We all know of King Arthur, Merlin, or Lancelot. But there are literal thousands of other characters that are or have been part of the mythos, not to mention various groups they belonged to. This is my list, from all the research I’ve been able to find, of Arthurian characters and groups.
What’s on this List of Arthurian Characters and Groups?
There are a lot of characters that have become part of the Arthurian mythos throughout the years. Many have gone through multiple iterations and interpretations from authors across the British Isles, France, Germany, and much more.
This list combines both characters and groups from the Arthurian legends. While it is hard to be fully comprehensive, we encourage you to let us know if there are any important characters that you would include. You can do so through our contact page, social media, or in the comments.
We hope you enjoy this list! If you like it, you might want to consider visiting our Arthurian Legends Hub for similar resources. Check it out!
Table of Arthurian Characters
The following table is the comprehensive list of EVERYTHING that I’ve found so far. If you’d like something a little more curated, with the most famous Arthurian Characters, scroll past the list to see the content below.
Groups or Types of Arthurian Characters
In the Arthurian legend, there are several categories of characters, including:
- Knights of the Round Table: These are the most famous of Arthur’s knights, including Lancelot, Gawain, Tristan, Galahad, and Percival, among others.
- Royalty: King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and King Mark are some of the central figures in the legend.
- Wizards and Faerie: Merlin the wizard is one of the most famous characters in the Arthurian legend, but there are also other magical figures, such as Morgan le Fay and the Lady of the Lake. Any characters such as Gloriana in The Faerie Queene or various Giants seen throughout the legends would fit into this category.
- The Women of Arthurian Britain: The damsels in the Arthurian legend are often the center of a given story, often need to be rescued by the knights or providing motivation for a quest. They include such as Elaine of Astolat and Iseult.
- Peasants and Commoners: Characters such as Kay the Seneschal and Tom a’Lincoln play important roles in the stories as well.
- Saints and Holy Figures: Characters such as St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Illtud play important roles in the legend.
- Saxons and Romans: There are many characters that are not British in origin, such as Cerdic of Wessex, who was a Saxon, or Lucius, who was a Roman.
We’re going to be taking a look at the main characters in each of these categories, but first, let’s start with some of the most important characters in Arthurian Legend.
The Big Players
These are the most important characters in Arthurian legend, and most of the stories involve these characters in some way.
- King Arthur: King Arthur is the central figure in the Arthurian legend, known for his bravery, wisdom, and leadership. He is depicted as a powerful king who defeated the Saxons and established a vast empire and is best known through works such as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and French Arthurian romances, which introduced elements and characters that have become integral to the Arthurian story, such as Guinevere, Merlin, and the Holy Grail.
- Merlin: Merlin is a legendary figure featured in the King Arthur myth, known for being a mage, with several other main roles, usually depicted as a composite of historic and legendary figures, born of a mortal woman and sired by an incubus, known for prophecy and shapeshifting, who engineers the birth of King Arthur and serves as his advisor until his disappearance or death.
- Guinevere: Guinevere was the queen of Great Britain and the wife of King Arthur in Arthurian legend, with a prominent role in the love affair with Lancelot and being depicted as everything from a villainous traitor to a noble lady, with her character being shaped by her relationship with Lancelot in many versions and assuming more active roles in modern adaptations.
- Lancelot: Lancelot du Lac, one of the greatest Knights of the Round Table, is depicted as King Arthur’s close companion and the lord of Joyous Gard and personal champion of Queen Guinevere. He becomes central to the Arthurian romance tradition as a hero of many battles, quests and tournaments who also has a tragic love affair with Guinevere and causes a civil war that leads to the downfall of Arthur’s kingdom.
- Morgan Le Fay: Morgan Le Fay is a complex character in the Arthurian legend who has undergone changes throughout different texts. She was originally depicted as the ruler of Avalon and a healer, but later became more of an antagonistic figure towards King Arthur and was associated with paganism and female sexuality. Morgan Le Fay’s duality and her ability to use magic have made her a popular subject in contemporary texts, where she is sometimes portrayed as good, evil, or somewhere in between.
