Uther

Uther-Pendragon

Uther

CharactersName Variants: Uter, Uther PendragonBackground Essay Author: Alan Lupack
Uther is the brother of Aurelius Ambrosius and Constans and the father of Arthur. Geoffrey of Monmouth explains that Uther is called Uther Pendragon because of a comet in the shape of a dragon that appeared in the sky before a battle with the Saxons in which his brother Aurelius dies. The dragon is a sign of Aurelius’s death and Uther’s accession. Geoffrey also recounts Uther’s passion for Igraine. Merlin transforms Uther into the shape of Igraine’s husband so he can satisfy his lust. He fathers Arthur and, later, a daughter named Anna. The Saxons kill Uther by poisoning a well from which he drinks, and he is buried inside the Giant’s Ring (Stonehenge). Malory also tells the story of Merlin’s transformation of Uther into the form of Gorlois. Uther agrees to surrender the child conceived on that night to Merlin to be raised as he chooses. Gorlois is slain in battle three hours after Uther and Igraine conceive Arthur, and then Uther marries Igraine.
            In Malory’s Morte d’Arthur and in works based on his account, Uther is generally important only as the father of Arthur, but the events of the Middle English romance Sir Cleges are said to take place in the time of Uther Pendragon. Nor is Uther often a principal character in modern literature. He does, however, play a central role in Uther and Igraine (1902) by Warwick Deeping, a novel in which he is very different from the character of medieval chronicle and romance. Deeping’s Uther is overly concerned with morality, a trait that almost causes him to lose Igraine. Uther also appears early in the film Excalibur (1981) as a warrior king who lacks the vision that his son will bring to Britain.
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