In the old days, before Arthur and his court wandered into the mists of Avalon, there lived a wealthy sheep farmer, his lady, and their lovely young daughter, Angharad. They made their home on the small island of Shalott, but owned a great number of the fair green hills in the surrounding countryside. Because of her parents' great wealth, Angharad had never toiled in the fields under the hot sun. However, she found a special joy in the spinning and weaving of wool. Even at a young age her tapestries excelled above all others in both beauty and craft. Her scenes were childish and innocent, as appropriate for a young maid, but rich in color and imagination. Such was her renown that word of her skill traveled the long road to Camelot, where it fell upon the ears of Lancelot.
Having no present quest, he declared, "I shall go and pay this family a visit and see these tapestries for myself."
The family eagerly welcomed the knight into their home. Angharad looked at Lancelot from underneath heavy fluttering eyelashes. The blush of a maiden, newly wakened from childhood, colored her cheeks. Entranced both by the charm of the young lady and the beauty of her skill, Lancelot tarried three weeks before returning to court. Though he was removed far from her in distance, his heart took flight and visited her image every night. During the day, he could speak of nothing else but Angharad and her tapestries. He vowed to marry the young lady before the year's end.
The news of Lancelot's infatuation reached the cunning ears of Morgana le Fay. Having long born a passion for Lancelot herself, she could not bear to see him so attached to charms as fleeting as a virgin's blush.
"I shall amend this situation," she murmured within herself. "If she shall weave, then let her weave eternal. Let her illustrate the world in her work—having never seen beyond the window of maidenhood." Morgana poured her jealousy into a large mirror, enchanting it with her sorcery. "I shall make a gift of you to this girl. As long as she weaves in front of you, she shall not stir from seat nor loom. All knowledge of her shall pass away. For her, all the world shall sit in the shadow of your reflection, till she glance away and enter into shadow herself."
The curse complete, Morgana sent the mirror to Shalott in the guise of an engagement present from Lancelot. Angharad, pleased with such an expensive token of love, immediately placed it before her loom in the highest tower of Shalott.
"I shall weave a wedding present for my dear knight," she said as she took her place at the loom. At the end of the day, stiff and sore, she longed to stand and stretch her legs, but found she could not. Her fingers continued to weave the threads that never ended. "What sorcery is this?" she wondered as she laced the colored strings.
Angharad wove for years, passing out of time and space. None came in search of the lost tapestry weaver—all had forgotten her. Looking in the mirror, she saw the shadows of many things come to pass. She saw first her father, then her mother, carried to the family tombs. She saw her lands grow wild and unkempt. She saw the servants her family had once employed go off and start new lives. She saw their children and children's children grow old and die as the centuries passed, folded in on one another, and began in time again.
One day, a strange light in the mirror caught her eye. At first, it was only a bouncing speck, a lively firefly, but soon it filled the room. It was the sun glinting off the armor of none other than her beloved Lancelot.
Angharad shielded her eyes with her hands. The trance was broken. Angharad quickly left the stool to look out the window and call to her betrothed. His song reached her ears, but her cries did not fall upon his. Despite a foreboding sense of her own doom, she raced out of the room, down the tower, and to the water's edge.
There a crumbling boat waited for her. Having forgotten her own name, she christened the vessel "The Lady of Shalott". With no thought but love in her heart, she leapt into the boat and struck out to follow Lancelot by the river road to Camelot. Feeling the life draining out of her, she wept and wondered at the cruel curse which had stolen her existence. With the last of her energy, she lay down in the boat and sang the story of her life for any on the banks who might hear and remember the tapestry weaver, the Lady of Shalott.
Long after her song had ended, her vessel reached the shores of Camelot. It was her beloved Lancelot who first found her cold frozen body, still in its youth. He could not tear his eyes away from the girl, though he did not know her. Alas, Morgana's curse was too well-formed that it should be broken even in death.
"She has a pretty face," mused Sir Lancelot with a sadness he would never comprehend.
From the Author:
I hope you enjoyed this little piece I wrote in the Fall of 2012. Please, feel free to leave your comments and feedback below.
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