- Mordred: Mordred is a complex character in the Arthurian legend who has been portrayed as both a knight and a traitor. He is usually depicted as the villainous son of King Arthur and Morgause who desires to claim the throne and is eager to bring about the end of Camelot. Mordred is often portrayed as being in love with Queen Guinevere and fighting Arthur for both the throne and her heart. Depending on the interpretation, Mordred is either killed by Arthur or kills him at the Battle of Camlann. He is widely considered a villain and is even included in the lowest circle of Hell for traitors in Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno.”
- Gawain: Sir Gawain is a legendary knight who is best known from the 14th century romantic epic poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” He is the half-brother of Mordred and the son of Morgause and King Lot and is often depicted as a model of chivalry and goodness. In “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” Gawain defends King Arthur against a mysterious knight who challenges the king to a strange game. Gawain accepts the challenge and beheads the Green Knight, only to go on a quest to find him a year later and prove his greatness as an honorable knight.
- Elaine of Astolat: Elaine of Astolat is a character in the Arthurian legend who is known for her unrequited love for Lancelot. Her story is told in Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur” and Alfred Tennyson’s ballad “The Lady of Shalott.” Elaine nurses Lancelot back to health after he is wounded in a tournament, but he leaves her to return to Guinevere. Elaine dies of a broken heart, and her image as a woman whose love goes unrequited has inspired many paintings and works of art.
- Morgause: Morgause is a female character in the Arthurian legend who is sometimes confused with her sister Morgan Le Fay. Originally called Anna in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain,” Morgause’s character was fleshed out in Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.” In this version, she marries King Lot of Orkney and has four sons with him, all of whom serve Arthur as Knights of the Round Table. However, she is also the mother of Mordred through an affair with King Arthur, and her unlucky affairs lead to her death. Despite this, contemporary portrayals of Morgause have not been favorable, leaving room for writers to reclaim her story.
- Galahad: Galahad is a legendary knight known for being the noblest knight chosen by God to discover the Holy Grail. He is the son of Lancelot and is famous for his purity, which is linked to his success in finding the Holy Grail. Galahad’s reputation as a sinless knight is a stark contrast to his father Lancelot’s reputation for extramarital affairs, and his virginity has become an important aspect of his story in the Arthurian legend.
- The Lady of the Lake: The Lady of the Lake, also known as Viviane or Nimuë, is a powerful and influential figure in the Arthurian legend. She resides in a castle beneath the lake that surrounds Avalon and is responsible for gifting Arthur with Excalibur, bringing him to Avalon to heal him, and raising Lancelot. Her relationship with Merlin is also a subject of debate, with some stories depicting her as his lover and teacher of magic, while others show her as the one who imprisons him. The Lady of the Lake’s morally ambiguous character is typical of many female characters in the Arthurian legend.
- Tristan: Tristan is the legendary hero of the Tristan and Iseult story, first recorded in the 12th century, in which he falls in love with the Irish princess Iseult while escorting her to marry King Mark of Cornwall, leading to an adulterous relationship and eventual banishment and death. He is also featured in Arthurian legends as a skilled knight and friend of Lancelot.
- Iseult: Iseult is a legendary Irish princess who is the main character in the Tristan poems and the opera Tristan und Isolde, famous for her love affair with Tristan after they accidentally drink a love potion and their tragic end when Tristan is killed by King Mark and crushes Iseult in a tight embrace as his final act.
- Joseph of Arimathea: Joseph of Arimathea is a biblical figure who is said to have taken the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. He is also a figure in the Arthurian legend, where he is said to have brought the Holy Grail to Britain.
- Uther Pendragon: Uther Pendragon is the father of King Arthur and the previous king of Britain. He is often depicted as a brave and just ruler who paved the way for his son’s rule.
- Igraine: Igraine is the mother of King Arthur and the wife of King Uther Pendragon. She was originally married to King Gorlois before the latter was killed in battle. Her daughters Morgause, Elaine, and Morgan were a result of that prior marriage.
