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Nimue (very concise interpretation)

Updated on September 8, 2015
Lady of the Lake
Lady of the Lake | Source

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?

Copyright © 2009


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    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi My Esoteric, I believe it was in the early 12th Century Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote "Prophecies of Merlin" However, the legend of "Myrddin" (who he based his story on) goes back centuries before that. It would appear she was 'fashioned' by several writers..this link shows some of the wonderful writers and the various interpretations of this fascinating character: - I hope this helps? Thank you so much for your very kind comments.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 7 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      This beautiful story brought back very old memories. I remember hearing of the Lady of the Lake and later Morgan le Fay but have long forgotten the context. "Once and Future King" by T.H. White was one of my first major reads as a child in the late 1950s and fell in love with it and the ideals it represented. Apparently Nimue appeared in this book but I don't remember her in that role.

      Do you know if men or women or both developed the mythical characters of Lady of the Lake/Nimue/Vivienne/Morgan Le Fay?

      Again, beautiful!

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      You surely do love the ladies Micky, and you sure loved your mama.. I loved your beautiful tribute to your mom. Thank you!

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      I'm a sucker for any of you ladies. Great hub as always!

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi Painted Seahorse, I'm glad you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping by - I look forward to reading more of your hubs!

    • Painted Seahorse profile image

      Brittany Rowland 7 years ago from Woodstock, GA

      Very interesting article, brightforyou. I'm glad I learned a lot about Nimue (beyond what I've seen in movies and TV shows)!

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi MobyWho (love the name).. thank you for stopping by and for your comments. I look forward to following you too! Nice to meet you. If you like Celtic things, I've just got back from Ireland and so have uploaded the most recent photos on my hub The weather was quite warm considering it was October!

    • MobyWho profile image

      MobyWho 7 years ago from Burlington VT

      Ah, Nimue - you explain so much! I've noticed several boats up and down the waterways named Nimue - and never appreciated the origin. Very appropriate: she is a tough mistress. Will continue to follow you.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi Amanda, thank you for stopping by and for your observations. I think like all mythological characters, she represents an extreme version of all the emotions and characteristics we are capable of. I love your hubs and am a big fan of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings in your hub. Nice to have you visit, thanks!

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      Hi brightforyou, Nimue was (is?) quite a challenging creature. I imagine her as being beyond human ken. She knows how to use and abuse the humans she comes in contact with, but they are mere dalliances. She has her fun, and cares little whether she damages her playmates. I wonder whether her nurturing side is just another aspect of a supernatural curiousity. Interesting hub about a fascinating lady.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Thank you rose56 - I appreciate your feedback. I look forward to reading more of your hubs!

    • rose56 profile image

      rose56 7 years ago

      I love these storys King Arthur in Excalibur. Great hub.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi Medora Trevillian (sounds like a Welsh name?) - thanks for stopping by and for your comments. I agree, but then she wouldn't be mythical and legendary as a bewitching, powerful witch-like character... I guess if one of these men had conquered her and matched her... then her story would have drifted into anonymity?

    • Medora Trevilian profile image

      Medora Trevilian 7 years ago

      Excellent treatment of this subject. Perhaps Nimue's real tragedy was not to meet with a man strong enough to master her. If Merlin could match her blow for blow, might they not have made a more suitable couple?

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi storytellersrus ~ I wasn't aware of her seduction of Merlin and neither was I aware that she rendered him powerless until I did the research for this story.

      You are right about most men despising vulnerability and weakness. That's exactly right about how a woman despises her power over him.

      Recognizing the enigma is a good thing - it gives us the opportunity to be tolerant and understanding of ourselves and others!

      She didn't die ~ in the legends, she is immortal.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your clever comments on the subject!

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Fascinating and concise. I relate, lol.

      The Lady of the Lake and Merlin? I did not know this sad tale. She despised his weakness, which revealed her own weakness. This happens when a man becomes too vulnerable; a woman despises the effect she has on him even as she thought she wanted to conquer him. She didn't wish to succeed, I suppose. Oh women, we are enigmatic after all.

      How does she die?

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi singlemomat52 thanks for your comments. I too love the Arthurian & Merlin legends. When I am in Cornwall, Gladstonbury and parts of France, the legends are alive with trinkets and places you can visit where events supposedly took place. Wonderful stuff! The archetype Nimue, paints (like all archetypes in mythology) extreme pictures of the length and breadth of human emotions and actions. I was being facetious at the end... but those qualities and 'shadow' aspects are within us all.

      Hi quicksand; there are so many, I'll just keep swapping!

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      Hi BrightForYou, I'll just keep checking. Thanks!

    • singlmomat52 profile image

      singlmomat52 7 years ago

      I love the King Arthur movies and of course Sir Lancelot and Merlin. I know of the Lady of the Lake, cannot leave her out when speaking of the above mentioned. I am not your average woman, I am passionate, nurturing and loving. I have no need for that kind of power or control. Very nice hub and a reminder to us all, men and women alike, how vulnerable we can be.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi quicksand, which picture did you prefer? "cos she's happy to change back if you bid it.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi quciksand - she may change daily! .. there are so many beautiful pictures of Nimue,

      Hi mentalist acer - yes, very wise...its best to stay away from this one!

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      A woman to be seen and not touched by her beauty and power;)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      Jeez! That lady has changed the picture. She sure can travel through time! :)

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 7 years ago from Florida

      Hi quicksand - thanks for stopping by. Yes, this certainly is an extremely concise, hub-size version!

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      Oh yes, I remember reading the concise version of the novel written by Sir Walter Scott. Thanks for making it even more concise! Cheers! :)


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