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Arthurian Mythological Creatures and Characters: A Friendly Guide

The world of Arthurian legend is filled with a fascinating array of mythical creatures and characters that captivate the imagination. The tales, known as the matter of Britain, revolve around the legendary king Arthur and his adventures. These stories not only feature the famous Knights of the Round Table and members of Arthur’s family but introduce various mythical beasts and animals, each with unique qualities and cultural significance.

Legendary Figures

King Arthur

King Arthur is the central figure of the Arthurian legends. He is known for being a brave and just ruler, uniting Britain under his reign. The Round Table, comprised of courageous knights, was created to facilitate fair discussions among its members.

Merlin the Wizard

Merlin the Wizard is a prominent character in Arthurian legend. He is a powerful magician and adviser to King Arthur. Responsible for Arthur’s conception and education, he predicted future events and played a crucial role in the king’s life.


Queen Guinevere is King Arthur’s wife and one of the most important characters in Arthurian tales. She is often considered a loyal and compassionate queen, but her reputed love affair with Sir Lancelot caused turmoil and led to the kingdom’s decline.

Sir Lancelot

Sir Lancelot, one of the famous Knights of the Round Table, is known for his exceptional bravery and loyalty to King Arthur. However, his romantic relationship with Queen Guinevere fueled jealousy and conflict among the knights and the kingdom.

Morgan le Fay

Morgan le Fay is a powerful sorceress in the Arthurian legend. Frequently portrayed as an antagonist, she is the half-sister of King Arthur and has a complicated relationship with him. Despite her malicious intentions, she sometimes assists Arthur and his knights in crucial moments.

Knightly Orders

Knights of the Round Table

The Knights of the Round Table were the most renowned and noble group in the Arthurian legend. This group included warriors like Lancelot, Gawain, Tristan, Galahad, and Percival. They held court with King Arthur and participated in quests to defend the realm or maintain chivalry.

Some of the notable achievements of these knights include Galahad’s discovery of the Holy Grail, and Gawain’s participation in the “Green Knight” challenge. Their loyalty to King Arthur was a defining aspect of their characters.

Questing Knights

Questing Knights were honorable warriors who sought out adventures, often aimed at righting wrongs or pursuing sacred missions. These knights were not necessarily part of the Round Table but still played important roles in the Arthurian legends.

Notable questing knights include Sir Ector and Sir Palomides. The latter of which was a Saracen knight known for his unrequited love for Isolde, Tristan’s beloved. These knights ventured forth in search of opportunities to display valor, strength, and virtue, and their tales greatly enriched the tapestry of the Arthurian world.

Fabled Creatures

In the world of Arthurian mythology, there are several fascinating mythical creatures tied to the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The following beings play a significant role in various adventures and maintain a connection with the Arthurian legends.

The Questing Beast

The Questing Beast is a strange creature with a blend of animal features, such as a serpent’s head, a leopard’s body, lion’s hindquarters, and deer-like hooves. Often seen as an enigmatic symbol, it was relentlessly pursued by King Pellinore, Sir Palamedes, and later by Sir Percival. Its elusive nature represents the challenges and quests knights faced throughout Arthur’s reign.


Dragons occupy a prominent place in Celtic and Arthurian tales, symbolizing power, wisdom, and sometimes, danger. The most famous dragon in Arthurian legends would be the “Red Dragon” (Y Ddraig Goch) that represents Wales, as depicted in the story of Merlin’s prophecy about the struggle between the Red Dragon and the White Dragon as a metaphor for the ongoing battles between the native Britons and the invading Saxons.


Unicorns, often depicted as white horse-like creatures with a single majestic horn, appear throughout various Arthurian tales as symbols of purity, grace, and enchantment. They are also associated with quests and spiritual awakenings. While not as prevalent as the dragons, unicorns still hold a place within the Arthurian legends and serve as a reminder of the mystical, otherworldly nature of the stories.


Giants make several appearances in the Arthurian legends, often as adversaries or symbols of unruly chaos. Though they are generally portrayed as massive human-like beings with immense strength, intelligence, and sometimes, magical abilities, their roles and characteristics can vary. King Arthur was known to have vanquished many giants during his reign and numerous tales involve his knights battling these fearsome beings.

