Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia



The title character of a thirteenth-century Dutch romance.

In his original inception, Morien seems to have been the son of Perceval, but the author of the existing text – apparently in light of Perceval’s advertised virginity in the Vulgate romances – makes him the son of Aglovale, Perceval’s brother.

A huge Moor, Morien was conceived when his father visited his mother, a Moorish princess with Christian beliefs, in an Arabian kingdom, but Aglovale left the princess Sebile before the birth. Aglovale promised to return to her but did not.

Morien himself is depicted as a black Moorish knight – his mother is described as “black as ink” in some versions of the story – and he plays a minor but significant role in the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Morien possesses great strength and skill in combat, he is intelligent and resourceful, able to outsmart his opponents on several occasions. When he came of age (about thirteen), he embarked on a search for his father.

His quest led him into contact with Lancelot and Gawain, who at Arthur’s behest were searching for Perceval. Morien is able to overcome Sir Gawain in battle. When he is asked about his prowess, Morien reveals his mixed heritage and explains that he was raised in the Moorish court of his mother’s people, where he learned the art of combat and developed his formidable abilities.

After saving Gawain’s life, Morien reunited his parents and saw his father crowned king of his homeland.

Morien is occasionally depicted with his own shield. The design of his shield can differ, but it often incorporates elements relecting his Moorish lineage, such as tribal motifs or symbols associated with his heroic deed.

It is thought the romance was based on a French original in which Percivale was the father of Moriaen. Aspects of Morien’s story recall Feirefiz of India from Wolfram’s Parzival.

Moriaen | Mid to late 13th century