Arthurian Women

Arthurian Women

The Knights of the Round Table would have very little adventures if the women have no part in the Arthurian literature; they would be incomplete without women.

Here we have articles concerning Arthurian women.


Sisters of Arthur
Lady of the Lake
Other Arthurian Women



Guinevere (Guenevere)

According to earlier legend, Arthur met Guinevere or Guenevere (she was called Guanhumara (Guenhuuara) by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the Historia regnum Britanniae) in the court of Duke Cador of Cornwall. Guinevere was the ward of Cador. Guinevere came from a noble Roman family; according to both Wace and Layamon, it was on her mother’s side that she was Roman.

Later legends say that Guinevere (Guenevere) was the daughter of Leodegan (Leodegraunce), king of Camelide (Camelerd). After Arthur helped Leodegan, Arthur became betrothed to Guinevere. One of Guinevere’s companion, after she married Arthur, was her cousin and lady-in-waiting, Elibel. They married but had no children (except in the Perlesvaus, where their son was named Lohot (Loholt)).

In the Welsh Mabinogion called Culhwch and Olwen (before 1100), Guinevere was called Gwenhwyfar (Gwenhwyvar), which possibly means the “White Phantom”. This was Guinevere’s (Gwenhwyfar) first appearance. Gwenhwyfar was the daughter of Gogrfan (Gogrvan or Ocvran). She was the wife of Arthur. The tale also mentioned that Gwenhwyfar had a sister, named Gwenhwyfach or Gwenhwyach.

This sister of Gwenhwyfar, Gwenhwyfach, also appeared in the Welsh Triads 54, in the 2nd line of the Three Harmful Blows of the Island of Britain:

The second Gwenhwyfach struck upon Gwenhwyfar: and for that cause there took place afterwards the Action of the Battle of Camlan….


This is the only Welsh reference that we have found in Guinevere’s connection to the Battle of Camlann, which is markedly different from that of Mordred seizing her and the throne of Arthur.

According to Diu Krône, Heinrich von dem Turlin says that her sister was Queen Lenomie of Alexandria.

The Mabinogion had mentioned several times that Arthur had several sons: Gwydre, who was killed by the boar Twrch Trwyth (in Culhwch and Olwen), Llacheu, who was later identified as Lohot or Loholt (in the Dream of Rhonabwy), and Amhar (in “Gereint and Enid“). But there was nothing to indicate that they were her sons, though as wife of Arthur, we could possibly assume they probably were her sons.

In most tales, they were married but had no children, except in the Grail romance, titled Perlesvaus, where their son was named Lohot (Loholt). According to this tale, when Sir Kay murdered Lohot, Guinevere was grief-stricken and she died from broken heart.

In the poem known as the Welsh Triad, Arthur had three queens. All three wives were named Gwenhwyfar (Gwenhwyvar). They were called Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwent (Cywryd), and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr son of Greidiawl, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gogfran (Gogrvan) the Giant. This reminded me of the Celtic love for the number three, like the triple personifications of Ireland, the triple war-goddesses Morrigan, the triple Sovereignty of Ireland (Eriu and her sisters Banba and Fodla) or triple mother-goddesses Danu in Irish myths.

Here, the Welsh myths are identical to the Irish, with the three wives of Arthur (Gwenhwyfars) being the personifications of Britain or the Sovereignty of Britain. Gwenhwyfar represents the land of the kingdom, and was more than than just a queen, but a powerful goddess. And in order for Arthur to become king of Britain, he must wed and mate with the three goddesses in order to ensure the prosperity and fertility of the land (Britain). See Wedded to the Land in the Celtic World & Cultures page for more explanation of the Sacred Marriage.

In the Latin romance, titled The Rise of Sir Gawain, Gwendolena (Guinevere) was not only Arthur’s wife, she was a powerful sorceress, who had the ability of foretelling. It was she who predicted a champion (Gawain) would come to Arthur’s court, bearing gifts on two horses. The horses had belonged to Arthur and Sir Kay, when these two challenge Gawain, but were unhorsed.

Guinevere was said to be a wise queen as well as one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her great beauty also caused trouble for her. She had being abducted a few times, where she had to be rescued.

According to The Life of Gildas, Caradoc of Llangarfan wrote that Melvas, king of the Summer Country, had abducted and raped Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere). War erupted between Arthur and Melvas. Melvas retreated to Glastonbury. St Gildas doesn’t like Arthur, since the king had killed his rebellious brothers, but he intervene. St Gildas talked the two warring kings to make peace, and Melvas returned Gwenhwyfar back to Arthur.

This event was most likely the source for the romance of Chretien de Troyes, titled Le Chevalier à la charrette, which translated to Knight of the Cart, though sometimes it was “Lancelot”. This Melvas became Meleagant, the son of King Baudemagus of Gorre. Meleagant had abducted Guinevere and later challenged the hero Lancelot to a duel, which he lost. Lancelot fought him again, in the second duel, and killed Meleagant.

Though, Lancelot appeared in earlier works of Chretien, but his role was minor. The Knight of the Cart is actually Lancelot’s first appearance as a hero, and it was the first time that he appeared as Guinevere’s lover.

In the early tradition (in Geoffrey’s work and the Welsh texts), when Mordred acting as a regent during Arthur’s absence in the war against the Romans, his nephew seized power in Britain. To add salt to Arthur’s wound, Mordred had married Guinevere. Mordred may have forced Guinevere into marrying him, but most say that she was accomplice in the treason, and may have seduced Mordred.

According to the alliterative Morte Arthure, Guinevere had two sons by Mordred. Again, like the Irish myth, king can only rule the land if he marry a goddess of the land. And since the Welsh see Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) as a goddess, it was she who could choose a king, and she had seduced Mordred, therefore Mordred was in effect, a legitimate king.


There is one interesting short story, which a poetess named Marie de France had written in the late 12th century, titled Lanval. Marie had written that she had translated from a Breton song, known as the lai. The story tell of how the hero Lanval was loved by a fairy woman, where he must not reveal of her presence to anyone. When Guinevere, his liege lord’s wife, had unsuccessful tried to seduce him, he boast of the fairy woman’s beauty surpassing the Queen. Guinevere then falsely accused him of making unwanted advances upon her and bragging of loving a woman more beautiful than her. Arthur would have punished him if Lanval could prove his boast, had it not being the timely arrival of the fairy woman saved from execution with her appearance. Lanval and the fairy woman then left the mortal world, to dwell in Avalon.

Here, Guinevere was clearly portrayed as the adulteress, who tried to seduce the young knight. The tale is similar to the another later Breton lai, titled Graelent, written in the mid-13 century, by an anonymous writer.

However, Guinevere was best known for her long love affair with Lancelot, the best knight in the world. This first appeared in Chretien de Troyes’ romance titled Knight of the Cart (or Lancelot).


In the Vulgate Cycle and after, Guinevere had definitely betrayed Arthur by committing adultery. However, it was not Mordred who was her lover, but the greatest knight of them all – Lancelot of the Lake.

All Lancelot’s heroic deeds were performed because of his love with her. Lancelot was inspired by her love. Lancelot was her lover and her champion. Lancelot would often rescue her from one danger to another. (See Knight of the Cart from Lancelot du Lac.)

There was probably some justification of the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere, since Arthur was not entirely blameless or guiltless. In the Vulgate text (Lancelot), on the night Lancelot first made love to Guinevere, Arthur was in the arms of Saxon sorceress and enemy. (See Lancelot.)

And, their love would cause Lancelot to fail in the Quest of the Grail, and would bring about the circumstance, which would cause death of Arthur and the destruction of the Round Table.

