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Multiple Character Tropes
- Badass Family: Though who's related to whom varies wildly Depending on the Author.
- Blood Knight: Knights were expected, as a matter of honour, to go adventuring on a regular basis, and are generally more than happy to do so. The ones who make an attempt at settling down (as Ywaine did) get badgered back into it pretty quickly.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Not always, but pretty frequently.
- Depending on the Writer: Who appears,who has major and minor roles, who is related to whom, how characters act... and pretty much everything else.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Arthur and Guinevere are generally never given any biological children together, whilst Arthur and Morgause only need to copulate once to produce Mordred in telling a involving this Brother-Sister Incest.
- Odd Name Out: King Arthur's nephews are Gawain, Gaheris, Gareth, Agravaine, and Mordred. Guess which ones are evil.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. There are several women named Elaine, and there are several different women who occassionally share the title "Lady of the Lake". There are also three Iseults - Tristram's lover (Iseult "the Fair"), her mother, and another princess who Tristram marries (Iseult "of the White Hands"). There are also two Ectors, Arthur's foster-father Ector and Lancelot's half-brother Ector de Maris, and two men named Bors, King Bors and his son Bors of the Round Table.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: A great number of knights start out as royalty or nobility, others tend to get lands and castles pretty quickly.
- Sir Not Appearing In This Book: Merlin's liege, Master Blaise, is mentioned once in passing but never appears nor does anything to affect the plot.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Variant spellings of names abound. Some distinct characters may have even resulted from people interpreting spelling variations as different people (ex. Morgause and Morgan). A manuscript of a work may even have different spellings for a name, which can then differ with other manuscripts of that same work (ex. Guinevere).
- Values Dissonance: While par for the course with any old legend, there is one particular one that changes tied to the portrayals of quests and combat prowess: in the old Welsh legends, adventures and quests are group activities (Arthor himself is almost never without his Power Trio of himself, Cai, and Bedwyr) and there is nothing wrong with ganging up on badguys, while the later Romance takes almost exclusively focus on single warrior adventures that are stuffed to the gills with jousting and even the villains tend to follow Mook Chivalry.
King Arthur's Court
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: After he defeats Lucius Tiberius, he is apparently declared Roman Emperor in Geoffrey's account.
- Big Good: Especially in later stories focusing on the acts of his knights.
- Brother-Sister Incest: His tryst with his half-sister Morgause produces Mordred, who eventually betrays him. At the time neither was aware of their relation (it was just some good old wholesome adultery), which probably led to some awkwardness later.
- Changeling Fantasy: As a boy King Arthur is raised by Sir Ector, who has no idea of his true identity.
- Characterization Marches On: Although he was always a warrior hero, early traditions depict him as less of a clean-cut good guy than later interpretations, being quite lustful, jealous, prideful and greedy. He quarrels with churchmen, tries to steal King Mark's pigs but is tricked by Tristan, kills a rival over a woman, and fathers several sons, none of whom is linked to his wife Guinevere.
- The early Arthurian legends completely lack that whole 'drowning all the Mayday babies to kill your incestuously conceived bastard son' element, and while the Welsh do give him illegitimate sons, so do the French, and at least in the case of Arthur the Little, sons by force. He's also more of a warrior in the old myths, doing his own grunt work half the time, and instead of being king because of birth he's king because he's the only man who can stall the Saxon invasion.
- Character Title: Well, it's not called "Merlinian Literature" or the "Sir Lancelot Mythos"...
- The Chosen One: Merlin chose him, manipulating events so that he'd be born and taking an active hand in his rise and education.
- Composite Character: One theory is that the tales of King Arthur are based on the exploits of several different leaders over many years rather than the life of a single individual.
- Cool Sword: Excalibur, though Merlin felt the scabbard (which kept wounds from bleeding) was much more useful. It's kind of hard to argue...
- Depending on the Writer: Arthur is pretty much the gauge by which you can read the Author's opinion on proper kingship. Thus, in the Welsh legends he does his own Asskicking Equals Authority and leads from the front and challenges the church on occasion, while to Mallory and the French he's your typical wellmannered and cuckolded King who leads from behind and isn't actually that great of a fighter. Modern writers have made him badass, cowardly, conflicted, compassionate, and tyrannical. And usually they do that while telling the exact same plot!
- Excalibur: The sword Excalibur was wielded by King Arthur.
- Gray Eyes: according to Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.
- Happily Adopted: Arthur actually had quite a happy life with Sir Ector and was extremely upset to learn that he wasn't actually his son.
- The Hero: Trope Codifier.
- Heroes Love Dogs: In the early Welsh stuff he has a dog named Cavall, whose name confusingly enough means "horse".
- Historical Hero Upgrade / Historical Badass Upgrade: Historians have debated for generations whether Arthur was truly historical at all. But if we accept that the "original Arthur" was a British leader who temporarily stopped the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, he has been greatly transformed and magnified into the Arthur of legend.
- The original Arthur may not have even been a king himself, since he is called dux bellorum or "leader of battles", who fought "together with the kings of the Britons" in twelve great battles against the Anglo-Saxons. He is also called "Arthur the Soldier" in early material. In later works he is called the High King of all Britain and even Emperor, and he even almost conquers Rome, only being interrupted by Mordred's rebellion.
- King in the Mountain: Foretold to return during Britain's greatest need.
- Memetic Badass: Before Galahad, before Lancelot, before Gawain, Arthur was this to the mythos that now bears his name. The Arthurian Welsh Triads in particular tend to either have Arthur (referred to as the Red Ravager) as the third (and thus most powerful example) of each triad, or the fourth, generally establishing that whatever the other three guys were known for, Arthur was it Up to Eleven.
- In fact, literally the earliest possible mention of Arthur accepted by most experts can be paraphrased as "This one guy is a Billy Mac Badass to end all other badasses, but he was not Arthur."
- Messianic Archetype: See King in the Mountain.
- Mutual Kill: With Mordred.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Arthur decides to round up all of the babies born on May Day and send them out on a rickety boat because Merlin prophesied that a child born on this day would destroy him. One baby (Mordred) survived.
- Out of Focus: In the literature, his knights like Lancelot get more and more of the spotlight and he is almost if not actually Demoted to Extra until the story covers his downfall.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Spouts off several in the "Lucius" section of Le Morte d'Arthur.
- Selective Obliviousness: May have had this in regard to Lancelot and Guinevere's affair.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Modern writers tend to make him quite conflicted over his decision to burn Guinevere at the stake in order to show that the queen isn't above the law, with some even depicting him as secretly hoping Lancelot will save her. Originally, this was very much not the case.
- The Chooser of The One
- Composite Character: Originally based on the wandering mystic Myrddin Wyllt, he became merged with Romano-British warlord Ambrosius Aurelianus by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Remnants of this remain today with some modern fiction referring to him as "Merlin Ambrosius."
- Cool Old Guy: In some incarnations.
- Depending on the Writer: Merlin's characterization changes from writer to writer, from a manipulative jerk and Trickster Archetype to a wise and caring advisor. Some writers depict him as a villain, an antihero or a hero.
- Dirty Old Man: Depending on the Writer, this was his behavior toward Nimue.
- Divine Parentage: In some depictions, it's suggested that Merlin is half deity. There have been some legends that suggest Merlin's father was a fairy, Satan or no one.
- Half-Human Hybrid: In most versions he is the son of a nun who was raped by a demon. This explains why he has magical powers but can only use them for good.
- Humanoid Abomination: Some modern writers portray him as such.
- I Have Many Names: Way too many to count.
- In My Language That Sounds Like / Unfortunate Names: How "Myrddin" became "Merlin." When the French started adapting the old Celtic legends they noticed that the obvious Latinized form of Myrddin, Merdinus, looked an awful lot like the French word "Merde."note Thus making Merlin an early example of a Clean Dub Name.
- Last of His Kind: Merlin is revealed to be the last shape-changers in his childhood, before Arthur's birth.
- The Man Behind the Man: Merlin was responsible for King Arthur's rise in glory as well as many events that occurred in Arthurian legend.
- The Mentor: For Arthur.
- Merlin and Nimue: Trope Namer.
- Merlin Sickness: The Trope Namer. Merlyn from T.H. White's The Once and Future King is afflicted with this.
- Omniscient Morality License: Merlin gives Uther the appearance of Gorlois so he can father Arthur upon Igraine, then has Arthur snatched away at birth and given to Ector, arranging the "sword in the stone" test as well, presumably so that events would happen as he prophesied. Not revealing Arthur's true parentage led to many rebellions during the early years of his reign, as well as the conception of Mordred and the May Day massacre.
- Oracular Urchin: In his first chronological appearance in the story.
- Parental Substitute: Often one to King Arthur in modern works. In older medieval works, Merlin first revealed himself to Arthur around the time he became king.
