Uther Pendragon

From Academic Kids

Uther Pendragon (pen-dragon = "head of the dragons") is the legendary father of King Arthur in Arthurian legend. In French he is called Uterpendragon or Utependragon, in Welsh Uthyr Pendragon in Irish Iubhair, and in German Utepandragun. His name is possibly derived from (or stemmed from the same base word as) Arthur.

Uther is first mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). According to Geoffrey, he impregnated Igraine while magically disguised as her husband Gorlois Duke of Cornwall. The theme of illegitimate birth is repeated in Arthur's siring of Mordred in the later prose Arthurian romances.

Geoffrey makes Uther the younger brother of Aurelius Ambrosius (the historical Ambrosius Aurelianus) and his successor to the throne of Loegria/Logres, both being younger brothers of Constans, son of Constantine, whom Vortigern had made his puppet king before arranging for his death, all three being sons of a king called Constantine. This legendary King Constantine may be in part a confusion of the historical Constantine III, a claimant to the Roman throne from 407411 and king Constantine of Dumnonia who lived in the sixth century and possibly a third Constantine who appears in Welsh genealogies.

The surname Pendragon is explained by a dragon-shaped comet which Uther sees and which inspires him to make two dragon standards.

Welsh text mentions another son of Uther named Madoc, the father of Arthur's nephew Eliwlod.

Geoffrey also gives Uther a daughter Anna by Ygraine. Anna marries King Lot and becomes mother by him of Gawain and Mordred. But in the later romances Gawain's mother is generally Ygraine's daughter by a previous marriage. Also elsewhere in his book Geoffrey claims that King Lot married Aurelius Ambrosius' sister when that king was still reigning.

In Welsh genealogies an Anna does appear as mother of Howel of Little Britain (whom Geoffrey also makes Arthur's nephew). But in the genealogies this Anna is unconnected with Uther Pendragon. Yet Geoffrey very much insists on a line of British kings of Brittany which Uther sees in a vision of a comet that will descend from a daughter that will be born to him, the first of these Breton Kings being Howel. Accordingly it seems that Geoffrey's Anna appeared in whatever source Geoffrey was using as the mother of Howel, not the mother of Gawain. Later retellers of Geoffrey's account are confused by these contradictions and usually try to resolve them by making Howel's kinship to Arthur vague.

There is an alternate account of Uther Pendragon's background in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival. A certain Mazadān went with a Fay named Terdelaschoye to the land of Feimurgān. (This looks like a garbling of some source that told of Mazadān's alliance with the Fay Morgan le Fay in Terre de la Joye 'Land of Joy'.) Mazadān becomes father of two sons, Lazaliez and Brickus. Brickus becomes father of Utepandragūn father of Arthur while the elder son Lazaliez becomes father of Gandin of Anjou father of Gahmuret father of Parzival/Perceval. According Uther Pendragon and Arthur here appear as the scions of the junior branch of an imagined 5th/6th century House of Anjou.

In the Prose Lancelot Uther Pendragon claims to have been born in Bourges. He takes an army overseas to Brittany to fight against King Claudas of Bourges, a situation oddly resembling that of the historical 5th century British ruler Riothamus who went to Brittany to fight ravagers based in Bourges.

In Robert de Boron's Merlin Uther Pendragon personally kills the Saxon Hengest (the name Hengest appearing as Angis or Augis) when Hengest sneaks into the British camp in an attempt to assassinate him. It is for Uther Pendragon that the famous Round Table is created by Merlin in this story.

In C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, Dr. Elwin Ransom is portrayed as being the latest in an unbroken series of Pendragons.

The main character of Aleister Crowley's Diary of a Drug Fiend claims to be descended from Uther Pendragon.

External links


Preceded by:
Aurelius Ambrosius
Mythical British Kings
Succeeded by:
Arthur

Template:End boxda:Uther Pendragon de:Uther Pendragon nl:Uther Pendragon sv:Uther Pendragon

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