This page contains all familiars inspired by the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. In the legends, the narrative focus often shifts from King Arthur himself to other characters, such as various Knights of the Round Table.
Knights of the Round Table
The Knights of the Round Table were characters in the legends about King Arthur. They were the best knights in King Arthur's kingdom and lived in King Arthur's castle, Camelot. They were called the Knights of the Round Table because of a special table in Camelot, that was round instead of rectangular. This meant that everyone who sat around it was seen as equal.
In Arthurian legend, Sir Bedivere (/ˈbɛdɨvɪər/ or /ˈbiːdɨvɪər/; Welsh: Bedwyr; French: Bédoier, also spelt Bedevere) is the Knight of the Round Table who returns Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. He serves as King Arthur's marshal and is frequently associated with Sir Kay. Sir Lucan is his brother; Sir Griflet is his cousin. Bedwyr is one of the earliest characters to be associated with the Arthurian cycle, appearing in a number of early Welsh texts in which he is described as Bedwyr Bedrydant (Bedwyr of the Perfect Sinews), a handsome, one-handed knight under Arthur's command. His father is given as Pedrawd or Bedrawd, and his children as Amhren and Eneuawg, both members of Arthur's court. He was known to use dark magic to seduce and subdue his foes with great skill and aggression. He was feared by many and although the townspeople frequently asked for his hanging, King Arthur still held him in high regards.
The Green Knight is a character in the 14th-century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the related work The Greene Knight. His true name is revealed to be Bercilak de Hautdesert in Sir Gawain, while The Greene Knight names him "Bredbeddle". The Green Knight later appears as one of Arthur's greatest champions in the fragmentary ballad "King Arthur and King Cornwall", again under the name "Bredbeddle". In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Bercilak is transformed into the Green Knight by Morgan le Fay, a traditional adversary of King Arthur, in order to test his court. In The Green Knight he is transformed by a different woman for the same purpose. In both stories he sends his wife to seduce Gawain as a further test. "King Arthur and King Cornwall" portrays him as an exorcist and one of the most powerful knights in Arthur's court.
In Sir Gawain, the Green Knight is so called because his skin and clothes are green. The meaning of his greenness has puzzled scholars since the discovery of the poem, who identify him variously as the Green Man, a vegetation being in medieval art; a recollection of a figure from Celtic mythology; a Christian symbol; or the Devil himself. The medieval scholar C. S. Lewis said the character was "as vivid and concrete as any image in literature." J. R. R. Tolkien called him the "most difficult character" to interpret in the introduction to his edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. His major role in Arthurian literature includes being a judge and tester of knights, and as such the other characters see him as friendly but terrifying and somewhat mysterious.
Sir Brandiles A Knight of the Round Table. Son of Gilbert. He was one of the many knights captured and imprisoned by Tarquin, who hated all Arthur's knights, until he was released by Lancelot. In some accounts he is identified with Brian des Iles.
Sir Galahad (/ˈɡæləhæd/; sometime referred to as Galeas /ɡəˈliːəs/ or Galath /ˈɡæləθ/), in Arthurian legend, is a knight of King Arthur's Round Table and one of the three achievers of the Holy Grail. He is the illegitimate son of Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic, and is renowned for his gallantry and purity. Emerging quite late in the medieval Arthurian tradition, Sir Galahad first appears in the Lancelot–Grail cycle, and his story is taken up in later works such as the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.
Gawain (/ɡəˈweɪn/, [ˈɡawain]; also called Gwalchmei, Gualguanus, Gauvain, Walwein, etc.) is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. Under the name Gwalchmei, he appears very early in the legend's development, being mentioned in some of the earliest Welsh Arthurian sources.
He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as one of the greatest knights, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In some spin-offs, Sir Gawain is the Green Knight. He is almost always portrayed as the son of Arthur's sister Morgause (or Anna) and King Lot of Orkney and Lothian, and his brothers are Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred. He was well known to be the most trustworthy friend of Sir Lancelot. In some works, Sir Gawain has sisters as well. According to some legends, he would have been the true and rightful heir to the throne of Camelot, after the reign of King Arthur.
