Sir Balan
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Sir Balan: The Tragic Brother of Balin

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Sir Balan is a relatively minor knight in the Arthurian legends. He is primarily known by reason of association with his more important brother, Sir Balin le Savage. But despite his fairly small contribution to the legends of Arthur, there are various things that could be said about him. 

In this article, we will learn:

  • Who Balan was
  • What he did
  • Why his connection with his brother was so important
  • Which sources mention him


Sir Balan was a knight who served at King Arthur’s court before the Round Table was established. He was the brother of Sir Balin, the one responsible, in some versions, for causing the great wasteland that the Holy Grail was required to heal. 

Balan himself served King Arthur for a while, fell out of his favour, and then later returned to serving Arthur faithfully. 

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He plays an important role in an episode early in Arthur’s life, helping the king to establish his reign over all of Britain.

After this contribution to Arthur’s reign, Balan’s story focuses on the connection between him and his brother.

Tragically, Balan’s brother, Balin, falls under a curse which destines him to slay the man he loves the most, which ends up being his brother. Balan, likewise, unwittingly kills Balin. 


Balan was an excellent warrior, which proved very useful when helping Arthur to put down a civil war at the start of his reign.

But Balan’s most famous attribute is that he had a calm, controlled personality. He was not easily riled up.

This went hand-in-hand with his brother’s predisposition to anger. Balin would often experience bursts of rage. Balan would therefore do what he could to calm Balin’s temper and help him to control himself.


Sir Balan’s family background is not explained in detail. From the information provided about his brother Balin, we can glean that Balan was a high-ranking prince from Northumberland.

We can also discern that his mother, unnamed, was burned to death due to false accusations. The Lady of the Lake apparently had a large part to play in this.


Early in Arthur’s reign, Balan’s brother is released from prison and unwisely obtains a sword from a mysterious damsel which curses the bearer to kill their own brother (see the article ‘Sir Balin’).

After Balin rashly kills the Lady of the Lake out of revenge for his mother’s death, Arthur banishes him from Camelot. While wandering in the forest, Balin (now known as the Knight of the Two Swords) encounters his brother Balan.

He, too, has lost Arthur’s favor. Together, the two of them devise a plan to regain their position as respected knights at Arthur’s court.

They know that one of Arthur’s main enemies (at that early point in his reign) is a king named Rience. Therefore, they plan to capture him and bring him to Arthur’s court to win back the king’s favor.


King Rience is currently besieging Castle Terrabil, an important site in the Cornwall. He takes a break from this siege to go and see his lover, the Lady de Vance.

With Merlin’s guidance, Balin and Balan ambush him while he is on his way to see her. They fight powerfully against his men, killing forty of them. The remaining men flee.

Rience then yields to Balan and his brother, preferring to be captured than killed. The two brothers bring him to King Arthur. As they had hoped, Arthur is pleased with them.


In response to Rience’s capture, a civil war against Arthur breaks out. Rience’s brother King Nero sets out to continue the siege of Castle Terrabil, where the fighting against Arthur also occurs.

Arthur and his men fight against Nero’s forces. Balan and his brother Balin, in particular, distinguish themselves in this battle, performing many great feats.

After Nero’s forces are routed, King Lot and eleven allied kings arrive – they had been delayed by Merlin until now.

Yet these kings are likewise defeated. Largely due to the help of Balan and Balin, Arthur puts down the rebellion and becomes secure in his kingdom.


After these events, Balan and Balin go their separate ways. While travelling, Balan comes across a castle on an island connected to the mainland by a very narrow bridge.

The castle is guarded by a knight on the bridge. This knight, who wears red armour, challenges everyone who passes by. Balan accepts the challenge, engaging the knight in single combat.

Balan kills the knight, but rather than now being free to enter the castle, he is put under the same curse that the knight was under – that is, he must guard the castle and challenge every knight who approaches.


One day, after Balin used the spear that pierced the side of Christ to pierce the thigh of King Pellam, Balin comes across the same castle. He, like his brother Balan before him, must engage in single combat with the guard of the castle – except in this case, Balan is the guard.

Balin does not recognized Balan, since he is wearing the red armor of the knight he slew. Balan, on the other hand, does not recognize his brother Balin, since he was persuaded just before the battle to swap his own shield for a new one. 

The two brothers engage in battle, each one not realizing that the opponent is his brother. 

After fighting for hours, the two knights fatally wound each other. Only after this do they discover the truth about their opponent. 

Balan dies first, with Balin succumbing to death a few hours later.

In honor of their close bond and the tragedy of their deaths, they are buried together in a single tomb.


Balan appears in the second book of the Post-Vulgate Cycle, a book called Suite de Merlin, which dates to the 13th century.

However, the primary source for the tale of Balan is Le Morte d’Arthur, by Thomas Malory.


Balan is not an especially popular character in modern media – even less so than his brother Balin, who at least was responsible for the extremely significant Dolorous Stroke. Some of the only examples of media featuring Balan are:

  • The Sword in the Stone: This 1938 novel by T. H. White portrays Balan and his brother Balin as hawks. They meet the main character, Wart (Arthur), whom Balan in particular helps.
  • Pendragon: This 1977 novel by Douglas Carmichael features a version of the story of Sir Balin and Sir Balan. 
  • The Fisher King: This 1991 movie by Terry Gilliam features a modern-day version of the story of the Grail quest, where Balan and his brother Balin are represented by two thugs who beat up homeless people.
  • The Knight With the Two Swords: This 2018 novel by Edward M. Erdelac presents an expanded version of the tale of Balan and Balin.

See our complete list of Arthurian characters for more entries like this one.

Arthurian Bibliography

See also my ever-expanding list of primary and secondary sources.



Balan was a knight who served at King Arthur’s court, known for his calm nature but also his tragic death at the hands of his brother. 


Balan was killed by his brother, Balin.


The two tragic brothers had the misfortunate of killing each other because neither brother realized who the other was. 

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Jason is a Mythic Fantasy Author and creator of MythBank. He loves mythology, history, and geek culture. When he's not writing, his favorite hobbies include hiking, chilling with his wife, spouting nonsense words at his baby daughter, and developing this (and other) websites.

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