The kingdom and the Round Table became identically associate with Guinevere. When Arthur married Guinevere, he was given the Round Table and a hundred knights, as part of dowry. When Arthur tried to execute Guinevere, then a war broke out between Lancelot and Arthur, the Round Table in a sense had been broken. Before the Grail quest, Guinevere’s love for Lancelot had in fact made Arthur’s kingdom and the Round Table – strong.

The big difference between Mordred and Lancelot was that Lancelot didn’t seek to rule in Arthur’s place. Lancelot loved Arthur as his king, and was willing to carry this secret relation to his grave. This strange loyalty to Arthur had actually made Arthur’s claim to kingship, even more stronger. But this triangle could not last, since adultery is seen as crime and a sin.

It was only when Arthur arrested Guinevere for adultery and treason, that the power of the Round Table broke. The Round Table was not broken in the physical sense, but symbolically when the two strongest supporters of Arthur became two factions between the House of Ban (Lancelot) and the House of Orkney (Gawain), came into conflict.

Though the war ended without either side winning and Guinevere was returned to Arthur, the strength of Round Table was seriously weakened without the support of Lancelot and his kinsmen, when Mordred betrayed Arthur and seized the kingdom.

In the Vulgate Cycle and later authors, Guinevere had managed to prevent Mordred from marrying her by gathering loyal men hide behind the walls of Tower of London.

As Arthur fought Mordred, Guinevere had fled to abbey at Caerleon or the City of Legion (or outside of London, according to Mort Artu). Guinevere took the vow to become a nun, even before the battle was decided.



Before I finish the article on Guinevere, I think I should mention that there were two Guineveres, according to the Vulgate Cycle. In the Vulgate Merlin, the second Guinevere was the daughter of King Leodegan and his seneschal’s wife. His seneschal was named Cleodalis, who married the maid of Leodegan’s wife. The maid became a lady in Leodegan’s court. Leodegan lusted after the seneschal’s new wife. Leodegan had send Cleodalis with an army against the Irish. Shortly after Leodegan had made love to his wife, the Queen being a devout Christian, went to the church. So in his wife’s absence, Leodegan took advantage of the situation and ravished his wife’s former maid.

The two Guineveres were actually half-sisters. As it can be seen, they were conceived on the same night and were later born on the same day aand with the same name, and they looked exactly alike. Leodegan and his wife’s daughter became Arthur’s wife and the mistress of Lancelot. This second Guinevere was frequently known as the False Guinevere or Second Guinevere. The only mean of identifying the real Guinevere from the false was that she had a birthmark of a king’s crown on her back, while the Second Guinevere had none.

In Lancelot Proper, the False Guinevere would later cause the separation of Arthur and his wife. She posed as the false queen and wife of Arthur; trying to get Arthur to execute the real Guinevere. This plan was foiled when Lancelot challenged three of her knights in a trial by combat. Even though, Lancelot won the contest, Arthur was still in love with the imposter, because she had given love potion to the king. The False Guinevere and her accomplice Bertholai confessed to their crime when they were both was struck down by mysterious illness. I not certain, if the imposter died from her illness or she was executed on Arthur’s order. (See False Guinevere in the page called Lancelot du Lac.)

Related Information
Guinevere, Guenever, Guenevere, Guennuvar.
Guinièvre (French).
Guanhamara, Gwendolena, Gwendolin (Latin).
Gwenhwyfar, Gwenhwyvar – “White Phantom” (Welsh).
Winlogee (Breton).
Wenhaver; Wenore, Guenore, Gwerore, Gaynor.
Ginover (German).
Related Articles
Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain, Mordred, Cador, Galehaut,
Morgan le Fay.
Lancelot of the Lake.
Genealogy: House of King Arthur.

Queen Guinevere

Queen Guinevere
William Morris
Oil on canvas, 1858
Tate Gallery, London



Igraine was the wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall (or Hoel of Tintagel), and later Uther Pendragon, the king of Britain. In a lot of cases, Igraine’s parents is not given. According to John of Glastonbury, Igraine was the descendant of Helaius, the nephew of of Arimathea.

From her marriage with Gorlois (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth), Igraine was the mother of Cador.

Gorlois was one of Uther’s most powerful allies against the Saxons. It was Gorlois who devised a plan that Uther was able to defeat the Octa, the son of the Saxon Hengest, in a night raid.

During the victory celebration held in London, Gorlois brought his wife along. Uther fell in love with Igraine. Uther was so obvious with his lust for Igraine, that Gorlois left the celebration early, with his wife and followers. Uther was enraged with the duke of Cornwall would depart without his leave; he threatened Gorlois with destruction if the duke did not ask for his forgiveness. Gorlois ignored Uther’s threats.

Gorlois returned to Cornwall, and immediately began strengthening his defence. The duke had two castles; he placed his wife in Tintagel, since it was the strongest castle, while he saw to the defence of the other castle.

Uther was totally obsessed with Igraine that he asked Merlin to aid him in satisfying his desire. Merlin changed Uther in such a way, that the king look exactly likes Gorlois. That night, Uther entered Tintagel, and took Igraine to bed, where Arthur was conceived. Igraine was unaware that she was not making love to her husband.

News came the next morning that Gorlois was killed in the siege of the other castle, while Uther was still making love to Igraine. The imposter duke (Uther) dismissed the news as rumours, before leaving Tintagel. When the people in Tintagel realised that the news was true: that Gorlois had died in battle, they had no choice but to surrender to Uther.

Uther’s seduction of Igraine reminded me of the Greek god of thunder seducing Alcmene, where Zeus had transformed himself to look like her husband Amphitryon. Alcmene gave birth to the hero Heracles.

Uther took Igraine as his wife and queen. Igraine bore him a son named Arthur. A year later, Igraine became the mother of Anna, who married Lot, the future king of Orkney.

Though later legends (after the 12th century) say that Morgawse, Elaine (or Blasine) and Morgan la Fay were half-sisters of Arthur (therefore they were daughters of Gorlois and Igraine). It was Morgawse who was wife of King Lot.

According to the Vulgate Merlin, Igraine had died two years before Uther, which means that she had died before Arthur ascended the throne. But in many tales, including in the Suite du Merlin (Merlin Continuation, Post Vulgate) and Le Morte d’Arthur (by Thomas Malory), she was still living, when Arthur became king, where she was reunited with her son.


In Chretien de Troyes’ Story of the Grail (Le Conte du Graal), Igraine had not seen her son Arthur in sixty years. She had been living in enchanted castle called the Rock of Champguin (Otherworld), with her daughter (most likely Morgawse), who was the mother of Gawain. Arthur and Gawain had assumed Igraine had been dead during Arthur’s reign. They did not recognised Gawain when he arrived and broke the enchantment placed on the castle. (See Castle of Marvels).

In the First Grail Continuation, the story continued where Chretien left off, where Gawain reunited Arthur with his mother the Rock of Champguin.

According to Malory, Arthur doesn’t meet his mother until Sir Ulfius brought her before Arthur. Ulfius accused her of treason .

In the Welsh tradition, Igraine was called Eigyr or Eigr, the daughter of Anlawdd Wledig, and sister of Goleuddydd (mother of Culhwch) and Rieingulid (mother of Illtyd). According to Culhwch and Olwen, Eigyr’s brothers were Gweir Servant of Birds, Gweir son of Cadellin Silver Brow, Gweir Brave Wicked and Gweir White Spear Shaft. According to some texts, Eigyr was the descendant of Llyr and Bran. Eigyr married Gwrlais, the Duke of Cornwall. Like the Geoffrey’s version, she was seduced by Uthr Bendragon, who disguised himself in the form of her husband. This resulted in the conception of Arthur.

(See the House of Arthur and Culhwch for the Welsh version of the family tree.