Gawain is often portrayed as a formidable, courteous, and also a compassionate warrior, fiercely loyal to his king and family. He is a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor, and as "the Maidens' Knight", a defender of women as well. In some works, his strength waxes and wanes with the sun; in the most common form of this motif, his might triples by noon, but fades as the sun sets. His knowledge of herbs makes him a great healer, and he is credited with at least three children: Florence, Lovell, and Gingalain, the last of which is also called Libeaus Desconus or Le Bel Inconnu, the Fair Unknown. Gawain appears in English, French and Celtic literature as well as in Italy where he appears in the architecture of the north portal in the cathedral of Modena, constructed in 1184.
Sir Griflet /ˈɡrɪflɨt/, also called Girflet, Jaufre, is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend. He is called the son of Do or Don, and he is cousin to Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere.
Griflet first appears as a squire and one of King Arthur's earliest allies. When he is knighted he becomes one of the first Knights of the Round Table. He is one of Arthur's chief advisors throughout his career, and according the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, he was one of the Battle of Camlann's few survivors, and is the knight Arthur asked to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. In Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, however, Griflet is one of the knights killed defending Guinevere's execution when the queen is rescued by Lancelot; Malory follows the Stanzaic Morte Arthure making Bedivere the knight who casts Excalibur into the lake
In Arthurian legend, Sir Kay /ˈkeɪ/ (Welsh: Cai, Kai, or Kei, or Cei; Latin: Caius; French: Keu; French Romance: Queux; Old French: Kès or Kex) is Sir Ector's son and King Arthur's foster brother and later seneschal, as well as one of the first Knights of the Round Table.
In later literature he is known for his acid tongue and bullying, boorish behavior, but in earlier accounts he was one of Arthur's premier warriors. Along with Bedivere, with whom he is frequently associated, Kay is one of the earliest characters associated with Arthur.
Sir Lancelot (or Launcelot) du Lac (/ˈlænsələt/, /ˈlɔːnsələt/, /ˈlænsəlɒt/, or /ˈlɔːnsəlɒt/; and /djuːˈlæk/ or /djuːˈlɑːk/) was one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He most typically features as King Arthur's greatest champion whose love affair with Queen Guinevere brings about the end of Arthur's kingdom.
His first appearance as a main character is in Chrétien de Troyes' Le Chevalier de la Charette, or "Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart", written in the 12th century. In the 13th century, he was the main focus in the lengthy Vulgate Cycle, where his exploits are recounted in the section known as the Prose Lancelot. Lancelot's life and adventures have been featured in several medieval romances, often with conflicting back-stories and chains of events.
Sir Lucan the Butler is a servant of King Arthur and one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. The duties of a "butler" have changed over time; Sir Lucan was supposed to have been in charge of the royal court, along with Bedivere the Marshal and Kay the Seneschal.
Sir Lucan is the son of Duke Corneus, brother to Sir Bedivere and cousin to Sir Griflet. He and his relatives are among Arthur's earliest allies in the fight against the rebel kings such as Lot, Urien, and Caradoc, and remained one of Arthur's loyal companions throughout his life.
In most accounts of Arthur's death, from the Lancelot-Grail Cycle to Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Sir Lucan is one of the last knights at the king's side at the Battle of Camlann. He is usually the last to die; he helps Arthur off the battlefield after he battles Mordred, but the stress is too much. He dies from his own wounds just before the king returns Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake and sails off for Avalon.
Sir Palamedes (also called Palamede, Palomides /pæləˈmaɪdiːz/ or some other variant) is a Knight of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is a Saracen pagan who converts to Christianity later in his life, and his unrequited love for Iseult brings him into frequent conflict with Sir Tristan. Palamedes' father is King Esclabor; his brothers Safir and Segwarides also join the Round Table. Sir Palamedes first appears in the Prose Tristan, an early 13th-century prose expansion of the Tristan and Iseult legend. He is introduced as a knight fighting for Iseult's hand at a tournament in Ireland; he ultimately loses to Sir Tristan, to the delight of the princess. Sir Tristan spares him but forbids him to bear arms for a year or to pursue Iseult's love ever again. After Iseult's wedding to King Mark, Sir Palamedes rescues Iseult's servant Brangaine, joins the Round Table and engages in a number of duels with Sir Tristan that are usually postponed or end without a clear winner. They eventually reconcile, but share a love-hate relationship through the rest of the narrative.
