Excalibur is one of the most iconic and legendary swords in Western literature and folklore, closely associated with the mythical King Arthur. I aim to delve into the origins, significance, and various depictions of King Arthur and his fabled sword.
Arthur has been depicted in many ways. He is most commonly seen as the high Medieval king of 13th, 14th, and 15th century tapestries, paintings, and book illustrations, complete with a court of noble lords, ladies, and, of course, the Knights of the Round Table.
To the Victorians, he was a Christian hero, while in modern times, King Arthur has been the subject of historical novels, musical comedies, and cartoons.
Of course, Arthur, in a mortal sense, never existed. He was wishful thinking in ‘good’ in ‘bad’ times. He may have been able to pull a sword out of a large stone, but he never achieved mortality. Unlike the rest of us, he was a myth.
Yet, hold on a moment; that may not be true. Recently, historians and archaeologists have suggested that a military leader named Arthur may have actually existed, although not as a Medieval king, but as a Romanised Briton of the 5th or 6th century A.D. Thus, a more realistic view of Arthur would have him dressed in the leather tunic and breeches of a provincial Roman soldier, wearing a woollen cloak fastened with a penannular fibula or brooch and carrying a Roman long sword.
Picture Credit: “How Galahad drew out the sword from the floating stone at Camelot.” Arthur Rackham‘s illustration for Alfred W. Pollard‘s The Romance of King Arthur (1917)
Attribution: Arthur Rackham, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:326_The_Romance_of_King_Arthur.jpg
Origins and Legend:
The exact origins of Excalibur remain shrouded in mystery and have been subject to various interpretations. In most versions of the Arthurian legend, the Lady of the Lake presents Excalibur to Arthur.
In the Arthurian legend, the Sword in the Stone tests Arthur’s lineage and his right to be the true king. After the death of Uther Pendragon, England fell into turmoil, and the nobles sought a solution for choosing the next king. With Merlin’s guidance (or magical hand), a large stone with an embedded sword appeared in a churchyard in Westminster. The inscription on the blade stated that whoever could pull the sword from the stone would be the rightful king of England.
Arthur, who was raised as the foster son of Sir Ector and unaware of his royal lineage, became involved in the sword-pulling contest. Despite the doubts and taunts from others, Arthur succeeded in drawing the sword from the stone, proving himself as the rightful king. This event revealed his true identity and set him on the path to becoming King Arthur.
Excalibur, on the other hand, is a different sword associated with King Arthur. In most versions of the Arthurian legend, Arthur receives Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, often after breaking his initial sword in battle. Excalibur is depicted as a powerful and magical sword, often associated with Arthur’s kingship and his role as a just ruler. It is the mythical sword of King Arthur that may be attributed with magical powers or associated with the rightful sovereignty of Britain, or both. Traditionally, the sword in the stone that is the proof of Arthur’s lineage and the sword given to him by a Lady of the Lake are different weapons, even as in some versions of the legend, both of them share the name of Excalibur. Several similar swords and other weapons also appear within Arthurian texts, as well as in other legends.
Picture Credit: Arthur receiving the later tradition’s sword Excalibur in N. C. Wyeth‘s illustration for The Boy’s King Arthur (1922), a modern edition of Thomas Malory‘s 1485 Le Morte d’Arthur.
Attribution: N. C. Wyeth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boys_King_Arthur_-_N._C._Wyeth_-_p16.jpg
Excalibur is more than just a weapon; it carries immense symbolic significance. The sword represents Arthur’s rightful kingship, bestowed upon him by divine or magical forces. Its ability to be withdrawn from the stone signifies the legitimacy and destiny of the true king. Also, Excalibur embodies the virtues of chivalry, justice, and power wielded responsibly. It becomes a symbol of Arthur’s authority and his role as a just ruler.
