Excalibur is the finest sword ever crafted by Tom the blacksmith. It was burnished in Kilgharrah's fiery breath at Merlin's request, imbuing it with the power to kill anything, mortal or magical, living or dead.
Though Merlin promised Kilgharrah that Excalibur would be wielded by Arthur alone, he failed to prevent Uther from using it and was forced to hide the sword where no mortal man would ever find it. He first hid it at the bottom of the Lake of Avalon, then lodged it in a stone in the Forest of Ascetir. It remained there until it was retrieved by Arthur.
Creation and Concealment
When Arthur challenged the Black Knight to a duel, Merlin went to the library to search for information on weapons that could kill the dead. He was assisted by Geoffrey, who showed him a fable about a sword that had been begotten in a dragon's breath.
Though reluctant at first, Kilgharrah agreed to burnish the sword after Merlin promised that it would be wielded by Arthur alone. Unfortunately, Uther and Gaius had already carried out their own plan to save Arthur's life by drugging him. Consequently, it was Uther, not Arthur, who wielded the sword against the Black Knight.
Kilgharrah was furious, claiming that in Uther's hands the sword would bring only evil. Because it could not be destroyed, he ordered Merlin to take it far away from Camelot, to a place where no mortal man would ever find it.
When Camelot was conquered by Morgause and Morgana's immortal army, Merlin, Arthur, and their allies were forced to go into hiding. Merlin took the Avalon Vial with him, which the Fisher King had said would provide help in Albion's hour of need.
Merlin experimented with the vial using his magic, but whatever help it could provide remained a mystery until he accidentally broke it. Its water formed a small puddle in a crevice of rock and allowed him to contact Freya's spirit, who explained that the Cup of Life had made Morgana's army immortal by transforming them into the living dead. She also reminded Merlin that Excalibur was the only weapon that could kill the dead.
Freya retrieved Excalibur from the bottom of the Lake of Avalon and returned it to Merlin, who later willed the sword during Arthur's attempt to free his father from the castle dungeons. While searching for the Cup of Life with Lancelot, Merlin used the sword to kill many immortal soldiers and later used it to knock the Cup from its pedestal, spilling the blood it contained and destroying the immoral army.
When he had taken Merlin to retrieve the sword from the lake, Kilgharrah had repeated his warning that it could cause great evil in the wrong hands. He also made Merlin promise him that he would find a new hiding place for it when its task was complete. As such, after Camelot was retaken, Merlin took Excalibur to the Forest of Ascetir and placed it in a large stone (The Coming of Arthur).
The Sword in the Stone
One year later, Morgana launched a second attack on Camelot, forcing Merlin and Arthur to go into hiding. They journeyed to Ealdor with smugglers Tristan and Isolde, but were forced to flee from there as well after Agravaine and his men picked up their trail.
Disheartened by yet another betrayal, Arthur lost faith in himself and felt that he didn't deserve to be king. To restore his confidence, Merlin located the rest of Camelot's survivors and gathered them together at the stone where he'd previously hidden Excalibur.
He took Arthur there the next day, and as they walked, he told him a story about how his ancestor, the first King of Camelot, had thrust his sword into a stone before he'd died. That way, if his lineage were ever questioned, the sword would form a test, as it could only be pulled free from a true King of Camelot.
When they reunited with the others, Merlin coaxed Arthur into trying to pull the sword from the stone. He failed, but Merlin told him to have faith and to believe that he was destined to become Albion's greatest king. When he was sure that Arthur believed in himself, Merlin used his magic to help Arthur free Excalibur before all of Camelot's survivors.
With Its Rightful Owner
Merlin (disguised as Dragoon) took Excalibur with him when he confronted the Dochraid about freeing Gwen from the Teine Diaga. When she refused to cooperate, he threatened her with the sword and slashed her arm, compelling her to tell him all that she knew. Later, when the Dochraid attacked him as he was leaving, Merlin responded by stabbing her, leaving her badly injured (With All My Heart).
Camlann and Aftermath
Excalibur was Arthur's weapon of choice in the Battle of Camlann. He fought many Saxons with it and later used it to kill Mordred, though not before being mortally wounded himself. Merlin later retrieved Excalibur from the battlefield along with Arthur and took it with them on their journey to the Lake of Avalon, where he hoped the Sidhe would heal Arthur.
