Excaliber with vine

Arthurian Images

All attempts have been made to ensure that all images on this site are in the public domain, save the photographs which are the personal property of ChildrenofArthur.com.

Photographs of Arthurian Landmarks

Children of Arthur Book Covers

Morgan le Fay is traditionally King Arthur's half-sister in Arthurian literature. While she is frequently depicted as a villainess and sorceress, the medieval texts are contradictory in their treatment of her, precisely because she is the one who comes for Arthur after the Battle of Camlann to take him away to Avalon to be healed. In some versions, she learned her magic from Merlin but used it for evil. She typically lives in Avalon and is associated with Celtic goddess origins. In later versions of the legend, she is credited with seducing Arthur and being the mother of Mordred, a role previously associated with her sister Morgause.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (1982) tried to resolve the contradictions in her character by depicting her as a champion for the old religion, fighting against Arthur's attempts to Christianize Britain, an interpretation that has largely influenced Arthurian retellings ever since. Among her latest sympathetic portraits is in the television series Merlin (2008-present).

Morgan le Fay 1864 by Anthony Frederick Sandys

Morgan le Fay 1864
by Anthony Frederick Sandys

The Beguiling of Merlin (Merlin and Vivien) 1870-1874 by Edward Burne Jones

The Beguiling of Merlin (Merlin and Vivien)
1870-1874 by Edward Burne Jones

Merlin is traditionally seduced by a young maiden who wishes to learn his magic, then uses it to trap him. Usually, Merlin is depicted as trapped in a tower in the Forest of Broceliande in Brittany. As for the seductress, in this painting she is named Vivien; however, Vivien was the name Tennyson gave her in Idylls of the King; in earlier versions of the legend she is known as Nimue or Niniane. She is also often confused/associated with or known as The Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake was also the adopted mother to Lancelot, and sometimes Morgan le Fay also is granted that title.

This painting and the one above are both examples of the Pre-Raphaelite School of painting which was popular in the Victorian era and frequently painted Arthurian subjects as well as other mythical, legendary and medieval subjects. Tennyson's poetry especially inspired many of these paintings.

Edward Burne Jones was one of the most prominent of the later Victorian pre-Raphaelites and was friend with Arthurian poet and painter William Morris. Jones was heavily influenced by Tennyson's poetry and Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur.

Mordred is the greatest villain of Arthurian legend, almost a predestined villain, one who is tied up with a fate King Arthur cannot escape. In the earliest versions of the legend, Mordred is usually Arthur's nephew, son of Arthur's half-sister Morgause, but over time, he became Arthur's son, born of incest by either Morgause or Morgan le Fay. His traditional birthdate is May 1st. When Arthur learned the woman who had seduced him was his sister and she had born his child, he ordered all baby boys in the kingdom to be slaughtered, but Mordred managed to survive.

Eventually, Mordred reached manhood, and because Arthur and Guinevere could not have children, Arthur allowed him to come to Camelot. When Arthur goes campaigning against Rome, Mordred seizes the kingdom, eventually resulting in the Battle of Camlann.

Like Morgan le Fay, Mordred has been made more sympathetic by later writers, which may even be in keeping with his true nature. As explored in my book King Arthur's Children, several Welsh and Scottish traditions speak well of him and even suggest that Arthur was the true villain.

Sir Mordred

Sir Mordred

"I am Sir Launcelot du Lake" N.C. Wyeth Illustration for The Boy's King Arthur

"I am Sir Launcelot du Lake"
N.C. Wyeth illustration for The Boy's King Arthur

N.C. Wyeth's illustrations for The Boy's King Arthur (1917 edition) are some of the best known Arthurian paintings. Wyeth studied illustration under Howard Pyle, who wrote and illustrated his own series of four Arthurian books.

In this painting, after fighting one another, Arthur and Lancelot meet for the first time. Lancelot will be the greatest knight of Camelot and often is depicted as Arthur's best friend, but Lancelot and Guinevere's love for one another ultimately brings about the downfall of Camelot. Lancelot also has a son Galahad, the knight who achieves the Grail.

Lancelot is a latecomer to the legend, originating in Chrétien de Troyes' story The Knight of the Cart (circa 1170). He replaced what may have been earlier traditions of Guinevere having a lover, which may have included Sir Kay (Arthur's foster brother), Sir Bedwyr (later Bedivere), or even Sir Mordred.

Excaliber with vine