Excalibur was said to have possessed extraordinary magical properties in many versions of the legend. The sword is often depicted as indestructible, with an incredibly sharp blade that could effortlessly cut through armour. It granted its wielder invincibility in battle and ensured victory but only as long as it remained in the hands of the rightful king. In some accounts or adaptations of the Arthurian legend, Excalibur is described as having the ability to heal wounds or emit a radiant light when drawn from its sheath.
The Sword in the Stone:
The tale of the Sword in the Stone, closely associated with Excalibur, plays a significant role in Arthur’s rise to power. Unaware of his Royal lineage, Arthur successfully withdraws the sword, revealing his true identity as the rightful heir to the throne. This pivotal event solidifies Arthur’s claim to becoming king, leading to his subsequent adventures and reign.
Different Versions and Adaptations:
Throughout history, numerous authors and storytellers have offered their own interpretations of the Arthurian legend and Excalibur’s role within it. Works such as Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur” and T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” have influenced the narrative surrounding the sword. Excalibur has also appeared in various films, television shows, and video games (see below), further cementing its status as an enduring symbol of King Arthur’s legend.
King Arthur (Welsh: Brenin Arthur, Cornish: Arthur Gernow, Breton: Roue Arzhur, French: Roi Arthur) is a legendary king of Britain and a central figure in the medieval literary tradition known as the Matter of Britain.
In Welsh sources, Arthur is portrayed as a leader of the post-Roman Britons in battles against Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. He first appears in two early medieval historical sources, the Annales Cambriae and the Historia Brittonum, but these date to 300 years after he is supposed to have lived, and most historians who study the period do not consider him a historical figure.
Picture Credit: Howard Pyle illustration from the 1903 edition of The Story of King Arthur and His Knights scanned and archived at http://www.gallery.oldbookart.com
Attribution: Howard Pyle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arthur-Pyle_The_Enchanter_Merlin.JPG
His name also occurs in early Welsh poetic sources such as Y Gododdin. The character developed through Welsh mythology, appearing either as a great warrior defending Britain from human and supernatural enemies or as a magical folklore figure, sometimes associated with the Welsh otherworld Annwn.
The legendary Arthur developed as a figure of international interest largely through the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s fanciful and imaginative 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). Geoffrey depicted Arthur as a king of Britain who defeated the Saxons and established a vast empire. Many elements and incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story appear in Geoffrey’s Historia, including Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, the magician Merlin, Arthur’s wife Guinevere, the sword Excalibur, Arthur’s conception at Tintagel, his final battle against Mordred at Camlann, and final rest in Avalon. The 12th century French writer Chrétien de Troyes, added Lancelot and the Holy Grail to the story and began the genre of Arthurian romance that became a significant strand of medieval literature. In these French stories, the narrative focus often shifts from King Arthur himself to other characters, such as various Knights of the Round Table. The themes, events and characters of the Arthurian legend vary widely from text to text, and there is no one canonical version. Arthurian literature thrived during the Middle Ages but waned in the following centuries until it experienced a major resurgence in the 19th century. In the 21st century, the legend continues to have prominence, not only in literature but also in adaptations for theatre, film, television, comics, and other media (see below).
Picture Credit: N. C. Wyeth‘s title page illustration for Sidney Lanier‘s The Boy’s King Arthur (1917)
Attribution: N. C. Wyeth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boys_King_Arthur_-_N._C._Wyeth_-_cover.jpg
Scholars have long debated the historical basis for King Arthur. One school of thought, citing entries in the Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons) and Annales Cambriae (Welsh Annals), saw Arthur as a genuine historical figure, a Romano-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons in the late 5th to early 6th century.
The Historia Brittonum, a 9th century Latin historical compilation attributed in some late manuscripts to a Welsh cleric called Nennius, contains the first datable mention of King Arthur, listing twelve battles that Arthur fought. These culminate in the Battle of Badon, where he is said to have single-handedly killed 960 men. But, recent studies question the reliability of the Historia Brittonum.
The Knights of the Round Table were the legendary knights of the fellowship of King Arthur that first appeared in the Matter of Britain literature in the mid-12th century. The Knights are an order dedicated to ensuring the peace of Arthur’s kingdom following an early warring period, entrusted in later years to undergo a mystical quest for the Holy Grail. The Round Table at which they met symbolised the equality of its members, who ranged from sovereign royals to minor nobles.
- King Arthur
- Sir Lancelot
- Sir Gawain
- Sir Galahad
- Sir Geraint
- Sir Gareth
- Sir Gaheris
- Sir Bedivere
- Sir Ector
- Sir Kay
- Sir Bors de Ganis
- Sir Lamorak
- Sir Tristan
- Sir Percival
- Sir Agravain
The legend of King Arthur features several notable women who play significant roles. Women associated with the Arthurian legend and worthy of mention include:
- Guinevere is King Arthur’s queen and wife. She is often depicted as a symbol of beauty, courtly love, and a tragic figure due to her affair with Sir Lancelot. However, her role and portrayal can vary in different versions of the legend.
- Morgana le Fay, also known as Morgan le Fay, is a powerful enchantress and Arthur’s half-sister. She is portrayed as a sorceress and antagonist in some versions of the legend. Her exact role and relationship with Arthur can differ in different interpretations.
- The Lady of the Lake, sometimes known as Viviane or Nimue (see below), is a mystical figure who plays a significant role in Arthurian lore. She is a prominent figure in Arthurian legends and is associated with the giving of Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur, in some versions of the story and later plays a role in his return to Avalon.
- Elaine of Astolat, also called the Lady of Shalott, is a tragic character who falls in love with Lancelot. Her tragic story is depicted in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott.”
- Isolde, also known as Iseult or Yseult, is a character associated with the Arthurian legend and the legend of Tristan and Isolde. She is often portrayed as a beautiful and tragic heroine.
- Nimue, sometimes identified as the Lady of the Lake, is a sorceress who plays a role in the legends of Merlin. She is often depicted as both an ally and a threat to Arthur.
These are just a few examples of the prominent women in the Arthurian legend. The roles and depictions of these characters can vary in different versions and interpretations of the myth, as the legend has evolved over time through various literary and artistic works.
Lancelot’s affair with Queen Guinevere
In the Arthurian legend, when Lancelot’s affair with Queen Guinevere was discovered, it had significant consequences for the characters involved and the kingdom of Camelot:
- Exposure of the Affair: Lancelot’s affair with Queen Guinevere was eventually exposed and became known to King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The affair caused a deep betrayal and conflict within the realm.
- Trial and Sentencing: In some versions of the legend, Lancelot is put on trial for his actions. The trial is often portrayed as orchestrated by knights loyal to Arthur and seeking justice. Guinevere may also face a trial or judgment.
- Exile and Separation: After the exposure of the affair, Lancelot is often forced into exile or chooses to leave Camelot voluntarily. He goes on a quest or withdraws to a hermitage, expressing remorse for his actions.
Picture Credit: Lady Guinevere, Howard Pyle‘s illustration for The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)
Attribution: Howard Pyle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arthur-Pyle_The_Lady_Guinevere.JPG
- King Arthur’s Reaction: Arthur, torn between his love for Lancelot as a trusted knight and his duty as a king, faces a personal and moral struggle. His reaction varies in different versions of the legend, ranging from anger and disappointment to forgiveness and a desire for reconciliation.
- The Downfall of Camelot: The exposure of Lancelot’s affair contributes to the weakening and eventual downfall of the Arthurian kingdom. The disharmony caused by the affair leads to internal strife and external threats, ultimately leading to the Round Table’s dissolution and Camelot’s end.
The details of Lancelot’s fate and the aftermath of the affair can differ in different versions of the Arthurian legend. The story of Lancelot and his infidelity with Guinevere is a key element in the complex narrative and themes of loyalty, chivalry, and the fall of Arthur’s realm.