Knights of the Round Table
The most famous group in the legends of King Arthur are the Knights of the Round Table, the famed group of Knights who worked with Arthur to bring about a medieval utopia in Camelot.
There are literally hundreds of figures reported as members of this order, but some of the most common include the following:
- Accolon: Accolon is a character in Arthurian legends who is a lover of Morgan le Fay and is killed by King Arthur in a duel involving the magic sword Excalibur. He first appeared in medieval literature as Sir Accolon of Gaul in Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur” and is depicted as a pawn in Morgan’s plot to kill King Urien and King Arthur, leading to a duel with Arthur using the real Excalibur, which ends with Accolon’s death and Morgan’s revenge by stealing and losing Excalibur’s protective scabbard.
- Aglovale: Aglovale de Galis is the eldest son of King Pellinore of Galis and a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legends, appearing in various works such as the Vulgate Lancelot, Post-Vulgate Cycle, Le Morte d’Arthur, Moriaen, and Clemence Housman’s novel, with differing accounts of his death, family, and adventures.
- Agravain: Agravain is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend first seen in the works of Chrétien de Troyes, who is known for his attempts on his brother’s life, participation in slayings, and role in exposing Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot, which leads to his death at Lancelot’s hand.
- Balan: Sir Balan is a minor character in Arthurian legends, best known for his involvement in the capture of King Rience and subsequent alliance of twelve rebel kings, as well as his tragic death in a joust with his brother Sir Balin, who he did not recognize due to a curse and disguise.
- Balin: Sir Balin is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend who is best known for his tragic end where he and his brother Balan destroy each other in single combat, fulfilling an earlier prophecy about the destiny of the bearer of a mysterious damsel’s sword, and for his role in setting the scene for the search for the Holy Grail by inflicting a “Dolorous Stroke” with the spear that pierced Christ.
- Bedivere: Bedivere is a character in the King Arthur legend, originally described in Welsh texts as the one-handed great warrior named Bedwyr Bedrydant who serves as King Arthur’s marshal and is later portrayed in Arthurian chivalric romances as a Knight of the Round Table and the one who returns Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake after Arthur’s last battle, appearing in works such as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Historia Regum Britanniae,” Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” and several English versions of Arthur’s death.
- Bors the Younger: Sir Bors the Younger is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, known for his virtuous character, his role in the Grail Quest where he was one of the three knights to witness the Grail’s mysteries, and his loyalty to Queen Guinevere, Lancelot, and his family, especially his brother Lionel, where he is depicted as a valorous and trusted aide, the ruler of King Claudas’ lands, and the avenger of Lionel’s death in the war against Mordred’s sons.
- Claudin: Prince Claudin is a Frankish prince and son of King Claudas of the Wasteland who becomes a member of King Arthur’s Round Table after defecting from his father and surrendering during a war between them and King Arthur.
- Culhwch: Culhwch is the protagonist of the Welsh myth “Culhwch and Olwen”, a story in which he sets out on a journey with the help of his cousin King Arthur to marry Olwen, the daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden, after overcoming a series of impossible tasks and defeating Ysbaddaden with the help of Arthur and his knights.
- Dagonet: Sir Dagonet is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend depicted as either a foolish and cowardly knight, a violently deranged madman, or King Arthur’s beloved court jester, whose portrayal varies in medieval literature such as the Prose Lancelot, Les Prophéties de Merlin, Palamedes, Prose Tristan, and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.
- Daniel von Blumenthal: Sir Daniel of the Flowering Valley is a Middle High German Arthurian romance about a knight who becomes a member of King Arthur’s Round Table, engages in adventures to defend the kingdom from King Matur, and ultimately saves King Arthur from being kidnapped.
