The earliest references to Mordred (Medraut) do not say he whether he was related to Arthur nor that he
betrayed Arthur. The information about the betrayal is added to the stories
later. Then the detail that Mordred is Arthur's son was added. And only then is the incest story added (usually with
Morgawse as a half-sister rather than a full sister to Arthur). So there are actually quite a few different traditions for authors
to draw upon.
The Annales Cambriae mentions that Arthur and Medrawt fell at Camlann, but neglects to mention whether
they were allies or opponents.
The next time Mordred is mentioned is in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia, where he is clearly villainous,
and thus he remains, except in the Scottish versions, which would naturally prefer to think of the Scots character as being
wronged by the English king. The Scottish chronicles are unique in this respect, and Mordred remained a villain until some
of the more modern versions of the story, like Mary Stewart's 'The Wicked Day' conclusion to her tetralogy.
According to some late medieval Scottish texts, Mordred was the legitimate heir to the throne of Britain.
Remember that the incestuous origin of Mordred is a French tradition and does not become part of the main-stream English
tradition until Malory. Mordred, in the English (and Scottish tradition) is the son of
Loth and Arthur's sister, Anna. As such, he is the heir to the throne through his mother. Fordun mentions this, as does
Walter Bower. The
"Chronicle of Scotland" is the heaviest proponent of this claim. There did not seem to be any serious attempt to prove
that Mordred's Scottish descendants should be on the English throne (Lot, after all, was king of Scotland), but the story
did argue against English claims to Scotland which relied on Arthur.
P.J.F. Turner in his book, The REAL King Arthur, A History of Post-Roman Britannia, A.D.410-A.D.593, addresses
the issue of Mordred's legitimacy as a "rightful" "Scottish" king who fought the usurper Arthur.
In his scenario, Arthur, now an old/older man moves north, marries a young princess, the third Guinevere, as a
way of establishing an alliance in the north, and securing his flank as he prepares to move against the last remaining British
king not allied with him.
While he is fighting this king in central Britain, Guinevere and the man she was originally supposed to
marry, Mordred, rebel against Arthur. From this perspective Mordred could look like a hero since he "freed"
his people of the yoke of British oppression even at the cost of his life, and acted from the purest motives of love and patriotism.
There seems, however, to be some feeling of opposition in a Welsh Triads.
Triad 51 (Llyfr Coch
Hergest late C14th) Three Dishonoured Men
"And the third and worst was Medrawd, when Arthur left with him the government of the Island of Britain, at the time
when he himself went across the sea to oppose Lles, emperor of Rome, who had despatched messengers to Arthur in Caerleon
to demand tribute to him and to the men of Rome from the men of this Island...When Medrawd heard that Arthur's
host was dispersed he turned against Arthur, and the Saxons and the Picts united with him to hold this Island against Arthur.
And when Arthur heard that, he turned back with all that had survived of his army, and succeeded by violence in landing on
this Island to Medrawd. And then there took place the Battle of Camlann between Arthur and Medrawd, and Arthur slew
Medrawd, and was himself wounded to death. and from that he died and was buried in a hall on the Island of
Triad 56 (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) Three Unrestrained Ravagings
"The first of them when Medrawd came to Arthur's court at Celliwig in Cornwall; he left neither food nor drink
court that he did not consume. And he dragged Gwenhwyfar from her royal chair, and then he struck a blow upon her."
In support of the possibility that Mordred may have been virtuous rather than criminal, there is also a Welsh
Triad which R. S. Loomis cites in his 'Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance' p.146-7 (1967 reprint) which he quotes
as citing Mordred and Nasiens, King of Denmark, as being "men of such gentle, kindly, and fair words that anyone would
be sorry to refuse them anything". Of course, this statement could be argued also as showing Mordred to be manipulative.
However, Lady Charlotte Guest, in her notes to the 'Mabinogion' remarks that besides the already
mentioned reason for the Battle of Camlann being the blow Gwenhyvar struck to her sister Gwenhwyvach, is the blow Arthur
gave to Mordred.
Guest also remarks that Welsh tradition describes Mordred as one of three kingly
knights in Arthur's court, and no one could deny him anything because of
his courtliness. His curious persuasive powers are due to his calmness,
mildness, and purity. Again, arguments could be made here for Mordred as an ideal knight or as manipulative for his own evil designs.
A list of works discussing Mordred in Scottish tradition with abstracts of the various works can be found in Robert
Huntington Fletcher's 'The Arthurian Materials in the Chronicles' (1966). It contains a virtual cornucopia of
information including the bizarre such as:
--in an early manuscript of Wace's Brut, Modred is Genievre's brother.
--Jehan de Wavrin's version of Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Recueil, states that Geoffrey didn't mention anything
derogatory about Mordred because Mordred was one of Geoffrey's ancestors.
--in Mer Des Histoires (aka: Ly Myreur Des Histors) by Jean
des Preis, Lanchelot del Lac is the only surviving member of the Round Table. He takes London, executes Genevre and locks
up Modrech with her corpse. Driven by hunger, Mordrech eats Genevre, but eventually starves to death anyway.