- Robe and Wizard Hat: Probably the Trope Codifier, if Odin was the trope maker. The medieval texts don't actually describe his appearance much.
- Sealed Good in a Can: After Nimue seals him away in the cave. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis features his un-sealing as a plot point.
- Semi-Divine: Merlin is often portrayed as the child of a demon and mortal, although in the original myths he was depicted as something of a fey spirit, so half-fairy was more likely.
- The Smart Guy: Trope Codifier.
- The Trickster / Trickster Mentor: Sometimes.
- Wizard Beard: In most depictions.
- Wizard Classic: Trope Codifier.
- You Are Too Late: For all his power, Merlin has a tendency to arrive just a skosh too late to be useful.
- You Can't Fight Fate: He's perfectly aware of what his relationship with Nimue will lead to, because he knows the future.
- Action Girl: Some portrayals of her.
- The Chick: Trope Codifier.
- Chickification: Perhaps the Ur-Example. While in most Arthurian stories from the 13th century onwards she's not action-oriented at all, in the oldest Welsh tales she was a badass warrior and magic-user. Only very recently have we seen a swing of the pendulum back in favor of more Action Girl-esque portrayals.
- Damsel in Distress: One of the oldest motifs about her is that she's abducted by a jealous rival of Arthur. She's rescued by Arthur and his crew, or in later works Lancelot.
- Evil Identical Half-Sister: On the same night Leodegrance fathered Guinevere, he also begat another girl on the wife of his seneschal. This "False Guinevere" was born on the same day, looked exactly like her half-sister and even had the same name (Leodegrance had strong genes, but it looks like he wasn't very imaginative). She managed to trick Arthur into thinking the was the real deal, and tried to have Guinevere mutilated and banished (with Lancelot's help, she escaped). "False Guinevere" kept the charade up for years until the Pope himself stepped in and demanded Arthur take the real Guinevere back. He refused, and the Pope interdicted Britain for twenty-one months. After ten, "False Guinevere" had a stroke, lost every sense but sight and hearing, then began to rot alive, until she finally confessed and perished.
- The ancient Welsh have left an early precursor version of the same archetype: apparently, the reason the Welsh Arthur and Mordred die at Camlann is because Gwenhwyfar and her sister Gwenhwyfache got into a fight over chestnuts. Modern versions of this legend traditionally make Gwenhwyfache Mordred's wife.
- God Save Us from the Queen! <—-> The High Queen: She varies between these in several iterations or even she is a hybrid of both.
- Gray Eyes: According to Sir Gawaine And The Green Knight.
- Love Triangle: At the center of the most famous one of all time.
- Smart People Play Chess: Apparently one of the most skilled players in the court.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Guenevere, Guenever, etc. The Welsh form is Gwenhwyfar. (A modern equivalent is Jennifer.)
- In just one manuscript of Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, Guinevere's name is spelled differently every time she's mentioned (Ganhumara, Ganhumera, Guenhumara, Guenhuuara). Other manuscripts have more variations.
- Two Guys and a Girl: With Arthur and Lancelot, as one of the oldest examples of this trope.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman
- Your Cheating Heart/Fatal Flaw: Her affair with Lancelot is usually kind of a "bad move" for the round table's morale.
- In earlier versions of the legend, she has an affair with Mordred.
Knights of the Round Table
- Accidental Pornomancer: Aside from his affair with Guinevere, he was raped twice. Once by Lady Elaine and again by Brisen, Lady Elane's servant.
- The Ace: Usually the best warrior in the story, with his affair with Guinevere preventing him from being the "perfect" knight. Includes Master Swordsman, Master Lancer, Master Horseman, etc...
- Leads into Mary Sue territory in some sagas.
- Aesop Amnesia: After the Grail Quest, he forgets everything he learned about purity and all that and starts sleeping with Guinevere again.
- The Atoner: Most of his quest for the Holy Grail is him atoning for his sins.
- The Berserker: Something Monty Python and the Holy Grail definitely got right is that Lancelot tended to leave high body counts behind him, often of relatively innocent people.
- Cool Sword: Arondight, though he used one called Secace/Sequence (which he may have borrowed from Arthur) for the battle at Saxon Rock.
- Disproportionate Retribution: More than once, Lancelot, while he was out wandering, would wander into other knights' pavilions and make himself at home. When confronted by the understandably upset owners, well, he's Lancelot and they're generally nameless.
- Even the Guys Want Him: One of Arthur's rivals for the throne, Galehaut, certainly did.
- Executive Meddling: Lancelot's first appearnace is notable for being unfinished by Chretian De Troyes. Some think this is because his patron, one of Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughters, may have ordered him to add the infamous affair with Guinevere. In other words, it's possible the entire crux of a huge portion of the Arthurian Romances was the result of a lady wanting to turn an adventure story into the medieval equivalent of a Harlequin Romance novel.
- Fatal Flaw: His illicit affair with Guinevere proves to be the undoing of the Round Table itself.
- Hunk: Usually depicted this way, except in The Once and Future King where he is called "The Ill-Made Knight" because he is ugly.
- Number Two: Sometimes depicted like this, but in the tales he isn't because his knight-errantry gets in the way.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of King Ban of Benwick, with King Lancelot his maternal grandfather.
- Sailor Earth: It's generally agreed that he wasn't introduced into the myths until the twelfth century. His earliest appearances are in the works of Chrétien de Troyes. He first appears in Erec and Enide as the third-greatest knight of Arthur, after Gawain and the hero Erec, but nothing else is said of him. He next appears in Cliges where he loses to the hero Cliges in a joust. He gets star billing in Lancelot, Knight of the Cart, which establishes him as the best knight and his Courtly Love for Guinevere, and he became a Breakout Character thereafter.
- Older scholarship has linked him to the Welsh Arthurian figure of Llwch Llenlleawg ("Llwch of the Striking Hand"), because their names kind of look alike, and more pertinently "llwch" is the Welsh word for "lake" while Lancelot's full name is Lancelot du Lac or Lancelot of the Lake. The drawback is that Lancelot and Llenleawg have little in common, so treating him as a Canon Foreigner is the most favored theory nowadays.
- Sixth Ranger: He doesn't show up at the Round Table until long after it's assembled.
- Spell My Name With A U: Sometimes spelled "Launcelot".
- The Ace: Earlier stories suggest he was originally Arthur's best warrior and one of the successful heroes of the Grail quest. Adds a new light to his rivalry with Lancelot, doesn't it?
- The Big Guy: Trope Codifier.
- Brave Scot: Usually associated with Lothian and/or the Orkney islands, both part of Scotland.
- Cain and Abel: In stories where Gawain has more presence, he becomes the Abel to Mordred's Cain; one telling of the legend carries the trope out to it's ultimate fulfillment, with Mordred killing Gawain in a final duel before Arthur and Mordred's date with destiny.
- Chick Magnet: In both Mallory's take and in Gawain and the Green Knight, he is glomped on by a female paramour with him doing nothing to attract their attention. With the lady of the Green Knight, he refutes her advances, because it wouldn't be honorable.
- Chivalrous Pervert: He's definitely willing to reciprocate other advances though. And he's even willing to honor deals with less beautiful women like Ragnell, which ends up getting her being smoking hot and him being a proto-feminist.
- Clear My Name: One of his adventures in Parzival has him doing this.
- Cool Sword: In some versions of the story, Arthur lends him Excalibur for a while, in others he uses a sword named Galatine.
- Family Honor: Gawain's main motivation, at least in Le Morte d'Arthur.
- Henpecked Husband: he plays this role to Lady Orgeleuse in Parzival.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Percival (who, in some stories, is his cousin). They swear eternal friendship after Gawain sees Percival soundly beat Kay.
- Indy Ploy: One episode in Chrétien de Troyes's Perceval and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival has him holding off an angry horde of townspeople while using a chess board as a shield.
- Of course, the chess pieces are described as being ten times as large as normal ones, and are also used as impromptu missile weapons at one point, so (assuming a board of equivalent size) that's actually not too impractical.
- The Power of the Sun: Some versions of the legends have him gain strength as the sun rises in the sky and lose it when it sets, whether as a function of his magic sword or of his being an Orkney.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Alternatively spelled Gawaine, Gawan, Gauvain, Gavan, Walwain, Walgan... etc.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: His Welsh counterpart's name Gwalchmai (Gwalchmei) is usually interpreted as "Hawk of May" or "Hawk of the Plain".
- You Killed My Brothers: The cause of his feud with Lancelot that brings down the Round Table.
- Adaptational Heroism: First Knight depicts him as a hero. On the other hand...
- Adaptational Villainy: It seems he only starts being depicted a villain in the Vulgate and later tales.
- Jerkass: Nasty like Mordred but much more apparently so. Exposes Guinevere and Lancelot's affair.
- Jerkass Has a Point: He is not a nice guy, but he does make a valid point that a Knight of the Round Table should not be having an affair with the king's wife.
- Pretty Boy: Apparently his face is one of his only good features.
- The Red Baron: "Agravaine the Arrogant/Proud"
- Spell My Name with an "S": Aggravain, Agrafrayn, Agravan, Agravano, Agreuein, Egrefayn, Engrevain(s), Gefferen, Geffreyn, Griffayn.
- Token Evil Teammate: Had a reputation for malice and enviousness even before teaming up with Mordred. Still a respected member of the Table, who did the odd good deed or two.
- Bishōnen: He was mockingly nicknamed "Beaumains" or "Fair Hands" by Sir Kay when he first came to Camelot disguised as a kitchen boy. He is often described as fair.
- Gawain, I Am Your Brother
- Nice Guy: The nicest and most innocent of the Orkney brothers, as even Gawain could be vengeful. Took no part in Lamorak's murder.
- Sailor Earth: Possibly as late as 1470, as there's speculation that he was Malory's original creation.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Seems to be his stock in trade. Killed a knight for saying Lancelot was better than Gawaine, beheaded his mother Morgause for the horrible crime of sleeping with the son of the guy who killed his father and later teamed up with his brothers to brutally murder said son. It goes both ways, though. He once arranged for a peasant to be given a fine horse after accidentally getting his donkey killed. Also see "Moral Dissonance" below.
- Distinctive Appearances: Apparently his right arm was noticeably longer than his left.
- Easily Forgiven: Apart from what seems to have been a temporary banishment, Arthur and the other Orkney brothers seem to be pretty accepting of his murder of Morgause, at least in Malory. As mentioned below, some other stories have him hiding the truth.
- Frameup: Some versions of the story have him pinning Morgause's death on Lamorak.
- Hypocrite: Rebuked Gawaine after he accidentally beheaded a lady who'd leapt in front of his stroke to protect her husband. Later quite deliberately beheaded his own mother for an even worse reason.
- Moral Dissonance: Once came upon four pavilions. After helping himself to the food in one of them, he (chastely) bedded down in the fourth with a sleeping lady, not noticing her husband on the other side. Upon waking to see the furious husband yanking his wife out of bed by the hair, he lopped the guy's head off. Not too horrible so far, right? Well, then he demanded she love no one else but him and forced her to travel with him, killing three of her brothers and severely wounding the fourth when they tried to rescue her. Eventually she managed to get away from him by joining a convent.
- Self-Made Orphan: In a rage he kills Morgause, his mother, when he finds her sleeping with Lamorak.
- The Ace: Was called "The Best Knight in the World."
- Bishounen: He is the youngest of the knights, and the most feminine looking, as he was raised by his mother and never knew of men.
- Berserk Button: Do not ever, ever be stupid enough to hit an unarmed person (no matter their station) in front of him. He WILL beat you into the ground. Kay learned this the hard way.
- Chaste Hero: In later versions.
- Celibate Hero: In some versions, and in most versions of the Grail Quest his hardest test is resisting a beautiful enchantress.
- Cool Sword / Blessed with Suck: In one set of stories gets a sword that can cut through anything and will never break... except in the toughest battle of his life.
- David vs. Goliath: Pretty much literally in some versions. When he first comes to Camelot, he's just a young guy armed with some javelins and no armor to speak of and takes down a huge and powerful knight that the knights of Camelot were afraid to fight.
- Determinator: In all versions is this.
- Good Is Dumb: Well, Good Is Badly-Educated, anyway. His mother deliberately raised him in isolation without teaching him about knighthood or civilization, in the hopes that he wouldn't turn out like his dead father and brothers. It didn't take.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: In some stories with Gawain, who is his cousin. In one legend he even chooses to share a curse Gawain brought upon himself; his willingness to sacrifice saves Gawain's life by splitting the curse in half and they each only get badly wounded.
- Idiot Hero: In most stories, he's this in his younger days. Sometimes he grows out of it and into Messianic Archetype, sometimes he doesn't.
- Kid-Appeal Character: A medieval version.
- Master Swordsman: In some stories he's the best swordsman among the knights.
- No Social Skills: After the death of his father and brothers, Percival's mother takes him to the Welsh forests where she raises him ignorant to the ways of men until the age of fifteen.
- Power Trio: With Galahad and Bors.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: He's generally depicted as being of noble birth, with some authors making him another of King Pellinore's many, many children.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Alternatively spelled Perceval, Percivale, Parzival, or Parsifal.
- His name becomes Peredur in a tale collected in the Welsh Mabinogion that corresponds to the French Perceval by Chretien de Troyes, but it's debated which is derivative of the other. Peredur is attested elsewhere as a name while Chretien invented Perceval, so scholars disagree about which author did the renaming.
- Took a Level in Badass: Took several between his first visit to Camelot and his unhorsing of Kay.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Usually.
- The Ace: Even better than his dad Lancelot.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Encounters Joseph of Arimathea while in Sarras and feels such religious ecstasy that he asks to die on the spot. Angels then proceed to yank him up into Heaven without any actual dying involved.
- Chaste Hero: Well, what do you expect from the purest of Arthur's knights?
- Child by Rape: Lancelot was tricked into sleeping with Galahad's mother via magical disguise.
- Cool Sword: First wielded Sir Balin's Sword and later King David's sword, both of which which only he could draw safely. The former wounded anyone else who tried, the latter invited actual divine retribution.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: His specialty is handing out these.
- Heroic Bastard: Even more heroic than his father Lancelot.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: So pure that he was the only knight in the world worthy of the Holy Grail, and later basically just walks into Heaven.
- Name's the Same: In-universe. "Galahad" was Lancelot's birth name.
- Power Trio: With Percival and Bors
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Lancelot is technically a king, and Galahad later briefly rules the mystical realm of Sarras alongside Percival and Bors.
- Spell My Name with an "S": In Old French works his name is Galaad. This is thought to derive from Gilead in the Bible since it was spelled that way in the Latin Vulgate.
- The Chosen One: For the Grail quest.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Percival and Galahad are the most-remembered Grail Knights. Bors, if he's remembered at all, is that guy who the Killer Rabbit got to first.
- Power Trio: With Percival and Galahad
- The Big Guy: Known as "Kay the tall" and "the long man" in the Welsh legends, where he also has the power to grow to giant size.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Kay is almost always some sort of braggart; a good exception being John Boorman's Excalibur.
- Butt Monkey: In later versions where he merely exists to get beaten up.
- Cool Sword/Master Swordsman: In the Welsh tales, no one can heal wounds dealt by Kay's sword, either because the sword is magic or the patient is too dead.
- Demoted to Extra: His role in later stories is severely reduced.
- Hot-Blooded: Like most other knights.
- Family Theme Naming: Possibly. In medieval Welsh his name is Cai or Cei, which is thought to derive from the Roman "Caius" or "Gaius", but also suggested to mean "way" or "path". His father Ector is called Cynyr in Welsh, which is thought to mean "way" or "path" also. This is supported by other theme-named patronymics in medieval Welsh literature and cognates cai and conair in medieval Irish. If Cai son of Cynyr means something like "Path son of Way", it's similar to cases like Drem son of Dremhidydd "Sight son of Vision" and Nerth son of Cadarn "Strength son of Strong" from the story Culhwch and Olwen.
- The Lancer: Not actually Lancelot, despite the name. In many ways, Kay is a heroic Foil to Arthur.
- Magic Knight: In his earliest incarnation from the Welsh tales.
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe. When Percival first showed up to Camelot, a woman who had previously sworn never to laugh unless she saw the man who would be the best knight in the world. When Percival arrives, she laughs. Kay is so insulted that he slaps her. Throughout the rest of the story, Percival's defeated foes keep coming back to Camelot to tell of how Percival was still trying to avenge her honor (basically to rub in how much of a douche Kay was).
- The Nicknamer: An example being Sir Gareth, who he dubs 'Beaumains' after the former refuses to reveal his name.
- Number Two: Together with Bedwyr, since they're roughly equal in precedence, though his name always comes first — until they're Demoted to Extra and supplanted by Lancelot.
- Playing with Fire: In the Welsh tales Kay can generate so much body heat that he can keep dry in rain.
- Power Trio: With Arthur and Bedwyr in early versions.
- Snark Knight: More in the early stories.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Cai or Cei in Welsh.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Kay can hold his breath underwater for 9 days and nights in the Welsh material.
- True Companions: With Arthur. They were raised as brothers before Arthur found out his true heritage, and Kay is invariably loyal and stalwart even as he became more boorish as the stories developed.
