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Sir Balin le Savage, also known as the Knight with Two Swords, is a character in the Arthurian legend. Merlin told Arthur he would have been his best and bravest knight. A knight before the Round Table was formed, Sir Balin hails from Northumberland, and is associated with Sir Balan, his brother. Balin and Balan destroy each other in one-on-one battle, fulfilling an earlier prophecy. This story is recounted in the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin, in Book II of Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and in Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in "Balin and Balan".

Wrongfully imprisoned for the death of a cousin of King Arthur's, Balin is released at about the same time that a damsel sent from the Lady of Avalon comes to court wearing a sword hidden under her girt that can only be drawn by a truly virtuous knight. After many, including Arthur himself, attempt to pull the sword, Balin asks for a chance to take the sword off the damsel.

The damsel was at first reluctant to allow a knight just released from prison to attempt it. Balin indeed succeeds and takes the sword as his own. The damsel corrects her initial presumptuousness, but then further chastises Balin when he refuses to return the sword, earning the sobriquet "the Knight with two Swords". The damsel leaves not without warning to Balin, cautioning him that with that sword he will kill his closest friend (this will be later reinterpreted by Merlin) who is Balan, his brother. Balin accepts this adventure.

Shortly thereafter, the Lady of the Lake, in pursuit of a vendetta between her family and Balin's, arrives to ask Arthur for Balin's head as payment for Excalibur, the sword that she bestowed on him (this is, of course, a version of this part of the legend in this tale, as other versions claim that Arthur pulls Excalibur from a stone and anvil). Arthur agrees to payment, but she demands the head of Balin, who killed her brother, or the head of the damsel, who caused her father’s death, or both. Arthur refuses, and Balin, upon hearing that the cause of his mother's wrongful execution is in court, in turn strikes off the Lady’s head, claiming that the Lady caused his own mother to be burned to death. Arthur is unmoved and insists that even were his claim true, Balin ought to have withheld his hand for the sake of the king. Arthur then banishes Balin from the court.

Merlin arrives and then explains that the damsel with the sword is actually a false traitor, who is angry with her very own brother, a good knight who slew her lover. With the help of her Lady of Avalon, the damsel sought revenge on her brother through that sword, whose holder is destined to slay his (or in the damsel's case, her) own brother.

Merlin explains this to the court, both the provenance and purpose of the sword: although this understanding is to be construed as confusing due sometimes to inconsistencies in the legend through retellings, it is clear from Merlin that this sword that Balin has taken from the damsel bears a curse of some kind.

Meanwhile, one of Arthur’s knights from Ireland, jealous that he was not the one to free the damsel of the burdenous sword, sets out in pursuit of Balin to slay him. Sir Balin in turn though slays this pursuer. The knight’s lover then suddenly appears and, overcome with grief, commits suicide by falling upon the dead knight’s own sword.

Balin then meets his brother Balan, who had come to Arthur’s country in pursuit of Balin. They set off together to do battle with King Rions, who has been causing Arthur some discomfort, as a means of winning back Arthur’s love. Before leaving for war however, a dwarf then appears. Lamenting the death of the knight and the woman, the dwarf declares that the knight’s brother will seek revenge on Balin. King Mark appears and builds a tomb for the fallen knight and lover. But then Merlin appears and prophesies that Lancelot and Tristram will do battle on this very same site and that because of the death of the woman, Balin will strike the most Dolorous Stroke ever committed by man, except for the Stroke which pierced Christ’s Side on the Cross.

With Merlin's help, Balin and Balan capture King Rience. An alliance is formed between the twelve rebel kings including Rience's brother King Nero; Arthur kills Nero. The Brothers then fight on Arthur's side at the Battle of Terrabil, which sees the slaughter of King Lot of Orkney and eleven other rebel kings.

Soon after the rebels' funeral, Balin sets out to avenge a man slain by an invisible knight while travelling under Balin's protection. The villain turns out to be the brother of the Grail king Pellam, and Balin kills him at a feast in Pellam's castle. Pellam immediately seeks vengeance, and searching for a weapon, Balin unknowingly grabs the Spear of Longinus and stabs Pellam with it: this is the Dolorous Stroke that maims Pellam, turns the Grail kingdom into the Wasteland, and brings the castle down on Balin's and Pellam's heads.

After Merlin digs him out of the rubble, Balin has a couple of minor adventures before fetching up at a castle where he is compelled to fight the resident defender. This turns out to be Balan, who earned the position against his will by killing the previous incumbent: the set-up is reminiscent of that at the Sacred Grove of Nemi, as described by Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Unfortunately, neither brother recognises the other: Balan is wearing unfamiliar red armour, and Balin was persuaded to swap his shield for a better one immediately before the duel. The brothers mortally wound each other, Balin outliving Balan by a few hours.

Merlin fixes the sword that Balin got from the damsel in a block of stone, from which it is drawn by Galahad at the start of the Grail Quest years later. After Galahad's death, the sword passes to his father Lancelot, who uses it to give Gawain the wound that eventually kills him.

Perhaps uniquely among the significant knights of Arthur's court, Balin never joins the Round Table, dying before that institution is founded.

In T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone the young Arthur meets two hawks called Balin and Balan.



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