In the book Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson there are many things throughout the different stories that show mist imagery. The significance of mist imagery is important. It could mean something new is coming, represent good, bad, or death. Mist can also help give a sense of feeling. Mist imagery can foreshadow events and lead a reader to think further into the story and what would happen.
When the Lady of the Lake gave Excalibur to Arthur in “The coming of Arthur,” a mist of incense curled about her and her face. She was hidden and could not be seen. The mist signifies that the Lady of the Lake is to precious to be seen. The sword that was given to Arthur symbolizes something new and good. Arthur uses this sword to help King Leodogran fight a battle. They won this battlw and in return Arthur wanted to marry King Leodogran’s daughter, Givinevere. King Leodogran didn’t know if Arthur was of noble birth, and couldn’t decide if he should allow the marriage. Arthur’s birth was not truely known and King Leodogran had to find someway of knowing the truth. Later that night King Leodogran had a dream. “Stream’d to the peak, and mingled with the haze/ And made it thicker; while the phantom king/ Sent out at times a voice; and here or there/ Stood one who pointed toward the voice, the rest/ Slew on and burnt, crying, No king of ours,/ No son of Uther, and no king of ours;’/ Till with a wink his dream was changed, the haze/ Descended, and the solid earth became/ As nothing, but the King stood out in heaven,/ Crown’d. And Leodogran awoke, and sent” (Tennyson 32-33). In this quote about mist imagery it gives an answer. When the mist clears and the king could see, it symbolizes that his answer was clear to him. The answer was yes, let Arthur marry Givinevere.
In “Merlin and Vivien”, Merlin describes how he is feeling using the word mist. “An ever-moaning battle in the mist” (Tennyson 147). Here Merlin tells how his life is like a battle, meaning everything is going wrong. With the mist it makes it hard to see what can be done to make things go right. This mist also gives a feeling of sadness and gloom. Later in the story Merlin again speaks of his “mind-mist” (Tennyson 150). He was all out of sorts and didn’t even realize Vivien had followed him. Vapor is all around when Vivien puts her face in Merlin’s beard. The vapor here shows that Merlin’s power is greater than Vivien’s.
The story “Givenivere” mainly has mist that signifies something bad. Mist can also symbolize the coming of something unfavorable. “Blurr’d by the creeping mist, for all abroad,/ Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full,/ The white mist, like a face-cloth to the face,/ Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still./ For hither had she fled, her cause of flight” (Tennyson 269). Here the mist is coming over the land so it is not visible. The mist gives a feeling that everything is dead. Mist can stand for death. When the king found Givenivere in her hiding place he went to visit her one last time. As he left, this was how the mist was described “The moony vapour rolling round the King,/ Who seem’d the phantom of a Giant in it,/ Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray/ And grayer, till himself became as mist/ Before her, moving ghostlike to his doom.”(Tennyson 284). This shows how mist is bad because as king Arthur leaves, the dark mist surrounds him leading to his death. You no longer see him and are left with an eerie presence. There is no movement, no noise. It gives a sense of creepiness
in the “Passing of Arthur” a mist comes over the sea and in the battle. This mist means doom for all. This mist was so thick you could not see anything in front of you. The knights would to out into battle and fight anyone. Knights would be killing their own knights. “Look’d up for heaven, and only saw the mist;” (Tennyson 291). “In that close mist, and cryings for the light,/ Moans of the dying, and voices of the dead.” (Tennyson 291). After the battle the mist clears and everyone is dead. This shows how evil the mist was. Because the knights couldn’t see, they would kill whoever they were fighting, not knowing if it was an enemy.
In each of these stories mist stood for something different. The mist brought something new, good, bad, foreshadowed death, and gave feelings. Without the mist the story wouldn’t have been given the same feeling.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “The Coming of Arthur.” Idylls of the King. Ed. J. M. Gray. London: Penguin Books, 1996. 21-35
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “Merlin and Vivien.” Idylls of the King. Ed. J. M. Gray. London: Penguin Books, 1996. 142-167
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “Guinevere.” Idylls of the King. Ed. J. M. Gray. London: Penguin Books, 1996. 269-287
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “The Passing of Arthur.” Idylls of the King. Ed. J. M. Gray. London: Penguin Books, 1996. 288-300