NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Ban of Benwick

Bane, Bans, Bando, Bano, Liban, Pant

The French kings Ban and his brother Bors, who were wedded to the sisters Elaine and Evaine, sons of King Lancelot, brother also of Gwenbaus and, some say, Nestor. He was the father of Lancelot of the Lake and Hector of the Fens.

Ban and Bors were two of Arthur’s major allies in his wars against the rebel kings at the beginning of his reign. It was largely through their assistance that Arthur won the battle of Bedegraine against the first rebel alliance. Ban and Bors returned to their own kingdoms, however (Ban fathering Ector de Maris along the way, with Agravadain the Black’s wife), before the second alliance of rebel kings reared its head.

His realm was on the Continent and, in return for his assistance, Arthur was to aid him against his foe, King Claudas. Arthur failed to pay back the favor and come to France in time to help Ban and Bors. Escaping with his queen, Elaine, and their infant son Lancelot, Ban looked back, saw his castle at Trebes in flames, and died, probably of heart seizure. Elaine, hurrying to her husband, left young Lancelot unattended for a few moments, and Viviane, the French Damsel of the Lake, appropriated him. Ban’s wife retired to a nunnery. Lancelot later returned and drove Claudas away.

Ban’s wife is usually called Elaine but, in French medieval romance Roman des fils du roi Constant, she is named Sabe. In that romance, he has a daughter called Liban (Libanor). His son Lancelot became Arthur’s chief knight.

It has been suggested that Ban was, in origin, the god Bran and the name Ban de Benoic (Ban of Benwick) was a corruption of Bran le Benoit. Ban’s name has also been connected with Irish bán (white).

His earliest existing appearance is found in Chrétien’s Lancelot, though he probably appeared in the archetypal Lancelot romance (now lost) on which Chrétien’s story and the Vulgate Lancelot are based. Chrétien calls him the king of Gomeret, but he is more widely known, through the Vulgate Lancelot and Malory, as the ruler of Benoic (Benwick) in France. The Grail histories trace his lineage to Nascien, Joseph of Arimathea’s companion.

As allies (or subjects) of Uther Pendragon and Arthur, Ban and his brother Bors helped the Arthur repel the Saxons, quell a rebellion led by several British rulers, and win the war against Rome. In return, the Pendragons assisted the brothers against their mortal enemy, King Claudas of the Land Laid Waste. During his adventures with Arthur, Merlin caused Ban to fall in love with the daughter of the Lord of the Castle of the Fens, who gave birth to Hector.

Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, who uses the form Pant, describes the king as a tryant who was overthrown and slain by his barons. This characterization of Ban is also found in the Livre d’Artus. Bauduin Butor makes Ban Arthur’s great uncle by naming the wife of Constantine, Arthur’s grandfather, as Ivoire, Ban’s sister. Butor gives Ban a daughter named Libanor with the Lady Sabe.

Ban’s sword was called Courechouse (Coreuseus).

King Ban’s Family and Retainer

King Bors and Gwenbaus

Queen Elaine of Benwick

Damsel des Mares

Lancelot (by Elaine) and Ector de Maris (by Damsel de Mares)

Queen Evaine

Sir Bors de Ganis and Lionel

Pharien de Trebes

See also
Ban’s Crown | The Legend of King Arthur
Ban of Gomeret | The Legend of King Arthur

Lancelot, or Le Chevalier de la Charrete | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Lanzelet | Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, c. 1200
Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Le Livre d’Artus | Early 13th century
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin, 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Unknown title of a French prose | Baudin Butor, c. 1290
Arthour and Merlin | Late 13th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470