Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Queen of the Waste Lands

While on the Grail Quest, Galahad encountered Lancelot and Percivale in a “waste forest”, before the hermitage of a female recluse. When Galahad had unhorsed Lancelot and Percivale, the recluse hailed him, saying,

An yonder two knights had known thee as well as I do they would not have encountered with thee.

At this, Galahad departed hastily, lest she reveal his identity. Lancelot also rode off on his own, but Percivale, returning to the hermitess, learned that she was his aunt.

For some called me sometime the Queen of the Waste Lands, and I was called the queen of most riches in the world; and it pleased me never my riches so much as doth my poverty.

She revealed to Percivale that his mother had died, explained to him certain matters concerning the significance of the Round Table and the Sangreal (Grail), and counseled him to find Galahad again, beginning at Goothe Castle,

where he hath a cousin-germain, and there may ye be lodged this night.

Goothe must have been in the vicinity of the queen’s hermitage. If unsuccessful in getting news of Galahad at Goothe, Percivale was to ride on straight to Carbonek.

Lancelot also, later in the Grail Quest, received sound counsel and advice, as well as dinner, from a recluse. Lancelot’s recluse might have been the Queen of the Waste Lands again, or she might have been an entirely different holy woman. She seems to have lived in a deep valley, near a mountain difficult of ascent, with a river in the vicinity – a guess is that the site might conceivably be somewhere in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire.

Presumably the Queen of the Waste Lands who comes with MorganNimue, and the Queen of Norgales to carry Arthur away after the last battle is the same Queen of the Wastle Lands who appears in the Grail Adventures. If so, the presence of a Christian mystic and holy woman with two queens who have generally, up to now, been characterized as wicked enchantresses is very interesting.

From Malory alone, the Queen of the Waste Lands appears to have been Pellam’s wife, the couple living apart for greater purity. Tennyson, though skimming over Elaine of Carbonek and giving his own unsympathetic interpretation of Pellam, seems obliquely to second this theory in the idyll Balin and Balan:

Pellam ... hath pushed aside his faithful wife.

The Vulgate, however, makes her the widow of a man killed in an earlier war – possibly King Lambor, Pellam’s grandfather. This would make her Percivale’s great-great-aunt and quite a venerable, aged dame. Here too she has a son, Dables (Orabiax, Dyabel, etc.) who goes to Pellam to be knighted.

There may also be some connection or confusion between the Queen of the Waste Lands and la Veuve Dame de la Gast Forest Soutaine.