Popular Fiction, Literature, Music, Film and Television
Fiction and Literature
- Le Morte d’Arthur, 15th century work of Sir Thomas Malory
- King Arthur: An Heroick Poem in Twelve Books, a 1697 poem by Richard Blackmore
- King Arthur (DC Comics), a version of Arthur in DC Comics
- King Arthur (Marvel Comics), a version of Arthur in Marvel Comics
- King Arthur The Seven Deadly Sins (2014 TV series), a version of Arthur in The Seven Deadly Sins
- Morlock Night by K. W. Jeter, King Arthur and Merlin appear as England’s saviours.
- King Arthur (opera), a 1691 opera by John Dryden and Henry Purcell
- King Arthur, or The British Worthy, a 1770 composition by Thomas Arne, including revisions from Dryden’s work
- King Arthur, a 1937 composition by Benjamin Britten
- “King Arthur”, or “Arthur”, a 1975 recording by Rick Wakeman from The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
- “King Arthur”, a 1986 song by Valerie Dore
- “King Arthur”, a 1994 song by Mark Spiro from Care of My Soul Vol. 1
- King Arthur, a 2004 compilation album by Medwyn Goodall
Film and television
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, a 2017 film by Guy Ritchie
- King Arthur (2004 film), a film by Antoine Fuqua
- Mr Merlin, a TV Series 1981/1982
- Excalibur, a 1981 film by John Boorman
- King Arthur (TV series), a 1979 Japanese TV series
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a 1975 film by Terry Gilliam
Picture Credit: This is a poster for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Warner Bros. Pictures, the publisher or the graphic artist.
Page URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:King_Arthur_LotS_poster.jpg
Fair Use Claimed
Picture Credit: Raimund von Wichera’s Guinevere and the Court at Camelot (1900)
Attribution: Raimund von Wichera (1862-1925), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raimund_von_Wichera_-_Guinevere_and_the_Court_at_Camelot.jpg
Camelot is the castle and court associated with the legendary King Arthur. Absent in the early Arthurian material, Camelot first appeared in 12th century French romances and, since the Lancelot-Grail cycle, eventually came to be described as the fantastic capital of Arthur’s realm and a symbol of the Arthurian world.
Camelot is a key element in the Arthurian legend and has become one of the most famous and enduring aspects of the Arthurian mythos. It is often depicted as the magnificent castle and court where King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table gathered. The concept of Camelot did not appear in the earliest Arthurian literature but emerged in the 12th century French romances and gained prominence in later Arthurian tales.
The origin of the name “Camelot” itself is somewhat uncertain. Some scholars believe it may be derived from the Latin “Camulodunum,” the name of a Roman town in Britain (modern-day Colchester) and a potential real-life basis for the fictional Camelot. Others suggest it may be an invention of the medieval romancers, chosen for its evocative sound and mythical resonance.
In Arthurian lore, Camelot is often described as the splendid and idyllic capital of Arthur’s realm. It is portrayed as a place of great beauty, harmony, and chivalry, serving as the centre of Arthur’s court and the seat of his power. Camelot is depicted as a utopian city, a symbol of the ideal Arthurian world, where the knights gather to uphold the values of knighthood, partake in grand feasts, engage in quests, and promote justice and fairness.
The stories locate it somewhere in Great Britain and sometimes associate it with real cities, though more usually its precise location is not revealed. Most scholars regard it as being entirely fictional, its unspecified geography being perfect for chivalric romance writers.
Arguments about the location of the “real Camelot” have occurred since the 15th century and continue today in popular works and for tourism purposes. The exact location of Camelot varies across different versions of the Arthurian legend. Some stories associate it with real cities or sites, such as Winchester, Tintagel, or Caerleon, while others suggest it to be a mythical and elusive place hidden within the mists of the Arthurian realm. The ambiguity surrounding its location allows authors and storytellers to create their own interpretations and settings, contributing to the enduring mystery and allure of Camelot.
