Arthurian Legends

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What actions does Sir Bedivere take in the King Arthur legend?

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In the Arthurian legend, the Knights of the Round Table are the men who serve King Arthur and complete his quests for him.  One of the boon companions of Arthur was the knight Sir Bedivere also named in Welsh, Bedwyr. 

Sir Bedivere was one of the most trusted knights of Arthur. He was noted in the very beginning of  Arthur’s reign and was one of the first knights to become a part of the Round Table camaraderie. In the order of the Round Table, Bedivere served as the marshal who would keep the order and handle discipline if needed. He was also described as the cup bearer for Arthur.

His family included Sir Bedivere, his father; Sir Lucan, his brother; and Sir Griflet, his cousin. In the legends, Bedivere often worked in connection with Sir Kay, one of the closest of knights to Arthur. His children were Amhren, his son, and Eneuawg, his daughter, who were both in Arthur’s court.

Bedivere was described as a handsome, one-handed knight. His hand was lost in a battle.  It was said:

"and although he was one-handed no three warriors drew blood in the same field faster than he".

Some legends assert that he used black magic to subdue his enemies.  His prowess with the sword was legendary, and he was said to fight with one hand with skill and aggression. In the surrounding towns of Arthur’s court, the people feared Bedivere and often asked Arthur to punished him for his covert deeds. He helps King Arthur and Sir Kay fight the Giant of Mont St. Michel, and he joins King Arthur in his war against Emperor Lucius of Rome.

 According to the Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the last battle for the Round Table knights was the Battle of Camlan in which King Arthur is mortally wounded.  He calls on his most trusted knight to carry out his last wish: Sir Bedivere.

Arthur, gravely wounded, asks Bedivere to take Excalibur and throw it into the lake.  He gives Bedivere no explanation for his task.  Bedivere goes to the lake; but he believes that Arthur in his pain cannot be thinking well, and the sword is too valuable to be lost.  Tennyson describes the sword as Bedivere sees it:

… sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:
For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery. He gazed so long
That both his eyes were dazzled as he stood…

He hides the sword and returns to Arthur telling him that he has carried out his orders.  Arthur asks him what he saw when he threw it.  Bedivere saw nothing, so Arthur knows that he is lying to him. He reprimands him and sends him again to complete the task.

Bedivere again does not do what Arthur has told him to do.  On the threat of his life, Arthur tells him to do exactly what he has told him to do. Bedivere throws the sword in the lake. When he does, a beautiful hand extends from the water, catches the sword, and returns it to its watery grave.  The hand belonged to the “Lady of the Lake.”

When Bedivere returns, he watches Arthur being taken away by boat to Avalon where he awaits the time that he will return to Britain. Upon the death of Arthur, Bedivere enters a hermitage where he spends the remainder of his life.

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