Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Arthurian Classes and Roles


In Arthurian legends, children play multifaceted roles, often beyond mere innocence and vulnerability. Guenevere’s resourcefulness shines through when she employs a child as a messenger, demonstrating the practical regard for their capabilities. Unlike modern sentimental portrayals, Arthurian children were not shielded from the realities of the world but were given responsibilities early on.


The term “clerk” in Arthurian legends likely refers to literate individuals who managed records and ensured adherence to etiquette. While their roles may have overlapped with clergy, clerks were not necessarily holy figures but rather individuals skilled in reading and writing, serving essential functions in courts before the era of printing.


Dwarves, often depicted as servants, occupy a distinct role in Arthurian narratives, occasionally displaying intelligence and resourcefulness beyond their stature. Their origins may be rooted in conquered races or mythological tales of transformation.

And then when [Sir Gringamore] saw Sir Beaumains fast asleep, he came stilly stalking behind the dwarf, and plucked him fast under his arm, and so he rode away with him as fast as ever he might unto his own castle.

Malory VII, 19

In a daring feat of courage and determination, Dame Elyzabel embarked on a perilous mission from Britain to Gaul, accompanied ónly by a squire and a dwarf. This trio faced the challenges of the journey head-on, illustrating the resilience and resourcefulness of Arthurian characters.

In another intriguing encounter, Gareth and his damsel sought refuge at a pavilion where the master was absent, leaving the dwarf in charge. Despite acting with courtesy and hospitality, the dwarf faced underserved punishment upon the master’s return. Gareth intervened, asserting justice and respect for the dwarf’s integrity, showcasing the complexities of master-dwarf relationships in Arthurian tales.


Giants, characterized by their varying sizes and often depicted as separate races, add a sense of wonder and peril to Arthurian adventures. Their presence hints at ancient conflicts and enigmatic origins, enriching the tapestry of Arthurian lore.

Hermits, Monks and Nuns

Arthurian legends feature figures of religious devotion, ranging from hermits and monks to nuns. These individuals offer spiritual guidance, perform healing arts, and sometimes participate actively in the quests and adventures alongside knights.

Messengers, Pursuivants

Messengers in Arthurian tales come from diverse backgrounds, including damsels, dwarves, clerks, and even children, tasked with conveying crucial information across the realm. Their roles extend beyond mere delivery, often influencing the course of events.


Minstrels, skilled in the art of song and storytelling, serve as conveyors of history and culture in Arthurian society. Their performances evoke emotions and provoke reactions, sometimes stirring conflict or inspiring valor.

Sorcerers, Necromancers, Enchantresses

Characters with mystical abilities, such as sorcerers and enchantresses, add an element of magic and intrigue to Arthurian narratives. Their actions shape destinies and test the resolve of heroes, blurring the lines between the natural and supernatural.


Squires, both aspirants to knighthood and lifelong attendants, play essential roles in supporting knights in their quests and battles. Their loyalty, skill, and friendship often prove invaluable on the journey to chivalry.

Surgeons, Leeches

Healers and medical practitioners, including surgeons and leeches, provde crucial aid to wounded knights and nobles. Their knowledge of herbs and remedies contributes to the physical well-being of Arthurian characters.


Varlets, or attendants to military leaders, fulfill various duties, from serving at the table to carrying shields and spears. While often overlooked, their contribution are essential to the functioning of Arthurian courts and armies.


Vavasours, feudal tenants ranking below barons, hold respectable positions in Arthurian society, often portrayed as noble knights with beautiful daughters or ambitious sons. Their roles highlight the diversity of social classes within the realm.


Woman in Arthurian legends defy stereotypes, portraying intelligence, independence, and strength. They venture freely, participate in quests, and wield influence over knights and kings, challenging traditional gender roles of medieval society.