When it comes to the Arthurian myths, there are hardly more important figures in the life of King Arthur than his own father, Uther Pendragon. He was one of the most legendary kings of the Roman-Britain kingdom and his legacy goes all the way back to very classic and old Welsh poems, cementing his place as one of the most significant individuals out of all this mythology.
Uther Pendragon was known in those early Welsh poems as Wthyr Pendragon, carrying the nickname of the “Terrible Chief-Warrior” and he was the youngest son of King Constantine, whose throne had been taken over by a traitor named Vortigern.
Many years later, Uther would succeed his brother Ambrosius as the King of Britain, falling in love with the woman Igraine and engaging in war with her husband, Gorlois. It would be during this conflict that the magician Merlin would appear, using his powers to transform Uther Pendragon into Igraine’s husband, Gorlois, and conceive Arthur.
Igraine and Uther would get married by the end of the war, after Gorlois was murdered in battle and was buried in Stonehenge.
The Literary Evolution
If one is to look at the first historical records of Uther Pendragon’s existence, we have to say that the first said record was written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the Historia Regum Britanniae, also known as History of the Kings of Britain and was written in 1136, thus becoming the main source of information regarding Uther and we can safely say that the vast majority of this character’s mythos are based on this particular source.
Of course, this being a historical figure with so many influences of mythology and other elements of a similar vein, it’s fairly complicated to theorize on the true nature of Uther Pendragon as a person and as a ruler, but there are multiple interpretations of his character that state that he was a loving husband and father, plus a very protective ruler.
There have been also multiple discussions and debates about when was Arthur conceived and that plays a somewhat important role on the Arthurian myths because if he was conceived during the war, then he could be considered an illegitimate son, but if he was conceived afterwards, then he was not. These are the details worth taking into consideration because it can make a major difference about how the character grew and developed throughout the years in that particular timeframe.
One of the most interesting aspects of this particular subject is the fact that in the myths where Uther (obviously disguised as Gorlois) and Igraine conceived Arthur during the war, the former took his time to let her know about the truth, mostly out of fun–according to the historical records, Uther Pendragon was a bit of a joker and that is why he was trying to avoid telling her the facts.
Uther took about a year and a half to tell the big news, which was actually a pleasant surprise for Igraine, who was very unhappy with Gorlois’ decisions that led to his demise and was abashed in knowing that she bore the child of the love of her life.
Uther Pendragon led many conflicts, was part of many wars and was an instrumental figure in young Arthur’s life, thus becoming one of the most significant figures as far as the Arthurian myths goes.
Jason is the editor-in-chief of ArthurLegends.com and the primary author of the Arthurian Shared Universe. He has a deep love of British history and mythology, especially relating to Celtic and Arthurian traditions (obviously). He spends most of his days in made-up worlds.