In T.H. White's The Once and Future King, the “Orkney faction” of Morgause and her sons consistently opposes King Arthur's centralizing power and stands for the old, mystical “Celtic” power of the British Isles against Arthur's progressive, rational “Englishness”. In White's medieval sources, the name represents a distant, possibly exotic power and, again, frequently antagonistic to Arthur's British affairs. This paper analyzes selected accounts of Orkney in Middle English narrative texts, primarily Arthurian romances, illustrating how conceptual “Orkneys” develop in the literature overall but also serve the literary needs of each individual narrative. The ultimate aim of the analysis will be to determine “where” Orkney is in the conceptual cultural geography created by these medieval writers of Great Britain: “here” or “elsewhere”.
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