This mysterious female gave Arthur his sword, Excalibur. She stole Lancelot
when he was a child and cured him when he went mad. She may be a Celtic
lake divinity in origin, perhaps of the same kind as the Gwagged Annwn -
lake fairies in modern Welsh folklore. In Ulrich, the fairy who raised Lancelot
is the mother of Mabuz. As Mabuz is probably identical with the Celtic god
Mabon, it would seem that the fairy must be Morgan Le Fay who was, earlier,
Mabon's mother. Matrona. A lady of the lake, perhaps a different one, was
killed by Balin.
|Vivien, the probable Lady
of the Lake enchanted Merlin and imprisoned him forever.
Vivien may very well have been the Lady of the Lake in the Arthurian
Legends and stories. Vivien, sometimes called Nineve, Nimue, Niniane, etc.,
is best known as the woman who sealed Merlin in a cave or a tree. Despite
foreseeing his fate, Merlin was unable to prevent being captivated and captured
by the woman Richard Wilbur has called "a creature to bewitch a sorcerer."
Vivien is an ambiguous character. In Malory, for example, even though Nyneve,
who is one of the Ladies of the Lake, deprives Arthur of Merlin's service,
she rescues him twice, first by saving him from Accolon who has been given
Excalibur by Morgan le Fay to use against Arthur, and then by preventing
him from donning the destructive cloak sent to him by Morgan. She also uses
her enchantments to punish Ettarde for her mistreatment of Pelleas. In the
end she and Pelleas "lovede togedyrs duryng their lyfe."
The character is ambiguous even in her earliest appearances. In the French
Vulgate Estoire de Merlin, she loves the enchanter and seals him
in a beautiful tower, magically constructed, so that she can keep him always
for herself. She visits him regularly and grants her love to him. In the
continuation to the Vulgate Merlin, known as the Suite du Merlin,
the relationship is very different. When Merlin shows her a tomb of two
lovers, magically sealed, she enchants him and has him cast into the tomb
on top of the two lovers, whereupon she reseals the tomb and Merlin dies
a slow death. Tennyson turns Vivien into the epitome of evil. Though borrowing
much from Tennyson, Edwin Arlington Robinson, in the poem, Merlin,
makes Merlin's "captivity" voluntary, and his Vivian is less of an enchantress
than an interesting woman whom Merlin truly loves.
© The Camelot Project, The University of Rochester