Marion Zimmer Bradley is most famous for her re-telling of the Arthurian legends in The Mists of Avalon. However, the New York Bestseller is only one of the books in a series that spanned Bradley’s entire career (and beyond, thanks to her good friend Diana Paxson). Readers of Mists will know that references are made to the main characters’ past lives throughout the book. Those past lives are written about in the prequels, starting from the time of Atlantis, working their way up through British History, and ending at the generation right before Mists takes place. These books hold the backstory to Viviane’s childhood, Igraine and Uther’s love throughout the ages, Morgaine’s faerie bloodline, Gwenhwyfar’s religious zealotry, and much more.
However, it is very difficult to figure out who is who in each time period. What is worse is that, as Diana Paxson said, “As a rule, Marion was not particularly interested in maintaining consistency among her books.” Deciphering who is who throughout the series is an absolute mess, and there is no guarantee that any of the similarities were actually intended.
The purpose of this website is to analyze possible connections between who is a reincarnation of who. A lot of it is guesswork. A lot of it is searching for evidence and matching it with other small details. I make no guarantees on how certain I am on any of my assertions. I will simply offer my reasons for thinking what I do.
EDIT: The time has finally come, my friends. Diana Paxson has posted the official chart detailing who is a reincarnation of who. This means that I can finally fact-check my guesses and see how many times I was right vs. how many times I was wrong. I am mildly surprised to see how few characters Paxson lists as being reoccurring throughout the series; it appears that I have definitely over-analyzed a great bit in my quest to be thorough! Although the creation of the official chart would seem to make mine obsolete mine has explanations for why I thought the things I did and background on each of the individual characters. I encourage readers to cross-reference my chart with the official one and also read my notes at the bottom of this page explaining why I made the mistakes I did. If nothing else my page is better for "geeking out" over the more detailed descriptions that I give.
For reference, I use the names the characters are given in the first chronological book of the series, The Fall of Atlantis. For example, I will say that Viviane and Ana are both Domaris, and Morgaine and Igraine are both Deoris. I chose to do it this way instead of from Mists because Atlantis is the first book that Bradley ever wrote, so it is probably how it seemed to her as she wrote all the other books.
My method of showing how each incarnation is the same as the last is by using the same kind of words to describe each person. I recommend having the description of the original personalities (from Fall of Atlantis) open as you read any of the other descriptions so you can see the similarities in the descriptions.
Each row is one personality. Each column is one time period, arranged chronologically. Some people are missing in certain time periods because they simply weren’t necessary for that particular plot.
Priestess of Avalon is missing simply because I have not had the chance to read it.
Ravens of Avalon is missing because I do not believe Diana Paxson had the motive or need to keep up with MZB’s habit. Diana and Marion wanted to write the story of Boudica, and that is what Diana set out to do. Since some of the characters are from The Forest House, this task was already done for this time period.
Just for fun, I reccomend looking up information about the actual historical (or legendary) events that MZB writes about. (Wikipedia is the easiest way to go). She SEAMLESSLY blends fiction and history. Although it is usually a dangerous thing to say "well, I know about *insert historical time period here* because I read a fiction novel about it" it is actually safe with anything MZB writes. Just look up the Roman invasion of Britain, any names of Roman officials, many Arthurian legends, the story of Norma, Carasius' rise and fall, or really anything else you can think of. She did the same thing in The Firebrand for the Sack of Troy.
MZB's influences:Sax Rohmer, Rider Haggard, Maxfield Parrish and Norma
Diana Paxson's website on the Avalon series
Norma, the opera that The Forest House is based off of.
Thoughts on Avalon, an essay MZB wrote about the views expressed in Mists.
A memoir of MZB as told by Diana Paxson . EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about how her life tied into her writing can be found here.
What is mine: photography, graphics, and the theories.
What is not mine: characters, stories, and the truth behind the theories.
EDIT: According to Paxson's chart the bottom four lines of my chart are obsolete. Damisa and Sianna are also not supposed to be in here, Gawen and Carasius are both supposed to be Micon, Ana is supposed to be Deoris, and Vortimer is supposed to be Reio-ta. More details on these mistakes can be found below.
NOTE: The background of the grid is a picture of Castell Dinas Bran (give or take a few accent marks) in Llangollen, Wales.
COMMENTS ABOUT ACCURACY: According to Paxson's chart the last 4 rows of my chart are essentially obsolete. Riveda apparently lives as Velantos in Sword of Avalon, but that is the only time in this series he reappears and because I have not read Sword of Avalon I do not feel qualified to comment. As for the other three (Rajasta, Arvath, and Karahama) I feel my mistake is easily explainable: they are all quite archetypical characters.
Rajasta is what Joseph Campbell called the "supernatural aid" character, or the "mentor" archetype. This character shows up all throughout literature and it only makes sense that he shows up in this series as well. Maybe MZB did not intend for him to be the same soul, but there can be no doubt that the Merlin character (or Taliesin, as called here) is a staple in many stories. While on this topic, I feel that Riveda, or the characters I originally thought were Riveda, fit the archetype of the "shadow mentor," who values power over wisdom.
My mistake in naming characters as Arvath stems from an even simpler cause; they are all antagonists. Granted, MZB's stories tend to blend protagonists and antagonists and it is difficult to tell who is on what side at any given time. However, all of the Arvath characters end up being on the side fighting against Avalon at the end of the story.
I was never really sure about Karahama to begin with. I even had her tentatively split into two separate souls because I just did not feel comfortable putting all those characters together. They do all seem to fit one same archetype, though. The orphan child describes their sense of being "other" and their quest to find a surrogate family structure; Karahama finds the temple, Julia and Gwenhwyfar find Christianity, and Julia and Dieda both plan revenge to give them a sense of belonging and purpose.
The difference between Micon and Micail was also very difficult. I now know that both Gawen and Carasius were mean to be Micon, and only Uther (and Miikantor in The Sword of Avalon) were supposed to be Micail. I never really liked thinking of Micon and Micail as different souls anyway; just look at what I did to place Carasius!
In the end the only true surprises for me were Ana and Vortimer. I should have seen Ana = Deoris coming. In fact, many people who read this site and contacted me afterwards suggested as much and I did not listen. To those people, if you are reading this, I apologize and thank you for the attempt you made to lead me from my faulty ways. As I was told several times, Ana's personality fits Deoris' more closely, and Ana and Viviane should not be alive at the same time.
As for Vortimer, even now I am having a really hard time accepting the fact that he is not Micon, but Reio-ta instead. I just do not see the similarities to flawed Reio-ta, the one who tries to do good but makes things worse every time. I see much more similarity to noble Micon, who does what he must no matter the personal cost. I also see Vortimer as similar to Arthur in those respects. Even though the voice of authority has spoken I simply cannot see how Vortimer could be Reio-ta. He even loved Viviane/Domaris, thus meaning he should be Micon!
NOTE: All of my information on archetypes comes from a list compiled by Caroline Myss.