- Dinadan: Dinadan is a Cornish knight of the Round Table, known for his humor and pragmatism and being a close friend of Tristan, who appears in several Arthurian romance adaptations, including the Prose Tristan and Le Morte d’Arthur, as a son of Bruenor senior with Breunor le Noir and Daniel as his brothers, preferring to avoid fights and considering courtly love a waste of time, but brave in combat when necessary.
- Ector: Sir Ector is the adoptive father of King Arthur and the father of Sir Kay in Arthurian legend, appearing in various works such as Robert de Boron’s, Lancelot-Grail, Post-Vulgate Cycle, and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.
- Erec: Erec is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, famous for being the protagonist in Chrétien de Troyes’ first romance, “Erec and Enide”, who falls in love with and marries Enide, has her accompany him on a long trip, becomes king after his father’s death and later dies in battle or is killed by Gawain in revenge for the death of Yvain of the White Hands.
- Gaheris: Gaheris is a knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, depicted as a supporting character to Gawain and the third son of King Lot and Queen Morgause, King Arthur’s half-sister, with siblings Gawain, Agravain, Gareth, and half-brother Mordred, and is likely derived from the same character as Gareth, but he is killed alongside him during Lancelot’s rescue of Guinevere, leading to the fall of Arthur.
- Galahad (see above)
- Gareth: Gareth is a knight of King Arthur’s round table who is known for his bravery and chivalry and is the subject of the fourth book in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, “The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney”.
- Gawain (see above)
- Geraint: Geraint is a legendary warrior in Welsh folklore and Arthurian legend, believed to have possibly been related to an early 8th-century king of Dumnonia and a 6th-century Dumnonian saint king, and he is celebrated in the poem “Geraint son of Erbin”.
- Kay: Sir Kay is King Arthur’s foster brother, one of the first Knights of the Round Table, and a character in Arthurian legend who was known for his warrior abilities in early accounts and for his bullying behavior in later literature.
- Lamorak: Sir Lamorak is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend and is the son of King Pellinore and is referred to as Arthur’s third best knight in Thomas Malory’s compilation “Le Morte d’Arthur.” He is known for his strength, fiery temper, and martial prowess and his death comes from the revenge of Gawain and Gaheris for killing their father King Lot of Orkney, who had killed Lamorak’s father Pellinore.
- Lancelot (see above)
- Lanval: Lanval is a medieval Arthurian romance in Anglo-Norman about a knight at King Arthur’s court who is wooed by a fairy lady and refuses the advances of Queen Guinevere, leading to a complicated judicial scene before the king and the eventual appearance of his fairy lover to justify him and take him away to Avalon.
- Lionel: Sir Lionel is a Knight of the Round Table, the younger son of King Bors of Gaul, and the brother of Bors the Younger, a double cousin of Lancelot, and cousin of Hector de Maris in Arthurian legend, who is the subject of one of the famous Child Ballads (#18) and is known for his participation in the battles against King Arthur, his unworthiness during the Quest for the Holy Grail, and his eventual death at the hands of Mordred’s son Melehan.
- Mordred (see above)
- Morholt: Morholt of Ireland was an Irish knight who tried to gain tribute from King Mark until he was killed by Tristan. He would later get an expanded roll, including becoming a Knight of the Round table prior to his encounter with Tristan.
- Morien: Moriaen is a 13th-century Arthurian romance in Middle Dutch about Morien, the Moorish son of Aglovale, one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, who seeks to reunite with his father through a series of adventures showcasing the knights’ talents before they ultimately reunite and win back Morien’s mother’s rightful lands.
- Owain: Owain mab Urien was a 6th century king of Rheged who fought with his father against the Angles of Bernicia and became incorporated into Arthurian legend as Ywain, the main character in Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain, the Knight of the Lion and the Welsh Romance Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain.
- Palamedes: Palamedes is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, first appearing in the Prose Tristan as a rival for Princess Iseult’s hand, ultimately losing to Tristan and joining the Round Table. He is known for his unrequited love for Iseult, his conversion to Christianity during the Grail Quest, and his hunt for the Questing Beast, and his story is told in various works such as Le Morte d’Arthur, the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and the early 13th-century prose romance Palamedes.
