin" Book 1: A Gift of Jade (Atlantis segments)
*"Taliesin" Book 1: A Gift of Jade (Britain segments)
*"Taliesin" Book 2: The Sun Bull
*"Taliesin" Book 3: The Merlin
*"Merlin" Book 1: King
*"Merlin" Book 2: Forest Lord
*"Merlin" Book 3: Prophet
*"Merlin" Prologue
*"Merlin" Epilogue
*"Arthur" Book 1: Pelleas
*"Arthur" Book 2: Bedwyr
*"Pendragon" Book 1: Hidden Tales
*"Pendragon" Book 2: The Black Boar
*"Pendragon" Book 3: The Forgotten War
*"Pendragon" Book 4: The Healing Dream
*"Arthur" Book 3: Aneirin
*"Arthur Pendragon" Prologues & Epilogues
*"Avalon" Prologue
*"Avalon" Book 1
*"Avalon" Book 2
*"Avalon" Book 3
*"Avalon" Book 4
*"Avalon" Book 5
*"Avalon" Epilogue


It should be remembered that although Lawhead retains an authentic and well researched grasp of the Arthurian legend, he was not concerned with writing a work of pure history. Therefore, any historical inconsistencies in his work should be taken in this context.

*The series begins c. 330AD with the destruction of Atlantis, but the lost island was first mentioned in literature in Plato's "Republic", written c. 360BC. Lawhead himself acknowledges this, stating that (within his universe) the disaster Plato mentions is an earthquake that causes much of Atlantis to fall beneath the water, with it not being entirely sunk until later.

*In "Taliesin", Maximus makes reference to "Imperator Constantine." The last emperor commonly referred to as Constantine in Maximus' time (Constantine II) died in 340, 43 years before Maximus' revolt in Britannia. Even assuming he's referring to Constantius II, there is still a 22-year gap between the death of "Constantine" and Maximus' revolt. In the books, he is portrayed as a younger/middle-aged; it's unlikely he'd have been stationed in Britannia for so long.

*In the second book of "Pendragon", which takes place a year or two after Badon Hill, the Vandali invade Britain. The Vandal leader, Amilcar, tells how they were driven from Carthage by the soldiers of the "Emperor of Constantine's great city;" "Amilcar" is a Phoenician name, and Belisarius drove the Vandals from Africa in the year 534, well after Badon. The Vandali are described as Asiatic pagans, when in reality they were Germanic and Arian Christians; and it need not be mentioned that there never was a Vandal invasion of the British Isles.

*In the last part of "Arthur", Arthur is sent a message from a certain " [Emperor] Lucius, Procurator of the Republic" of Constantinople, who never existed, although Lawhead here is obviously relating to the "History of the Kings of Britain", which mentions such an emperor. In addition, in the Roman Republic, there never was a position called "Procurator of the Republic," and while the early Empire maintained the fiction of the Republic's continued existence, by the 6th Century the Byzantine Empire acknowledged itself as a monarchy. It should also be said that, in the later books, there is still much reference to the Western Roman Empire as a continued polity, despite the fact that it would have fallen by that point.

*In "Pendragon", the monk "Paulinus" appears to be St. Paulinus of York; however, St. Paulinus lived three hundred years after the book takes place.

*In "Taliesin", it is mentioned that potatoes were a staple of the early British diet, but were not introduced to Europe until after the discovery of the American Continents.

* In "Grail", Gwalchavad mentions that Aneirin has encouraged him to write his book. He also mentions his lost brother, Gwalchmai, as still missing. However, in Aneirin's book (Part 3 of "Arthur"), Gwalchmai returns while Aneirin is still a young man, supposedly before he would begin to write his version of the tale and be of age/influence to encourage Gwalchavad to do so as well.

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