Legend Facts: King Arthur’s Swords


So lately, my new obsession has been the Arthurian legends (the knights of the round table, the sword in the stone, etc.). For the longest time I thought that the sword in the stone and Excalibur were the same sword. Weeeeeell, they’re not. I figured that I can’t be the only one who’s a little late in discovering this, so I figured I’d sure a few Arthurian tidbits with the world.

Let’s start from the beginning (I hear that’s a very good place to start). Once upon a time in the mystical land of Britain, there was a king named Uther Pendragon. Uther was a brave and wise king and he made his people very happy. However, Uther was lonely and longed for the love of both a wife and a child, neither of which he ever had the pleasure of possessing. Oh! One more thing: Uther was desperately in love. Unfortunately, he was desperately in love with another guy’s wife. Needless to say, the Duke of Tintagel was pretty upset when he figured out that Uther was relentlessly pursing his wife, Ygraine, and soon war broke out between Uther’s army and the Duke’s army.

While the Duke was away, Uther did play. With Merlin’s help, Uther disguised himself as the Duke and knocked Ygraine up. The Duke died in battle soon after and Uther happily skipped back to his castle to marry Ygraine. Nine months later, king and queen Pendragon had a son which they named Arthur. Unfortunately, Uther had forgotten to tell Ygraine that he had promised his first child to Merlin in exchange for his clever disguise the night they conceived their son. So, Merlin took Arthur away and Ygraine resented Uther for the rest of her life.

We’re off to a good start, aren’t we?

So what did Merlin do with Arthur? Well, Merlin figured out pretty early on that raising a kid was hard work, thus–much like a person with buyer’s remorse who lost their receipt–he pawned the baby off on someone else. That someone else was Sir Ector. Merlin left after the deed was done, leaving baby Arthur in the care of Sir Ector. Ector raised Arthur as his bastard child and the boy was treated very poorly, especially by Ector’s son Sir Kay.  No one, not Arthur and not his care takers, knew that he was actually the son of  King Uther who had recently died from illness.

After Uther died, England fell into despair and dukes and lords began to battle it out for the throne. This is when Merlin saunters back into the story. The people of England begged Merlin for a solution to the fighting and chaos, and thus he erected a large stone, a top of which sat an anvil. Stuck inside the anvil was a sword with an inscription on the blade that read:

“Whoso pulleth out this sword from this stone, is right wise King born of all England.”

Knowing that Arthur was the rightful heir to the throne, all Merlin had to do was sit back and wait for him to come pull it out. People came from far and wide to try to remove the sword from the stone, but no matter how big or how brave the men who tried were, the sword would not budge. While all this was going on, Merlin decided to pay Arthur another visit and properly introduce himself now that he was older (you know, now that he no longer had to worry about changing diapers). He and Arthur became close friends and Merlin tutored him whenever he got the chance.

When he felt Arthur was ready, Merlin brought him before the sword in the stone. A whole crowd gathered in the Westminster churchyard (where the sword was) to watch the spectacle. Sir Kay (remember him? He’s the jerk who picked on Arthur) was the first to try his hand at pulling the sword out, and, of course, it was to no avail. Now it was, Arthur’s turn. I hardly think it needs to be said, but for the sake of the story, Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, everyone cheered, and bada bing England’s got a brand new king! Yaaaay!

So, skipping over Arthur falling in love with Guinevere (it’s really short and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anyway), let’s move on to EXCALIBUR! Like I said before, the sword in the stone and Excalibur are two different things entirely.

Right from the get go, Merlin was opposed to Arthur marrying Guinevere, saying that only heartache and misery was to come from their union. But Arthur didn’t listen and asked her to marry him anyway–much to Merlin’s chagrin. After the engagement announcement, Merlin took Arthur to a lake in the middle of which was the island of Avalon where beings who possessed supernatural powers were said to live. A beautiful woman rose up from the water and presented Arthur with an AWESOME jeweled sword. Of course, Merlin had to be a rain cloud and say, “If you insist on surrounding yourself with such dangers (referring to Guinevere), then you’re going to need a powerful weapon to protect yourself. This is Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. The sword is Excalibur. It is of the finest strength, and can cut through iron and steel. But the real magic lies in the scabbard. For, whoever holds the scabbard shall never die of his wounds. Always keep it by your side. Never let yourself be parted from it.” And so Arthur did as Merlin instructed and the rest, as they say, is history (legend? Eh, whatever).

Anyway, there you have it! The story of the sword in the stone and Excalibur. Now go make your friends look stupid. =)

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