Ban // is the King of Benwick or Benoic in Arthurian legend, specifically the Lancelot propre of the Vulgate Cycle. He is the father of Sir Lancelot and Sir Hector de Maris, the brother of King Bors, and an early ally of King Arthur.
Role in Arthurian romances
Ban's wife Elaine is the sister to King Bors' wife Evaine. Together they beget Lancelot, but while travelling in Britain in support of King Arthur, Ban sleeps with the Lady de Maris, who becomes pregnant with Hector de Maris, Lancelot's half-brother.
Ban and Bors are eventually killed by their enemy, the Frankish king Claudas, and Lancelot is taken by the Lady of the Lake to her abode, where he is later joined by Bors the Elder's sons Lionel and Bors the Younger. When the children grow up and become Knights of the Round Table, they aid Arthur in finally defeating Claudas and reclaiming their fathers' land.
Origin in Welsh myth
According to Roger Sherman Loomis, "Ban is usually called Ban of Benoic, easily accounted for as a misunderstanding of Bran le Benoit, an exact translation of the Welsh Bendigeid Bran, or 'Bran the Blessed'." That is, the Vulgate author has misread and misconstrued the Old French benoit (='blessed') to be the name of a non-existent realm Benoic - of which he deduces King B(r)an to have been the ruler. The name Ban de Benoic / Benewic is also found in mutated form as Pant von Genewis (scribal error where initial 'B' misread as 'G') in another early Arthurian text treating of the hero Lancelot, namely the Lanzelet of Ulrich von Zatzikhoven.
As professors Loomis and Helaine Newstead and Loomis have demonstrated, there is a tendency for individual figures from Celtic mythology to yield multiple characters in Arthurian romances and this process is apparent in the number of Arthurian characters whose names and/or attributes can be traced back to the gigantic king (see also Fisher King) and probable deity, Brân, whose exploits are recounted in Branwen ferch Llŷr (see also Llŷr), the second of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion. Newstead wrote: "The evidence concerning Ban, though it survives in obscure and refractory forms, nevertheless preserves connections with Baudemaguz, Brangor, Bron and Corbenic."
Loomis believed one of the authors of the Vulgate Lancelot to have preserved the memory of two figures from Welsh myth through their relation to Welsh toponyms: if it be accepted that the character of King Ban is indeed derived (as noted above) from Brân the Blessed, it follows that the Kingdom of King Ban is to be equated with the 'Land of Brân', which in Welsh designates the northeast of Wales. Abutting on the 'Land of Brân' was the 'Retreat of Gwri' (now known as the Wirral peninsula). Loomis suggested that the name Bohours de Gannes given to the brother of King Ban / Brân in the Vulgate text is part scribal error ('Bohours' for an original, 'Gwri'-derived 'Gohours') and part geographical rationalization (substitution of 'Gannes' for 'Galles', i.e. of 'Gaul' for 'Wales').
- Loomis, Roger Sherman, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance first pub. Columbia University Press 1926 and reprinted by Constable and Company Limited 1993 ISBN 0 09 472800 3
- Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages : A Collaborative History ed. Roger Sherman Loomis, pub. Oxford University Press 1959, special edition for Sandpiper Books Ltd. 2001, ISBN 0 19 811588 1 p. 297.
- Newstead, Professor Helaine H., Bran the Blessed in Arthurian Romance pub. Columbia University Press 1939
- Loomis, Roger Sherman, Arthurian Tradition And Chrétien de Troyes pub. Columbia University Press, New York 1948.