Nimue (very concise interpretation)
There have been many and varied stories of Nimue: In the legends, she is a fascinating femme-fatale; an immortal character who battles with strong conflicting characteristics and emotions, to the extent that over time legend divides her into four different identities: The Lady of the Lake, Nimue, Vivienne and Morgan Le Fay.
She represents the archetypal multifarious female who wheedles her power over men; she is cunning and manipulative but also nurturing and altruistic. She is a pivotal character in the legends of Merlin, King Arthur and Lancelot.
As Lady of the Lake, she is best known for presenting Arthur (who later became King) with the magical sword "Excalibur;" which she later reclaimed when Arthur threw it back in the lake after being fatally wounded at the Battle of Camlann. As the "Guardian of the Sword" (the most prized possession of the Arthurian legend) we see her depicted as all-powerful.
Legend has it that she rescued Lancelot from a "madness" when he was a small child; she then became his foster mother and raised him beneath the murky waters of her Lake. In this respect we see her nurturing and altruistic side.
As Morgan Le Fay, (Arthur's half-sister) her need for control was insatiable and she became deeply competitive with Merlin. As a teenager (known as Vivienne) she was Merlin’s student, then later his lover and eventually his nemesis.
Disguised as the beautiful Nimue, she met up with Merlin in Brittany and seduced him. He fell deeply in love. She cajoled him into teaching her his magic and the secrets behind his mystical powers; (she kept records of all his prophecies for future power over events). Here she displays a manipulative and cunning nature.
Merlin's love for Nimue weakened him, and she despised weakness; eventually she imprisoned him in a deep thorn bush, where he was forever held by the pain and lethargy of his broken heart. Now we see her dark, heartless side.
Many of her later powers were attributed to the teachings of Merlin. Despite his wizardry and insight, Merlin’s weakness was a women. (Not unlike the stories we hear today of powerful men succumbing to a passionate love affair, leading to downfall).
Nimue is apparently immune to the effects of aging and conventional disease. She can breathe underwater, (although some writings lead us to believe that she uses the lake or other sources of water as a portal to Avalon, and possibly to other dimensions). She is able to transform herself into a watery substance at will. It was suggested she was able to travel through time, or at least view future events. Here we see her as magical, mystical and transcendent.
The Lady of the Lake (Nimue) is a wonderful portrayal of an ambiguous character. In some of the Arthurian legends you read of her rescuing Arthur not once, but twice; in others you read of her cunning plots to murder him. It is clear that her ambivalence leaves her vulnerable. She strongly represents the polarity of love vs hate, good over evil, power vs weakness.
She loved Arthur, Merlin and Lancelot, but craved their natural authority. Her hunger for power pushed her to possess and try to destroy all three, and in so doing, she destroyed any chance she had at mortal love. As such, she remains eternally alone, ever searching for the one man who can conquer her...(Its interesting that although immortal, she had only mortals to chose as lovers).
Like all mythological characters, her story exaggerates aspects within the psyche of women; the enigmatic and beguiling seductress who is also loving, nurturing and vulnerable. These emotions are often closely entwined when passions are aroused.
Nimue represents the sensuous nature of water; the feminine: The fluid and manipulative power of seduction over male dominance. As she is immortal, she remains an enigma. Who knows what the next chapter (and her name) will be in this "then and future" legend?
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