Enchanted Objects


Excalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur, symbolizing his authority and power. The sword was obtained from the Lady of the Lake and returned upon Arthur’s death. Known for its sharpness and magical properties, Excalibur played a significant role in Arthur’s many exploits.

Holy Grail

The Holy Grail is an enigmatic object in Arthurian legend, often depicted as a dish, plate, or cup with miraculous powers. In the tales, it’s pursued by Arthur’s knights, mainly Sirs Galahad, Percival, and Bors. This sacred object is said to provide eternal youth, happiness, or sustenance, and its quest represents the spiritual journey of the knights.

Lancelot’s Shield

Lancelot, one of King Arthur’s most trusted knights, had a unique shield attributed with special abilities. This shield was often decorated with religious imagery or symbols of Lancelot’s noble lineage. In the Lancelot-Grail cycle, the shield plays a key role in Lancelot’s adventures, often providing him protection and guidance in his quests.

Mystical Locations


Avalon is a legendary island featured in Arthurian tales and is often depicted as a place of magic and mystery. King Arthur is said to have been taken to Avalon to heal his wounds after a great battle. It is sometimes associated with Glastonbury, England, due to the area’s mystical atmosphere and connections to ancient lore.


Camelot, the famous castle-crowned city, was the home of King Arthur and his legendary Knights of the Round Table. This idyllic location represents the pinnacle of chivalry and nobility in Arthurian legends. Despite various proposed real-world locations, the exact site of Camelot remains a mystery, adding to its mystique and allure.

The Enchanted Forest

The Enchanted Forest is a common setting in Arthurian literature where heroes encounter magical beings and mysterious challenges. Often inhabited by mythical creatures and enchanted beings, the forest serves as both a trial ground and a source of wondrous discoveries. Symbolizing transformation and the unknown, the Enchanted Forest is a place where characters of the story are tested and can experience personal growth.

Significant Battles

Battle of Camlann

The Battle of Camlann is considered one of the most important conflicts in Arthurian legend. It was the final battle between King Arthur and his treacherous nephew Mordred. Legends suggest that the majority of the knights from both sides perished in this bloody and devastating confrontation. King Arthur managed to defeat Mordred, but not without sustaining fatal wounds himself.

  • Key figures: King Arthur, Mordred
  • Outcome: Arthur defeats Mordred but suffers fatal wounds

Siege of Benwick

The Siege of Benwick, also known as the Siege of Joyous Gard, revolves around Sir Lancelot’s conflict with King Arthur. Lancelot, having been discovered to have had an affair with Queen Guinevere, sought refuge at his stronghold, Joyous Gard (Benwick). King Arthur’s forces, led by Gawain, laid siege to the castle, resulting in a fierce battle.

During the siege, there were several notable engagements, with Lancelot and his men successfully resisting the attackers. Yet, their victory was short-lived, as Arthur’s forces continued to apply pressure. Finally, Lancelot and Guinevere were forced to flee, leading to further conflict. The Siege of Benwick helped to set the stage for the eventual downfall of Camelot.

  • Key figures: King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain, Queen Guinevere
  • Outcome: Lancelot and Guinevere escape, but Camelot’s downfall is foreshadowed

Influential Tales

Le Morte d’Arthur

Le Morte d’Arthur is a compilation of stories written by Sir Thomas Malory in the 15th century. It remains one of the most significant collections of Arthurian legends. The work vividly presents the knights, their quests, and the various mythological creatures they encounter.

These tales include iconic characters such as King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table. Among the creatures featured are dragons, giants, and enchantresses.

The Once and Future King

Another prominent Arthurian work is The Once and Future King by T.H. White. This modern retelling of the Arthurian legends was first published in the mid-20th century. The novel is a captivating exploration of the lives and challenges faced by Arthur and his knights.

In this version, the reader encounters a variety of mythical creatures, such as the transformed animals in Merlin’s lessons for Arthur. Key characters include Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere, among others.

Both works have significantly influenced how we understand and appreciate the Arthurian legends, their characters, and the mythological creatures they intertwine with.