Lady of the Lake
The Lady of the Lake is a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, first published in 1810. Set in the Trossachs region of Scotland, it is composed of six cantos, each of which concerns the action of a single day. The poem has three main plots: the contest among three men, Roderick Dhu, James Fitz-James, and Malcolm Graeme, to win the love of Ellen Douglas; the feud and reconciliation of King James V of Scotland and James Douglas; and a war between the lowland Scots (led by James V) and the highland clans (led by Roderick Dhu of Clan Alpine). The poem was tremendously influential in the nineteenth century, and inspired the Highland Revival. The Arthurian scholar A. O. H. Jarman, following suggestions first made by scholars of the 19th century, proposed that the name Viviane in French Arthurian romances was ultimately derived from (and a corruption of) the Welsh word chwyfleian (also spelled hwimleian, chwibleian, et al. in medieval Welsh sources), meaning "a wanderer of pallid countenance," which was originally applied as an epithet to the famous prophetic "wild man" figure of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlin) in medieval Welsh poetry, but due to the relative obscurity of the word, was misunderstood as "fair wanton maiden" and taken to be the name of Myrddin's female captor. The first Lady of the Lake remains unnamed besides this epithet. When Arthur and Merlin first meet this Lady of the Lake, she holds Excalibur out of the water and offers it to Arthur if he promises to fulfill a request from her later. He agrees and receives his famous sword. Later, the Lady of the Lake comes to Arthur's court to receive her end of the bargain; she asks for the head of Sir Balin, who she blames for her brother's death. Arthur refuses this request, and Balin beheads her instead, much to Arthur's distress. The second Lady of the Lake is sometimes referred to by her title and sometimes referred to by name. That name has several variations. In William Caxton's text of Le Morte d'Arthur, her name appears as "Nymue" four times, "Nyneue" twice, and "Nynyue" once, and, in the Winchester MS, her name appears as "Nynyve" five times and "Nenyve" twice. Even though "Nymue," with the m, appears only in the Caxton text, it is perhaps the most common name for this Lady of the Lake as the Caxton text was the only version of Le Morte d'Arthur published until 1947. Nimue appears as the chivalric code changes; her appearance hints to the reader that something new will happen. This trend follows the logic that Malory is in a conspiracy of sorts with his reader. In this scenario, the author and the reader are in cahoots in order to achieve the wanted interpretation of the Arthurian legend. The first time the character named Nimue appears is at Arthur's wedding. She then appears in many other episodes of Malory's work. Each time the Lady reappears, it is at a pivotal moment of the episode, establishing the importance of her character within Arthurian literature, especially Le Morte d'Arthur. In that work, she transcends any notoriety attached to her character by aiding Arthur and other knights to succeed in their endeavors. Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, the first story featuring Lancelot as a prominent character, was also the first to mention his upbringing by a fairy in a lake. If to accept that the German Lanzelet by Ulrich von Zatzikhoven contains elements of a more primitive version of this tale than Chrétien's, the infant Lancelot was spirited away to a lake by a water fairy (merfeine in Old High German) and raised in her country of Meidelant ("Land of Maidens," an island in the sea inhabited by ten thousand maidens who live in perpetual happiness); the fairy queen and her paradise island are reminiscent of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Morgen of the Island of Avallon in his Vita Merlini.
- Paperback | 118 pages
- 152 x 229 x 6mm | 168g
- 14 Jun 2015
- Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
- Illustrations, black and white