|Ever heard my middle name before? Probably
not, unless you're into Arthurian legends like my Mum is. Indeed, she is
such a fan that she decided to call me Nimue after the famous enchantress
from the Lake.
Nimue is, like Morgan the Fay, a quite ambiguous character, portrayed differently depending on the sources you consult.
Read more about her below:
(also known as Vivien, Eviene, Viviane, Nineve, Nina, Viviene and Niniane)
was thought to be a "Lady of the Lake". There seems to be more than one
"Lady of the Lake", but in Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Nimue is responsible
for Merlin's downfall. Nimue's father was Diones, a vavasor (a landholder,
but less than a baron). She met Merlin when she was 16 years of age. Merlin
fell in love with Nimue. He was so in love with her that he was constantly
at her side. Nimue accompanied Merlin on a journey so that she might learn
his magic. Knowing that Merlin could take her unwillingly, she made him
swear that he would use no magic to make her lay with him. As they traveled,
Nimue became more and more afraid of Merlin's advances. In some versions
of the legend, Nimue traded her love for lessons in sorcery. Merlin foresaw
his own death, but was so smitten with Nimue that he was helpless to avert
his own tragic end. There are different versions of his death. One version
has Nimue tiring of him and turning one of his own spells against him and
seals him in a cave forever. Other versions have her trapping him in a
bush or Hawthorne tree where his voice is sometimes heard. Some tales have
him living forever in his confinement and others tell of his death or his
descension into madness.
After Merlin's imprisonment,
Nimue took on the aspect of being King Arthur's counselor and advisor.
She became the lover of Sir Pelleas, whom she married. (Text
|Vivien, sometimes called Nineve, Nimue, Niniane, etc., is best known as the woman who seals Merlin in a cave or a tree. Despite foreseeing his fate, Merlin is unable to prevent being captivated and captured by the woman Richard Wilbur has called "a creature to bewitch a sorcerer." In Malory, for example, even though Nyneve, who is one of the Ladies of the Lake, deprives Arthur of Merlin's service, she rescues him twice, first by saving him from Accolon who has been given Excalibur by Morgan le Fay to use against Arthur, and then by preventing him from donning the destructive cloak sent to him by Morgan. She also uses her enchantments to punish Ettarde for her mistreatment of Pelleas. In the end she and Pelleas "lovede togedyrs duryng their lyfe." The character is ambiguous even in her earliest appearances. In the French Vulgate Estoire de Merlin, she loves the enchanter and seals him in a beautiful tower, magically constructed, so that she can keep him always for herself. She visits him regularly and grants her love to him. In the continuation to the Vulgate Merlin, known as the Suite du Merlin, the relationship is very different. When Merlin shows her a tomb of two lovers, magically sealed, she enchants him and has him cast into the tomb on top of the two lovers, whereupon she reseals the tomb and Merlin dies a slow death. Tennyson turns Vivien into the epitome of evil. Though borrowing much from Tennyson, Edwin Arlington Robinson, in the poem, Merlin, makes Merlin's "captivity" voluntary, and his Vivian is less of an enchantress than an interesting woman whom Merlin truly loves. (Text from here)|
|The 80s John Boorman movie "Excalibur" clings to the version of Nimue (in this case fused with Morgana) as the cunning young enchantress taking advantage of the love-struck older man, while the NBC TV mini series "Merlin" starring Sam Neill and Isabella Rosselini portrays the couple as star-crossed lovers where Merlin must ultimately choose between his love for Nimue and his sworn loyalty to Arthur and his people.|
|Links for scholars, researchers & enthusiasts:|