Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Island of Maidens

Isle of Virgins

The term “Island of Maidens” is often associated with the legendary and mythical stories of islands inhabited exclusively by maidens or female figures. Several cultures and mythologies have their own variations of such tales.

Arthurian Legend
In Arthurian legends, the concept of an “Island of Maidens” is not explicitly associated with a single, well-defined location. Instead, various elements and characters in the Arthurian narrative contribute to the notion of mystical islands, enchanted realms, or places inhabited by maidens and magical beings.

In Chrétien’s Yvain and the Welsh Owain, a king is plagued by a pledge to send thirty maidens a year to the Castle of the Most Ill Adventure (Castel of the Hevy Sorow), where they were imprisoned. Yvain (Ywaine) eventually rescued them. In the medieval poem Ywain and Gawain, this location is changed to Maidenland; the Norse Ivens Saga names the King of the Isle of Maidens as Reinion.

Celtic and Norse Mythology
Similar themes of islands inhabited by maidens or goddesses can be found in Celtic and Norse mythologies. For example, in Celtic mythology, there are tales of mystical islands like Emhain Ablach or Tir na nóg, where divine beings or fairies reside. In Norse mythology, the Valkyries, warrior maidens associated with Odin, are sometimes connected to otherwordly islands.

Classical Mythology
Classical mythology also has stories of islands associated with maidens. The Hesperides, nymphs who guarded the golden apples in Greek mythology, were said to dwell on an island in the far west. The mythical island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons in DC Comics, draws inspiration from such mythological themes.

The concept of an “Island of Maidens” often carries symbolic and archetypal significance. It may represent a utopian or otherwordly realm, a place of purity, magic, and feminine power. The maidens or goddesses associated with these islands are sometimes depicted as keepers of sacred knowledge or guardians of the mystical.

Yvain, or Le Chevalier au Lion | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Owain | 13th century