- Percival: Percival, who first appeared in the 12th century romance “Perceval, the Story of the Grail,” is one of the two knights who accompany Galahad on his quest for the Holy Grail. Percival was originally portrayed as having failed to ask the question that would have healed the Fisher King, but later became a hero in his own right.
- Sagramore: Sir Sagramore is a knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, who is characterised as a virtuous but hot-tempered warrior, and appears in many standalone and cyclical chivalric romances and other works, including some where he is the titular protagonist, with his characterization varying from story to story.
- Tor: Tor is a minor character in Arthurian literature who is the son of King Pellinore and is adopted by King Aries, but he is known for his bravery and being one of King Arthur’s first knights, and he dies while guarding the execution of Guinevere.
- Tristan (see above)
- Urien: Urien was a 6th-century King of Rheged and a military leader who fought against the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia, and he is the inspiration for the character of King Urien of either Garlot or Gore in Arthurian legend, and his son Owain was transformed into the character of Ywain in the same legend.
- Ywain: Sir Ywain is a Knight of the Round Table and the son of King Urien of Gorre and Morgan le Fay in Arthurian legend, who is often accompanied by a pet lion and appears prominently in many later accounts, including Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, the Knight of the Lion.
- Ywain the Bastard: Ywain the Bastard is a son of King Urien of Gore and is a character frequently encountered in Arthurian romance as a hearty and sensible knight fighting in Arthur’s wars and questing for the Holy Grail, who was killed by his cousin Gawain during the Grail Quest, but has been split into two characters by Thomas Malory in “Le Morte d’Arthur.
Besides the Knights of the Round Table, there are many characters that fall under the category of “royalty”, namely local kings and rulers who were closely associated with the legends.
This includes Arthur himself, but also his family and other contemporary kings in other regions.
- King Arthur (see above)
- Aurelius Ambrosius: Ambrosius Aurelianus was a legendary Romano-British war leader in the 5th century who became the uncle of King Arthur and the brother of Uther Pendragon in the later works of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and was transformed into the young prophet and later wizard Merlin in the legends of the Britons.
- Ban: King Ban of Benwick is the father of Sir Lancelot and Sir Hector de Maris in Arthurian legend, and is the brother of King Bors. He is killed by the Frankish king Claudas and his sons become Knights of the Round Table, aiding Arthur in reclaiming their fathers’ land.
- Bors the Elder: Bors the Elder is a character in Arthurian legend, who is the brother of King Ban, the uncle of Hector de Maris and Lancelot, and the father of Bors the Younger and Lionel, and who is an early ally of King Arthur in his fight against eleven rebel kings in Britain and marries Evaine, the sister of Ban’s wife Elaine.
- Brutus of Britain: Brutus, also known as Brute of Troy, is the legendary founder and first king of Britain according to medieval British legend, who is said to be a descendant of the Trojan hero Aeneas and is mentioned in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum and the 12th-century work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but the exact details of his genealogy and story have been changed and altered over time.
- Caradoc: Caradoc Vreichvras is a semi-legendary Knight of the Round Table from the Matter of Britain, remembered as an ancestor to the kings of Gwent, with a disputed identity and historicity, ranging from the 5th or 6th century, and possibly based at Caerwent, with a name that may have been a remembrance of the pre-Roman hero Caratacus.
- The Fisher King: The Fisher King is a character in Arthurian legend who is the protector of the Holy Grail and the embodiment of his kingdom, but is rendered infertile and his kingdom barren by a wound, and awaits a hero-knight to complete a task and heal him, with the Holy Grail and Lance of Longinus as plot elements, originating in Chrétien de Troyes’ unfinished writings of Perceval and being continued by various authors.
- Gorlois: In Arthurian legend, Gorlois is the first husband of Igraine, who later marries Uther Pendragon, and is the father of Morgan le Fay, Morgause, and Elaine of Garlot, who are all married off to vassals of Uther.