Related Information
Igraine, Igerne, Ygerne, Ygaerne.
Eigyr, Eigr (Welsh).
Arnive (German).
Related Articles
Gorlois (Hoel), Uther Pendragon, Arthur, Morgan le Fay, Anna or Morgawse, Merlin, Gawain.
House of King Arthur,
House of Arthur & Culhwch (Welsh).


Julek Heller
Illustration from King Arthur and His Knights, 1990



Sisters of Arthur

There is some confusion over the number of sisters that Arthur have. Originally Arthur had only one sister, Anna, who married King Lot of Orkney (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia regum Britanniae). Geoffrey had written in Latin. Other works that were written in Latin often used the name Anna as well.

Later authors omitted Anna, saying that Arthur had two or three half-sisters, daughters of Gorlois or Hoel and Igraine. In the Vulgate Merlin chapter 4, the Micha manuscript only say that Igraine had two daughters, the eldest is wife to Lot and the other was Morgan, who Neutres of Garlot took; while the Sommer text mentioned three, Neutres marrying a different sister. In the next chapter, Igraine has five daughters, two by her first husband, and three by Duke of Tintagel. The eldest was married to Lot, the second to Neutres, 3rd to Urien, the 4th to Caradoc (father of Aguisant of Scotland) and the last was in school (most likely Morgan). Sir Thomas Malory had only mention three: Morgawse, Elaine (Blasine), who was married to Neutres, and Morgan le Fay.

Not much is known about Elaine (Blasine), except that she married King Nentres of Garlot, and was the mother of Galeshin, the Duke of Clarence . Since there are so many women named Elaine, she was usually called Elaine of Garlot.

Morgan le Fay
Blasine (Elaine)

Genealogy: King Arthur.



According to Geoffrey and his successors (Wace and Layamon), Anna was the daughter of Uther Pendragon and Igraine. Which mean Anna was the full sister of Arthur. Anna was probably one and the same person as Morgawse, the half-sister of Arthur, in the later legend (see Morgawse).

But her parentage and her relationship with Arthur is not so clear in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of Historia regum Britanniae. There is even confusion of who Anna was married to.

At first, Anna was the daughter of Uther and Igraine, and therefore full sister of Arthur . And in the next paragraph , Uther gave Anna to Lot (Loth) of Lodonesia in marriage. But earlier on, when Arthur was ruling the kingdom, Hoel, king of Brittany, was said to be the son of Anna (Arthur’s sister) and Budicius, king of Brittany . So here, we have the contradiction to who was Anna’s husband.

Later still, when Geoffrey say that she was Lot’s wife, and the mother of Gawain and Mordred; Anna was no longer the sister of Arthur and daughter of Uther. No, she is now the sister of Aurelius Ambrosius, which make her as Arthur’s aunt .

It’s a possibly that there are two Anna, one who is Arthur’s sister and the other is Arthur’s aunt. Another possibility, in the case of there being two sisters of Arthur, both are named Anna – one married to Loth and the other to Budicius of Brittany. Both are possibilities, but it is highly unlikely. I would just say that Geoffrey of Monmouth made a blunder when he drew up Arthur’s genealogy. There are no such confusion found in the accounts of Wace and Layamon; Anna was clearly Uther’s daughter and Arthur’s sister.

Though, her name appeared several other times in other works (eg The Rise of Gawain), her name was replaced with Morgawse or various other spellings. In many of these later legend, Morgawse was only Arthur’s sister; see Morgawse for more detail.

In the Welsh legend, sister of Arthur and mother of Gwalchmei (Gawain) was named Gwyar. Though none of the tales of the Mabinogion say who Medrawd’s (Mordred’s) mother was, we can assume his mother was also Gwyar. It is believed that Gwyar was thought to be a goddess or the Sovereignty of Britain.

And according to Wolfram von Eschenbach, a German poet who wrote Parzival (c. 1200), the sister of Arthur was named Sangive. Her children were named Gawan (Gawain), Beacurs, Kundrie, Surdamur and Itonje.

Related Information
Gwyar (Welsh).
Sangive (German).
Morgawse, Morgause?
Related Articles
Uther Pendragon, Igraine, Arthur, Morgan le Fay, Aurelius Ambrosius, Lot, Gawain, Mordred.
Genealogy: House of King Arthur.



Morgawse was the eldest daughter of Igraine and Gorlois (Hoel), duke of Cornwall. This makes her half-sister of Arthur. She was the sister of Elaine and Morgan le Fay.

She was probably the one and the same person as Anna, daughter of Uther and Igraine; therefore she was full sister of Arthur in the early legend. All the authors say that Anna or Morgawse was married to King Lot and was the mother of Gawain. In the early legend, Anna only had two sons: Gawain and Mordred. In the later legend, she had four to five sons: Gawain, Agravain, Garheris and Gareth (or Gaheriet and Guerrehiet). Sometimes Mordred was mentioned as her son, sometimes he wasn’t.

As early as the Vulgate Merlin, it was Arthur was the father of Mordred, when Mordred betrayed him, implying that had committed incest with Morgawse. However in the Suite du Merlin, the author was explicit; Arthur had unwittingly committed incest with Morgawse (see the Life of King Arthur). Since he was brought up by his foster-father, Sir Antor (Ector), he had never known that he had a sister. Mordred would grow up and betray his father, destroying Arthur and his knights.


Morgawse also appeared as Norcadet with his mother (Igraine), in the Chretien de Troyes’ Story of the Grail (Le Conte du Graal), when Gawain had appeared at the castle called Rock of Champguin. Though, Gawain found out who they were, neither Morgawse and Igraine could recognise him, since Morgawse left him when he was still a child, about twenty years ago.

Morgawse was pregnant with a daughter at the time of disappearance. Gawain met his sister, who was called Clarissant.


Also in Malory’s tale , Morgawse was still considered to be a great beauty. A knight named Lamorak was madly in love with Morgawse. When her son, Sir Gaheris, found her making love to Sir Lamorak, Gaheris was outraged that his mother was making love to his mortal enemy. Gaheris cut down his own mother’s head with his sword. Gawain and his brothers was mortal enemy of Lamorak, because Lamorak’s father, Pellinor, had killed their own father (Lot).

Related Information
Morgawse, Morgause, Norcadet or Morcadet (French and English).
Gwyar (Welsh).
Sangive (German).
Morgan le Fay?
Related Articles
Igraine, Gorlois (Hoel), Arthur, Lot, Gawain, Mordred.
Genealogy: House of King Arthur.


Morgan le Fay

Morgan le Fay was the popular sorceress or fairy witch in the Arthurian legend.

Morgan le Fay was the daughter of King Gorlois (Hoel) of Cornwall and Igraine. Most of the time, Morgan was identified as the half-sister of Arthur. Though Chretien de Troyes and some other authors just referred her as sister of Arthur. By the time of the Vulgate Cycle, Morgan was Arthur’s half-sister, and the sister of Morgawse and Elaine.

According to one or two writers, Morgan had a son named Mordred, by her own half-brother, Arthur, but most say that the Mordred’s mother was Arthur’s other half-sister, named Morgawse, Morgan’s eldest sister.

It was possible that Gawain was also her son, according to L’Âtre périlleux (The Perilous Cemetary). The tale doesn’t mention Morgan by name, but it was written that Gawain’s mother was a fairy. Morgan was usually said to be a fairy, as she was known as Morgan le Fay. However, most texts say that Gawain’s mother was Morgawse, Morgan’s elder sister.

Geoffrey of Monmouth mentioned Morgan as one of the nine sisters, living in Avalon . She made her first appearance here under the name Morgan. She was a healer, and had the extraordinary ability to fly and transform herself to resemble anyone or anything else. Arthur was brought to Avalon by Taliesin, where the king was healed by Morgan. Here, there was no indication of any relationship between Arthur and Morgan as siblings, except that she was his healer.

