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William Morris : King Arthur and Sir Lancelot , stained glass window, 1862

Sir Lancelot (or Launcelot; French: Lancelot du Lac , English: Lancelot of the Lake , German: Lanzelot vom See ) is a legendary figure in the medieval Arthurian novels . His life was described differently depending on the narrator. The stories about him have diverged so much that there are different basic patterns.


One version is the following: He is the son of King Ban of Benwick, who, after being defeated by King Claudus, has to flee his kingdom with his wife Elaine. As a child, Lancelot was left behind by his mother at a lake during this escape and was stolen there by the fairy Viviane , the lady of the lake and guardian of the mythical place Avalon . He grows up in their water kingdom, the forge of the magic sword Excalibur of the young Arthur .

Herbert James Draper : Lancelot and Guinevere (1863-1920)

The grown up Lancelot is next to Gawain the most famous of the knights of the round table of King Arthur. His unconditional, unbreakable love is directed towards Guinevere (also Ginevra , Gwenhwyfer or Ginover ), the king's wife. This fateful, adulterous love makes him unworthy of seeking the Holy Grail .

Lancelot's liberation of the queen who has been abducted from the court is the subject of the courtly verse novel Le Chevalier de la charrette (The Knight of the Cart) by Chrétien de Troyes (in the 1170s). In Germany, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven told a very different story about Lanzelet in a verse novel between 1190 and 1225 .

Lancelot in literature

The extensive old French prose novel ( Lancelot en prose ), written in the first third of the 13th century, became really important for the history of literature. Lancelot's story adds a universal narrative of Arthurian world events and the end of the world. Lancelot thus becomes the "crystallization figure" for many key motifs of the Arthurian novel - not least through his son Galahad , who is chosen to bring the search for the Holy Grail to a close.

While in the 12th century there was still a lot of freedom in the stories about Lancelot and only a few fixed points of his career were fixed, the great cycle of the " Prose-Lancelot " led to a codification of the entire Arthurian legend. Almost all of the later Arthurian poems, including Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (completed around 1470), are ultimately based on its framework.

Films / series / musicals

See also


  • Edition:
    • Lancelot. Edition critique par Alexandre Micha. 9 vols. Paris 1978–1983. (= Textes littéraires français; 247, 249, 262, 278, 283, 286, 288, 315.) (complete old French Lancelot cycle)
    • Lancelot and Ginover. According to the Heidelberg manuscript. Edited by Reinhold Kluge , supplemented by the manuscript of the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris; translated, commented and edited by Hans-Hugo Steinhoff . 1995, Frankfurt am Main, Deutscher Klassikerverlag, series: Library of German Classics. ISBN 3-618-66130-4 (Middle High German prose Lancelot, only the central parts of the cycle)

Web links

Commons : Lancelot  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Sir Thomas Malory: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table , p. 107. ISBN 978-3-86647-370-6 . Original title: Le Morte Darthur , translation: Hedwig Lachmann.
  2. Book VI, Chapter I