The search for the “real Camelot” has intrigued scholars and enthusiasts for centuries. From the 15th century onward, various theories and speculations about the possible location of Camelot have emerged. Some proposed sites include Cadbury Castle in Somerset, England, and Camulodunum in Colchester. These debates often continue in popular works and serve as a basis for tourism purposes, attracting visitors to potential Camelot sites.
While Camelot is mostly considered to be a fictional creation, its allure and symbolism have captured the imaginations of countless readers and audiences throughout history. The concept of Camelot has come to represent a golden age of chivalry, noble ideals, and the pursuit of a utopian society. It has inspired numerous adaptations in literature, art, music, and film, cementing its status as an iconic element of the Arthurian legend.
Picture Credit: Arthur draws the sword from the stone in Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall‘s Our Island Story (1906). Here, as in many more modern depictions of this scene, there is no anvil, and the sword is lodged directly within the stone itself.
Attribution: Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:An_island_story;_a_child%27s_history_of_England_(1906)_(14801002423).jpg
There are several other iconic and legendary swords in Western literature and folklore, a few notable examples of which are:
- Durandal: the legendary sword of the paladin Roland in the medieval French epic poem “The Song of Roland.” It is said to be mighty and indestructible and possessed by magical powers.
- Joyeuse: associated with Charlemagne, the medieval Frankish emperor. According to legend, Joyeuse was said to contain the blade of Roland’s Durandal. It became a symbol of the Frankish monarchy and was believed to grant invincibility to its wielder.
- Gram: also known as Balmung, is the mythical sword of the hero Sigurd (Siegfried) in Norse mythology. It was forged by the dwarf Regin and possessed the power to slay the dragon Fafnir. Gram is often associated with heroic tales and has inspired various retellings in literature.
- Clarent, King Arthur’s sword, is associated with his role as a king and not as a warrior. It is often depicted as a ceremonial or symbolic sword, representing Arthur’s authority and kingship.
- Curtana: Curtana, also known as the Sword of Mercy, is one of the swords of the British Crown Jewels. According to legend, it was the sword of Ogier the Dane, a legendary knight in the Matter of France. Curtana is often associated with acts of mercy and compassion.
These swords, along with Excalibur, have become iconic within Western literature and folklore, embodying the ideals of heroism, power, and destiny. Their tales and symbolism have captured the imagination of readers and have had a lasting impact on popular culture.
Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur, remains an enduring symbol of Arthurian mythology. Its origins, magical properties, and symbolic significance have captivated audiences for centuries. As a potent symbol of Arthur’s kingship, justice, and chivalry, Excalibur continues to resonate in popular culture, reminding us of the timeless appeal of the Arthurian legend and its enduring hero.
To remind ourselves, Arthur was the first-born son of King Uther Pendragon and heir to the throne. However, there existed very troubled times, and Merlin, a wise magician, advised that the baby Arthur should be raised in a secret place and that none should know his true identity. As Merlin feared, when King Uther died, there was great conflict over who should be the next king. Merlin used his magic to set a sword in a stone. Written on the sword, in letters of gold, were these words: “Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone is the rightwise born king of all England.”
Sources and Further Reading
CAUTION: This paper is compiled from the sources stated but has not been externally reviewed. Parts of this paper include information provided via artificial intelligence which, although checked by the author, is not always accurate or reliable. Neither we nor any third parties provide any warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness or suitability of the information and materials covered in this paper for any particular purpose. Such information and materials may contain inaccuracies or errors and we expressly exclude liability for any such inaccuracies or errors to the fullest extent permitted by law. Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this paper meet your specific requirements and you should neither take action nor exercise inaction without taking appropriate professional advice. The hyperlinks were current at the date of publication.
