The Lady of the Lake

The lady of the lake

The Lady of the Lake

CharactersBackground Essay Author: Jenny Boyar
The Lady of the Lake is an especially ambiguous and shifting character in the Arthurian legends.  She accordingly goes by several other names, most of which are variations on Nimue or Vivianne, the latter derived from a Celtic water-goddess.  In her initial appearances, however, she is nameless: in the Old French Le Chevalier de la Charette Lancelot mentions a powerful ring given to him by a "fairy" who raised him in youth, while the later Middle German Lanzelet describes a "mermaid" who raises Lancelot and lives in an enchanted sea realm among 10,000 women who experience no sorrow.  In Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, the Lady of the Lake famously gives Arthur his sword Excalibur and is later killed by Balin.  Another Lady of the Lake, Nenyve, charms and imprisons Merlin.  She is eventually named the chief Lady of the Lake and accompanies Arthur on the barge to Avalon.  Modern depictions of the Lady of the Lake are extensive and include works by Tennyson (Idylls of the King), Thelwall ("The Fairy of the Lake"), Yeats ("Time and the Witch Viviene"), and T.H. White (The Once and Future King).
Anonymous
The Temptation of Arthur - February 5, 1870 (Author)
Bridges, Sallie (1830 - 1910)
Merlin's Grave - 1864 (Author)
Merlin and the White Death - February 20, 1864 (Author)
The Queens of Avalon - 1911 (Author)
Jonson, Ben (c. 1572 - 1637)