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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lady of the Lake taking the infant Lancelot. From Tennyson's Idylls of the King

The Lady of the Lake is the name of several related characters who play parts in Arthurian legend. Depending on the variant, characters' roles include giving King Arthur his sword Excalibur, enchanting Merlin, and raising Lancelot after the death of his father. Various writers and copyists conflated her with, or named her as Nimue, Viviane, Elaine, Niniane, Nivian, Nyneve, Nimueh and other variations. [1] Other versions of the legends make Nimue, Viviane, etc., into separate characters.


In medieval literature

The Lady of the Lake and Sir Bedivere

The Lancelot-Grail Cycle provides a backstory for the Lady of the Lake, "Viviane", in the prose Merlin section, which takes place before the Lancelot Proper, though it was written later. There, Viviane learns her magic from Merlin, who becomes enamored of her. She refuses to give him her love until he has taught her all his secrets, after which she uses her power to trap him either in the trunk of a tree or beneath a stone, depending on the story and author. Regardless of the specific version, Merlin is unable to counteract Viviane because of his foresight; because of such an ability and "truth" it holds, he decides to do nothing for his situation other than to continue to teach her his secrets until she takes the opportunity to entrap and entomb him in a tree, a stone or a cave.

The Post-Vulgate's second Lady of the Lake is called "Ninianne", and her story is nearly identical to the one in the Lancelot-Grail. Sir Thomas Malory also uses both Ladies of the Lake in his Le Morte d'Arthur; he leaves the first one unnamed and calls the second one Nimue. The character appears in many other episodes of Malory's work. Each time she reappears, it is always at a pivotal moment of the episode, establishing the importance of her character within Arthurian Literature, especially Le Morte d'Arthur. In that work, she transcends any notoriety attached to her character by aiding Arthur and other knights to succeed in their endeavors.[2]

Later uses

The Walter Scott poem and its musical settings

Walter Scott wrote an influential poem, The Lady of the Lake, in 1810, drawing on the romance of the legend, but transplanting it to Loch Katrine in the Trossachs of Scotland. In La Donna del Lago, Scott's material furnished subject matter for an opera by Gioachino Rossini, which debuted in Naples in 1819. It was the first of a fashion for operas with Scottish settings and based on Scott's works, of which Gaetano Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor is the most familiar.
The three "Ellen songs" from Scott's poem were set to music by Franz Schubert (D. 837 - D. 839 – "Ellens Gesang I",[3] "Ellens Gesang II",[4] and "Ellens Gesang III"[5]), although Schubert's music to Ellen's Third Song has become far more famous in its later adaptation, known as "Ave Maria".

Other appearances and popular references

The Lady of the Lake offering Arthur the sword Excalibur

Alfred Tennyson adapted several stories of the Lady of the Lake for his poetic cycle Idylls of the King. He splits her into two characters; Viviane is a deceitful villain who ensnares Merlin, while the Lady of the Lake is a benevolent figure who raises Lancelot and gives Arthur his sword.

Nimue appears in T. H. White's The Once and Future King as Merlin's love interest. True to the legend she traps Merlin in a cave, but Merlin does not convey it as negative, and even refers to it as a vacation.

Mystery novelist Raymond Chandler wrote The Lady in the Lake in 1943, which revolves around a set of mysterious deaths in the San Bernardino Mountains. Here, the symbolic Arthur, questing for the Grail of truth and adhering to his own chivalric code, is Chandler's hero Philip Marlowe. As in the original tales, Marlowe's lady in the lake is not what she first seems, and has a devastating effect on her lover.

In Robert Graves's 1949 novel Seven Days in New Crete, also known as Watch the North Wind Rise, depicting a future world where the present monotheistic religions are discarded and the Triple Goddess once again rules supreme, "Nimue" is the name of the Goddess's "Maiden" manifestation.[6]

The character plays a major role in The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. In Bradley's works, both the Lady of the Lake and the Merlin are offices. The Lady of the Lake is the title of the ruling priestess of Avalon, and the Merlin is a Druid who has pledged his life to the protection of Britain. In The Mists of Avalon, Viviane is the Lady of the Lake as the story opens, and is later succeeded by the priestess Niniane. Niniane is in turn succeeded by Morgan le Fay (called "Morgaine" in this version), while the Merlin is seduced by Nimue. In this version, Nimue is a sympathetic and tragic young priestess who falls in love with the Merlin but is duty bound to seduce and lure him to his death, and who then commits suicide herself.