Sir Percival (or Perceval) is one of King Arthur's legendary Knights of the Round Table. In Welsh literature, his story is allotted to the historical Peredur. He is most famous for his involvement in the quest for the grail. Perceval's sweetheart was Blanchefleur, and he became the King of Carbonek after healing the Fisher King, but in later versions he was a virgin who died after achieving the Grail.
Sir Tristan (also known as Tristram) is one of the main characters of the Tristan and Iseult story, a Cornish hero and one of the Knights of the Round Table featuring in the Matter of Britain. He is the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall, sent to fetch Iseult back from Ireland to wed the king. However, he and Iseult accidentally consume a love potion while en route and fall helplessly in love. The pair undergo numerous trials that test their secret affair. He also participated in the quest for the Holy Grail.
Other characters are not true Knights of the Round Table, but were allies, enemies, or relatives of those warriors. Some of the following characters may also not be related to the Knights, but are considered to be part of the Arthurian Legends.
The Afanc (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈavank], sometimes also called Addanc, [ˈaðank]) is a lake monster from Welsh mythology. Its exact description varies; it is described variously as resembling a crocodile, beaver or dwarf-like creature, and is sometimes said to be a demon. The lake in which it dwells also varies; it is variously said to live in Llyn Llion, Llyn Barfog, near Brynberian Bridge or in Llyn yr Afanc, a lake near Betws-y-Coed that was named after the creature.
Some legends ascribe the creature's death to King Arthur. Close to Llyn Barfog in Snowdonia is a hoof-print petrosomatoglyph etched deep into the rock "Carn March Arthur", or the "Stone of Arthur's Horse", which was supposedly made by King Arthur's mount, Llamrai, when it was hauling the afanc from the lake.
The Black Knight appears in different forms in Arthurian legend. In one tale he is a knight who tied his wife to a tree after hearing she had exchanged rings with Sir Perceval. Sir Perceval defeated the Black Knight and explained that it was an innocent exchange. A supernatural Black Knight is also summoned by Sir Calogrenant (Cynon ap Clydno in Welsh mythology) in the tale of Yvain, the Knight of the Lion. Calogrenant is bested by the Black Knight, but the Black Knight is later killed by Ywain (Owain mab Urien) when he attempts to complete the quest that Calogrenant failed. A Black Knight is also the son of Tom a'Lincoln and Anglitora (the daughter of Prester John) in Richard Johnson's Arthurian romance, Tom a'Lincoln. Through Tom, he is thus a grandson of King Arthur, though his proper name is never given. He killed his mother after hearing from his father's ghost that she had murdered him. He later joined the Faerie Knight, his half-brother, in adventures. A Black Knight is also mentioned as being killed by Gareth when he was traveling to rescue Lyonesse.
Brangäne is a character in the opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner. Isolde, promised to King Marke in marriage, and her handmaid, Brangäne, are quartered aboard Tristan's ship being transported to the king's lands in Cornwall.
Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle is a Middle English tail-rhyme romance of 660 lines, composed in about 1400.A similar story is told in a 17th-century minstrel piece found in the Percy Folio and known as The Carle of Carlisle. These are two of a number of early English poems that feature the Arthurian hero Sir Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur, in his English role as a knight of the Round Table renowned for his valour and, particularly, for his courtesy.
The sorceress Hellawes is a minor character in Thomas Malory's 15th-century compilation of Arthurian legends Le Morte d'Arthur, a treacherous magician whom Sir Lancelot encounters in his pursuit of a holy sword or cloth (the talisman needed to heal his wounded liege-man, Meliot of Logres). Hellawes managed to lure the questing knight into her fearsome Chapel Perilous, but Lancelot—the object of her obsessive and unrequited love—successfully escaped its traps.
Iseult (also Isolde or Yseult) is the wife of Mark of Cornwall and adulterous lover of Sir Tristan. She is a main character in the Tristan poems of Béroul, Thomas of Britain, and Gottfried von Strassburg and in the opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner. She was forced to marry Mark of Cornwall, but drank a love potion and fell in love with Tristan, Mark's nephew. However, the cruel king stabs his nephew in the back, and Tristan, at Iseult's request, fatally crushes his beloved in a tight embrace as his final act.
