The Elaines

There are three characters named Elaine in Arthurian literature.  All three are connected to Lancelot.

1. Queen Elaine, King Bans’ wife: She was Lancelot’s mother.  In some sources, she is Bans’ mistress, rather than wife, which is likely intended to give Lancelot a less noble birth.  In The Mists of Avalon, she is the Lady of the Lake, which makes Lancelot a descendant of the fey.

The Lady of the Lake

2. Elaine, of Carbonek, daughter of King Pellas: She was in love with Lancelot.  When her father hosted a jousting tournament, Lancelot stayed with her family.  Depending on the book, Lancelot either got terribly drunk or was the victim of an enchantment, and Elaine tricked Lancelot into believing she was Guinevere and sleeping with her.  As a result of the affair, Elaine gave birth to Galahad.  After Galahad’s death, realizing that Lancelot did not love her, she died of a broken heart.

Elaine and Lancelot

3. Elaine Le Blanke of Astolat: She is subject of Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott.  She is the victim of a horrible curse that prevents her from looking directly onto the outside world; instead she must look at the world as reflected through her mirror.  When she sees Lancelot’s reflection, she is so captivated that she leaves her castle and mirror to look at him directly, knowing that she will die.  She gets into a boat headed for Camelot and dies during the trip.

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