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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Legend of Tristan and Isolde

After reading the first two thirds of the Guinevere Trilogy by Persia Woolley I became interested in learning more about the legends of those involved with King Arthur and Guinevere and learning their stories as well. One of those that captured by attention right away was that of Tristan and Isolde. I have a review of the 2005 movie Tristan and Isolde coming up tomorrow so I wanted to prepare you with the basic legend.
Tristan & Isolde and the Love Potion
The basic legend expounds that Tristan is given the task of bringing Isolde back to his Uncle King Mark as a bride. Isolde is not thrilled with having to marry King Mark who is said to be much older than she is. She is given a love potion by her mother and the next person that she sees she falls in love with (she is supposed to take it just before she sees King Mark so that she will be in love with him and be happy). She takes the potion and ends up falling in love with Tristan instead. Isolde marries King Mark but begins an adulterous relationship with Tristan. King Mark finds out about the betrayals and wants them to be killed. In some turn of events (the legends differ as to how it happens possibly by poisoning or grief) Tristan ends up dying and Isolde typically dies by his side.
The Death of Tristan
There are many, many variations to this tale but the basic plot line usually remains the same. In the original tale the pair was not connected to King Arthur in any way but their stories did eventually become entangled in Arthurian legend with Tristan becoming one of Arthur’s noble knights. It is also a story that is often compared to Romeo and Juliet as the pair has a forbidden love and the two end up dying by the end of the story.
Forbidden Love
Hope you have enjoyed this mini introduction to the legend of Tristan and Isolde. Have you read any novels about this pair or seen any movies about them?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I always wondered how Tristan and Isolde ending up being intertwined with Arthur. Good to know!!

  2. Allison - I had wondered the same thing too!

    Rowenna - I really enjoy this tale too - almost more so that the regular arthur and guinevere story.

  3. One of my favorite retellings is Dee Morrison Meaney's Iseult, which also has a fantastic book cover (if you can find the original paperback). Another is Diana Paxson's The White Raven, which puts a different twist on the legend.

    The scenery in the 2005 film is breathtakingly gorgeous!

  4. Tristan and Isolde is a good story although I still prefer Arthur and Guinevere. I'm reading both Persia Woolly (Arthur and Guinevere) and Anna Elliot's (Tristan and Isolde) books right now and enjoying both stories.

  5. I saw the movie that you are reviewing tomorrow and enjoyed it immensely. Although I always picture King Mark as old and disgusting.

    There is a trilogy of books about Tristan and Isolde, from Rosalind Miles. The first half of the story was good, but the middle of book 2 to beginning of Book 3 I couldn't take. Never finished it. The characters changed for me, going from strong to weak and then complete bleh.

    I look forward to your review.

  6. Anna Elliott's Trystan & Isolde trilogy is fantastic and I highly recommend it (Twilight of Avalon, Dark Moon of Avalon, & Sunrise of Avalon) - it is my favourite re-telling/interpretation of the legend to date, and is very well researched.

  7. Sarah - I had not heard of either of the books. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Justbookreading - I haven't had the chance to read Elliot's books, but they are on my TBR!

    Jenny - I picture King Mark differently too, but I liked him well enough! I have heard many different reviews on Miles' books, I will have to think on them.

    Sorcha - I am definately hoping to get the chance to read them. I didn't really hear about them until this year!

  8. Thanks for the legend overview. Have often heard of the Tristan and Isolde legend, but never was sure just what it was. Now what I heard makes sense. I will have to get some of these books and read them.

  9. Librarypat - I feel the same way - I really need to read some of these. And I found that I just love the artwork that has been done on this legend - and there is quite a bit!

  10. I love the legend of Tristan and Isolde and since I´m a handmade artist I´m about to create a jewelry collection ispired by this beautiful story...

  11. Stephanie - Oh that is so cool! I would love to see what you create! Great inspiration.


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