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1001 Stories Collection

The Lady of the Lake

Added on 30th June 2020

Oral tradition British legend

Stories of King Arthur are the most well-known of the British legends and Excalibur, his sword, is equally well-known. This story tells how Arthur was given his famous sword.


In combat with another knight Arthur breaks the sword that he pulled from the stone. Merlin takes him to a lake where a hand rises from the water holding Excalibur, the sword that the Lady of the Lake has been keeping for him.

Why we chose it

It tells the story of how King Arthur came to have the sword Excalibur, one of the most iconic and best known story objects.

Where it came from

The Lady of the Lake, also known as Viviane or Nimuë, is an enchantress who lives in a castle beneath a lake surrounding the island of Avalon. According to legend, she is most famous for giving Arthur the magical sword Excalibur, for fostering Sir Lancelot after his father’s death and for imprisoning Merlin in a tree. She has been associated with a Celtic goddess and with stories of water fairies and her story may have combined several stories about ladies of lakes. She is mentioned in old French poems in the 12th century and in a French prose cycle of Arthur stories in the 13th century.

Where it went next

The story of The Lady of the Lake inspired the 1810 poem by Sir Walter Scott who sets the myth in a Scottish lake. She appears in Thomas Malory’s La Morte d’Arthur, a reworking of tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin and the Knights of the

Associated stories

The Lady of the Lake and the story of Excalibur feature in the stories of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The Arthur stories have inspired many authors and film makers. Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Arthur Trilogy (The Seeing Stone, King of the Middle March, At the Crossing Places,) tells the story of King Arthur alongside that of a boy living on a medieval manor.

Television retellings include the traditional The Legend of King Arthur (1979) and the popular 2011 BBC fantasy drama Merlin.

There are other traditional stories about ladies of lakes including The Girl of Llyn Fan Foch, a Welsh story about a man who meets and marries a girl who rises from a lake.

Added on 30th June 2020

Oral tradition British legend