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The Arthurian Legend is a legend featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Geoffrey of Monmouth and incorporated in the book The History of the Kings of Britain in 1336.

Traditional Plot

Arthur was the first born son of King Uther Pendragon and heir to the throne. However these were very troubled times and Merlin, a wise magician, advised that the baby Arthur should be raised in a secret place and that none should know his true identity. Arthur was raised by his foster father Sir Ector and his son Kay.

As Merlin feared, when King Uther died there was great conflict over who should be the next king. Merlin used his magic to set a sword in a stone. Written on the sword, in letters of gold, were these words: "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone is the rightwise born king of all England." A tournament occurred where Kay was old enough to take part in with Sir Ector and Arthur accompanying him to it. Of course all the contenders for the throne took their turn at trying to draw the sword, but none could succeed. Arthur, quite by chance, withdrew the sword for another to use in a tournament. Following this, he became King.

He gathered Knights around him which included Sir Agravain, Sir Bagdemagus, Sir Bedivere, Sir Bors, Sir Breunor, Sir Calogrenant, Sir Caradoc, Sir Dagonet, Sir Dinadan, Sir Ector, Sir Elyan the White, Sir Erec, Sir Gaheris, Sir Galahad, Sir Gareth, Sir Geraint, Sir Griflet, Sir Hector de Maris, Sir Hoel, Sir Kay, Sir Lamorak, Sir Lancelot, Sir Leodegrance, Sir Lionel, Sir Lucan, Sir Maleagant, Sir Marhaus, Sir Palamedes, Sir Pelleas, Sir Pellinore, Sir Percival, Sir Safir, Sir Sagramore, Sir Segwarides, Sir Tor, Sir Uriens, Sir Ywain, and Sir Ywain the Bastard. With the Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur fought back against the Saxons who, since the Romans left Britain, were slowly but surely taking the country over. After many great battles and a huge victory at Mount Badon the Saxons' advance was halted.

Arthur's base was at a place called Camelot. Here, he built a strong castle. His knights met at a Round Table. They carried out acts of chivalry such as rescuing damsels in distress and fought against strange beasts. They also searched for a lost treasure which they believed would cure all ills - this was the 'Quest for the Holy Grail'.

Under the guidance of Merlin, Arthur had obtained a magical sword from the Lady of the Lake. This sword was called 'Excalibur" and with this weapon he vanquished many foes.

Queen Guinevere, Arthur's beautiful wife brought romance to the story while his equally beautiful half-sister Morgan le Fay added a dark side.

Unfortunately, as peace settled over the country, things turned sour within the court of Camelot and civil war broke out. In the Battle at Camlann, both Arthur and Mordred (Arthur's traitorous nephew and the son of the sorceress Morgan le Fay) were mortally wounded. As he was dying, King Arthur told Sir Bedivere to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. Arthur's body was then set upon a boat and floated down river to the isle of Avalon. Here, his wounds were treated by three mysterious maidens. His body was never found and many say that he rests under a hill with all his knights ready to ride forth and save the country again.

Show Adaptation

  • The knights of the round table have the power to conduct marriage ceremonies. As such, even in cases of a "fallen" knight like the show's adaption of Lancelot, he still can perform a marriage ceremony.
  • The Siren is loosely based on the Lady of the Lake. She lures in men while in the form of a woman and drowns them in Lake Nostos. The Siren was later killed by Prince Charming.
    • Contrary to the legend, Nimue and the Lady of the Lake are not the same person.
  • Merlin is the Sorcerer from The Sorcerer's Apprentice story. He also created the sword Excalibur and placed it in a stone, waiting for the kingdom's true ruler to pull the sword out.
  • Once Arthur withdrew Excalibur from the stone, the tip was missing. The tip is the Dark One Dagger.
  • The Siege Perilous at the Round Table belongs to the knight with the purest heart. It was Lancelot's seat before his banishment, then it became David's seat.
  • Vortigan is based on Vortigern,[1] a 5th-century warlord in Britain, who ultimately became incorporated into the Arthurian Legend.[2] According to the legend, Vortigern attempted to build a tower which would not stand. He was advised to sprinkle the site with the blood of a child with no father. This child was Merlin. The boy saved himself by revealing the true cause of the tower's collapse: Two dragons fighting beneath the foundation.[2] On Once Upon a Time, Vortigan is a villain who ransacks towns and burns them to the ground. He is killed by Merlin's lover, Nimue, who then becomes the first Dark One. Nimue then puts on Vortigan's mask, and later wears it when she transforms Merlin into a tree.
  • "Lady of the Lake", "Siege Perilous" and "Nimue" are all named after elements from the legend.

Characters Featured

Original Character Adapted as First Featured in
Lady of the Lake Siren "What Happened to Frederick" (allusion)
Lady of the Lake "Lady of the Lake" (mentioned)
Sir Lancelot Lancelot "Lady of the Lake"
Knights of the Round Table Knights of the Round Table "Lady of the Lake"
Merlin The Sorcerer / Merlin "The Dark Swan"
King Arthur King Arthur "The Dark Swan"
Sir Percival Percival "The Dark Swan"
Sir Kay Sir Kay "The Dark Swan"
Queen Guinevere Guinevere "The Price"
Sir Mordred Mordred "Tales From The Underworld"
Nimue Nimue "Dreamcatcher"
Giflet[3] Grif "Siege Perilous"
Vortigern Vortigan "Nimue"

Items Featured

Original Item Adapted as First Featured in
Excalibur A Sword in the Dark castle "Skin Deep" (allusion)
Fake Excalibur "Lost Girl"
Excalibur "The Dark Swan"
The Round Table Round Table "The Price"
The Stone Excalibur Stone "The Dark Swan"
Siege Perilous Siege Perilous "Siege Perilous"
Holy Grail Holy Grail "Nimue"
Dark Grail "Only You"

Locations Featured

Original Location Adapted as First Featured in
The Lake Lake Nostos (allusion) "What Happened to Frederick"
Camelot Camelot Out of the Past
Brocéliande Brocéliande "Siege Perilous"
Caledonian Forest Caledonian Forest "Birth"
Carmerthen Carmerthen (mentioned) "The Broken Kingdom"
Isle of Avalon Avalon (mentioned) "The Broken Kingdom"


  1. TwitterLogo.svg @JaneEspenson (Jane Espenson) on Twitter (November 9, 2015). "Amy is right. We altered it a bit to Vortigan for its breezy easy sound." (screenshot)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sutton, John William (2001). Vortigern in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. University of Rochester. “Ultimately Vortigern became incorporated into the Arthurian legends because many tales indicate that Arthur, the national hero of the Welsh, battled against the Saxons who had seized the island from Vortigern. Writers in the High Middle Ages and afterwards explicitly linked the story of Vortigern to the rapidly-expanding Arthurian mythos; see, for instance, Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (c. 1138).”
  3. TwitterLogo.svg @JaneEspenson (Jane Espenson) on Twitter (October 11, 2015). "Arthur's squire in legend is called "Giflet". "Griflet" is an alt form. I decided on "Grif". Giflet just sounded weird." (screenshot)
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