Anthor, Anthors de Cors, Antor of Bonmaison, Anton, Antore, Antour, Arntor, Artus, Auctor, Entor, Hector
Arthur’s foster-father in the Post-Vulgate Merlin continuation and in Malory. In Robert de Boron’s Merlin and the Vulgate Merlin, he is called Antor. He was also the father of Arthur’s seneschal, Kay. Merlin selected this
whom he called
a passing through man and a faithful
to Uther Pendragon, to be Arthur’s foster father. Robert de Boron seems to have originated the character.
He was renowned as a wise man and accepted the task at Uther’s behest, for which Uther granted him great rewards ahead of time, Ector followed Merlin’s directions and gave Arthur to his wife for suckling, entrusting his own son, Kay, to a wetnurse. When Arthur was fifteen, Ector took him and his son Kay to London for a tournament at which Kay was to be knighted, with Arthur acting as his squire. When, having found that he had forgotten Kay’s sword, Arthur returned with the enchanted sword that had been placed in a stone to test who should become King of all England. Kay tried to claim credit for drawing the Sword from the Stone, Ector saw through the claim and made his son
swear upon a book how he came to that sword.
Modern romancers have presented us with the tale that Arthur was always aware he was not Ector’s true son and that he grew up believing himself a bastard and destined to a humbler lot in life than Kay. According to Malory, however, Arthur was completely surprised and dismayed when the incident of the Sword in the Stone prompted Sir Ector to reveal as much of the truth as he knew. (Apparently Ector himself did not know the full story of Arthur’s birth and parentage.)
Alas, said Arthur, my own dear father and brother, why kneel ye to me? ... Then Arthur made great dole when he understood that Sir Ector was not his father. Sir, said Ector unto Arthur, will ye be my good and gracious lord when ye are king? Else were I to blame, said Arthur, for ye are the man in the world that I am most beholden to, and my good lady and mother your wife, that as well as her own hath fostered me and kept ... God forbid I should fail you.
Ector asked of Arthur only that Kay be made seneschal of all Arthur’s lands, which the young King eagerly promised. I see no reason to belive from all this that Arthur occupied a lesser position in Ector’s household during his formative years than did Kay, except for a slight age difference, or to assume that Arthur did not fully expect to be made knight in his turn. Ector was clearly an ideal foster father. When Arthur became king, he assisted Arthur in the battle of Bedegraine against the rebelling kings, and in the war against the Saxons.
This Sir Ector must not be identified with Sir Ector de Maris, Lancelot’s brother. His character appears in the Post-Vulgate and Malory as Ector. J.D. Bruce suggests a possible corruption of Arthur, given the literary tradition of naming children after their foster fathers (cf. Gawain in De Ortu Waluuanii).
Sommer found in several MSS that Antor is consistently named Artus. He believe that Robert de Borron gave the same name “Arthur” to Arthus and his foster-father – Auctor, Arntor, Anthor – which are corruptions of Arthur (a form still seen in many French MMS). Tennyson gives him the name Anton.
Ector is the Welsh form of the name Hector.
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470