Arcade, Etnard, Ettare, Ettarre

The beautiful but evil maiden loved by Pelleas in Malory and Tennyson. She appears in the Post-Vulgate Cycle as Arcade.

Pelleas awarded her the crown at a tournament in which he defeated sixty knights. Because he was of low birth, however, she rebuked him, called him “Sir Baby”, and forbade him from entering her land, known as the Plain of Adventures or Arroy. Pelleas disobeyed her command repeatedly. On each occasion, she sent ten knights against him. Each time, he defeated all the knights, but let them capture him anyway, so that he might catch a glimpse of Ettard on the way to her prison. Pelleas would be released the following day, only to repeat the cycle.

Gawaine learned of Pelleas’s plight and suggested that he could assist Pelleas by taking his armor to Ettard’s court, claiming to have slain him in combat. The plan went off as expected, with Ettard joyously receiving the news that Pelleas was dead. Gawaine, however, found himself unexpectedly enamored with Ettard, and she similarly fell in love with Gawaine. They swiftly consummated their relationship – both of them losing their virginity in the process – and became lovers.

An impatient Pelleas eventually came looking for them and found them sleeping together. Rather than kill them, he laid his sword across their throats. When Ettard awoke and saw Pelleas’s sword, she realized that Gawaine had lied.

The enchantress Nimue, who had taken pity on Pelleas, cast a spell on Ettard to make her love the knight. The disillusioned Pelleas, however, rejected his former beloved, and she lived out the rest of her life in heartbreak. Tennyson says that her treachery drove Pelleas mad.

Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
Idylls of the King | Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1859-1886