Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Two entries with the name Fortune.


A castle in Wales where Lancelot slew a knight.

Prose Tristan | 1230-1240


Lady Fortune, Lady Love

Often personified as a woman in Arthurian romance: “Lady Fortune” and “Lady Love” are often named as the controllers of knights’ destinies.

In Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Crône, however, Lady Fortune appears as a corporeal being. She ruled the land of Ordohorht along with her son, Luck. Gawaine visited her splendid palace and found her sitting on a rotating wheel. She provided Gawaine with a magic ring that, as long as Arthur wore it, would protect his court from all harm. Her magic also fashioned a belt worn by Sir Fimbeus, but later taken by Gawaine. She employed a burgrave named Aanzim.

In the Morte Arthure, Arthur dreamt he beheld the maiden Fortune spinning her wheel on which he was placed. The wheel was then twirled about until he was smashed to fragments. He was told that this presaged his downfall.

Symbolism of Fortune

Lady Fortune represents the idea that human lives are subject to the whims of fate, luck, and fortune, which can bring both good and bad outcomes. In medieval thought, Fortune was often depicted as a wheel that turns umpredictably, with individuals rising and falling in fortune as the wheel turns.

Role in Arthurian Romance

Lady Fortune appears in various Arthurian romances, influencing the lives and adventures of King Arthur, his knights, and other characters. She may be invoked by characters facing challenges or seeking guidance, as they grapple with the uncertainties of their circumstances. Lady Fortune’s influence can manifest in both positive and negative ways, shaping the outcomes of battles, quests, and personal struggles.

Moral and Philosophical Themes

Lady Fortune raises questions about the nature of fate, free will, and divine providence in medieval literature. Characters often contemplate the role of Fortune in their lives and wrestle with the idea of whether their destinies are predetermined or subject to their own choices and actions. Arthurian romances explore moral and philosophical themes related to the acceptance of one’s fate, resilience in the face of adversity, and the quest for spiritual enlightenment.

Literary Motifs

Lady Fortune is a recurring motif in medieval literature, appearing not only in Arthurian romances but also in works such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Her presence adds depth and complexity to the narrative, contributing to the themes of fortune, destiny, and the human condition.

Diu Crône | Heinrich von dem Türlin, c. 1230