- Guinevere (see above)
- Leodegrance: King Leodegrance is the father of Guinevere, the queen in Arthurian legend, and serves as King Uther’s vassal, entrusting the Round Table to King Arthur as a wedding gift after his daughter’s marriage.
- Lot: King Lot is a British monarch in Arthurian legend portrayed as King Arthur’s brother-in-law and under-king who serves as regent of Britain and is depicted as the ruler of the northern realm of Lothian and sometimes Norway, with the husband of Arthur’s sister or half-sister, Morgause, and the father of Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred.
- Maleagant: Maleagant is a villain in Arthurian legend known for abducting Queen Guinevere, leading to her rescue by King Arthur and his knights.
- Mark of Cornwall: King Mark of Cornwall is Tristan’s uncle and the husband of Princess Iseult, who falls in love with Tristan and has a tumultuous love affair with him, causing Mark to suspect and eventually confirm their affair and punish them, but eventually forgives them in most versions of the story.
- Meliodas: Meliodas is a king of Lyonesse in Arthurian legend and the central figure of the romance “Meliadus,” also known as “Aliadus,” who is involved in various exploits, including the kidnapping of the Queen of Scotland and aiding King Arthur in his war against the Saxons, and has a son named Tristan.
- Pellinore: King Pellinore is a king of Listenoise or “the Isles” in Arthurian legend who is associated with the Questing Beast, is a major figure in the Post-Vulgate prose cycle and Le Morte d’Arthur, and has many sons, including Aglovale, Lamorak, and Percival, and a daughter, Dindrane, who becomes a servant of the Grail.
- Uther Pendragon (see above)
- Vortigern: Vortigern was a 5th-century warlord in Britain who may have been a king of the Britons and is known for inviting Hengist and Horsa to aid him in fighting the Picts and Scots, resulting in the death of his son and the formation of the Kingdom of Kent. He is criticized by Gildas for his misjudgement and blamed for the loss of Britain, and is cited in the genealogy of the early Kings of Powys.
Wizards and Faerie
A lot of mystical figures appear in the Arthurian Legends, such as Merlin or Morgan le Fay. There are many others as well, including mysterious knights and Faerie Queens.
- Black Knight: The Black Knight is a character appearing in various forms in Arthurian legend, with mentions in tales such as Yvain, Sir Perceval of Galles, Le Morte d’Arthur, Tom a Lincoln, Brunor the Black, and as an alias of Sir Lancelot in the Lancelot-Grail cycle.
- Caelia: In Richard Johnson’s Tom a Lincoln and Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Caelia is a Fairy Queen who rules over Fairy Land and the House of Holiness respectively, and helps the main character in their quest, but ultimately commits suicide when she thinks she has been abandoned.
- The Fisher King (see above)
- Gloriana: Gloriana, also known as Tanaquill, is the Faerie Queene in Edmund Spenser’s epic poem “The Faerie Queene”, who exerts a powerful influence over the events of the poem despite her rare appearances, adding to the wonder of the Faerielands through her mysterious absence.
- The Green Knight: The Green Knight is a character in 14th-century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and related medieval work The Greene Knight, who is transformed into his green form to test King Arthur’s court and is depicted as one of the most powerful knights and an exorcist in “King Arthur and King Cornwall”.
- Lady of the Lake (see above)
- Merlin (see above)
- Modron: Modron is a Welsh figure and the mother of the hero Mabon ap Modron, who is believed to have originated from the Gaulish goddess Matrona and may have served as a prototype for Morgan le Fay in the Arthurian legend.
- Morgan le Fay (see above)
- Red Knight: In various Arthurian tales, the Red Knight is portrayed as an early enemy of Perceval, who eventually defeats him and wears his armor, but also appears as other characters such as Sir Ironside, Sir Perimones, Esclados the Red, and the Red Knight of the Deep Forest, and is defeated by other characters such as Yvain and the Great Foo
- Taliesin: Taliesin was a 6th-century Brittonic poet of Sub-Roman Britain whose work has possibly survived in the Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin, and is regarded as a renowned bard who served at the courts of at least three kings, Urien of Rheged, Brochfael Ysgithrog of Powys and Cynan Garwyn, and is referred to as Taliesin Ben Beirdd, the Chief of Bards, in legend and medieval Welsh poetry.