- The Origins of Excalibur! King Arthur’s Legendary Sword, at: https://youtu.be/ndVdu7YjJX8
- The Truth Behind Sword Excalibur, at: https://youtu.be/sAqb8XHGezI
- King Arthur, Excalibur Rising, at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5988966/
- Le Morte d’Arthur: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Leather Bound, by Thomas Malory (Author), Ph.D. Stephanie L. Budin PhD (Introduction) 9 Sept. 2015, published by Canterbury Classics, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Morte-dArthur-Knights-Leather-bound-Classics/dp/1626864632/
- The Once and Future King, Paperback, by T. H. White (Author) 15 Jan. 2015, published by HarperVoyager, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Once-Future-King-T-White/dp/0008108587/
- Excalibur (Tales of King Arthur S.), Hardcover, by Hudson Talbott (Author) 27 Sept. 1996, published by William Morrow, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Excalibur-Tales-King-Arthur-S/dp/0688133800/
- The Might of Excalibur, Paperback, by Ben Gillman (Author) 18 Dec. 2017, Independently published, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Might-Excalibur-Legends-King-Arthur/dp/1973536943/
- Excalibur: The Legend Of King Arthur, Hardcover, by Tony Lee (Author), Sam Hart (Illustrator) 8 Mar. 2011, published by Candlewick Pty, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Excalibur-Legend-Arthur-Tony-Lee/dp/076364644X/
- King Arthur: Man or Myth? Hardcover, by Tony Sullivan (Author) 18 May 2020, published by Pen & Sword History, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/King-Arthur-Myth-Tony-Sullivan/dp/1526763672/
- The Fall of Arthur, Hardcover, by J. R. R. Tolkien (Author), Christopher Tolkien (Editor) 23 May 2013, published by Harper Collins, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fall-Arthur-J-R-Tolkien/dp/0007489943/ref=asc_df_0007489943/
- Arthur High King of Britain, Paperback, by Michael Morpurgo (Author), Michael Foreman (Illustrator) 4 May 2017, published by Egmont, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Arthur-High-Britain-Michael-Morpurgo/dp/1405239611/
- The Discovery of King Arthur, Paperback, by Geoffrey Ashe (Author) 25 Aug. 2005, published by The History Press, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Discovery-King-Arthur-Geoffrey-Ashe/dp/0750942118/
End Notes and Explanations
- Source: Compiled from research using information at the sources stated throughout the text, together with information provided by machine-generated artificial intelligence at: bing.com [chat] and https://chat.openai.com ↑
- Explanation: The Lady of the Lake (French: Dame du Lac, Demoiselle du Lac, Welsh: Arglwyddes y Llyn, Cornish: Arloedhes an Lynn, Breton: Itron al Lenn) Italian: Dama del Lago) is a name or a title used by several, either fairy or fairy-like but human enchantresses in the Matter of Britain, the body of medieval literature and mythology associated with the legend of King Arthur. They play important roles in many stories, including providing Arthur with the sword Excalibur, eliminating Merlin, raising Lancelot after the death of his father, and helping to take the dying Arthur to Avalon. Different sorceresses known as the Lady of the Lake appear concurrently as separate characters in some versions of the legend since at least the Post-Vulgate Cycle and consequently the seminal Le Morte d’Arthur, with the latter describing them as a hierarchical group, while some texts also give this title to either Morgan or her sister. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_of_the_Lake ↑
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excalibur#The_sword_in_the_stone_and_the_sword_in_the_lake ↑
- Explanation: Uther Pendragon also known as King Uther, was a legendary King of the Britons and father of King Arthur. A few minor references to Uther appear in Old Welsh poems, but his biography was first written down in the 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), and Geoffrey’s account of the character was used in most later versions. He is a fairly ambiguous individual throughout the literature but is described as a strong king and a defender of his people. According to Arthurian legend, Merlin magically disguises Uther to look like his enemy Gorlois, enabling Uther to sleep with Gorlois’ wife Lady Igraine. Thus Arthur, “the once and future king”, is an illegitimate child (though later legend, as found in Malory, emphasises that the conception occurred after Gorlois’s death and that he was legitimated by Uther’s subsequent marriage to Igraine). This act of conception occurs the very night that Uther’s troops dispatch Gorlois. The theme of illegitimate conception is repeated in Arthur’s siring of Mordred by his own half-sister Morgause in the 13th century French prose cycles, which was invented by them; it is Mordred who mortally wounds King Arthur in the Battle of Camlann. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uther_Pendragon ↑