- The Worf Effect: He seems to have a habit of getting the crap beat out of him to show how much better the new knight du jour is, although some theorise that this is a case of Badass Decay, and that his original role was to be the one who tested new knights' combat skills (which would imply a high degree of skill on his part, since he'd need to not kill or maim his opponent while avoiding the same fate at their hands).
- Bash Brothers: Often paired with Kay in the oldest Welsh material.
- Battle Butler: Arthur's cup-bearer in later versions. Sometimes has a brother, Lucan, who is Arthur's designated butler.
- Composite Character / Expy: In several modern Arthurian retellings favoring the older traditions as opposed to Malory et al, Lancelot does not appear. Instead, Bedivere is often made Guinevere's lover. It helps that many of Lancelot's usual traits apply to Bedivere also. This was first done in Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset, and a number of other works have followed suit, such as Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, Gillian Bradshaw's In Winter's Shadow, Joan Wolf's The Road to Avalon and Philip Reeve's Here Lies Arthur.
- Demoted to Extra: Just like Kay, his role was much reduced as the mythos grew and developed.
- Handicapped Badass: In the oldest Welsh material, he is one-handed. He was also a Lightning Bruiser with a four pronged spear.
- Hunk: In Welsh material, said to be one of the most handsome men in Britain.
- Number Two: Together with Kay, since they're roughly equal in precedence, though his name always comes second — until they're both Demoted to Extra and supplanted by Lancelot.
- Power Trio: With Arthur and Kay in early versions.
- Sole Survivor: May be best known today as the one knight of the Round Table who survives Arthur's last battle, and who throws Excalibur back into a lake.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Bedevere, Bedwyr in Welsh.
- Antagonistic Offspring: To Arthur, in the versions where he's his son and not just his nephew. One of the alternate names for the trope is Arthur And Mordred.
- Awful Truth: Learning the truth about his conception and future were enough to prompt a hard Face–Heel Turn.
- Bastard Bastard: Following his Face–Heel Turn, whatever noble qualities he once had flew straight out the window.
- Cain and Abel: Some stories have him being rescued from the May Day massacre by Sir Sagramore's family and raised for several years as his stepbrother. That doesn't stop him from killing Sagramore at Camlann.
- Child by Rape: Some versions of the tale have Morgause using magic to get Arthur to sleep with her. Some have Arthur raping her, particularly modern versions. Originally it seems to have been a perfectly consensual relationship, albeit one where neither was aware of their relation.
- Cool Sword: Swiped Clarent, Arthur's ceremonial sword, and eventually killed him with it.
- Evil Nephew: In most versions of the story, first from Geoffrey, Arthur is his uncle.
- Face–Heel Turn: Actually seemed quite promising during the first two years of his knighthood, earning praise from Lancelot himself.
- Fake King: Yes and no. Arthur leaves him in charge of the kingdom when he goes to fight Lancelot in France, and he does officially have himself declared king, but he isn't the rightful ruler.
- Fallen Hero: Both in the literal and meta sense. He's usually depicted as at least competent and loyal to Arthur until he finds out who his father is. However, the original legends take this even further, implying he's Arthur's peer and ally, biologically his nephew and legally his foster son. The original reason for their inevitable confrontation is supposedly tied into a spat between Gwenhwyfar and her sister Gwenhwyfach.
- Genocide Backfire: Survived the May Day massacre.
- Hero Killer: Killed Lamorak, Dinadan, Sagramore, and of course Arthur.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Being told that you're the bastard son of the king and his half-sister, prophesied to destroy the kingdom and do more harm in your lifetime than all your ancestors did good kind of does that to you. He came out of it...uh, pretty badly, actually.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: With Guinevere.
- Mutual Kill: He and Arthur.
- Shoot the Messenger: Murdered the prophetic priest who revealed the truth about his life to him. Lancelot was pissed...because the priest was going to reveal his future next.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Modred, Medraut, Medrawd, Medrod, etc. The form "Mordred" was probably irresistible to writers because it's similar to Latin mors or French mort, meaning Death.
- Token Evil Teammate: In spite of the severe downturn his personality took, he remained a member of the Round Table in good standing.
- Tragic Villain: Particularly in modern interpretations. Still, it's not as if he asked Morgause and Arthur to sleep together.
- Villain with Good Publicity: When he takes over Britain, he's popular with the people for bringing peace while Arthur's reign was more or less constant battles.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Most of the reason he alternates between seeing Tristram as a brother-in-arms and wanting to gut him is because they are both in love with La Beale Isoud. Er, Isolde? Yseult? Whatever.
- Humans Are White: Not the only ex-Saracen knight (his brothers Segwarides and Safir joined, too, and Sir Morien joined later), but certainly the most prominent by far.
- Kick the Dog: On the receiving end of one. After she convinces Tristram to spare his life following on of their clashes, Isolde makes Palomides deliver a message to Guinevere stating that there were but four true lovers within the land: Guinevere and Lancelot and Tristram and Isolde. Ouch.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of the Saracen king Esclabor.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Palamedes.
- The Quest: Took over Pellinore's hunt of the Questing Beast.
- Tsundere: A friendly version toward Tristram.
- Bros Before Hoes: Forgives Tristram, saying that he "will never hate a noble knight for a light lady". The fact that they were trapped on the dangerous Isle of Servage at the time probably helped.
- Composite Character: There was a Segwarides mentioned before this one, but as there's nothing differentiating them, most people treat them as the same character.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of the Saracen king Esclabor, also becomes Lord of the Isle of Servage after Tristram beats Nabon le Noire.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Segurades.
- Your Cheating Heart: His wife's. She had an affair with Tristram, but later reconciled with her husband.
- Expy: His story's pretty much a straight ripoff of the earlier Bisclavret by Marie de France.
- Wolf Man: Yes, seriously! He automatically changes into a wolf for a few days every month and if he can't change back into his clothes after that, he stays that way indefinitely.
- Your Cheating Heart: Not his, but his wife's. She hid his clothes so she could run off with her lover. Wolf-Marrok tore off her nose, and King Arthur tortured a confession out of her. She then got exiled with the lover and had a bunch of noseless kids.
- Adaptational Badass: And how! Also counts as Ascended Extra.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: For all his flaws, he did manage to track down and kill the guy who kidnapped his wife, so there may be something there.
- The Jester: That's his job. Sometimes he even shows the insight one might expect from one of these characters.
- Joke Character: King Arthur's jester, knighted as a gag. Participates in a lot of pranks based around his lack of competence.
- Karma Houdini: False Guinevere puts him in charge of the Royal Household, which he proceeds to bankrupt, and he kills the Royal Treasurer for taking him to task over it. No one seems to care.
- Lovable Coward: So hilarious and good-natured that the other knights don't care how often he runs from battles.
- Miles Gloriosus: Tried for this, constantly boasting and doing things like battering his shield so it looked like he'd been in a nasty fight, but no one was fooled.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Dagenet, Daguenes, Daguenet, Daguenez li Coars, Danguenes de Carlion.
- Beware the Silly Ones: Funny as he can be, and as much as he hates getting into fights, he's as capable a fighter as the other knights, and acquits himself well in tournaments.
- Brutal Honesty: When traveling with a mysterious knight, he mocks the knight's incompetence. Upon learning said knight is King Mark traveling incognito, Dinadan lets loose with both barrels, calling him a cowardly murderer, and crappy king, to boot.
- Celibate Hero: "God defend Me. For the joy of love is too brief; and the sorrow thereof, and what cometh thereof, dureth overlong"
- The Charmer: Easily able to win people over and cheer them up. Just about every knight likes him.
- Deadpan Snarker: Depicted as among the wittiest of Arthur's knights in general, with modern adaptations tending to emphasize this particular trope.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Mordred and Agravaine killed him in part because of resentment over the incident below and "because of Sir Lamorak" — given his personality, it's likely he made some remark regarding their treacherous assassination of said knight.
- The Gadfly: Occasionally took on this role in order to encourage his fellow knights.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Could occasionally be this, as when he teamed up with Tristan and spent most of the time complaining about all the fights Tristram got him into, calling Tristram and Lancelot nuts for being Blood Knights, and cursing the day he'd entered Tristram's company.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Saves Mordred and Agravaine from Breuse Sans Pitie, then gets murdered by them during the Grail Quest.
- Only Sane Man: Stories tend to have him pointing out the flaws in society, mentioning how stupid is it to get into all these unnecessary battles over honor, or courtly love, or just because. Even in stories where he doesn't, he still prefers talking things out to dueling.Not that he can't throw down if he needs to.
- The Smart Guy: Possessed a great deal of common sense, and is one of the few knights who can identify other knights by their faces as well as their coats of arms. Given the sheer number of duels caused by mistaken identities in these stories, this makes him pretty useful to have around.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Not him, but after rescuing Mordred and Agravaine from Breuse Sans Pitie, Dalan, the guy they'd been trying to rescue claims that Dinadan killed his father, so he attacks him. Dinadan knocks Dalan off his horse and breaks his neck.
- Warrior Poet: Wrote a mocking ballad about King Mark that was apparently downright savage. Apparently does this sort of thing a lot, if Tristram's reaction to reading it is any indication.
- Witty Banter: Many of his conversations consist of this.
- Androcles' Lion: Probably what he's best known for.
- Blood Knight: Settled down for a bit after marrying Laudine, but Gawain showed up and tempted him back into adventure. Laudine agreed to let him go Walking the Earth, but only if he would return to her after one year. She eventually had to send someone to hunt Ywain down and tell him not to bother coming back.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Esclados the Red, guardian of a supernatural storm-causing fountain, (non-fatally) fought Ywain's cousin Calogrenant after he came upon said fountain and caused a dangerous tempest. Ywain, upon hearing of this, hunts him down, kills him, and takes his widow for himself.
- Driven to Madness: By his breakup with Laudine.
- Ring of Power: Laudine gives him one to protect him when he goes off adventuring, and takes it back when he breaks his promise.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of King Uriens and (sometimes) Morgan Le Fay.
- Second Love: For Esclados' widow Laudine. Eventually.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Yvain, Ewaine. Based on the Welsh form Owain.
- You Beat Up My Cousin: To Esclados.
A son of King Pellinore and one of the brothers of the hero Percival.
- Big Brother Mentor: Serves as this for Percival in some tales.
- The Promise: While seeking Lancelot, he hooks up with a Moorish princess, and swears to come back and marry her when his mission is over. Fourteen years later, his son Morien shows up to hold him to it.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of Pellinore, also becomes king of an Arabian land after fulfilling The Promise.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Agglovale, Agloval, Agravale, Engloval(e).
- Wife-Basher Basher: One work of Arthurian lore mentions that Aglovale fought and humbled a misogynistic knight for abusing his lover.
Alexander the Orphan
Appears in Palamedes, Prose Tristan, Prophecies of Merlin, and Le Morte D'arthur.
- Celibate Hero: He rejected Morgan Le Fay's advances. Later subverted when he married Alice the Fair Pilgrim.
- Killed Off for Real: The details vary as to whether he was killed by a minor knight or an assassin hired by King Mark, but regardless he didn't live to either go on the Grail quest nor the end of Arthur's reign.
- Revenge: Against Mark for killing Prince Bodwyne, his father and Mark's younger brother.
- Tragic Keepsake: The blood-soaked shirt his father wore when he was killed.
While there are a few mentions of him in early Celtic Arthurian material, he is best defined by his tragic romance with the lady Iseult - which might have started as a separate story that later authors incorporated into the wider Arthurian mythos.
- Death by Despair: He dies of poison, but the false belief that Iseult has abandoned him is what makes him succumb to the poison before help arrives.
- Guile Hero: Often uses guile and trickery to keep his affair secret.
- I Call It "Vera": His bow is named Fail-Not.
- Replacement Goldfish: Since he can't be together with Iseult, he marries another woman who is also named Iseult. This manages to go even worse than you'd expect.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Also often known as Tristram. The Welsh equivalent is Drystan,
- Star-Crossed Lovers: His lover is married to his uncle and king, and he can only "meet" her in secret until they both die.
- Together in Death: Tristan and his lover are buried side by side, and a honeysuckle springs from Iseult's grave and twirls around a hazel tree that grows from Tristan's grave. Or maybe it's a briar that twirls around a rose. Or maybe they're just plain dead.
- Feuding Families: With the Orkney brothers (see Pellinore). Banging their mom didn't especially help things.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Lancelot and Palomides.
- Hot-Blooded: Famed for his fiery temper (once got into a fight over whether Morgause or Guinevere was prettier) and his great strength (unseated thirty knights in a row in jousts on two occasions).
- In the Back: Died from being stabbed by Mordred, sometimes after a three-hour battle with the other Orkney brothers (save Gareth).
- Last-Second Chance: After being on the run for a while from the Orkneys, he shows up at a tournament and meets Arthur in secret. Arthur, who had previously allowed the Orkneys to hunt Lamorak, has had time to repent of this hasty decision and offers him forgiveness and protection if he'd only accept a truce with the Orkneys. Lamorak doesn't trust them to obey Arthur, and besides, he wants to avenge Morgause and his father, so he declines. Bad idea.
- May–December Romance: With Morgause. Briefly.
- Misplaced Retribution:
- He tells Gaheris that it wasn't Pellinore who killed Lot, but Balin Le Savage. It's unclear whether this is true, but Gaheris doesn't believe him.
- The Orkney brothers killed him to avenge Morgause. Well, except for Gareth, who was too kind-hearted to be vengeful, and Gaheris, who knew perfectly well that Lamorak wasn't responsible, but attacked him anyway. Averted in stories where Gaheris owns up right away and they just kill Lamorak because of the feud.
- One-Man Army: After the circumstances of his death became known, people note that of course the Orkneys ambushed him, since he could easily have killed them all otherwise. It was still a three hour fight, which only ended because Mordred backstabbed him.
- Out of Focus: Referred to as King Arthur's third-best knight (after Lancelot and Tristan), but barely shows up in the stories, and is almost unknown outside them.
- Revenge Before Reason: As mentioned above.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of King Pellinore.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Gives Gaheris an extremely well-deserved one.
- You Killed My Father: To the Orkneys.
- Child by Rape: Pellinore begot him on Vayshoure "half by force", which is a bit ambiguous.
- Chocolate Baby: Tall and handsome unlike his thirteen(!) half-brothers and alleged father, Aries.
- Heroic Bastard: Begotten by King Pellinore on the wife of a cowherd before her marriage.
- The Quiet One: "[...] For I have seen him proved, but he saith little and he doth much more".
- Retcon: Originally the son of King Aries, later retconned into the illegitimate son of Pellinore. Poor Aries got turned into a cowherd!
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: (Illegitimate) son of Pellinore, or legitimate son of King Aries.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Red shield, red armor, red weapons, and red harness.
- Easily Forgiven: Sure, he murdered forty knights, hanging them from a tree so they wouldn't be allowed to die in honorable combat, but he was doing it to fulfill his promise to a lady, so it's fine.
- The Red Baron: "The Red Knight of the Red Launds".
- Super Strength: Like Gawain, he grows more powerful as the day passes, until at noon he has the strength of seven men. Unlike Gawain, it's not mentioned if this is tied to the sun itself.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: His skin is described as so black ("blacker than soot or pitch") that his teeth stand out sharply in contrast.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: After he brings Aglovale back to his kingdom, a group of nobles refuse them entry, seeking to keep his heritage for themselves. Morien proceeds to slaughter all fifteen of them, and the other nobles fall into line.
- Badass Boast: "For what do ye take me? Am I a lesser or a weaker man than either of ye that Sir Gawain must needs ride with me? I will not have it so. There is no knight so bold but I dare well withstand him. I know well what is unfitting. Now say whither ye will betake ye, and send me what road ye will; I will dare the venture, be it never so perilous. By my knighthood, and by all who follow Christendom, I shall adventure alone, and take that which may chance."
- The Big Guy: Taller than any other knight, and described as practically superhuman in strength and fighting skill.
- But Not Too Black: Inverted. In spite of having a white father and hailing from the Middle East rather than Darkest Africa, Morien is as black as pitch. No, literally black as pitch.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Black Moorish armor and black shield.
- Cool Horse: The text points this out several times. Coming from Moorish lands, it's not surprising.
- Disappeared Dad: Though in Aglovale's defense, he probably didn't know his lover was pregnant.
- Expy: Of Feirefiz from Parzival, though a rather loose one.
- Heroic Bastard: Son of Aglovale and a Moorish princess (later queen).
- Kid Hero: His adventure takes place when he's about fourteen.
- One-Man Army: Takes on a small army of armed, armored fighters to rescue Gawain, killing them by twos and threes and never getting a scratch.
- Positive Discrimination: The whole story is basically the "Morien is Better Than Everyone Show".
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Although he and his mother were disinherited upon his birth, until Aglovale marries her.
- Scary Black Man: One boatman practically freezes up and wets his pants upon seeing Morien. Sir Gariet basically says: "Hey, moron, do your job or he's not going to be the one who kills you."
- Spell My Name with an "S": Moriaen, Moriaan.
- Teens Are Short: Subverted. At fourteen, he's a good six inches taller than any of Arthur's knights.
- Almighty Janitor: Averted. In spite of the name, as the Royal Butler, he was in charge of the Royal Household and Court, and was thus equal in rank to Kay the Seneschal, not a mere servant.
- Battle Butler: Though his duties kept him from adventuring as much as others.