Some scholars at the time say that Avalon was situated on Glastonbury, an island in the middle of marshland. Gerald of Wales (flourished in 12th century) believed the claims by monks of Glastonbury that Arthur was not taken there to Glastonbury/Avalon to be healed by Morgan, who was her cousin, but to be buried beside Guinevere.

In Chretien de Troyes’ Erec and Enide, Morgan le Fay was a friend of Guingamar, lord of Avalon. Guingamar was one of the guests to the wedding of Erec and Enide. Later, in the story, Morgan was mentioned again as sister of Arthur and a great healer. Her name was mentioned again, in Knight of the Lion, where her ointment could even heal madness from Yvain.

However, in the Welsh romance, Gerient in the Mabinogion, which is basically the same story as Erec and Enide, Arthur does have a chief physician, named Morgan, who healed the hero, Gerient (Erec), but this Morgan Tud is clearly a man, with no blood relation to the king.



Later tales, say that Morgan was the wife of King Urien and mother of the hero Owain (Yvain). Though, early accounts such as by Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes had never said anything about Yvain (Owain) being her son, and there was also no indication in either account that Morgan was married to Urien.

According to the Vulgate Merlin, Urien married Morgan shortly after Arthur received Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake. Their son was Yvain, the hero in Chretien’s romance, Knight of the Lion. This Yvain should not be confused with another son of Urien, who was known as Yvain the Bastard. Also note that in Chretien’s tale, there are no relation between Morgan and Yvain.

In the Welsh myth, before Geoffrey’s time, Morgan was identified with the goddess Modron, the daughter of Welsh god Avallach, and the mother of Mabon. In the Welsh Triads, Modron was married to Urien, king of Rheged and mother of Owain (Yvain) and a duaghter named Morfudd. In the Arthhurian legend, Modron and Morgan le Fay became one and the same person, because they both were married to King Urien (brother of King Lot), and both were mother of the hero Owain (Yvain). It is most likely that Modron was changed into Morgan when the legend arrived in Brittany.

Morgan was also identified with another Breton goddess, Dahut or Ahes, the princess, who had caused the destruction of her city Ys. Dahut/Ahes was originally a Breton sea goddess, though later accounts say that she had died when the sea had flooded Ys, or that she had being transformed into a mermaid. However, in Brittany and elsewhere Morgan was usually a male name.

In the early legend, Morgan’s role was benevolent who used her power for healing. She was the fairy queen or one of the queens of Avalon. She was said to have learned her magic from Merlin. Malory says that Morgan learned magic when she was in a nunnery .

There are similarities of Morgan with the great Irish goddess, Morrigan. Most of the time Morgan appeared as a beautiful young woman, sometimes as an old hag, like in Gawain and the Green Knight, c. 1350. Morrigan also had the same ability to shape-shift between young and old, beautiful and ugly. Like Morrigan, she was able to transform herself to look like any animal or inanimate objects.

Morgan le Fay was responsible for Gawain’s adventure of the beheading games with the Green Knight. Morgan had given the Green Knight the ability to survive after having had his head severed. Morgan had hoped that this event would frighten Guinevere to death.


By the time of the Vulgate Cycle and Prose Tristan, her character began to change, where she became one of mortal enemies of Arthur and Guinevere. Her role became more sinister; later writers tend to portray her as a wicked and maligned character.

Her hatred for Guinevere may have stemmed from one story, when she was serving as the queen’s lady-in-waiting. She was in love with a young knight, who happened to be the queen’s cousin. Morgan and the knight were lovers until Guinevere heard of her trysts, so the queen broke up their relationship, in case they cause a scandal. Morgan never forgave Guinevere this incident and she sought revenge upon the queen. After this Morgan went in search for Merlin, learning magic, in exchange for offering her love to the sorcerer.

In the Vulgate Lancelot and Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, she had fallen in love with Lancelot, whom she encountered several times. Several times she had imprisoned Lancelot refusing to release him until the hero became her lover. Each time he had refused. One time, she had spirited Lancelot away with two other queens, who were also powerful sorceresses (in Malory’s version, four queens had abducted Lancelot). See Under the Apple Trees, in the Lancelot page.



According to Malory, when Arthur was dying, Morgan and three other ladies, Queen of the Northgales and Queen of the Wasteland and Nimue (Niniane) arrived in a black ship. Morgan intends to take Arthur to Avalon, where she could heal her brother’s wounds. The Vulgate Mort Artu only mentioned Morgan and unspecific number of ladies on the ship.

Geoffrey and Wace mentioned Arthur went to Avalon to be healed, but no mention of Morgan or ship. Layamon wrote of Arthur going to a boat, but no Morgan, but he did say that Argante, the fairy queen of Avalon, would heal the dying king’s wounds. Layamon described Argante as a very radiant elf. Whether Morgan and Argante were one and the same person, is not very clear.

As I said before about her assocation with the Irish Morrigan, this suggested that she was the goddess of death or as the goddess of the Underworld (ie. Avalon).

According to the Breton legend, Mor means the “sea”, which indicated that Morgan was a sea goddess.

Whatever her name mean or which goddesses was identified with, Morgan was a powerful figure as the Lady of Avalon.

Related Information
Morgan, Morgain.
Morgan le Fay.
Fata Morgana.
Morgana (Italian).
Modron (Welsh).
Morrigan (Irish).
Related Articles
See also Modron.
Uther Pendragon, Igraine, Gorlois (Hoel), Arthur, Morgawse, Anna, Merlin, Urien, Yvain (Owain), Mordred, Gawain, Lancelot, Guinevere.
Morrígan, Mabon.
Genealogy: House of King Arthur.

Morgan le Fay

Morgan le Fay
Frederick Sandys
Oil on canvas, 1864
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery


Blasine (Elaine)

Apart from Morgawse (Morgause), the mother of Gawain, and Morgan le Fay, the Vulgate Merlin (c. 1240) introduced a third daughter of Igraine. She was called Blasine, whom Sir Thomas Malory named as Elaine in his narrative Le Morte d’Arthur (1469). Blasine or Elaine was the wife of King Neutres (Nentres) of Garlot and the mother of Galescalain (Galeshin), the Duke of Clarence.

Her name was merely mentioned in Le Morte d’Arthur as being half-sister to Arthur and married to Nentres. The French account of the Vulgate Merlin varied depending on the manuscripts. One manuscript called Micha text, doesn’t mentioned her at all, so Arthur had only two sister. However in a different text by Sommer, mentioned three half-sisters, with Blasine being the third (see chapter 4, thought her name doesn’t appear until chapter 9 of the Vulgate Merlin).

In this chapter 9, her son Galeshin persuaded Blasine to reveal if Arthur was really her brother and his uncle or not. Blasine couldn’t deny it. Galeshin revealed his intention that he preferred to be knighted by his uncle (Arthur) than from his own father, who was currently at war with both Arthur and the Saxon invaders. Likewise, his cousins Gawain (and his brothers) and Yvain also joined him take services with Arthur.

Related Information
Blasine, Elaine.
Related Articles
Igraine, Gorlois (Hoel), Galeshin, Morgawse, Morgan le Fay, Arthur, Gawain, Yvain.



Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake (Dame del Lac in French) was a woman of great magical power. She resided in the lake. The lake was actually a Celtic Otherworld. A great enchantment was cast upon her castle, to hide her land from intruders.

There seemed to be several “Lady of the Lake”. The most important Lady of the Lake was Niniane (also known as Viviane, Vivien or Nimue). Some even say that Morgan le Fay was also the Lady of the Lake, though most often Morgan was referred to as one of nine sorceresses of Avalon.