- Tom Thumb: Tom Thumb is a legendary English folk character known for his miniature size and adventures with giants, being swallowed by a cow, and becoming a favorite of King Arthur, with his story first appearing in 1621 and later adapted into plays, books, and films, often with a moral tone, while the earliest allusions to him are in 16th-century works.
- Ysbaddaden: Ysbaddaden Bencawr is a giant in Welsh Arthurian legend who is the father of Olwen and the uncle of Goreu, and is the primary antagonist in the story of Culhwch and Olwen, where he is defeated by Culhwch and his companions after completing a series of impossible tasks.
Women of Arthurian Britain
Though many of these figures are not as well known as some of the men in the Arthurian Legends, these stories are filled with some of the greatest female characters in all of medieval literature.
Indeed, many of these more minor character make up a huge inspiration for me and what I’m creating with my own Arthurian Legends universe.
- Blanchefleur: Blanchefleur is a popular High Middle Ages female given name with multiple fictional characters named as such in Arthurian romance, including Tristan’s mother, the heroine of Floris and Blanchefleur, daughter of Theirry in Garin le Loherain, and wife of Percival.
- Brangaine: Brangaine is the handmaid and confidante of Iseult of Ireland in the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Iseult, who is the accidental catalyst for the central romance, substitutes for Iseult on her wedding night, and is rescued by Iseult after being ordered to be killed but eventually serves as a courtly love lady for Tristan’s friend Kahedin.
- Dindrane: Percival’s sister is a character in the Old French romance Perlesvaus and can be named Dindrane or Heliabel, who lives in the Grail Castle and is the sister of King Arthur’s knight Percival and the daughter of Yglais, a sister of King Pelles and widow of Alain the Large.
- Elaine of Astolat (see above)
- Elaine of Benoic: Queen Elaine of Benoic is the wife of King Ban, birth mother of Lancelot, and known as the Queen of Great Sorrows after the conquest of their kingdom and the death of her husband, and she becomes a nun along with her sister Evaine, the widowed wife of King Bors and mother of Sir Lionel and Sir Bors, in the Vulgate Cycle, while in an alternate version from the Italian rewrite Tavola Ritonda, she is named Gostanza and dies of distress shortly after Ban’s death and Lancelot’s premature birth.
- Elaine of Corbenic: Elaine, also known as Amite and Elizabeth, is a character from Arthurian legend known as the “Grail Maiden” or the “Grail Bearer” and is the daughter of the Fisher King, King Pelles of Corbenic, and the mother of Galahad from her rape of Lancelot, derived from Percival’s sister and possibly also from Arthur’s sister and linked to Amice from Meraugis de Portlesguez, and connected to the sovereignty goddess of Ireland, Ériu.
- Elaine of Garlot: Queen Elaine of Garlot is a daughter of Gorlois and Igraine, sister to Morgan and Morgause, half-sister to Arthur, wife of King Nentres of Garlot, mother of Galeschin and Elaine, and her name was changed to Elaine by Thomas Malory in Le Morte d’Arthur.
- Enide: Enide is a character in Arthurian romance who is the wife of Erec in Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec and Enide and Geraint in the Welsh romance Geraint and Enid, with the stories having similarities of the protagonist questioning her love, going on a dangerous trip, and eventually reconciling after proving her loyalty.
- Guinevere (see above)
- Igraine (see above)
- Iseult (see above)
- Morgan le Fay (see above)
- Morgause: Morgause, also known as the Queen of Orkney, is a character in Arthurian legend who is the mother of Gawain and Mordred, both key players in the story of King Arthur, and is also the wife of King Lot of Orkney, sister of Morgan le Fay, and the mother of Gareth, Agravain, and Gaheris in some versions of the legend.
