Knights, riding on horseback, wielding swords and spears, were once known as brave and intrepid heroes. They have been portrayed in many movies and books, with the Knights of the Round Table being some of the most well-known.
These knights were considered some of the best in the court of King Arthur, and among them was Sir Bors.
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Who Was Sir Bors?
Bors, also known as Bors the Younger, was one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.
He would eventually become one of the important figures in the Grail mythos, one of the only ones deemed worthy to see the Grail, alongside Sir Galahad and Sir Percival.
He is often called Bors the Younger to distinguish himself from his father: Bors the Elder or Bors de Ganis, who was also a famous Knight of the Round Table.
His father, Bors the Elder
Bors the Elder, brother of King Ban and uncle of Hector de Maris and Lancelot, was married to Evaine, the sister of Ban’s wife Elaine.
He had two sons: Bors the Younger and Lionel.
Ban and Bors were early allies of King Arthur, and helped him against rebel kings in Britain like Lot, Urien, and Caradoc.
In exchange, Arthur promised to help them against their Frankish enemy, King Claudas. However, Arthur was slow to fulfill his promise, and Claudas was able to invade their country on the continent.
This invasion resulted in the death of both kings, and Bors’ children were imprisoned by Claudas’ men, while Ban’s son Lancelot was taken away by the Lady of the Lake.
Lionel and Bors were raised in secret by Pharien, a knight who had previously served their father King Bors before switching to Claudas’ service. However, when Claudas’ people discovered their presence, Pharien and the boys were imprisoned.
After spending several years at Claudas’ court, the boys rebelled against him and even managed to slay his cruel son, Dorin. Before Claudas could retaliate, they were rescued by a servant of the Lady of the Lake and taken to live with their cousin Lancelot.
The three of them grew up to be excellent knights and eventually joined King Arthur’s retinue in Camelot. Bors was easily recognizable due to a distinctive scar on his forehead and actively participated in most of the King’s conflicts.
As a Knight of the Round Table
Sir Bors was introduced into the Round Table by his father Elyan the White, after being tricked into sleeping with King Brandegoris’ daughter, Claire, by way of a magic ring. He was always portrayed as one of the finest knights of the Round Table, but his true glory came during the Grail Quest when he proved himself worthy enough to witness the Grail’s mysteries alongside Galahad and Percival.
Throughout the episodes of King Arthur’s Death, Bors displayed his virtuous character. In one such episode, a lady approached Bors, threatening to commit suicide unless he slept with her. However, he refused to break his vow of celibacy, and the lady and her maidens revealed themselves to be demons set on deceiving him.
In another episode, Bors faced a dilemma where he had to choose between rescuing his brother Lionel, being whipped with thorns by villains in one direction, or saving a young girl who had been abducted by a rogue knight in the other. He chose to help the maiden, but prayed for his brother’s safety. Lionel escaped his tormentors and tried to murder Bors, but Bors refused to defend himself, refusing to raise a weapon against his kinsman.
Fellow Knight of the Round Table Calogrenant and a hermit tried to intervene, but Lionel killed them both. However, before he could kill his brother, God struck him down with an immobilizing column of fire. Bors was advised by a hermit priest to confess his sins and to eat and drink nothing but bread and water until he came to the Table of the Holy Grail.
During the Quest for the Holy Grail
The Holy Grail, known as the vessel used by Jesus Christ to serve wine at the Last Supper, was closely intertwined with the legend of the Holy Chalice sought by the Knights of the Round Table.
Bors, Galahad, and Percival set out to find the Holy Grail and eventually succeed, accompanying it to Sarras, a mystical island in the Holy Land where Galahad and Percival pass away.
While Galahad was a divinely inspired perfect knight, both Perceval and Bors faced numerous tests. Perceval failed almost every test but was saved at the last minute by his pure faith, while Bors succeeded in all of the challenges he encountered.
The companions met by chance at a crossroads in a forest near the castle of King Pelles, Guardian of the holy relics. During dinner, an apparition of the Grail appeared with some angels and an old man named Joseph, who gave communion to those present.
After Receiving the Grail
The old man then turned to Sir Galahad and revealed that he had already seen what he longed for and would see it even better in the city of Sarras. The three companions would take the Grail with them, along with a spear containing the blood of Jesus Christ, but only a few would return to Camelot.
After finding the Grail, Bors was the only one to return, and the text of the “Vulgate Queste” purported to be a written record of Bors telling the full story of the quest back in Camelot.
Perceval became a hermit, while Bors retained his secular clothing and planned to return to Arthur’s Britain. A year and three days later, Perceval passed away.
At the end of the entire “Vulgate Cycle,” Bors emerged as the only surviving main character and became a successor to Arthur after the King’s death.
Escape with Lancelot
In Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Sir Bors initially refused to fight as Queen Guinevere’s champion in a trial by combat after she was accused of poisoning a cousin of Sir Mador de la Porte, as Lancelot had left Camelot earlier because of her. However, he eventually relented after the desperate Guinevere knelt before him. Just as Bors was about to joust with Mador, Lancelot arrived incognito to take his place.
Bors later took Lancelot’s side along with the rest of their family after Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere was exposed, and Arthur sentenced her to death. He helped to rescue the Queen from her execution and became one of Lancelot’s most valorous and trusted aides during the ensuing war. Bors survived a horseback duel with Arthur’s second-in-command Gawain, and had an opportunity to kill the dehorsed Arthur himself but was stopped by Lancelot.
In return for his service, Lancelot crowned Lionel the King of France, while Sir Bors became the ruler of King Claudas’ lands. However, Mordred later betrayed Arthur and took the throne. Bors sent most of the army home and went to look for Lancelot with a few other kinsmen. They eventually found him living as a priest and decided to join him.
After Arthur’s Death
In the Lancelot-Grail and the “Post-Vulgate” King Arthur’s Death, Lancelot and his men returned to Britain to fight Mordred’s sons, who had taken over. Bors avenged his brother’s death by killing Mordred’s elder son, Meleon or Melehan, with one blow. Lancelot killed Mordred’s second unnamed son.
In some stories from the Arthurian cycle, Sir Bors returned after Lancelot’s death and died in the Holy Land while fighting as a crusader.
See our complete list of Arthurian characters for more entries like this one.
- 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
See also my ever-expanding list of primary and secondary sources.