Another Lady of the Lake, who gave the magical sword, Excalibur, to King Arthur (according to Suite du Merlin (Post-Vulgate, c. 1240) and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1469) ). She was given no other name apart from her title as the Lady of the Lake, yet she was different from Niniane. This unnamed Lady was killed by Balin le Savage . Niniane later became the guardian of the sword, especially when the dying Arthur returned Excalibur to the lake.

It is now generally believed that the Lady of the Lake, including her connection to Arthur’s sword Excalibur, is of Breton origin. The Lady of the Lake is generally said to live in the forest of Brittany. Arthur receiving a new sword from the Lady and when the dying Arthur ordered the sword to be thrown into the lake. There are no earlier Welsh or English than the French/Breton version about these events.

Niniane (Viviane or Nimue)
Ganieda (Gwenddydd)      



Niniane, Nymenche or Uiuiane was the Lady of the Lake, who appeared in the Vulgate Cycle. Niniane was often called Vivien and Nimue (Nimue or Nenive in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur). She is more better known as Vivian in modern literature. However, you pronounce or spell this lady’s name, for the sake of convenient, I am going to use Niniane.

It should be noted that Niniane (Viviane, Vivien or Nimue) should be distinguished from the Lady of the Lake who gave Arthur his new sword, Excalibur (see The New Sword in the Legend of Excalibur), when Arthur broke the sword that he drew from the stone that named him king (see Kingship and Early Wars); this earlier Lady of the Lake had home in Britain, where she was soon executed by Sir Balin, (see Knight with Two Swords). Niniane and this first Lady of the Lake were two different persons.

According to the Vulgate Merlin, Niniane was the daughter of Dyonas, who had married the niece of the Duke of Burgoyne (Burgundy). Dyonas was the godson of Diana, the goddess of the woods. Her father had served the Duke of Burgundy as vavasor, and was given the Forest of Briosque. The other part of forest belonged to King Ban, which he won through serving the king as a knight.

Her lake seemed to be located in Little Britain (another name for Brittany), of this Forest of Briosque, and the lake was known as the Lake of Diana. It was named after the Roman goddess of the chase. Niniane was only 12 years old when she first met Merlin in this forest. Even at this young age, Merlin had fallen into her charm, which he found irresistible. Merlin taught her some of his magic in return for her love, before he departed from her.

Niniane would meet Merlin again, as an adult.

In the Post-Vulgate romance called Suite du Merlin (part of Post-Vulgate cycle; it is a continuation of the Vulgate Merlin) and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1469), Niniane was the huntress, and the daughter of the King of Northumbria in Brittany, not Britain. Shortly after the wedding of Arthur and Guinevere, Niniane owned a brachet (hound) and she was hunting the white hart. Her hound was stolen and she was abducted. Merlin send three knights in the Quest of the White Hart, where Gawain had to fetch the hart, Tor retrieve the hound and Pellinor had to rescue the abducted huntress (Niniane).

Again, the great wizard and prophet, couldn’t resist Niniane’s beauty and Merlin followed her everywhere. She again promised her love to him, in return for Merlin to teach her everything about magic. Before she had lured Merlin to his death, the great wizard had built her hidden domain and palace near the Lake. With his magic he hid her home, so that anyone who went by, would only see a lake instead of her home.

When Niniane decided to return home, Merlin decided to accompany her, hoping to seduce the Lady of the Lake. Though, Merlin knew that his end was near, he could not control his passion or lust for Niniane. On their journey, Merlin and Niniane met King Ban, his wife Helen (Elaine) and the infant Lancelot, who was then named Galahad. Merlin told her that this baby would grow up to become the greatest knight in the world.

By the time they reached her home, Niniane decided to get rid of Merlin, enticing the sorcerer to teach her his magic, which she would use to trap the wizard. When they entered the forest of Broceliande, Niniane was tired of Merlin’s company. She used the magic she learned from him, and entomb the sorcerer in rock. The Vulgate Merlin says that imprisoned Merlin in castle made of air, which only she free him.

In the Vulgate Merlin, Gawain learned of Merlin’s fate and entombment, while in Suite de Merlin, it was Pellinor, who discovered the news of Merlin. Whichever knight it was, he returned to Arthur with the news.

Arthur lost his mentor and chief adviser. However, Niniane took over Merlin’s role as the king magical adviser. Niniane had also foiled several plots of Morgan le Fay to kill her half-brother, King Arthur. Morgan le Fay was another sorceress, who beguiled Merlin into her magic and necromancy.

In Suite du Merlin and Le Morte d’Arthur, when Morgan le Fay stole Excalibur from her brother, and gave the magical sword to her lover, Accolon of Gaul. As Arthur was losing his duel with Accolon, it was Niniane who rescued the king. She used her magic to knock Excalibur out of Accolon’s hand.

Later, when Arthur returned to Camelot, Morgan sent one of her damsels, carrying a beautiful mantle to her half-brother, as token of peace. Niniane suspecting treachery from Morgan advised the king not to wear the robe. Arthur forced Morgan’s attendant to wear the robe instead. The damsel died when mantle was placed on her shoulders, and she was instantly burnt to a crisp. (See The Conspiracy of Morgan le Fay.)

Niniane was responsible for raising Lancelot after the death of his father, King Ban of Banoic. Lancelot did not known his own name nor those of his parents’, because Niniane did not reveal it while he was living with her. Niniane revealed only that he would find his real name when he became the best knight in the world. Niniane taught Lancelot about courtly love and the duties of a true knight. It was she who send him to Arthur, to be knighted, and there the young Lancelot fell instantly in love with Arthur’s beautiful queen – Guinevere. Niniane helped Lancelot several times either by herself or by many of her damsels who served her. She knew of her foster son’s love for the queen. See the page on Lancelot of the Lake.

According to Chretien de Troyes’ Le Chevalier à la charrette (or Lancelot, c. 1175), Lancelot possessed a ring, given to him by a fairy, who had raised him. The ring allowed him to dispell any magic. No name was given of this lady (fairy). In Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet (c. 1194), the author wrote the hero was abducted and raised by a water fay, in her magical kingdom, after his father was overthrown by his vassals.

Niniane gave Queen Guinvere, a magical split shield. One half of the shield depicted a knight and woman kissing, but their lips not touching one another because of the split in the shield. Once Lancelot and Guinevere consummate their passion, the shield will be made whole.

In Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, she was known as Nimue or Nenive, and she was one of four ladies who took the dying Arthur on a boat, to be healed in Avalon. (See The Death of King Arthur

The antecedent of Niniane was probably Ganieda/Gwenddydd, Merlin’s sister. Ganieda became Merlin successor, not as sorceress, but as a powerful seeress, inheriting her brother’s gift of divination. Niniane was not related to Merlin anyway, but she was his last pupil, and the Lady of the Lake became Merlin’s successor as the magical adviser of Arthur.

Related Information
Niniane, Ninianne, Niviene, Viviane, Vivian, Vivien, Eviene, Éviène, Nimue, Nimuè, Nina, Nenive.
Lady of the Lake.
Related Articles
Merlin, Lancelot, Pellinor, Arthur, Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, Ganieda (Gwenddydd).


Ganieda (Gwenddydd)

In the tale told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, titled Vita Merlini (c. 1152), Ganieda was known as the sister of Merlin. In the Welsh legends, Ganieda was known as Gwenddydd, and was the sister of Myrddin (Merlin). She was also the sister-in-law of Gwendoloena, Merlin’s wife.

Ganieda (Gwenddydd) was the wife of King Rodarch of Cumbria (Welsh Rhydderch Hael, king of Stathclyde).

