"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king."Whether her gift to the hero is a Protective Charm, a MacGuffin, a fancy title, or something else, the Enigmatic Empowering Entity is the mysterious being behind his power and glory. There is a saying that "Behind every great man there's a great woman," and this trope often follows this theme: The receiver tends to be a man, usually a mortal muggle, while the Enigmatic Empowering Entity tends to be female — often a divine/supernatural female of mysterious origin and identity. One of her most common incarnations is The Lady of the Lake, originally from the King Arthur mythos — thus making this Public-Domain Character an Internal Subtrope of this trope. Characters such as the Fairy Godmother, Santa Claus, and even God sometimes (but far from always) also fill this role. A person empowered this way may be Touched by Vorlons. In The Hero's Journey, an Entity often shows up as the one providing Supernatural Aid. In completely different kinds of stories, however, it might turn out that The Presents Were Never from Santa. If the Entity is God Himself, it's a type of Divine Intervention. See also The Chooser of The One. May also be a Mysterious Backer.
— King Arthur, Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Examples of The Lady of the Lake
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Anime & Manga
- In the early 2000s Aquaman underwent yet another retooling, which involved him being named 'The Waterbearer' by The Lady of the Lake herself. Rather than a magic sword, he was given a magic hand made of water.
- In Camelot 3000, the comic ends with her giving Excalibur to some alien who is obviously intended to be the next champion in the struggle against evil (and who may or may not be an reincarnation of King Arthur, considering that the protagonists was reincarnations of the king and his knights).
- In Captain Britain, Lady Roma, the daughter of Merlin, takes a role similar to the Lady of the Lake when she bestows the power of Captain Britain to Brian Braddock.
- Invoked in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur plays the Arthurian legend straight; claiming his kingship was bestowed upon him by the Lady of the Lake, whose arm rose through the waters bestow upon him the sword Excalibur. Unfortunately it didn't work as planned and it gets deconstructed because he's facing a constitutional peasant. All together now:
"Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony! (...) Well you can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you! (...) I mean, if I went around saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!"
Live Action TV
- The Lady of the Lake appears in Merlin (2008) as Freya, a young Druid girl who dies in the same episode she first appears, only to return as a spirit the following season and deliever Excalibur into Merlin's hands.
- In The Mists of Avalon, The Lady of the Lake is the title used by the Matriarch of Avalon, a machiavellian politician who supports King Arthur because she believes that it will save her people... much to the sorrow of our poor protagonist, Morgana Le Fay.
Religion and Mythology
- In several versions of The Holy Grail, the Lady of the Lake acted on God's behalf when she gave King Arthur Excalibur and the right to rule over all Britons. (This may or may not include Monty Python's Film version, making the anarcho-syndicalist protester either a Flat-Earth Atheist or someone correctly pointing out The Presents Were Never from Santa. In either case: The Dennis quote belongs in that trope, not here.) However, in most, it was the mysterious Sword in the Stone — which is not Excalibur — that announced he was the rightful king of Britain. Excalibur was just a sword.
- Warhammer: The Bretonnians borrow heavily from Arthurian legend, alongside pretty much every other source of medieval chivalric archetypes going. As such their chief deity is The Lady of the Lake, whose favour they often pray for before battle (and it actually works, protecting them from ignoble enemy missile fire!) and whose magic Grail is the object of frequent Grail Quests for knights seeking the highest ranks of knighthood. The Lady's chief priestess is the mysterious sorceress Morgiana the Fey, who may or may not be a Wood Elf masquerading for her own people's benefit.
- In Spamalot, The Lady Of The Lake is one of the main characters of the musical. She is also a Cher impersonator.
- Parodied in World of Warcraft: In Northrend, there's a lady in every lake. And yes, her job is to distribute swords.
- A very dark twist on this is in Alan Wake: The Dark Presence is Cauldron Lake, and takes on the form of an old hag in a burial shroud.
- Subverted and parodied in Armed and Dangerous. The Lady of the Pond exists in the universe, but when the heroes seek her out for her MacGuffin she takes so long to appear that Jonesy starts skipping rocks in her pond out of boredom. His rock ends up beaning her by accident and gives her amnesia.