- Cassandra Truth: Warns Arthur that personally attacking Mordred after the Battle of Camlann was over would be pointless (he'd already "won" the battle) and dangerous (at least one prophetic dream had said so), but Arthur decides to go for it anyway. End result: One dead traitor, one dying king, and eventually one dead Lucan.
- Critical Existence Failure: Picking up the mortally-wounded Arthur opens up one of his wounds, and his guts spill out, killing him instantly.
- The Berserker: Slipped into a mad frenzy when he was fighting.
- Cain and Abel: Some stories have him raised for several years alongside Mordred as a stepbrother. Mordred still kills him at Camlann.
- Composite Character: A 16th century Portuguese novel Triunfos de Sagramor combines him with the legendary king Constantine III. "Sagramore Constantino" is Arthur's son-in-law and heir, who forms a new Round Table.
- Fighting Your Friend: A fragmentary story finds him forced into a fight with Gawain.
- Hot-Blooded: One of his epithets is "The Impetuous" or "The Hotheaded".
- Ill Boy: Suffered from nasty epileptic fits, and his berserker rages left him exhausted, suffering from migraines, and starving. Sir Kay, nice guy that he is, nicknamed him "Morte Jeune" ("Dead youth") as a result.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of the King of Hungary and the daughter of the Eastern Roman Emperor, heir to the throne of Constantinople and when his father dies, his mother remarries another king.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Sagremor, Saigremor.
- The Worf Effect: Like Sir Kay, he had a reputation as a fierce warrior, but tended to get kicked around to show off other peoples' skills.
Appears in the Post-Vulgate Merlin and Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur.
- Killed Off for Real: By Arthur.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Accolon.
- Unwitting Pawn: Of his lover, Morgan Le Fay, in an attempt to have her half-brother King Arthur killed.
- Worthy Opponent: Arthur considered him this, and Sir Accalon thought the same in turn, when the former apologized for having mortally wounded the latter. Arthur had the Gaulish Knight buried with honors at St. Stephen's Church in Camelot. (At least in versions of the story that don't have Arthur sending his body back to Morgan.)
Breuse Sans Pitie
- Horse Fu: Liked to ride over unhorsed knights, and actually ran over Gawain twenty times in an effort to kill him.
- Combat Pragmatist: No dirty trick is below him.
- For the Evulz: Apparently the closest thing to a motive he's got.
- Joker Immunity: One of Malory's most frequently used villains, always popping up somewhere to steal, rape, or murder. In a genre where the villain is usually dispatched very quickly, he never gets caught or killed; the best the heroes manage is to run him off for a while.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: When fleeing from a fight, he would often enlist aid from others by claiming that he was an innocent being pursued by Breuse Sans Pitie. (It was often hard to tell which knight was which with the armour.)
The Brown Knight Without Pity
Garlon of Listineise
- Black Sheep: Descendant of Joseph of Arimathea and brother to King Pellam, the most worshipful man in the land and King Pellinore, one of Arthur's greatest allies. Sheep don't get much blacker than this.
- Even Evil Can Be Loved: King Pellam loved him enough to try to avenge him.
- Famous Ancestor: Joseph of Arimathea.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Stabbed Sir Herlews le Berbeus with his lance so hard that it broke, and continued using it as a truncheon afterward. Sir Balin used said truncheon to return the favor.
- Invisibility: Somehow he had this power.
- Magic Knight: By implication.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Brother of Kings Pellam and Pellinore.
- Serial Killer: Liked to go around murdering people while invisible, including two knights.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: In order to avenge him, King Pellam attacks Balin when he is a guest in his castle, forcing Balin to use the Spear of Destiny to protect himself, striking the Dolorous Stroke that destroys Pellam's castle and kingdom and renders Pellam crippled.
- Wound That Will Not Heal: Somehow inflicted a wound on a gentleman's son that wouldn't heal unless he received Garlon's blood. Thanks, Balin!
- All Love Is Unrequited: For Guinevere.
- Attempted Rape: Fortunately Bagdemagus stopped him before he could do the deed.
- Face–Heel Turn: Once a knight of the Round Table, held in high enough regard by Arthur to have been gifted a castle.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Tried to surrender when it was clear how badly Lancelot had him outclassed in combat. Lancelot didn't oblige, although he did offer to take part of his armor off and tie his left hand behind his back. It didn't help.
- Love Makes You Evil: Was considered "a good man of great might" until he finally snapped and kidnapped the queen.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Son of King Bagdemagus.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Meliagrance, Meliagant, Maleagant, etc. Appears as "Malagant" in First Knight. Melwas in Celtic.
- Trap Door: Used one in his castle to try and capture Lancelot instead of fighting him.
- Unknown Rival: Barely a blip on Lancelot's radar until the aforementioned kidnapping.
Nabon Le Noire
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Handily killed every one of his opponents in the below-mentioned tournament, until Tristram showed up.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Held a tournament in honor of his newly-knighted son.
- Hero Killer: He slew several of Arthur's knights.
- Invulnerable Horses: Averted. Nabon often targeted his opponent's steed.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: "A great mighty giant."
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Rules the Isle of Servage.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: Tristram takes over the Isle of Servage after killing him, and gives it to Segwarides.
Pinel Le Savage
- Dirty Coward: Tried to poison Gawain to avenge Lamorak, rather than face him in combat, laid low and let the Queen take the blame, then ran back to his country when Nimue revealed the truth.
- Karma Houdini: Apparently never received punishment for his treachery.
- You Killed My Cousin: Why he tried to poison Gawain, though envy may have played a part as well.
- Adaptational Villainy: Modern writers tend to make her a scheming villainess, often by making her aware of her relationship with Arthur when she sleeps with him, or by combining her with Morgan Le Fay. Originally, she seems to have been a generous and friendly person. Very friendly.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Though neither she nor Arthur were aware of it at the time.
- Decomposite Character: Some scholars suggest that she and Morgan Le Fay were the same character until some scribe made a translation error and accidentally split them into two separate characters.
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have: After five sons and a number of daughters, she still had enough of it goin' on to bed Sir Lamorak, who was at least twenty years younger than her.
- Honey Trap: Malory states that Lot sent her over to Arthur's court in this capacity.
- Out Shortly After A Bang: Her son Gaheris, incensed at seeing her in bed with the son of Pellinore (who killed Lot, the Orkney brothers' father), lopped her head off.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Margawse, Morgawse, Margause, Bellicent...
- In Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arthur's sister is just called Anna. (She does nothing, later writers greatly expanded her role.) Since Morgan is sometimes spelled Morgana this may have added to the confusion.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: In the older Welsh material, Arthur's sister is named Gwyar, which means "bloodshed".
- Unholy Matrimony: In versions that play up her and Lot's villainy, often also combining her with Morgan.
- Your Cheating Heart: Cheated on Lot with Arthur during her time as a Honey Trap.
Morgan Le Fay
- Arch-Enemy: Guinevere's, actually. After a few unsuccessful attacks on Arthur, Morgan mostly devoted herself to trying to reveal Lancelot and Guinevere's affair.
- Composite Character: Many adaptations fuse her with Morgause.
- Depending on the Writer: In her earliest appearance, Geoffrey's Life of Merlin, "Morgen" was the chief of the healers of Avalon. Later medieval writers made her a villain. Some modern writers, most famously Marion Zimmer Bradley, have written of her sympathetically.
- Evil Matriarch: Many versions make her this to Mordred.
- Evil Sorceress/Wicked Witch: Depending on the version she can lean more towards one or the other stereotype.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Apart from the incident in Your Cheating Heart below, part of Morgan's hatred for Guinevere may have stemmed from the fact that she herself wanted to sleep with Lancelot.
- Heel–Face Turn: In time she seems to have mellowed out and gotten along well with Arthur, to the point of letting him visit her castle for a week. Of course she still tried to convince him of Guinevere's unfaithfulness, but he didn't believe her.
- Lady of Black Magic: She's a potent witch, and almost always portrayed as beautiful lady garbed in regal dresses.
- Legion of Doom: At one point King Mark appeals to her to get a bunch of evil sorcerers and known evil knights together in order to ravage Arthur's kingdom.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Tried to kill her husband King Uriens, but was stopped by their son Ywain.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Morgan, Morganna, Morgaine, etc.
- Your Cheating Heart: Cheated on Uriens with Guinevere's cousin Guiomar. When Guinevere found out, she had Guiomar banished. (Understandably, Morgan was rather peeved when Guinevere started her affair with Lancelot.) She then proceeded to take on several lovers without actually getting a divorce.
- Decomposite Character: Almost certainly started out as one character, but got split into three mutually-incompatible ones over the years.
- Enigmatic Empowering Entity: As the Lady of the Lake.
- Hot Witch: She got Merlin's blood going, anyway.