Lailoken was a semi-legendary madman and prophet who lived in the Caledonian Forest in the late 6th century. The Life of Saint Kentigern mentions "a certain foolish man, who was called Laleocen" living at or near the village of Peartnach (Partick) within the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Laleocen prophesied the death of King Rhydderch Hael.
As a wild man and seer living in the forests of what is now southern Scotland, Lailoken is often identified with Myrddin Wyllt, the Welsh forerunner of the Arthurian wizard Merlin.
Sir Lanvall (other names: Landevale, Launfal, Lambewell) is an Arthurian knight first written about in Marie de France's Lanval. He is a knight that was outcast from King Arthur's court into poverty and disgrace because of his dislike for Queen Guinevere. He eventually falls in love with a faerie princess, and is taken away to Avalon.
Mordred or Modred (/ˈmoʊdrɛd/; Welsh: Medraut, Medrod, etc.) is a character in the Arthurian legend, known as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. Tradition varies on his relationship to Arthur, but he is best known today as Arthur's illegitimate son by his half-sister Morgause. In earlier literature, he was considered the legitimate son of Morgause, also known as Anna, with her husband King Lot of Orkney. His brothers or half-brothers are Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, and Gareth.
Morholt (also called Marhalt, Morold, Marhaus and other variations) is an Irish Champion warrior who demands tribute from King Mark of Cornwall until he is slain by Sir Tristan, Mark's nephew and defender. He shared his adventures with the young Gawain and Ywain early in King Arthur's reign. In the later versions, Tristan takes Morholt's place at the Round Table when he joins the company himself.
The Lady of the Lake is the titular name of the ruler of Avalon in the Arthurian legend. She plays a pivotal role in many stories, including giving King Arthur his sword Excalibur, enchanting Merlin, and raising Lancelot after the death of his father. Different writers and copyists give the Arthurian character the name Nimue, Viviane, Vivien, Elaine, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne, among other variations.
Uther Pendragon (from Welsh: Uthyr Pendragon, Uthyr Bendragon) is a legendary king of sub-Roman Britain and the father of King Arthur. He is a fairly ambiguous individual throughout the literature: he is described as a strong king and a defender of the people. It is Mordred who will eventually mortally wound King Arthur in the Battle of Camlann.
The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle (The Weddynge of Syr Gawen and Dame Ragnell) is a 15th-century English poem, one of several versions of the "loathly lady" story popular during the Middle Ages. An earlier version of the story appears as "The Wyfe of Bayths Tale" ("The Wife of Bath's Tale") in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and the later ballad "The Marriage of Sir Gawain" is essentially a retelling, though its relationship to the medieval poem is uncertain.The author's name is not known, but similarities to Le Morte d'Arthur have led to the suggestion that the poem may have been written by Sir Thomas Malory.
Stories about the Arthurian court were popular in medieval England, and the worn condition of some of the manuscripts suggests that they were well read. The Ragnelle narrative may have been intended for a festive or less than serious audience. Thomas Garbaty sees the poem as a humorous parody of the Arthurian legend, where Arthur is cowed by both the challenging knight and Ragnelle, "passing the buck" to Gawain. The Wedding of Sir Gawain survives in a poorly copied 16th-century manuscript located in the Bodleian Library (Bodleian 11951, formerly Rawlinson C.86) though it was probably written in the 15th century.
A formidable Giant from Wales. He caused terror across the Welsh countryside of Yr Wyddfa Fawr, challenging chieftains to combat. He slew many men and he cut off their beards which was sewn together to form a cloak as a trophy. He then sent a message to King Arthur to give up his beard to the Giant or else the Giant would do battle with him and win his beard anyway. King Arthur accepted the challenge. The two fought a ferocious battle but King Arthur got the upper hand and won, kicking the Giant down a path called Rhiw Barfe meaning ‘The Way of the Bearded One’. A cairn was erected where the Giant lay called Gwyddha Rhita meaning ‘Rhita’s cairn’ but this stone was destroyed many centuries later to make room for a hotel.
Wledig (other spellings: Gwledig, Guletic, Guledig) is an Early Welsh title given to various figures in Arthurian and Welsh literature. According to the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (The University of Wales Dictionary), (g)wledig means "lord, king, prince, ruler, term applied to a number of early British rulers and princes who were prominent in the defense of Britain about the time of the Roman withdrawal; (possibly) commander of the native militia (in a Romano-British province).