protagonist of the novel. Arthur is known as the Wart in the first
book and as King Arthur once he is crowned. He is a conscientious,
slightly timid young boy who becomes king of England after being
tutored by Merlyn. Arthur believes in justice and in doing what is
right, but his faith in good sometimes makes him blind to the intrigue
in-depth analysis of King Arthur.
best knight and the commander of his forces. Lancelot has a love
affair with Guenever, Arthur’s queen. Lancelot is a deeply conflicted
figure. Although he is considered to be the greatest knight in Arthur’s court,
he struggles constantly with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. He
is doggedly faithful to those who love him, even if they do not
always have his best interests at heart.
in-depth analysis of Lancelot.
magician who has already lived the future, so he knows what is going
to happen next. Merlyn is Arthur’s tutor and friend. Arthur’s creation
of the Round Table and a more civilized England is largely due to
Merlyn’s influence. Although Merlyn is powerful, he is also kind
and a little absentminded.
wife and Lancelot’s lover. Guenever is beautiful, jealous, and often
petty. She is, however, a fundamentally decent person. She understands
and supports Arthur’s ideas and loves Lancelot despite his great
in-depth analysis of Guenever.
son of Arthur and his half-sister, Morgause. Cold, calculating,
and vicious, Mordred is raised by Morgause to hate Arthur. He thrives
on slander and insinuation, which he prefers to open confrontation.
mother of Gawaine, Gaheris, Gareth, and Agravaine, and the half-sister
of Arthur. Morgause is cruel and petty, but her little whims have
a huge impact on Arthur and England. Her seduction of Arthur is
the first step in Arthur’s destruction.
girl Lancelot is tricked into sleeping with, and
the mother of Galahad. Although still very young, Elaine is crafty
and determined enough to do all she can to win Lancelot’s love. Except for the two times she persuades
Lancelot to stay with her, Elaine is an unhappy woman, well aware
that Lancelot loves Guenever.
and Elaine’s son. Galahad is morally perfect and invincible and
the only knight holy enough to find the Holy Grail. He is so perfect,
in fact, that he often seems more like an angel than a human. Galahad
is disliked by all but a few of Arthur’s other knights.
sweetest and most sensitive son. Unlike most of his brothers, Gareth
loves Arthur and Lancelot.
- Morgause’s oldest and strongest son. Gawaine, prone to murderous
rages, is in many ways an emblem of everything that is wrong with
knighthood. Despite Gawaine’s roughness, however, he is a decent
- The first knight Arthur meets. An amiable bumbler whose
lifelong quest is to hunt the Questing Beast, Pellinore becomes
an accomplished knight after his marriage. Even after Pellinore
is killed, his legacy of kindness lives on in his children.
foster brother and a knight of the Round Table. Spoiled as a child,
Kay remains nasty and selfish, but is decent at heart.
foster father and Kay’s biological father. Sir Ector is good-natured,
pompous, and boisterous. Although he often seems like a caricature,
Sir Ector proves to be less foolish than we might expect.
The Questing Beast
magical creature that only a Pellinore can hunt.
The Questing Beast needs to be hunted to survive, and after a series
of comic mishaps, it is hunted by Sir Palomides instead of King
of Morgause’s sons. Agravaine seems to have the most problems with
his mother’s promiscuity. As a child, Agravaine is the cruelest
of Morgause’s sons, and he remains deceitful and cowardly throughout
the novel. He is Mordred’s closest ally.
Sir Bruce Sans Pitié
- An evil knight known for his sneak attacks and ambushes.
Sir Bruce always manages to avoid capture and is a recurring example
of the old injustices that Arthur is trying to fight.
- Lancelot’s childhood instructor. Although he is the brother of
kings, Uncle Dap is Lancelot’s squire when Lancelot becomes a knight
of the Round Table.
Morgan le Fay
sister and Arthur’s half-sister. Morgan le Fay, who is most likely
a fairy queen, shows up periodically to torment knights and villagers
with her malicious spells.
lover, who eventually traps him in a cave for centuries. Despite
her faults, Nimue is basically a nice woman, and she promises to
take care of Arthur on Merlyn’s behalf.
Sir Thomas Malory
the novel, a page whom Arthur asks to carry on
the Arthurian ideals of justice. In real life, Sir Thomas Malory
wrote the fifteenth-century text Le Morte d’Arthur,
account of the Arthurian legends that served as the basis for White’s
- The king of England during Arthur’s childhood. Uther
Pendragon is actually Arthur’s father. Once Pendragon dies, the
next king is determined by a trial, which Arthur wins. Thus, Arthur
is eventually placed on the throne after his death.