- The Witcher has the Lady of the Lake, a powerful nymph that can be romanced by Geralt in the first game and gives him an enchanted silver sword named Aerondight. She makes another appearance in the Blood and Wine expansion of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and gives him Aerondight again after he proves himself worthy while telling him "And I trust this time you shall not lose it."
- Azura of Fire Emblem Fates, so much. She's a Mysterious Waif whom The Avatar meets by a lake, empowers them with a dragonstone that lets them shapeshift, always provides emotional support and advice for them, and is the one to inform everyone about the mystical kingdom of Valla. Her epitaph is even "Lady of the Lake".
- In a subversion, the Guardians from Tower of God. Usually, they form contracts with the residents of the Tower that allow them to use Shinsoo, which is theoretically limitless. However, it also binds them to certain rules that are more like laws of nature, for instance not being able to kill the King of the Tower. The subversion comes with Baam, who also makes contracts with the Guardians, but is a person who does not need need contracts to manipulate Shinsoo nor is he bound to the laws of the Tower.
- In Gargoyles the Lady of the Lake appears in Central Park and helps King Arthur regain Excalibur.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Excaliferb!", Ferb takes on the heroic knight role, and his Precocious Crush Vanessa becomes the Lady of the... Puddle. When asked about the name, she reveals that her mom is the Lady of the Lake and is handing out quests to adult knights nearby.
Charlene: Hey, kids, you're getting a little quest of your own! Oh, that's so nice.
- In Mike Tyson Mysteries, a fisherman uses the magic of Excalibur to cheat in a bass catching contest, and after being mortally wounded by Mike Tyson he asks his rival to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake before being taken to Avalon like King Arthur himself.
Examples of other Enigmatic Empowering Entities
Anime & Manga
- C.C. from Code Geass gives The Protagonist the eponymous Geass power. With the show's running theme of Arthurian myth and legend, she can easily be seen as a stand-in for the Lady of the Lake. In fact, a popular Epileptic Tree suggested that she was the Lady, until it was Jossed in the second season.
- Yoruichi from Bleach, due to her training of Orihime and Chad.
- Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Extra emphasis on "enigmatic," since there's a lot about being a magical girl that he doesn't tell those who make contracts with him.
- The mysterious demonic being called The Door in Yu Gi Oh Zexal, who first connected Yuma to Astral and later gave them both the knowledge of the Numerion Code. It told Yuma that "Whoever opens this door will obtain a new power, but in exchange will lose what they appreciate the most," and Yuma accepted this condition, apparently, but whatever price the Door intends to demand, it has not yet taken.
- The wizard Shazam has a similar role in the Golden-Age Captain Marvel.
- The 'red goddess' Scáthach who grants Red Sonja her fighting skills in the Marvel Comics version of her origin.
- Ananke serves this role to the pantheon, seeking them out and awakening them as reincarnated gods. Now, as to whether she's actually helping them is an entirely different story...
- Child of the Storm has the Phoenix, specifically Lily Potter after merging with the Phoenix to become the White Phoenix of the Crown serve as this to Harry until chapter 70 provides an Internal Reveal of what she is, then chapter 78 provides another one of who she is and just why she's doing it. Partly. There are implied to be two motives in play: first, Lily's desire to protect her son and second, the Phoenix's motive for empowering him, which is implied to be part of a scheme cooked up by her and Doctor Strange to prepare him to face down Thanos.
- Doctor Strange plays this role frequently, though usually with information. In a more direct sense, he gives Carol the Green Lantern Ring in chapter 75 and neglects to mention what it really is.
- In Slightly Damned: Wind of Redemption and Rebirth, the Master is this to the many Rebirths he creates.
- Played with in With Strings Attached. A mysterious priestess gives George his powerful shapeshifting ring after he does a minor favor for her, but it's clear to the reader that the Fans manipulated her into this role.
- The Fans themselves both avert this trope and play it straight. They play it straight from the viewpoint of the four, who always see them as Enigmatic Empowering Entities (though they get a bit chummy with them at the end), and avert it because the reader always knows they're just a trio of alien college undergraduates, and everything they do is made very clear in the story.