- Explanation: Merlin or Merlyn, is a mythical figure prominently featured in the legend of King Arthur and best known as a mage, with several other main roles. The familiar depiction of Merlin, based on an amalgamation of historic and legendary figures, was introduced by the 12th-century British pseudo-historical author Geoffrey of Monmouth and then built on by the French poet Robert de Boron and their prosaic successors in the 13th century. Geoffrey seems to have combined earlier tales of Myrddin and Ambrosius, two legendary Briton prophets with no connection to Arthur, to form the composite figure that he called Merlinus Ambrosius. His rendering of the character became immediately popular, especially in Wales. Later chronicle and romance writers in France and elsewhere expanded the account to produce a fuller yet multifaceted image, creating one of the most important figures in the imagination and literature of the Middle Ages. Merlin’s traditional biography casts him as an often-mad being, born of a mortal woman, sired by an incubus, from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities, most commonly and notably prophecy and shapeshifting. Merlin matures to an ascendant sagehood and engineers the birth of Arthur through magic and intrigue. Later stories have Merlin as an advisor and mentor to the young king until his disappearance from the tale, leaving behind a series of prophecies foretelling the events yet to come. A popular version from the French prose cycles narrates Merlin being bewitched and forever sealed or killed by his student known as the Lady of the Lake after falling in love with her. Other texts variously describe his retirement or death. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin ↑
- Explanation: Sir Ector was a nobleman and knight who was entrusted with Arthur as a young child by Merlin the Magician. Arthur grew up knowing Sir Ector as his father, and Ector remained unaware as to the true identity of the young Arthur. Sir Kay was also the son of Ector and, with Arthur, grew up together as brothers. Sir Ector always treated Arthur as his son, and raised him in a respectable manner up until Arthur pulled the sword from the stone and then took his rightful place as King of Britain. Source: https://kingarthursknights.com/knights-of-the-round-table/sir-ector/ ↑
- Explanation: Le Morte d’Arthur (originally written as le morte Darthur; Anglo-Norman French for “The Death of Arthur”) is a 15th century Middle English prose reworking by Sir Thomas Malory of tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table, along with their respective folklore. In order to tell a “complete” story of Arthur from his conception to his death, Malory compiled, rearranged, interpreted and modified material from various French and English sources. Today, this is one of the best-known works of Arthurian literature. Many authors since the 19th century revival of the legend have used Malory as their principal source. Apparently written in prison at the end of the medieval English era, Le Morte d’Arthur was completed by Malory around 1470 and was first published in a printed edition in 1485 by William Caxton. Until the discovery of the Winchester Manuscript in 1934, the 1485 edition was considered the earliest known text of Le Morte d’Arthur and that closest to Malory’s original version. Modern editions under myriad titles are inevitably variable, changing spelling, grammar and pronouns for the convenience of readers of modern English, as well as often abridging or revising the material. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Morte_d%27Arthur ↑
- Explanation: The Once and Future King is a collection of fantasy novels by T. H. White about the legend of King Arthur. It is loosely based upon the 1485 work Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. It was first published in 1958 as a collection of shorter novels published from 1938 to 1940, with some new or amended material. The title refers to a legend that Arthur will one day return as king. Most of the book takes place in Gramarye, the name that White gives to Britain, and chronicles the youth and education of King Arthur, his rule as a king, and the romance between Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. Arthur is supposed to have lived in the 5th and 6th centuries, but the book is set around the 14th century. Arthur is portrayed as an Anglo-Norman rather than a Briton; White refers to the actual monarchs of that period as “mythical”. The book ends immediately before Arthur’s final battle against his illegitimate son Mordred. White acknowledged that his book’s source material is loosely derived from Le Morte d’Arthur, although he reinterprets the events of that story from the perspective of a world recovering from World War II. The book is divided into four parts:  The Sword in the Stone (1938), detailing the youth of Arthur (a revised text of the original publication, which both adds and removes certain parts),  The Queen of Air and Darkness (1939), published separately in somewhat different form as The Witch in the Wood,  The Ill-Made Knight (1940), dealing mainly with the character of Lancelot, and  The Candle in the Wind (1958), first published in the composite edition. A final part called The Book of Merlyn (written in 1941, and published in 1977) was published separately following White’s death. It chronicles Arthur’s final lessons from Merlyn before his death, although some parts of it were incorporated into the final editions of the previous books, mostly The Sword in the Stone, after White became aware that the compiled text of The Once and Future King would not include his final volume. The Book of Merlyn was the volume that first contained the adventures with the ants and the geese. However, it still has independent value as the only text in which all Arthur’s animals are brought together, and the final parts of his life are related. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Once_and_Future_King ↑
- Sources:  Tom Shippey, “So Much Smoke”, review of Higham 2002, London Review of Books, 40:24:23 (20 December 2018), and  Higham 2002, pp. 11–37, has a summary of the debate on this point.; Davies, John (1993). A history of Wales. Internet Archive. London: Allen Lane the Penguin Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-7139-9098-0. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excalibur#The_sword_in_the_stone_and_the_sword_in_the_lake ↑
- Source: Charles-Edwards 1991, p. 15; Sims-Williams 1991. Y Gododdin cannot be dated precisely: it describes 6th century events and contains 9th or 10th century spelling, but the surviving copy is 13th century. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur ↑
- Source: See Padel 1994; Sims-Williams 1991; Green 2007. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur ↑
- Source: Thorpe 1966, but see also Loomis 1956. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur ↑
- Source: Dumville 1986; Higham 2002, pp. 116–169; Green 2007b, pp. 15–26, 30–38. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur ↑
- Source: https://kingarthursknights.com/knights-of-the-round-table ↑
- Explanation: Avalon is a mythical island featured in the Avalon is a mythical island featured in the Arthurian legend. It first appeared in Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s influential 1136 Historia Regum Britanniae as a place of magic where King Arthur‘s sword Excalibur was made and later where Arthur was taken to recover from being gravely wounded at the Battle of Camlann. Since then, the island has become a symbol of Arthurian mythology, similar to Arthur’s castle of Camelot. Avalon was associated from an early date with mystical practices and magical figures such as King Arthur’s sorceress sister Morgan, cast as the island’s ruler by Geoffrey and many of the later authors inspired by him. Certain Briton traditions have maintained that Arthur is an eternal king who had never truly died but would return as the “once and future” king. The particular motif of his rest in Morgan’s care in Avalon has become especially popular and can be found in various versions in many French and other medieval Arthurian and other works written in the wake of Geoffrey, some of them also linking Avalon with the legend of the Holy Grail. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon ↑
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(disambiguation) ↑
- Explanation: A paladin is a term commonly used in fantasy literature, role-playing games, and mythology to describe a heroic character, typically a knight or warrior, who upholds virtues such as honour, justice, courage, and righteousness. The concept of the paladin has its roots in medieval chivalry and the code of conduct followed by knights. Paladins are often depicted as skilled warriors who dedicate themselves to the service of a noble cause or higher power. They are known for their unwavering commitment to fighting evil, protecting the weak, and maintaining order and justice. They are also often associated with religious or divine orders, and their abilities may be augmented by divine magic or blessings. In many fictional settings, paladins are characterised by their strict adherence to a code of ethics and their ability to wield both martial and holy powers. They are often depicted as symbols of righteousness and defenders of the innocent. Paladins may also possess healing abilities and can be valuable assets in combat against supernatural or dark forces. Further information at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paladin ↑