The Tale of Uther and Igraine

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"The Tale of Uther and Igraine" From: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights


By: Howard Pyle (Author)

From: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, 1903

     In ancient days there lived a very noble King, named Uther-Pendragon, and he became Overlord of all of Britain. This King was very greatly aided unto the achievement of the Pendragonship of the realm by the help of two men, who rendered him great assistance in all that he did. The one of these men was a certain very powerful enchanter and sometime prophet known to men as Merlin the Wise; and he gave very good counsel unto Uther-Pendragon. The other man was an excellent noble and renowned knight, Sir Ulfius (who was thought by many to be the greatest leader in war of any man then alive); and he gave Uther-Pendragon aid and advice in battle. So, with the help of Merlin and Sir Ulfius, Uther-Pendragon was able to overcome all of his enemies and to become King of the entire realm.

Merlin the Wise encouraged Uther Pendragon to make peace with the other lords of the realm and so it was said a huge feast was held at Uther’s Palace. The Duke of Tintegal attended with his beautiful wife Igraine.

So when the Duke and his wife were come unto the king, by the means of the great lords they were accorded lodging and food at the great feast. King Uther liked and loved Igraine well and made great cheer and measure and desired to have lain by her. Now she was a passing good woman and would not assent to the king and she told the duke her husband and she said, “I supposed that we were sent for to be dishonoured; therefore good husband I advise you that we depart from hence suddenly so we may ride all night to our own castle. All too soon Uther became aware of their parting and was wondrously wrathful. He sent for the Duke and his wife and when the duke would not obey his summons, once more, Uther was wondrously wrathful. He sent word to the Duke of his intention to raid his castle, Tintagel, and take his wife from him. Then the king was furious when the Duke said, I will not yield! You may fight for months and never enter my perfectly fortified castle.”

So the king besieged the castle and the fight wound on for many moons. Wherein King Uther became most ill because of his love of Igraine. Then Sir Ulfius sought Merlin out for help. When Merlin came Uther was wrought with happiness. “I will make magic wherein you will lay with Igraine.” Merlin said. But you must promise to give me what e’r I may ask once this is all over.” I will do whate’r you ask. Just give me Igraine.” So merlin worked his magic and made Uther like the Duke and that night the duke rode off to battle and was killed. At the time of his death Uther lay with Igraine and begat Arthur. And when Igraine heard of her husband’s death at the same time she lay with him she was rapt with wonder.

     After the duke’s death then Uther-Pendragon took to wife the beautiful and gentle lady, Igraine. Now a widow she had two daughters by the duke - one of whom was named Margaise and the other Morgana le Fay. And Morgana le Fay was a famous sorceress. These daughters the Queen brought with her to the Court of Uther-Pendragon after she had married that King, and there Margaise was wedded to King Urien of Gore, and Morgana le Fay was wedded to King Lot of Orkney.
     Now after a while Uther-Pendragon and Queen Igraine had a son born unto them, and he was very beautiful and of great size and strength of bone. And whilst the child still lay wrapped in his swaddling clothes and lying in a cradle of gold and ultramarine, Merlin came to Uther-Pendragon with a spirit of prophecy strong upon him (for such was often the case with him), and, speaking in that spirit of prophecy, he said, "Lord, it is given unto me to foresee that thou shalt shortly fall sick of a fever and that thou shalt maybe die of a violent sweat that will follow thereon. Now, should such a dolorous thing befall us all, this young child (who is, certes, the hope of all this realm) will be in very great danger of his life; for many enemies will assuredly rise up with design to seize upon him for the sake of his inheritance, and either he will be slain or else he will be held in captivity from which he shall hardly hope to escape. Wherefore, I do beseech thee, Lord that thou remember your promise to me and wilt permit Sir Ulfius and myself to presently convey the child away unto some place of safe refuge, where he may be hidden in secret until he groweth to manhood and is able to guard himself from such dangers as may threaten him."
     When Merlin had made an end of speaking thus, Uther-Pendragon made reply with a very steadfast countenance in thus wise: "Merlin, so far as my death is concerned - when my time cometh to die I believe God will give me grace to meet my end with entire cheerfulness; for, certes, my lot is in that wise no different from that of any other man who hath been born of woman. But touching the matter of this young child, if thy prophecy be true, then his danger is very great, and it would be well that he should be conveyed hence to some place of safe harborage as thou dost advise. Wherefore, I pray thee to perform thy will in this affair, bearing in thy heart the consideration that the child is the most precious inheritance which I shall leave unto this land."
     All this, as was said, Uther-Pendragon spake with great calmness and equanimity of spirit. And Merlin did as he had advised, and he and Sir Ulfius conveyed the child away by night, and no one but they wist whither the babe had been taken. And shortly afterward Uther-Pendragon was seized with the sickness as Merlin had foretold, and he died exactly as Merlin had feared he would die; wherefore it was very well that the child had been taken to a place of safety.

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