- Red Sonja: Sonja encounters one of these (who might be a Goddess, it's never clarified) right after she got raped. The encounter gives her courage to fight the evil hordes.
- In The Wizard of Oz (film version only), the wizard ends up in this role. He gives everyone symbolic gifts that are exactly what they need. And symbolic gifts are perfectly valid, since it's All Just a Dream. (That's why it doesn't work in the book version, where Oz is a real place.)
- In Harry Potter, Dumbledore and other living characters sometimes fill a bit of this role for Harry. However, they are all overshadowed by the one who truly gave Harry special powers (beyond being a wizard) and made him The Chosen One... his mother, Lily Potter. Much of his powers also come from a part of Voldemort's soul trapped inside him, but that´s a direct result of Lily's sacrifice.
- Sephrenia, in The Elenium trilogy by David Eddings, turns out to be one of these. A side story (presented as a prologue to one of the three novels) gives the entwined history of the royal house of Elenia and the house of Sparhawk. Both the Elenian monarch and the current generation of Sparhawk wear a special diamond ring, which this story reveals was given to their ancestors by Sephrenia, who most likely was acting on the orders of the delightfully meddlesome Child-Goddess Aphrael. Notably, this revelation is provided for the reader only — not to the characters.
- Common to all versions of "Cinderella". Where the Perrault and Disney version have a Fairy Godmother, other versions include a magical tree, the bones of a fish, a talking bird — which always connect somehow to the spirit of the girl's departed mother. Some versions, such as in Mexico, have the actual Blessed Virgin Mary herself act as the Fairy Godmother. This entity is often very cruel to Cinderella's tormenters — in The Brothers Grimm, her friendly birds peck out the eyes of her sisters in retaliation. Ouch.
- In the Book of Exodus, this role is fulfilled by God as he shows himself to Moses in a burning bush.
- Valis: A rather weird example. In Philip K. Dick's novel, an alien godlike being takes over the hero's mind and transmits to him messianic messages. Sadly, one of them wasn't, "Stop doing all that speed, Dick!"
- The alien godlike being "Old One" in Vernor Vinge 's A Fire Upon the Deep is even weirder: the final "messages" aren't conscious thoughts, just subconscious instructions describing how to stop Old One's murderer.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Miranda's Lady.
- The aptly-named Mentor from the Lensman series provides all of the Lensmen with their lenses, and later provides additional empowerment to a select few.
- Pandora serves as this for all the god-slayers in Campione!. She, her husband Epimetheus and his brother Prometheus were the ones that enacted the ritual that allows a mortal to steal a measure of god's power by killing them, but she's the one that appears to the Campione when they first gain those powers. Or at least to Godou.
- Tanavast serves this way for Heralds and Radiants in The Stormlight Archive. He provided the Heralds with their Honorblades and first Surges, and other spren followed his example and started to bond Knights Radiant, granting them Blades and Surges based on the Heralds'.
- Kamen Rider Gaim: DJ Sagara, whose true motives are kept a secret until very late in the series, is one to Kouta, giving him five of his most powerful Lockseeds (Lemon Energy, Tuliphopper, Kachidoki, Dandeliner and Kiwami), plus the equipment to use one of them (a Genesis Core to let him use Energy Lockseeds with his Sengoku Driver).
- Well written questgivers in computer RPGs and MMORPGs often fill this role: Their purpose is to give the character some MacGuffin or similar, but they have a good in-universe reason to do so.
- The Water Dragon from Jade Empire is a good example of this. She frequently gives the player character new powers, but is doing so so that the PC can help her in return.
- In several The Legend of Zelda games, beginning with A Link to the Past, fairy queens in aquatic temples upgrade Link's equipment and magic abilities.
- Arguably, the original The Legend of Zelda game contains a trio of male embodiments of this trope — the three old men who provide Link with his swords.
- Flemeth, the (in)famous "Witch of the Wilds" from the Dragon Age series.
- .hack: Do you know why Kite, a level 1 Noob gets to become The Hero? Because Aura gave him a Bracelet that gives him hax powers. To be fair, the real Chosen One Missed the Call, and he had to pick up the slack.
