Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur Book I Chapter III
This is a short one. Just as Merlin predicted, Igraine — now Uther’s wife and the queen of England — is pregnant. By the time she enters her third trimester, her new husband starts to suspect something, so he asks her whose child it is, and this is a question that Igraine really isn’t eager to answer.
C’mon, says Uther. I promise I won’t be mad. (What an asshole! He knows the answer to this question and he knows she doesn’t know and he’s choosing to shame her for, as near as I can tell, the fun of it! I hope he dies a slow lingering death that is both humiliating and takes an entire chapter to describe.)
Well, okay, says Igraine, and explains that the night her previous husband died he visited her with two of his men and spent the night, which was a bizarre supernatural occurrence, what with him being dead at the time. Jordanus and Brastias didn’t sleep with her, they just came in with Gorlas and left when he did. Igraine is pretty sure the father of her most recent child is one of: time traveling Gorlas from the recent past, Gorlas’s ghost, a demon who assumed Gorlas’s form, or Gorlas’s evil twin, biological-type or parallel-earth-type (Fauxlas? Gorlternate?). Or maybe a Gorlas-impersonator like you see in nightclub acts.
Not at all, laughs Uther. It was me all along! I was Gorlas the whole time! Merlin did it with magic. Ha ha! Ha ha! You foolish ladyperson! Ha ha! I’m such a dick!
Oh. Great. That’s… that’s great, says Igraine. She is, Malory assures us, completely thrilled by the knowledge that her new husband used magic to disguise himself as her late husband and sleep with her. This is way better, she thinks, than any of the alternatives. So, that’s nice.
Anyway, Merlin shows up and reminds the king about how he knew Igraine would be pregnant and how Uther promised Merlin the child, and Uther is like, oh, right, well, she’s not due for another few months, do you want to cut it out of her immediately or should we wait until it’s born, and will you want to eat it raw or should we cook it first or what?
Merlin is like no, no, no. There’s this guy — Sir Ector — who you should invite to visit. Have a sit-down chat with him, you’ll see he’s a reasonable guy, and get him to promise to raise your son as if it were his own. He’ll do a great job, I promise.
Uther isn’t about to start disagreeing with Merlin at this point, so he meets Ector, extracts the aforementioned promise, and when the infant boy is born, boom, Uther sends two knights and two ladies to carry him off. Uther has no idea how to keep a secret; it’s Castle Tintagil all over again. Uther couldn’t just have Merlin disguise him, no, Merlin had to also disguise himself and Sir Ulfius, which meant that they had to hang out and make small talk with the folks at Tintagil all night, dodging questions like “why aren’t you at Terrabil?” and “join me in a round of our beloved fight song, Brastias,” and “hey, remember that conversation we were having last time we met, Jordanus? We were discussing the personal details of mutual friends. Let’s pick it up where we left off.”
Anyway, Uther sends this detachment of lords, plural, and ladies, also plural, to the rear gate of the castle, where Merlin is standing tapping his foot (more evidence that Merlin is a vampire and cannot enter homes uninvited). Merlin had made a big deal about how he wanted the baby unbaptized, but first thing he does, he goes and gets a “holy man” to baptize Arthur. Merlin turns infant Arthur over to Ector, who kicks his own son (Kay) off to a wet-nurse so that his wife, whose milk is aristocrat milk and therefore better I guess, can nurse Arthur.
The chapter closes without addressing how Igraine reacted to Uther stealing her newborn son and giving him to Merlin. Probably everyone assumed that Arthur was stillborn, what with it being the middle ages and all. I like to imagine Uther’s solution to this issue was to laugh and tell Igraine that she was never pregnant, because Uther is such a jackass. I hope he dies in the next chapter, which is still titled “Of the Death of King Uther Pendragon.” (No spoilers!)
DISCUSSION QUESTION: If you were Igraine, what would be the best-case scenario for explaining your pregnancy? Would it be time-travel? I’m going with time travel. I like time-travel.
Vocabulary word of the chapter: fianuce, which Google thinks is a misspelled fiance, but is in fact a synonym for promise or oath, as in, “Ector made fianuce to Uther for to raise Arthur as his own.”
Before I got to your discussion question, I was actually going to ask if she offered up the most reasonable and obvious of explanations: Time Travel! Perhaps she will figure this out eventually and solve this dilemma with MORE time travel!
More time travel *does* always solve everything!
And if time travel doesn’t solve everything, you know what hat more always does.
Igraine is so Griselda.
Weird. The family tree of the Pandava makes more sense than this.