Uther Pendragon

The father of Arthur by Ygerna, by means of intrigue arranged by Merlin.

Uther spent his youth in Breton exile and returns with his brother Aurelius Ambrosius to Britain to dethrone Vortigern. Aurelius becomes king and sends Uther and Merlin to Ireland to bring back the Giant's Ring (Stonehenge). After his death, by poison, Uther becomes king and holds court in London. He desires Ygerna, the wife of Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall, but the latter, observing the king's advances, leaves without permission and immures his wife in Tintagel Castle. Taking his conduct as an insult, Uther leads an army to ravage the ducal lands.

Merlin magically turns Uther into a replica of Gorlois and he is thus able to enter Tintagel. He lays with Ygerna, who supposes him to be her husband, and Arthur is begotten. The real Gorlois dies on the battlefield and Uther is free to resume his true shape and marry Ygerna.

The remainder of his life is troubled by ill health and aggressive Saxons. Some sixteen year later he dies, like his brother, by Saxon poison. He was buried beside Aurelius at Stonehenge.

In Welsh tradition his name was known before the time of Geoffrey of Monmouth but there is no proof that he was a real person. The Welsh Uthr means "terrible, awe-inspiring," and the connection with Arthur could be a mere mistake, since "Arthur the terrible" might have been misconstrued as "Arthur son of Uthr."

Welsh uthr, "terrible;" pen, "head;" dragon, "leader."



  • Lacy, Norris J., ed. (1996). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland.
  • MacKillop, James. (2004). Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.