The murder victim Margaret Hogg, whose body was found in a lake in England's Wasdale Valley in 1984, became known as "the Wasdale Lady in the Lake". Similarly, an unidentified murder victim thought to have been killed by the Cleveland Torso Murderer in the 1930s is referred to as the "Lady of the Lake."

The Lady appears in Stephen R. Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle, as Charis, a princess from the lost land of Atlantis. When she arrives in Britain after the devastation of her homeland, she marries Taliesin, Chief Bard of Britain, and is mother of Merlin.

T. A. Barron's Lost Years of Merlin series and The Great Tree of Avalon series feature the evil Nimue and the good Lady of the Lake as two separate characters.

Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski introduced Nimue to his Witcher saga in The Swallow's Tower (1997), and focused on her in Lady of the Lake (1999).

The 1998 made-for-television movie Merlin features a character named Nimue, played by Isabella Rossellini, who meets and falls in love with the young Merlin. This character is distinct from the Lady of the Lake, played by Miranda Richardson.

In the Age of Wonders universe, Nimue is a vain (female) wizard with control over the element of water. In the Age of Wonders II campaign, Merlin (the player) fights her and her human forces.

The Lady is the patron deity of the nation of the Arthurian-based Bretonnia in the Warhammer Fantasy universe.

Under the name Elaine (Ellie) Harrison, the Lady is the protagonist and narrator of Meg Cabot's Avalon High young adult novel.

In Spamalot, a musical theatre adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Lady of the Lake takes the role of the female lead. She is a stereotypical diva, as evidenced by her solo in act two, "Diva's Lament (Whatever Happened to My Part?)". She also is very eager to get Arthur to marry her, going so far as to have a dress that converts into a wedding gown in a single motion. This Lady of the Lake's real name was revealed to be Guinevere at the end of the show.

Nimue is the true identity of the DC Comics character Madame Xanadu. In her self-titled series, she seduces Merlin and is a sister of both Vivienne and Morgaine le Fey. A separate Lady of the Lake (possibly Vivienne) appears in the Aquaman series.

Nimueh has also appeared in several episodes of the 2008 BBC television series Merlin, where she is a powerful sorceress who has tried to kill both the young Arthur and Merlin.

The popular band Rainbow released a song called "Lady of the Lake" on their 1978 album, Long Live Rock and Roll.

Claimed locations of the Lake

A number of locations in Great Britain are traditionally associated with the Lady of the Lake's abode. They include Dozmary Pool, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Ogwen, The Loe, Pomparles Bridge, Loch Arthur, and Aleines. In France, she is associated with the forest of Brocéliande.

See also


  1. ^ Holbrook, S. E. "Nymue, the Chief Lady of the Lake, in Malory's Le Morte D’arthur." Speculum 53.4 (1978): 761-777. JSTOR. NCSU University Libraries, Raleigh, NC. 15 March 2009.
  2. ^ Sue E Holbrook: "Nyume, the Chief Lady of the Lake, in Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur" in Speculum Volume 53 No. 4 (1978): Pages 761-777.
  3. ^ Ellens Gesang I
  4. ^ Ellens Gesang II
  5. ^ Ellens Gesang III
  6. ^ [1] Robert H. Canary: "Utopian and Fantastic Dualities in Robert Graves's Watch the North Wind Rise" in Science Fiction Studies, Volume 1, No. 4, Fall 1974

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Lady of the Lake article)

From Wikisource

The Lady of the Lake
by Walter Scott
The Lady of the Lake is a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, first published in 1810. Set in the Trossachs region of Scotland, it is composed of six cantos, each of which concerns the action of a single day.Excerpted from The Lady of the Lake on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Simple English

]] The Lady of the Lake is a character of Arthurian legend. Different writers give her different names. Her roles include giving King Arthur his sword, Excalibur, taking Arthur to Camelot after the Battle of Camlann, raising Lancelot after the death of his father, and of enchanting Merlin. She is called Nimue, Viviane, Elaine, Niniane, Nyneve or Nimueh, amongst others.

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