They were ambushed by Morgana along the way, who attacked Merlin with her magic and taunted Arthur about his approaching death. Before she could do anything more, however, Merlin confronted her with Excalibur. Confident that no mortal blade could kill her, Morgana made no move to defend herself and was consequently killed when Merlin ran her through.
Merlin summoned Kilgharrah to carry them the rest of the way, but Arthur succumbed to his wounds before they reached Avalon. Heartbroken, Merlin cast Excalibur back into the lake and watched as Freya caught it in her hand and drew it back under the water. He then placed Arthur's body in a boat and set it adrift on the lake (The Diamond of the Day).
Because it was burnished in dragon's breath, Excalibur had the power to kill the immortal and undead. Uther, for example, was able to use it to kill a wraith, and Merlin used it to battle an immortal army, injure the Dochraid, and kill Morgana (Excalibur, The Coming of Arthur, With All My Heart, The Diamond of the Day).
Even without its magical properties, Excalibur was an exceptionally fine blade. After he used it to kill Tristan de Bois, Uther commented that it was the finest sword he'd ever used, and Arthur was similarly impressed when he wielded it for the first time (Excalibur, The Sword in the Stone).
- Series 1
- Series 3
- The Coming of Arthur: Part Two
- Series 4
- The Darkest Hour: Part One (Appears in visions)
- The Sword in the Stone: Part Two
- Series 5
- Arthur's Bane: Part Two
- With All My Heart
- The Diamond of the Day: Part Two
- Excalibur was never referred to by its name within the series.
- According to Gaius, the inscriptions on Excalibur's blade read "take me up" on one side and "cast me away" on the other (Excalibur).
- The only people to have wielded Excalibur are Uther, Merlin, and Arthur (Excalibur, The Coming of Arthur, The Sword in the Stone).
- Merlin, Kilgharrah, Uther, Gaius, Gwen, and Lancelot are the only people who knew of the sword's existence before Arthur pulled it from the stone (Excalibur, The Coming of Arthur, The Sword in the Stone).
- Morgana's use of Aithusa's breath to burnish a sword is likely a reference to her making a "false Excalibur" to bring about Arthur's downfall in the legends (The Diamond of the Day).
- The design for Excalibur is likely based on the real-life ceremonial sword of King Sancho IV, ruler of Castille, Spain. The sword dates to 1284 and is a Oakeshott Type XII sword currently housed at Cathedral Primada in Toledo, Spain. The sword has a classic cross mount with slightly curved fallen arms and a lobed knob.
- The runes seen on Excalibur are Anglo-Saxon runes, also known as Futhorc runes. They unfortunately do not translate properly into Old English like intended, but there is evidence of an attempt to say "ahefe mé ufeweard" and "áweorpan mé forþweg" in Old English, which translates to "lift me up" and "cast me away."
In The Legend
Excalibur (sometimes called Caliburn) is the legendary sword of King Arthur in Arthurian Legend. Initially, it was said to be the same sword that Arthur pulled from the stone to prove that he was the rightful heir of Uther Pendragon. Many later legends, however, give this role to his peace-sword (Clarent), and his war-sword (Excalibur) was instead said to have been given to him later in his reign by the Lady of the Lake.
In the sword-in-the-stone motif, England is thrown into chaos after Uther dies with no heir to succeed him and various nobles begin fighting over the throne. Merlin is eventually called upon to find a solution, and he does so by placing Excalibur into an anvil atop a stone, saying that only the true King of Britain would have the power to pull it free. Some years later, while serving as his adoptive brother Kay's squire at a tournament, Arthur discovers that Kay's sword is missing and pulls Excalibur from the anvil to replace it. Though Kay initially tries to take credit for the sword, no one believes him, and with Merlin's help Arthur is recognized as the rightful king.
In other legends, Arthur receives Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake after his original sword is broken. It was crafted for him in Avalon and as such has magical powers. Its scabbard, for example, prevents any wounds received by the wearer from bleeding. In some stories, this scabbard is stolen by Morgan Le Fay in revenge for the death of her beloved Accolon, which later enables Arthur's death at the Battle of Camlann. Before he dies, Arthur instructs a knight (either Griflet or Bedivere) to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. (In the series, it is Merlin who does this.)
The etymology for the modern English of "Excalibur" can be tracked back to the Old French "Escalibor," which in turn tracks to the Latin "Caliburnus" used by Geoffrey of Monmouth. "Caliburnus" means "hard cleft" and can be tracked back to the original Old Welsh name for the sword, "Caledbulch." This is similar to another magic sword in Irish mythology, Caladbolg.