Lile, Lady of the Lake and Avelion
The first Lady of the Lake mentioned by Malory is Lady Lile. She is the one that gives Arthur his sword Excalibur.
She is later killed at Arthur's court, beheaded by Balin. Balin takes her head and sends it via his squire to friends in
Northumberland with the message that Balin has eliminated his most formidable enemy.
Malory gives a confused discussion of the feud killings, enchantment and sorcery to explain the killing. Lady Lile
comes to Arthur's court and reminds him of his pledge to her for receiving Excalibur. She asks for the head of the knight
that succeeded in drawing the magic sword brought by the damsel or else the damsel's head; although she desires both -
for the knight slew her brother and the damsel was the causer of her father's death. Arthur decides that he can not fulfill
her wishes but that she could ask for something else. In the meantime, Balin sees the Lady whom Malory states that Balin had
sought for three years because she had caused the death of his mother. Balin comes before the court and in front of the king, he
accuses the Lady and strikes off her head. Arthur is shamed and banishes Balin from his court. For the shame of having failed to
protect a guest that he was indebted to, Arthur buries Lady Lile richly.
Malory has Merlin explain the falseness
of the maiden that came bearing the sword but not any further detail as to the truth or lack of the charges Lady Lile makes to
Arthur or that Balin makes before murdering her. Balin claims that the Lady used enchantment and sorcery to destroy many
good knights and that through treachery and falsehood, to have Balin's mother burnt. In other words, she must have
appeared and bore witness against Balin's mother. The only crime that I am aware of that is associated with burning
was witchcraft. Most story lines associate the Lady of the Lake as female head of a druidic order (or an order similar to the
warrior queens listed in the Irish annals that trained warriors such as Cuchulain) still surviving in the 5-6th century. Anyone
practicing any supernatural art or religion not of the Roman church was considered a witch, so Malory presents us with a
dilemma. To have borne witness against another for a crime punishable by burning, the individual must have been of high
enough rank and position that their word was accepted as fact but that would have been impossible if the person was directly
associated with druidic practices or was under any suspicion for the same skills of enchantment and sorcery. We can possibly
understand that there existed a blood feud between Lady Lile's family and Balin's and that up until this point, Balin
had suffered the worse, even to being imprisoned by Arthur for the death of his cousin (was the cousin of Arthur mentioned the
brother of Lady Lile?); but it is more difficult to understand that if the damsel was the causer of Lady Lile's father, why did
she provide her with the enchanted sword to find a champion?