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, when her husband died, Ganieda lived in the forest with her brother. It was she who had built a house with seventy doors and seventy windows, for Merlin. The construction of the house allowed her brother to observe the night sky and foretell the future (astrology).

The legendary bard Taliesin later joined the brother and sister in the forest, where the bard shared news with Merlin. When Merlin regained his sanity by drinking water from healing spring, Ganieda gained the power of prophecy, supposedly superior to his own power.

As the Welsh Gwenddydd, the poems attributed to Myrddin (Merlin), she was upset with her brother for the death of her son. But later she was reconciled with Myrddin, in a dialogue between Myrddin and Gwenddydd (Cyfoesi Myrddin ac ei Chwaer Gwenddydd). Here, we find out that their father was named Morfryn, and that he and her sister were twins.

Ganieda doesn’t appear in the mainstream Arthurian legend. However, some people see that Merlin’s sister was replaced with a fairy woman and sorceress known as the Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake is known by several different names, including Niniane, Nymenche or Uiuiane (in the Vulgate Cycle), Nimue (in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur) and Vivian (a name more popular in modern literature).

That’s not to say Ganieda is a Lady of the Lake; she may be the antecedent of the Lady of the Lake. Though, Merlin’s sister and the Lady of the Lake appeared to be two totally different people, the resemblances are there. Ganieda became gifted in divination as soon as her brother’s sanity was cured. Therefore, Ganieda had inherited Merlin’s position, since her brother refused to prophesy any more. Merlin said that his sister was even better than him in divinition, just as the later Merlin was supersceded by the Lady of the Lake. While Niniane (Vivian) was a pupil in Merlin, she learned all she could about magic from Merlin. After confining or killing Merlin, Niniane inherited Merlin’s magical knowledge and skill, and became Merlin’s successor as King Arthur’s adviser.

Related Information
Ganieda (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth).
Gwenddydd (Welsh).
Related Articles
Merlin, Niniane, Lady of the Lake, Taliesin.




Other Arthurian Women

Isolde the Fair    
Isolde of the White Hands    
Perceval’s Sister

Elaine of Ascolot
Lady of the Fountain


Gwendoloena (Gwendoleu)

Wife of Merlin (Merlinus or Myrddin).

In Vita Merlini, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote that when Merlin went mad during the Battle of Arfderydd, and fled into the forest, Gwendoloena stayed with her sister-in-law Ganieda (Gwenddydd), in the court of King Rodarch (Rhydderch Hael). She was reunited with Merlin when Rodarch’s men caught him in the forest of Calidon.

When Merlin left Rodarch’s court, Merlin gave permission for her to marry, but warn Gwendoloena that her future bridegroom must not see him, when he come to give her a wedding present. This was sort of like the Irish geis (gesa), which is a prohibition or taboo.

On the day of her wedding, Merlin arrived at Rodarch’s palace, mounted on a stag, leading other deer. Gwendoloena, who was standing at the window, saw and laughed the spectacle of her ex-husband. Either she forgot to warn her new husband-to-be or he had ignored her warning.

In any cases, the bridegroom mocked Merlin. When the bridegroom stood before Merlin, Merlin ripped off the horn of the stag and flung it at Gwendoloena’s lover, killing him. Merlin then returned to the forest. After this incidence, we never hear from Gwendoloena again.

Apart from this event, Gwendoloena’s role is small; Merlin’s sister played a more important role in the prophet/enchanter’s life. In fact, Gwendoloena doesn’t even appear in the Welsh poems attributed to Myrddin; so the Vita Merlini is the only work that mentioned Merlin having a wife.

Related Information
Gwendoloena, Gwendolen (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth).
Gwendolyn (Welsh).
Related Articles
Merlin, Ganieda (Gwenddydd).


Isolde the Fair

The heroine in the Tristan legend. Isolde the Fair was the daughter of King Gorman of Ireland and the Elder Isolde, sister of Morholt (Marhaus). In the Prose Tristan, Isolde’s father was called Anguin, while in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, the king was called Agwisance. Isolde was known as Isolde La Beale (“Isolde the Fair”), and Isolde de Blonde.

Isolde was famous for been the lover of Tristan (Tristram). Tristan came to woo Isolde for his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, but the pair accidentally drank love potion, falling instantly in love with one another. Even though Isolde was married to King Mark, she secretly committed adultery with Tristan.

In all the stories, Isolde died of grief when Tristan was killed. There are too many versions on how they died to be told here.

Isolde’s loyal companion and maidservant (or lady-in-waiting) was named Brangwain (Brangien, Brangain), who also happened to be her cousin. It was Brangwain who was responsible for the love potion.


Isolde should no be confused with two other women also named Isolde. Isolde had a mother who was also named Isolde, who was often called Queen Isolde or the Elder Isolde. The Elder Isolde was the wife of king of Ireland.

There was also Isolde of the White Hands, who come from Brittany, and who had married Tristan, when the hero was exiled from Cornwall.

Related Information
Isolde, Iseult, Isolt, Iseut, Isoud, Ysolde, Yseut, Ysoud.
Essyllt (Welsh).
Isolde of Ireland;
the Irish Isolde.
Isolde La Beale (“Isolde the Fair”).
Isolde de Blonde (“Isolde the Blonde”).
Related Articles
Tristan, King Mark, Isolde of the White Hands, Arthur.
Tristan and Isolde.
Genealogy: House of Cornwall.

Isolde (Iseult)

Isolde (Iseult)
Charles E. Perugini
Oil on canvas



Loyal companion of Isolde the Fair. Brangwain was sometimes seen as the cousin of Isolde. She was also Isolde’s maidservant.

When Isolde went to Cornwall with Tristan, to marry King Mark, Queen Isolde had entrusted Brangwain with the love potion, she had prepared for her daughter (Princess Isolde) and King Mark. However by misadventure, Tristan and Isolde had drank the love potion and fallen in love with one another.

To hide Isolde’s loss of virginity, Brangwain had taken her mistress’ place in bed with Mark on the first night after the wedding.

Through, Brangwain’s cunning and resourcefulness, she had arranged many meeting between Tristan and Isolde, as well foiling Mark’s and their enemies’ attempts to entrap the lovers.

In most of the legends, Brangwain’s lover was Kaherdin, sister of the Breton Isolde (Isolde of the White Hands).

According to the Prose Tristan, Brangwain was more than just a servant and companion of Isolde. She was of royal birth. Her brothers, Perynin and Mathael, became squires of Tristan during the hero first visit to Ireland; when Tristan left Ireland, her brothers went with him.

Related Information
Brangwain, Brangien, Brangain.
Related Articles
Isolde the Fair, Tristan, King Mark.
Tristan and Isolde.
Genealogy: House of Cornwall.


Isolde of the White Hands

Wife of the hero Tristan. She was generally known as the Breton Isolde or Isolde of the White Hands, to distinguished from her Irish counterpart and rival – Isolde the Fair.

Isolde of the White Hands was a daughter of Duke of Brittany. Depending on the authors, different names were assigned to her father, the Breton duke. According to Thomas, her father was called Roald de Foytenant; while Beroul, the Prose Tristan and Malory had all called her father King Hoel (Howel) of Brittany). Tristan married the Breton Isolde when he went into exile from Cornwall.

Isolde became Tristan’s wife, only because her father and her brother Kaherdin mistaken the hero singing a song about her, when the song was actually about Isolde the Blonde (Isolde the Fair or Irish Isolde). Her marriage was an unhappy one, since Tristan was still love with the Irish Isolde. The hero never consummate his marriage with his Breton wife.