- Kick the Dog: Fell in love with Sir Pelleas, who himself was deeply, deeply, creepily in love with the thoroughly uninterested Ettard. Nimue got around this by casting a spell that turned all Pelleas' love for Ettard into hatred, and all Ettard's hatred for Pelleas into love. Then she snatched Pelleas up and poor Ettard died of despair.
- The Lady of the Lake: No, not the one who gave Arthur Excalibur, but she was one of her maidservants and later became Arthur's chief advisor.
- Merlin and Nimue: Trope Namer
- Stay In My Lake: Rarely let Pelleas out to adventure, and apparently saved his life by keeping him out of the final battle.
- Shipper on Deck: Was apparently one for Lancelot/Guinevere.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Nyneve, Nimue, Niniane, Vivian. It's suggested the multiple spellings were in part due to later copyists and authors misreading medieval handwriting.
Unnamed French Lady of the Lake
Unnamed English Lady of the Lake
- Enigmatic Empowering Entity: Gave Arthur Excalibur, and remains a mystery beyond that.
- Evil All Along: If Sir Balin is to be believed. At the very least, she specifically gave Arthur Excalibur so he'd kill a couple of people for her.
- Off with His Head!: Wanted Sir Balin's head (and/or that of a certain maiden at court), lost her own instead.
- You Owe Me: Gave Arthur Excalibur in exchange for a favor. As it turned out, that favor was to kill Sir Balin, (whom she blamed for the death of her brother), or a certain damsel, (whom she blamed for the death of her father). Sir Balin expressed his firm disagreement, and claimed afterward that the Lady had caused his mother to burn to death and ruined many good men's lives.
Iseult the Fair
- Arranged Marriage: With King Mark of Cornwall.
- Death by Despair: After Tristan's death she also dies because of grief.
- Dude Magnet: There's a lot of guys who become attracted to her, mainly so they can have a conflict with Tristan about her.
- Guile Hero: Just like her lover, she often has to use her wits to keep her adultery secret.
- Healing Hands: She is the only one who can heal Tristan when he gets fatally poisoned.
- Spell My Name with an "S": There are tons of alternate spellings for her; like Isolt, Isolde and Isolda just to name a few.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: See Tristan's entry
- Together in Death: See Tristan.
- Your Cheating Heart: Cheats on her husband Mark with Tristan.
Iseult of the White Hands
- Green-Eyed Monster: Becomes jealous of the other Iseult when she learns of Tristan's love for her, leading her to kill Tristan through lying.
- One Steve Limit: Defied; having the same name as another character is the reason she becomes Tristan's wife, and thus a character in the story, in the first place.
- Replacement Goldfish: Tristan marries her because she has the same name as his lover.
- Til Murder Do Us Part: She indirectly murders Tristan by claiming that Iseult the Fair isn't coming to heal him, causing him to give in to despair and succumb to his poison just as Iseult arrives to cure him.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Made his attraction to Igraine known while she was still married to Duke Gorlois, and laid siege against Gorlois' castle until the Duke was killed and his allies sued for peace, whereupon he married her the very same night. Doesn't look like she had much choice in the matter.
- Anti-Hero: Unscrupulous Hero. A strong king, who seems to have ruled fairly, but definitely not what you would call a good person.
- Bed Trick: Had Merlin give him the appearance of Duke Gorlois so he could sleep with Igraine, conceiving Arthur.
- Death by Origin Story: Arthur becomes king because of his death, being his son and all, but he is plucked from a life of obscurity with a foster-family and thrust onto the throne at a young age. Details vary though.
- Jerkass: A real piece of work, as the other entries show.
- Kick the Dog: Jokingly needled the already-nervous Igraine about who (or what) the father of her child might be, considering Gorlois was dead on the battlefield when it was conceived. When he finally reveals the truth, it's noted that she's quite relieved, as opposed to belting him one. When Arthur was actually born, he gave the kid to Merlin without consulting her first or explaining why. Husband of the Year material, here.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast / Awesome Mccoolname: Pendragon is a Welsh epithet (sometimes treated as a surname or dynastic name by later authors) which translates to "Chief Dragon" in English, "dragon" probably being a figurative term for warrior. "Uther" itself may come from a Welsh word meaning "awesome" and/or "horrible/terrible" (in the original sense of "fearsome" rather than "bad").
- Second Love: For Igraine, apparently. At any rate she actually seemed to be quite upset when he died.
A king who ruled just before Uther's time.
- 0% Approval Rating: Everybody came to hate him.
- Antagonistic Offspring: His own sons rebelled against him, and he was kicked off the throne temporarily.
- Family Theme Naming: Had sons named Vortimer, Catigern and... Pascent.
- The High King: Before Uther's time.
- Historical-Domain Character: One of the few Arthurian figures historians generally agree was real. Since "Vortigern" means something like "overlord" in Brittonic, it's disputed whether it ought to be taken as a title, or his real name since he seems to have practiced Family Theme Naming.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Allowed the Saxons, Angles and Jutes to settle in Britain in order to serve as his mercenaries. They turned on him and Uther and Arthur would have to fight them.
- Kill It with Fire: One version of his death has him trapped in a burning tower.
- The Usurper: He is said to have seized the throne after betraying Uther's brother or father (depending on the story)
- Walking the Earth: Another version of his death has him die in obscurity after going into exile and wandering about.
- Would Hurt a Child: Tried to build a tower that kept tumbling down and was told that only the blood of a child with no human father could secure it. That child was Merlin, who had other ideas.
A king who ruled just before Uther's time.
- Big Good: For the monk Gildas, who in his writings chews out every British ruler he names, except him who he treats as The Paragon.
- Death by Origin Story: In Geoffrey, Uther's older brother who briefly ruled as king before him, replacing Vortigern. He dies of poison and Uther succeeds him. He's often skipped in modern retellings.
- The High King
- Historical-Domain Character: Another Arthurian figure who historians agree was real. In his earliest mention by Gildas, he appears as the one who rallied the Britons against their Saxon foes with no mention of Arthur or Uther. Nennius mentions him too as a rival lord of Vortigern who later became high king. Arthur is instead mentioned as a general fighting for the British kings. Later accounts explicitly claim Arthur fought for Ambrosius. Even later accounts omit Ambrosius entirely.
- Last of His Kind: Gildas calls him the "last of the Romans" in Britain.
- Oracular Urchin: Most curiously, he first appears in Nennius as the boy without a human father who Vortigern encounters - in later retellings starting with Geoffrey, the boy is Merlin.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The earliest source, Gildas, calls him "Ambrosius Aurelianus". Geoffrey calls him "Aurelius Ambrosius".
Lot of Lothian and/or Orkney
Father of Gawain and his brothers.
- Adaptational Villainy: Wasn't a villain in Geoffrey of Monmouth, but is one from the Vulgate Cycle onward.
- Defeat Means Friendship: After being a Starter Villain. But in some versions Arthur's baby-killing drives him to rebel again, leading to his death.
- Evil Brother-in-law: Husband of Arthur's sister Morgause.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In some versions, Sir Gawain and his brothers pursue a Blood Feud with King Pellinore and his family after Pellinore kills him - despite Lot having rebelled against Arthur.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Loth.
- Starter Villain: The leader of a group of rebel kings in the early years of Arthur's reign.
Procurator (sometimes Emperor) of Rome who makes war with Arthur's allies in Gaul, causing Arthur to come down (leaving Mordred and/or Lancelot in charge) to fight him.
- Klingon Promotion: Defeating Lucius is apparently enough to get Arthur declared Emperor.
- Outside-Context Problem: Essentially comes out of nowhere to shake things up.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Sometimes Lucius Hibernus, both of which are suspected to be misspellings of Glycerius.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Distracts Arthur long enough to let his court intrigues destroy Britain.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: If Badon Hill happened in about 500AD, it's too late for any Western Roman Emperor to start making trouble in Gaul.
- Black Knight: Sometimes fights one. Sometimes is one, as in Howard Pyle's retellings.
- Defeat Means Friendship: He defeats Arthur after being challenged to joust. The Sword in the Stone breaks during their fight, to be replaced by Excalibur. Arthur later asks him to join the Round Table.
- Famous Ancestor: Joseph of Arimathea.
- Feuding Families: He killed Lot in combat, touching off a feud with the Orkney brothers which culminated in his death at the hands of Gawain and Gaheris and, later, the death of his son Lamorak.
- The Quest: Pursues the Questing Beast.
- Really Gets Around: Has four legitimate sons with his wife, and at least three illegitimate children with three different women.
- Tragic Mistake: In his haste to rescue Nimue, he refused to stop and provide aid to a gravely wounded knight and his lady. He didn't learn until after the rescue that the lady — who killed herself with her dead lover's sword — was his daughter Eleine.