- Nimue: Nimue is one of the primary characters who is known as the Lady of the Lake.
- Olwen: In the Mabinogion, Olwen is the beautiful daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden and the heroine of the story “Culhwch and Olwen,” who is won by Culhwch after he completes a series of difficult tasks set by her father.
- Ragnell: Dame Ragnell, a hag in the Arthurian legend, appears in the story “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell,” where she offers the answer to the question “What do women want?” to King Arthur in exchange for the marriage of Sir Gawain. Despite her initial appearance as a foul creature, she transforms into a beautiful maiden and teaches Sir Gawain a lesson in sovereignty and the power of choice. The true identity and motives of Dame Ragnell remain a mystery and her role in the story raises questions about the nature of women, magic, and the consequences of appearances.
- Vivianne: Vivianne is another name for the Lady of the Lake. Sometimes this is a separate figure from Nimue. Other times, she is simply the main Lady of the Lake and there is no Nimue present.
Saints and Holy Figures
Some of the earliest stories involving King Arthur and his knights actually come from an old genre of medieval literature known as the “Lives of the Saints”. In these stories, and in others, several prominent
- Cadoc: Saint Cadoc was a 5th-6th century Abbot of Llancarfan in Wales who founded many churches in Cornwall, Brittany, Dyfed, and Scotland and was known as “Cattwg Ddoeth the Wise” with a collection of his maxims included in the Myvyrian Archaiology and is listed in the Roman Martyrology under 21 September and is important to the case for the historicity of King Arthur as one of seven saints’ lives that mention him independently of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Historia Regum Britanniae”.
- Carantoc: Saint Carantoc was a 6th-century abbot, confessor, and saint in Wales and the West Country, credited with founding Llangrannog, Ceredigion, Wales and St Carantoc’s Church, Crantock, and his name is listed among the Cornish Saints.
- Derfel: St. Derfel Gadarn is a 6th-century Celtic Christian monk and saint who was a noted warrior and is said to have been one of seven survivors of the Battle of Camlan and a member of King Arthur’s court in medieval Welsh tradition, later becoming a wandering hermit and eventually an abbot of Llantwit and Ynys Enlli.
- Illtud: St. Illtud is a 6th-century Welsh abbot venerated as the founder and teacher of the Bangor Illtyd, an early center of learning in Llanilltud Fawr, that educated many famous saints such as Saint David and Gildas, though there are few reliable sources about his life story.
- Joseph of Arimathea (see above)
Saxons and Romans
Besides the Britains, the two biggest groups of characters that make appearances in the Arthurian Legends are the Saxons and Romans. The Saxons in particular are a powerful force at this time, and take a prominent place in the Battle of Badon.
But the Romans (somewhat anachronistically) also take part, and fight with Arthur for control of Britain in several versions of the myth.
- Cerdic of Wessex: Cerdic is described as the founder and first king of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and is claimed to be the ancestor of later West Saxon kings, but his origin, ethnicity, and existence are debated and he was originally known as the king of the Gewissae folk or tribal group.
- Hengest and Horsa: Hengist and Horsa are legendary Germanic brothers said to have led the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in the invasion of Britain and Hengist is said to have become the first Jutish king of Kent, although they are now widely considered to be mythical figures.
- Lucius: Lucius Tiberius/Hiberius, a fictional Western Roman procurator/emperor from Arthurian legend, is depicted as being killed in a war against King Arthur after he invades the lands of Arthur’s allies on the continent and demands tribute, with theories about his origin ranging from being misspelled from Glycerius to being a reflex of the god Lugh.
Overall, there are thousands of interesting characters to explore in the Arthurian Legends. I hope you enjoyed reading through this list and learning about some of them!
- Norris Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, Debra Mancoff – The Arthurian Handbook (Second Edition)
- Alan Lupack – The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
- Ronan Coghlan – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
- Anonymous – Lancelot-Grail, the French Vulgate
- Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte d’Arthur