Explorations in Arthurian Legends

The Things

  • Dolorous Stroke: the stabbing of Pellam by Balin with the Lance of Longinus. The Stroke destroyed three countries and created the Waste Land, making the Grail Quest necessary. Click here and here and here for more and here to read Merlin's prophecy from Malory.
  • Excalibur: magical sword drawn by Arthur from the stone OR given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. Malory includes both accounts. The name is based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's Caliburn, which itself might have been based the famous Irish sword Caladbolg. Legend has it that the sword was thrown by Bedivere into the Lake and (some sources say) caught by the Lady of the Lake. Its scabbard also made the wearer unable to bleed from wounds. Click here and here for more.
  • Holy Grail: according to legend the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and later by his followers to catch his blood while he was being crucified. Tradition has it that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Grail to England. Perceval began as the Grail Knight was soon displaced by Galahad. We first glimpse the grail story in Chretien de Troyes's poem "Le Conte du Graal." Christian overtones entered the story with Robert de Boron's poem "Joseph d/Arimathie." Subsequent stories added the element that only Galahad could look into the Grail and behold the divine mysteries that cannot be put into words. Click here and here and here and here for more, as well as examine the claim of Glastonbury.

  • Questing Beast: the offspring of a girl and the Devil. It had the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the hindquarters of a lion, and the feet of a hart. It got its name from the sound its stomach made, as the sound of 40 hounds baying, or questing. Arthur is said to have fought it. In T.H. White, King Pellinore is said to be pursuing the Questing Beast. Click here and here for more.
  • Round Table: first mentioned in Wace's Roman de Brut. The idea was that the table, being round, would have no head, or place of prominence. Arthur's strategy was to reinforce the idea that none of the barons or dukes or other nobles who sat there would be seen to occupy places of importance greater than any other. Robert de Boron's poem "Joseph dArimathie" talks of a table that Joseph was commanded to make in commemoration of the Last Supper; further, Joseph was to leave a place vacant, symbolizing the seat of Judas. This was the Siege Perilous, which could not be occupied except by the Grail hero. Anyone else who sat there, legend had it, would die. (Galahad, being the Grail hero of later legends, sat there and was unharmed.) Since the Vulgate cycle and certainly in the Malory tradition, the Round Table has been said to have been a dowry from King Leodegrance for his daughter Guinevere's wedding to Arthur. The city of Winchester still sports a Round Table, although it has been dated to the 13th century. Click here and here for more.
  • Siege Perilous: seat at the Round Table where only the Grail hero could sit without dying. Merlin named it. Galahad sat in it and survived; Brumart, a nephew of King Claudas, sat in it and died. Robert de Boron says Perceval sat in it.

  • Sword in the Stone: legend begun by Robert de Boron and perpetuated by Malory. Click here and here for more.
  • Table of Wandering Companions: table where sat knights who were hoping to become Round Table knights.
  • Thirteen Treasures of Britain: Dyrnwyn, sword of Rhydderch Hael; the hamper of Gwyddno Garanhir; the horn of Bran Galad; the chariot of Morgan; the halter of Clydno Eiddyn; the knife of Laufrodedd; the cauldron of Diwrnach the giant; the whetstone of Tudwal Tudglyd; the coat of Padarn Redcoat; the crock of Rhygenydd; the dish of Rhygenydd; the Gwyddbwll board of Gwenddolau; and Arthur's mantle of invisibility. Merlin is said to have taken all these things and hidden them in his castle of glass. Click here and here for more.
  • White Stag: It was said that whoever hunted down a white stag could kiss the loveliest girl in Arthur's court. The title character chased one in Chretien's Erec; in the Didot Perceval, Perceval cut off the head of one. In The Mists of Avalon, the mating of Arthur and Morgaine at Beltane was the enactment of a White Stag ritual. Click here and here for more.
Other relevant links

Encyclopedia of the Celts

Celtic Twilight's Arthurian Infopedia

Mystical WWW: Arthurian A2Z Knowledge Bank

Transformations of Celtic Mythology in Arthurian legend

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