King Arthur and the Breton Lais of Marie de France

The Isle of Avalon

Sir Thomas Malory, 15th century, late Medieval English, numerous printed copies | Marie de France, 12th century, Old French, British Library, Bibliothèque Nationale Paris.

Collins English Dictionary defines 'Avalon' as 'an island paradise in the western seas' and derives it from the Old Welsh word 'Aballon': Apple.

Sir Thomas Malory, in his fifteenth century epic Le Morte d'Arthur, tells of King Arthur's final moments: Bedivere took the King upon his back and carried him to the water’s edge, and there was a little barge floating there with many beautiful ladies in it. 'Comfort yourself,' said the king, 'and do the best you can. I can no longer help you, for I must go into the vale of Avalon to be healed.'

The vale of Avylyon, where King Arthur is taken to be healed of his wounds in Malory’s account, is in Lanval, Marie de France’s twelfth century Breton tale, a beautiful island: He went with her to Avalon, so the Bretons tell us, to a very beautiful island. and after Lanval is taken to Avalon by his Otherworldly lady, he is never seen again. Collins English Dictionary defines 'Avalon' as 'an island paradise in the western seas' and derives it from the Old Welsh word 'Aballon': Apple.

Malory was in no doubt that the Ile of Avylyon was a place where magic ointments could revive the dead and where knights might then sally out again to tournaments in disguise, as he relates in his Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney, that was called Bewmaynes,

'And some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead but was taken, by the will of our Lord Jesus into another place; and men say that he shall return, and he shall win the Holy Cross. Yet I cannot say that this will happen; rather, I would say that here, in this world, he changed his life - but rather I wolde sey: here in thys worlde he chaunged hys lyff

Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthur saunz guerdon. IV. The Day of Destiny, pp 716–717.

Avalon in: Burgess, Glyn S., and Busby, Keith, 1986. The Lais of Marie de France. Translated from Old French with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Lanval, p 81.

See for yourself

Avalon – Wikipedia

Sir Thomas Malory – Wikipedia

Breton lai – Wikipedia

Lanval – Wikipedia

Gareth – Wikipedia

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