- Kuryuu Tokio in LINK. If it wasn't for Amagi Saika giving him the black device, he won't be The Hero in it.
- This is what ultimately composes Cosmos' Thanatos Gambit in Dissidia: Final Fantasy; by siphoning out what remained of her power into the crystals that her warriors had been collecting for their Destiny Odyssey storylines, she weakened herself enough for Chaos to take her down, but empowered her warriors enough to defeat him, too, and finally break the cycle... Unfortunately, it didn't quite work.
- Izanami acts as this in Persona4. The twist is, you're not the only one to get this special treatment, and you might not even realize it unless you take a certain path. It was part of her labyrinthine social experiment in which she gave powers to both you and Adachi, to test human wishes.
- Lucifer joins in the act as this in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. He implants the Demi-Fiend to be with the demonic parasite to induce the transformation and pops up at his leisure to either give cryptic hints, invite the boy over for a chat at the Labyrinth, and make some offers...
- In Dishonored, Corvo is empowered by an entity that may be some manner of Eldritch Abomination known as "The Outsider". This entity often empowers certain individuals just to see what they do with the power. That he is seen as an agent of chaos because of the mayhem that often erupts from such empowered individuals is probably more telling of humans than of the Outsider.
- Destiny has two: the Traveler, which uplifts and empowers entire species with its reality-bending Light, and the Darkness, which mostly prefers to destroy entire species, but indirectly empowered the Hive a few million years ago in order to assist it in that purpose.
- Dr. Halsey could technically count, as she was the one who started the SPARTAN-II project, making the test subjects super-soldiers, though most did not survive the process. It is also unique in that the way she gives you "powers" is done mostly through drugs and machines rather then magic.
- A more straightforward Sufficiently Advanced Alien example is the Librarian, a Forerunner whose long-term plans for humanity's ascension are still ongoing despite her having died 100,000 years ago; among other things, she put inheritable genetic instructions into prehistoric humanity, with her machinations being partly responsible for the very existence of the Master Chief and Cortana. In Halo 4, one of her "essences" gives Chief immunity to the Composer, while another gives Dr. Halsey the Janus Key (which contains the real-time location of all Forerunner tech in the galaxy).
- This trope goes through a Double Subversion in the first episode of Doraleus And Associates. The being called "The Lady of the Lake" is obviously supposed to be a Enigmatic Empowering Entity, guarding the Zephyr Blade in waiting for The Chosen One to wield.
- However, she turns out to instead be be a case of The Presents Were Never from Santa, handing out increasingly random things like a tiny dagger, a biscuit and a branch, and asked Doraleus to use them to fight an incredibly deadly beast hidden in the darkness, until Doraleus got fed up and left.
- Later on, it turns out that while she's clearly insane, the branch really was the Zephyr Blade!
- In the Sluggy Freelance filler story "Stick-Figure Tales of Cotton", both Captain Hippity and Science Guy were empowered and given the start with their superhero careers by a group of mysterious aliens. The villain in the story wanted to oppose the aliens, having figured out that they were actually the disguised hand of the author of the comic himself, messing with continuity in order to create the filler strips to take a break from the main comic.
- In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), the power of Castle Greyskull is guarded by a enigmatic woman called The Sorceress. In most continuities, she is the one who give He-Man the magic sword that makes him He-Man. Her own nature is usually undefined (as in "remains a mystery"). At least one continuity treats her as a personification of Castle Greyskull itself, while another continuity have her as a human who is also the mother of Teela. In one timetravel episode taking place in the future, Teela is the Sorceress.
- In the second season of Stormhawks, Piper develops a technique that can grant Aerow various powers, but only while she channels them. However, this is something of a Dangerous Forbidden Technique since it's slowly killing her. However by the finale, she learns that being "in synch" with the recipient makes the technique lose all harmful side effects, and of course, they're both perfectly in synch. Cue Villainous Breakdown by Cyclonis and the Dark Ace.
- Cinderella: In Disney's version, the Fairy Godmother fills this role.
- Pinocchio: In Disney's version, the Blue Fairy fills this role.