Due to Breton Isolde’s jealously of Isolde of Ireland, Isolde brought about her husband and his lover’s death. After Tristan was mortally wounded only Isolde de Blonde could heal him. Isolde de Blonde was coming to Brittany in a ship with a white sail. However, the Breton Isolde, who knew of the signal arranged between Tristan and the Irish Isolde, told her husband that a ship had black sail, indicating that Isolde of Ireland was not coming, to heal his wounds. Tristan in despair, just gave up wanting to live. The Isolde de Blonde died in grief, when she arrived too late to save her lover.

Nothing more was known about Isolde of the White Hands.

Her role and appearance in the Prose Tristan was even smaller than the earlier tradition.

Related Information
Isolde, Iseult, Isolt, Iseut, Isoud, Ysolde, Yseut, Ysoud.
Essyllt (Welsh).
Isolde of Brittany;
the Breton Isolde.
Isolde la Blanche Mains (“Isolde of the White Hands”).
Related Articles
Tristan, Isolde the Fair.
Tristan and Isolde.
Genealogy: House of Cornwall.


Elaine of Corbenic

In the Vulgate Cycle and later works, Elaine of Corbenic was a lover of Lancelot and mother of Galahad.

In Chretien de Troyes’ Conte du Graal, he wrote that a woman bore the Grail in a procession before Perceval. This maiden was not given a name, nor were there any indication that she was a daughter or niece to Fisher King. This had changed in the Prose Lancelot (Vulgate Cycle). The Grail Bearer was named Elaine, Amite, Helaine or Helizabel, daughter of King Pelles, the Fisher King and the Lord of Corbenic.

Note however, that in the early part of the Prose Lancelot, the writer called her Amite, instead of Elaine. Her beauty was compared to that of Guinevere, Arthur’s queen. Only Amite and Helen (or Elaine) the Peerless was a match to Guinevere’s beauty. Then the author went on to say that Amite’s true name was Helizabel (Heliabel). While in pre-cyclic version of the Prose Lancelot, mentioned that Heliabel was the sister of Perceval, while other called her Dindraine.

This Grail Maiden, Elaine was also confused with Elaine the Peerless. In the Lancelot Proper (Vulgate), they were distinguished as two different people. Elaine (Grail Maiden) was the daughter of King Pelles, while Elaine the Peerless was the niece of the Lord of the Fens and wife of Persides the Red of the Castle of Gazevilte. But in Merlin (Vulgate), the writer doesn’t distinguish between the two, and called Pelles’ daughter as Elaine the Peerless, who was wife of Persides the Red.

When Lancelot came to Corbenic Castle, Pelles wanted the greatest knight in the world to be the father of the future Grail hero.

Brisane, the governess of Elaine, was also a sorceress. Brisane gave Lancelot a drug, that made him think he was making love to Queen Guinevere, when the hero was actually sleeping with Elaine. A child was conceived in from this union, and Elaine became the mother of Galahad, the Pure Knight, by her lover Lancelot. Galahad would be the knight who restored the kingdom, which had been laid waste through powerful enchantment.

The story also indicated that Elaine had also slept with Lancelot, not only because she was inspired by love for the hero, but in the hope she would conceive a son who would save her people and her father’s kingdom.

It is strange that the son born from a union of unmarried couple would win the supposedly holy Christian vessel. Normally, Christians would see that the union between of Lancelot and Elaine as a sin of fornication, and that Galahad had being the result of sinful birth: illegitimacy and bastardy. So it was no different from adultery, which Lancelot had committed with Queen Guinevere, and that Elaine would have been condemned along with Guinevere. Yet the author indicate that this was special union. Elaine was virgin and chaste, the bearer of the Grail. Though, Elaine would lose her maidenhood to the best knight in the world, her virginity would be pass onto her son. One of the reasons why Galahad would succeed in his quest is that he had remained pure: he had retained his virginity and chastity.

See Elaine and Galahad in Lancelot du Lac.


In Queste del Saint Graal, Elaine was the Grail Bearer, when the three Grail knights finally arrived in Corbenic.

Related Information
Elaine, Helaine.
Helizabel, Heliabel, Amite.
Elaine of Corbin.
Grail Bearer, Grail Maiden.
Related Articles
Pelles, Lancelot, Galahad, Guinevere.
Elaine and Galahad.
Genealogy: House of Lancelot and the Fisher King.

The Grail Maiden (Elaine)

The Grail Maiden (Elaine)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Oil on canvas, 1874
Fine Art Photographic Library


Perceval’s Sister

The sister of Perceval. Whereas Elaine, the daughter of King Pelles (Fisher King) and mother of Galahad (in the Vulgate Cycle), was the Grail Bearer, it is Perceval’s sister who was the Grail heroine.

Often in the Grail romances, Perceval’s sister doesn’t appear to have any name, nor does she appear in every tale with her brother. Her name could be Dindraine or Dindrane can be found in Le Haut Livre du Graal also known as Perlesvaus (c. 1210). In the Italian romance, Tavola ritonda, her name was Agrestizia.

In the beginning of pre-cycle Prose Lancelot (non-Vulgate, c. 1220), she was possibly named Heliabel, where her beauty was compared to Guinevere; Heliabel surpassed Guinevere. In this romance, Perceval was still identified as the Grail hero.

(This identity of Heliabel with Perceval is found in the notes of Lancelot of the Lake, translated by Corin Corley. This is mostly likely an error, because as Helizabel and Amite (the former being her real name) in the Vulgate version of the Prose Lancelot, or as Elaine in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1469), she was the daughter of Fisher King Pelles and the mother of Galahad by Lancelot. See Elaine. Or maybe, Dindrane and Helizabel (Amite) were original the same woman, where she was linked with Perceval. But, by the time of Vulgate Cycle, she became two separate person: one became the sister of Perceval and the other became the mother of Galahad.)

However, in Suite du Merlin (Post-Vulgate) and in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, there is another Elaine or Heliabel, who was the daughter of Pellinore and the Lady of Rule. She would probably be a half-sister of Perceval and this sister had died long before the Grail began. This Elaine had killed herself in grief over lover death. See Quest of the White Hart in the Legend of Excalibur page.

Since there are confusion over her name, I shall call her Dindraine, mostly for the sake of convenience, rather than always call her “Perceval’s sister” all the time.


Dindraine did not appeared in Chretien de Troyes’ Conte du Graal. Perveval’s sister had first appeared in the Second Grail Continuation, which is often called Wauchier de Denain Continuation or just Perceval’s Continuation, c. 1190. Perceval met her when he returned to his mother’s castle and found her there. She informed Perceval how their mother die when he left. After this, Perceval continued on the quest, leaving his sister with their hermit uncle that he had met in the Conte du Graal.

In the Gerbert de Montreuil Continuation (which follows on the Second Continuation), Perceval returned to his uncle, taking his sister to the Castle of Maidens, leaving her behind.


In Queste del Saint Graal (Vulgate Cycle), she met the three Grail knights: Galahad, Bors and her brother Perceval. Though she told Perceval that she was his sister, she had never given them her name. She was the heroine who informed Galahad, Perceval and Bors about the origin of Sword of the Strange Belt, the magical ship and the Tree of Life. Dindraine could board the ship because she was an innocent virgin. She had made the sword-belt for Galahad with her own hairs and the strands of gold. (see Aboard the Ship.)

Though, she seemed to have never met Pelles the Fisher King nor Elaine, Galahad’s mother, Perceval’s sister seemed to know more about the history of their family better than Galahad. She seemed to know the outcome of quest and her own destiny.

When they left the ship, she and her companions encountered a castle with strange custom. Each virgin maiden travelled through the land must fill a dish with her blood. The people of the castle had wished to heal their Countess of leposy. Her brother and his companions would have defend her, but Perceval’s sister agreed to the condition impose on them. Her life was sacrificed in ordered to save the Countess, thereby ending the horrible custom. Perceval and his friends placed her body in a boat and let it drift.

By the time, Galahad and his companions reached the Holy City of Sarras with grail, her body arrived. They buried her body in the city as she had foretold. Two years later, Galahad died after the mystery of Grail was revealed to him. Galahad was buried with her. Perceval became a hermit and died a year after Galahad. Bors had Perceval buried with his sister and Galahad, before he returned to Arthur in Logre (Britain), with the news of the end of the Quest.

In Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, the story followed along the same line as that of Queste del Saint Graal, where she met her brother and his companions on the ship and her death by giving blood to cure the Countess.

Related Information
Usually unnamed.
Dindraine, Dindrane (in Parzival).
Heliabel (pre-cycle prose Lancelot).
Agrestizia (Italian).
Related Articles
Perceval, Galahad, Bors, Elaine, King Pelles.
Second Continuation, Fourth Continuation. Queste del Saint Graal (Vulgate Cycle).



Elaine the Fair

Elaine the Fair was also known as the Lady of Astolat. She was often called the Fair Maid of Astolat. She should not be confused with another Elaine, who was the daughter of King Pelles and mother of Galahad.

Elaine fell in love with Lancelot, and tried to win his love. However, Lancelot was still in love with Guinevere. Elaine died from a broken heart. Her body arrived in Camelot, where Arthur had her buried in a great tomb.

See the Death of King Arthur for the full story.

Related Information
Elaine le Blank (Elaine the Fair).
Lady of Astolat.
The Lady of Shalott.
Related Articles
Lancelot, Gawain, Guinevere.
Death of King Arthur.

Elaine in the Barge

Elaine in the Barge
Sophie Anderson
Oil on canvas, 1870
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool


Lady of the Fountain

The Lady of the Fountain appeared in several different versions of romance, with the hero Yvain (Owain), the son of Urien.

The Lady of the Fountain was named Laudine. Some version of Chretien de Troyes’ Knight of the Lion does not give her name. In the one of the Welsh poems, called the Lady of the Fountain, belonged to Mabinogion, she was just known as the Lady of the Fountain or Countess of the Fountain. For convenient sakes, I will use the name Laudine. See Yvain and the Lady of the Fountain for the full story.

Laudine was known also by her title as the Lady of Landuc and was the daughter of Duke Landunet.

Laudine was the Countess of the castle and the magical forest around the magical fountain or spring (Otherworld). By pouring water from a silver bowl on to a great stone, a sudden and fierce storm, causing destruction through the forest and castle.

A strong and brave knight was needed to defend the fountain. Laudine had married Esclados the Red, who was only known as the Black Knight in Mabinogion. When her husband was killed by Yvain (Owain), her companion, Lunete (Luned in the Welsh Mabinogion) convinced the countess to take Yvain as her new husband and champion of the magical spring.

After they were happily married for some years, Yvain wanted to attend a tournament held by his uncle, King Arthur. Reluctantly, the Lady allowed her husband to attend the tournament, but must return within a year, or else he should never return at all. She also gave a ring to Yvain, not only to remind him of her, but also to return to her at the date she set.

Yvain failure to return to his wife and his duties to protect the fountain caused a separation between them. A damsel who was servant and messenger of the lady, removed the ring from his finger. Fill with remorse and shame, Yvain lost his wit and dwelled in the woods for a number of years as a wild man. After some years of exile and adventure, Lunete helped the hero to reconcile with Lady Laudine.

Related Information
Laudine, Alundyne.
Lady of Landuc.
Lady of the Fountain.
Countess of the Fountain.
Related Articles
Yvain (Owain), Lunete, Gawain.
Yvain and the Lady of the Fountain.
Genealogy: House of King Arthur.

Lady of the Fountain

Lady of the Fountain
(Lunete and Yvain (Owain) are on the left, behind the columns)
Alan Lee
Illustration, 1984



The heronine of the French romance called Knight of the Lion. Lunete was the companion and confidant of the Lady of the Fountain (Laudine). In the Welsh and English version of the tale, her name was Luned.

When Arthur and his retinue stayed at the castle of the Lady, Chretien de Troyes described Lunete as “…a winsome brunette, very sensible, clever and attractive.” Chretien also described her as the moon, just as he compared Sir Gawain as the sun.

When Yvain (Owain) mortally wounded the Laudine’s first husband Esclados the Red, Yvain found himself trapped in his enemy’s castle. Only Lunete offered counsel and aid to Yvain. While the mob in the castle sought to avenge their lord, only Lunete helped Yvain to escape their notice by giving the hero a magic ring to make him invisible.

While Yvain was invisible, he saw and fell in love with Esclados’ beautiful widow. With Lunete’s help, Yvain won the Laudine’s hand and married the Lady. Lunete became the Lady’s closest friend and adviser.

However, when Yvain over-extended his absence at Arthur’s court, the Lady asked her husband to never return to her. This separation with her husband also caused Lunete to lose favour with her Lady, since she advised Laudine to marry the hero.

In the lady’s court, the seneschal was jealous that Lunete was her favourite adviser. Now the seneschal managed to have her accused of treason. She was due to be burnt at the stake, when Yvain fought and defeated the seneschal and his brother in combat. Lunete not only won her freedom, but also was able to renew her friendship with Laudine.

With resource and cunning, Lunete later helped Yvain to win his wife’s love back, by tricking Laudine into reconciling with her husband.

Related Information
Luned (Welsh and English).
Lunete, Lunet (French).
Related Articles
Yvain (Owain), Lady of the Fountain (Laudine), Gawain.
Yvain and the Lady of the Fountain.


Enide (Enid)

Enide was the beautiful wife of the hero Erec or Gereint in Welsh and English literature. She was known as Enid in the Welsh legend. Enide was the niece of count of Laluth.

The French writer, Chretien de Troyes, had compared her beauty with Isolde de Blonde, whom he said Enide surpassed.

Enide was one of the most typical “Damsel in distresses”; often finding herself in trouble because of her beauty. Villains lusting after her; they would abduct her and try to marry or rape her. Her lover, in this case, her husband, inspired by his love for her, would come to her rescue, performing great heroic deeds for sake.

Erec won her hand in marriage, when he challenged and defeated the Knight of the Kestrel, also known as Yder, son of Nut.

Enide became distressed when she heard her father-in-law’s subjects blaming her for Erec lack of participation in heroic deeds, such as hunting, tournaments and warfare. Erec was spending so much time with her that the people were saying that she had bewitched him.

When Erec heard this from his wife, the hero misunderstood her concerns and thought she had low esteem for his prowess and his skills as a knight. Erec set them on a journey with Enide through the forest, beset with bandits, giants and lecherous counts. The purpose of making this journey was to test Enide’s love for him.

Count Oringle of Limors prevented Enide from committing suicide, when she thought her husband had died, after he had returned, killing two giants. However, Oringle had his own agenda for saving Enide. Oringle lusted after the distraught wife of Erec. Oringle tried to force her to marry him, until Erec regained conscious and killed the lecherous count.

The whole adventure had put considerable stress and anxiety to Enide, who regretted telling her husband the truth. Enide was really blameless, for she was concern about what other people were saying about her and Erec.

In the end, Enide proved her love and loyalty to Erec, Erec apologised to Enide for putting her through the taxing ordeals, while he proved had lose none of his prowess as he defeated enemy after enemy.

See Erec and Enide for the full story of Enide’s adventure with Erec.

Related Information
Enide (French).
Enid (Welsh).
Related Articles
Erec, Gawain.
Erec and Enide.

Enide (Enid)

Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

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