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Multiple Character Tropes
- Badass: Several knights warrant this one, doing things such as fighting in single combat for hours at a time.
- Badass Family
- Blood Knight: Knights were expected, as a matter of honor, 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.
- 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.
- 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. Gaheriet and Guerrehet = Gaheris and Gareth; 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).
King Arthur's Court
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: King Arthur's sword, Excalibur.
- All-Loving Hero: His eventual return during Britain's greatest need.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
- Badass: And how!
- Big Good
- Brother-Sister Incest: His tryst with his half-sister Morgause produces Mordred, who eventually betrays him.
- The Captain
- Changeling Fantasy
- 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 Tristan's pigs, kills a rival over a woman, and fathers several sons, none of whom is linked to his wife Guinevere.
- Character Title
- The Chosen One
- 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
- 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!
- The Good King
- 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.
- 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 conquers Rome.
- King in the Mountain
- 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."
- 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. 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.
- Eccentric Mentor
- 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.
- Hermit Guru
- Historical Hero Upgrade: From manipulative jerk and Trickster Archetype to wise and caring advisor.
- I Have Many Names: Way too many to count.
- 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
- 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.
- The Obi-Wan
- 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
- Parental Substitute: To King Arthur.
- Robe and Wizard Hat: Probably the Trope Codifier
- 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
- Waif Prophet: In his first chronological appearance in the story.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Blood Knight
- 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.
- 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.
- Good Is Not Nice
- Hunk: Usually depicted this way, except in The Once and Future King where he is called "The Ill-Made Knight" because he is ugly.
- The Lancer: Trope Codifier.
- Sailor Earth: It's generally agreed that he wasn't introduced into the myths until the twelfth century, with Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, Knight of the Cart.
- Though 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: Unless someone else is.
- The Big Guy: Trope Codifier.
- Brave Scot: Usually associated with Lothian and/or the Orkney islands, both part of Scotland.
- 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.
- 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 Lancer: Earlier stories suggest he was originally Arthur's second in command and one of the successful heroes of the Grail quest. Adds a new light to his rivalry with Lancelot, doesn't it?
- 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, etc.
- You Killed My Brothers: The cause of his feud with Lancelot that brings down the Round Table.
- Jerkass: Nasty like Mordred but much more apparently so. Exposes Guinevere and Lancelot's affair.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: Kills Morgause.
- 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 Versus 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
- 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
- Master Swordsman: In some stories he's the best swordsman among the knights.
- No Social Skills: After the death of his father, Percival's mother takes him to the Welsh forests where she raises him ignorant to the ways of men until the age of 15.
- Power Trio: With Galahad and Bors.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Alternatively spelled Perceval, Percivale, Parzival, or Parsifal.
- Took a Level in Badass: Took several between his first visit to Camelot and his unhorsing of Kay.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Usually.
- 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.
- Blood Brothers: With Arthur. They were raised as brothers before Arthur found out his true heritage.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Kay is almost always some sort of braggart; a good exception being John Boorman's Excalibur, where he is a loyal and stalwart adopted brother to Arthur.
- 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.
- 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.
- Playing with Fire: In the Welsh tales Kay can generate so much body heat that he can keep dry in rain.
- Snark Knight: More in the early stories.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Kay can hold his breath underwater for 9 days and nights in the Welsh material.
- 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 (1963) and a number of other works have followed suit.
- 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, until 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.
- 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.
- Bastard Bastard
- Child by Rape: Medieval versions of the tale have Morgause using magic to get Arthur to sleep with her. Some modern versions have Arthur raping her.
- Evil Uncle: Inverted. In the early versions of the story, Arthur is his uncle and he's the Evil Nephew.
- 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.
- 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.
- Genocide Backfire: Survived the May Day massacre.
- Hero Killer
- Heroic BSOD: 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.
- 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), 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.
- Celibate Hero: "God defend Me. For the joy of love is too brief; and the sorrow thereof, and what cometh thereof, dureth overlong"
- Deadpan Snarker
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Saves Mordred and Agravaine from Breuse Sans Pitie, then gets murdered by them during the Grail Quest.
- 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.
- 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 marries his widow.
- 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.
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.
Originally from a separate story
, later authors incorporated him into The Arthurian Mythos. His defining trait is his tragic romance with Iseult
- 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.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: 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.
- 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...
- Your Cheating Heart
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.
- 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.
- Hot Witch
- 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.
- Hot Witch
- 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.
Iseult the Fair
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.
Pre-Arthurian Era Figures
Alain the Large
- Fisher King: One of them to be exact.
- Flip Flopof God: Robert de Boron early on wrote that he was celibate only to contradict himself latter by stating that he fathered several children.
Belinus and Brennius
Two brother Kings of Britain said to have led the Celtic sacking of Rome in 390 B.C.
Brutus of Troy
He is figure who according to Geoffrey of Monmouth and subsequent authors a Trojan exile who led a band of followers conquered Britain from a race of giants.
- 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.
- 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").
- 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.
- Honey Trap: Fell in love with the daughter of the Saxon king Hengest and married her. This gave Hengest some claim on the British throne.
- Kill It with Fire: One version of his death has him trapped in a burning tower.
- The Usurper: The king before Uther, who seized the throne after betraying Uther's brother or father (depending on the story)
- 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.
King Lot of Lothian and/or Orkney
- 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.
- The Quest: Pursues the Questing Beast.
- Really Gets Around: Has 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.
King Mark of Cornwall
- 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.
- Pet the Dog: Erected a rich tomb over a slain knight and his lady, apparently as a gesture of legitimate kindness.
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.
Adragain the Brown
Appears in the Vulgate Merlin, Vulgate Lancelot, Le Livre d'Artus and Arthour and Merlin.
Arthur's cousin from the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen