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Sir Lancelot (or Launcelot) du Lac is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is typically considered to be one of the greatest and most trusted of King Arthur's knights and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories. He is perhaps most famous for being intimate with Arthur's wife Guinevere and the role he plays in the search for the Holy Grail.
Lancelot's life and adventures are featured in several Medieval romances, often with conflicting backstories and chains of events. His first appearance as a main character is in Chrétien de Troyes' Le Chevalier de la Charette, or "Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart", dating from the 12th century. In the 13th century, he figures prominently in the lengthy Vulgate Cycle, with the majority of his more famous exploits occurring in the section known as the Prose Lancelot.
Lancelot's literary origins are rather mysterious. Prior to his appearance in the works of Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot is virtually unknown. Scholar Roger Sherman Loomis suggests that Lancelot is related to the Welsh hero Llwch Llenlleawg ("Llwch of the Striking Hand") from Culhwch and Olwen.
Lancelot may have instead been the hero of an independent folk-tale which had contact with and was ultimately absorbed into the Arthurian tradition: the theft of an infant by a water-fairy, the appearance of the hero at a tournament on three consecutive days in three different disguises, and the rescue of a queen or princess from an Other-World prison are all features of a well-known and widespread tale, variants of which are found in almost every land, and numerous examples of which have been collected by Emmanuel Cosquin in his Contes Lorrains, and by J. F. Campbell in his Tales of the West Highlands. Lancelot was said to have coal black hair, tanned skin and a handsome face.
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