Mark of Cornwall
Uncle of Tristan, husband of Isolde.
- Adaptational Villainy: Goes from a sympathetic cuckold in the original story to an evil Dirty Coward in Prose Tristan and later tales, then loops back around in many modern works.
- Bad Boss: Occasionally flew into rages where he killed his own men.
- Cain and Abel: Evil!Mark kills his brother.
- Incest Is Relative: Evil!Mark rapes his niece and kills her after she gives birth to his son.
- Little Bit Beastly: Gets cursed with a horse's ears and mane in an early Breton legend, paralleling a legend about King Midas after he lost his touch. This is also a pun on "march", Welsh for "horse".
- Pet the Dog: Erected a rich tomb over a slain knight and his lady, apparently as a gesture of legitimate kindness.
King Pellam of Listeneise
- Famous Ancestor: Joseph of Arimathea.
- Fisher King: After receiving the Dolorous Stroke, his castle collapsed and his kingdom became a wasteland until he was healed by blood from the Spear of Destiny.
- Good Is Impotent: Either unwilling or unable to stop Garlon from murdering people.
- Groin Attack: Appears to have been the original location for his Wound That Will Not Heal. Dolorous, indeed.
- Multiple-Choice Past: The myths have multiple maimed Fisher Kings, who may have originated as one character, even a knight of Arthur's, and two different versions of the Dolorous Stroke:
- When out hunting he happened upon Solomon's Ship and King David's Sword within. Feeling himself worthy, he had the temerity to try and draw the sword, whereupon a spear appeared out of thin air an delivered the Dolorous Stroke, impaling his thighs.
- When Sir Balin killed Sir Garlon at one of Pellam's feasts, the king broke Sacred Hospitality and attacked his brother's killer, breaking his sword. Balin fled, with Pellam in pursuit, until the reached the Grail Chamber, where he desperately grabbed the first weapon he could find and lashed out at the king—striking the Dolorous Stroke with The Spear of Destiny and bringing the castle down upon their heads.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: The "most worshipful man that lived", his brother Sir Garlon was a vicious Serial Killer with the power of invisibility.
- Wound That Will Not Heal: However he received it, and wherever it is (hip, groin, thighs), the Dolorous Stroke doesn't heal until Galahad uses blood from the Spear of Destiny to cure it.
Adragain the Brown
Appears in the Vulgate Merlin, Vulgate Lancelot, Le Livre d'Artus and Arthour and Merlin.
- Retired Badass: He became a monk upon retiring from serving as a knight.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Adragein(s), Adragenis, Agrauein(s).
- Undying Loyalty: He previously served under Uther and later for his son Arthur.
- What the Hell, Hero?: His reaction to Arthur failing to help Kings Ban and Bors against Claudas's second invasion of their lands.
- Celtic Mythology: He is a deity from Welsh Celtic legends who occasionally makes appearance in Welsh Arthurian works.
Alain the Large
Belinus and Brennius
Two brother Kings of Britain said to have led the Celtic sacking of Rome in 390 B.C.
- Historical-Domain Character: This seems to be a garbled account of the real Gaulish sacking of Rome, led by one Brennus.
Brutus of Troy
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth and subsequent authors, a Trojan exile who led a band of followers and conquered Britain from a race of giants. Britain was supposedly named after him.
- Depending on the Author: He is said to be either Aenea's grandson or great-grandson.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: He and his band of Trojan exiles defeated an entire island of Giants to claim what would later be named Britain (after Brutus) for themselves.
- Founder of the Kingdom: And London, originally New Troy.
Arthur's cousin from the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen.
- Engagement Challenge: Has to do an impossible series of tasks to win Olwen's hand.
Father of Kay and foster father of Arthur.
- Good Parents: To all indications he treated Arthur as lovingly as his natural-born son, and upon learning that he was the true King of England requested only that Kay be made seneschal.
- Muggle Foster Parents: After Arthur's royal parents died, Sir Ector raised Arthur, never knowing his foster son's true identity.
- Spell My Name Withan S: Hector or Antor (French/Breton/German), Cynyr (Welsh).
Hengist and Horsa
The pair of brothers who, according to legend, began the Anglo-Saxon invasions that transformed a decent chunk of Great Britain into England. Sometimes identified as Angles or Jutes instead of Saxons, but then the Britons (and Scots and Irish) tended to lump all the Germanic invaders together under "Saxon".
- Animal Theme Naming: Hengist means "Stallion," while Horsa means..."Horse."
- Bigger Bad: For the early legends which deal primarily with Arthur fighting the Saxon invasion; traditionally, both men are dead by this time, but their armies and kingdoms are still waging war on the native Cymry.
- Heroic Lineage: A few generations removed from Odin. Not quite Divine Parentage but still.
- Historical-Domain Character: Maybe. Their legends might preserve memories of real leaders, but on the other hand, heroic and often divine twins is a recurring motif in mythology. Hengist himself is also mentioned in Beowulf and the Prose Edda.
- Face–Heel Turn: They initially earned their keep fighting people fro the Britains, then broke off to become invaders.
- Hired Guns: Their intial occupation, and indeed the reason they were invited to Britain in the first place; Vortigern required an army to fight invading Scots and Picts.
- Nasty Party: Hengist pulled one on Vortigern and his nobles. At his signal, the Saxons drew hidden knives and slaughtered the Britons - sparing only Vortigern, who was then subjected to blackmail.
- Satellite Character: Horsa is always secondary to Hengist, and dies before him.
- Sibling Team
- Spell My Name with an "S": Hengest and Hors
The beautiful daughter of Hengist who became the wife of Vortigern. This gave Hengist some claim on the British throne.
- Honey Trap: Hengist had her entertain Vortigern at a feast and he was quickly smitten. Soon, Hengist not only became his father-in-law but gained even more land for the Saxons.
- Kill It with Fire: Sometimes said to have died together with Vortigern this way.
- Second Love: In some tellings Vortigern was already married once, and sometimes his first wife is even still alive. Either way, their relationship offends his sons who eventually rebel.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Renwein, Renwen, Rhonwen, Ronwen, Rowen... the form Rowena later became better-known though Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.
- Unholy Matrimony: The Britons or at least the Church thought so, for not only was she Saxon but also pagan.
- Wicked Stepmother: She had her stepson Vortimer poisoned when he briefly deposed his father. In some versions she fakes a Heel–Faith Turn to get on his good side.
One of the first Saxon leaders.
- Decomposite Character: Geoffrey appears to have split him into three figures: Cherdic, a contemporary of Vortigern; Cheldric, one of the enemy leaders at Badon; and Chelric, an ally of Modred at Camlann.
- Founder of the Kingdom: Of Wessex (named after the "West Saxons"). The royal dynasty of Wessex, most notably Alfred The Great, claimed him as their ancestor.
- Heroic Lineage: Also descended from Odin.
- Historical-Domain Character: Probably, which is why he tends to pop up in modern historical-leaning Arthurian fiction despite having little presence in the medieval legends. Curiously, his name appears to be Brittonic instead of Germanic, as it's related to Ceretic/Caradoc/Caratacus, leading to speculation about whether he was part or full Briton despite leading non-Britons, and whether the distinction was even all that important back then.
- The Quisling: Maybe, since a certain Ceretic appears in the Historia Britonum as Vortigern's interpreter when dealing with Hengist.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Not directly mentioned as "Cerdic" in any of the legends, only historical or pseudo-historical material, but nevertheless his name does appear through variants or in garbled form as seen above. Walter Scott also misspelled his name as "Cedric" in Ivanhoe and it has since become a common name.
- Villain Protagonist: Of the ironically-titled novel Conscience of the King by Alfred Duggan.
- Worthy Opponent: A common interpretation of him in modern Arthurian fiction, including the film King Arthur where he's the main antagonist.
One of Arthur's companions in the tale of Culhwch and Olwen.
- BFS: His knife is big enough to serve as a bridge.
- Defeat Equals Friendship: Implied, as another Welsh tale, "The Dream of Rhonabwy", mentions him as the Saxon leader at the battle of Badon. It's also worth noting that the Saxons probably derived their name from seax, a kind of knife.
- Historical-Domain Character: May be based on King Offa of Mercia (another Saxon kingdom), though he lived centuries after the first Saxon incursions so the two may have been confused instead.
- Hoist By Their Own Petard: While helping Culhwch with his Engagement Challenges, he apparently drowns in a river after his scabbard fills with water.
- Red Baron: Gyllellvawr or Kyllellvawr, meaning Big Knife. Offa of Mercia is called the same in historical records.
The Black Knight
The Green Knight
- An Axe to Grind: The Green Knight's favorite weapon is a great ax, with which he threatens to behead Sir Gawain.
- Black Knight: Except green. He isn't really evil though.
- Losing Your Head: But his head still talks.