Derfel Cadarn

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Derfel Cadarn
The Warlord Chronicles character
First appearanceThe Winter King
Last appearanceExcalibur: A Novel of Arthur
Created byBernard Cornwell
Information
AliasesWygga (birth name),Warrior of the Cauldron, Leader of The Wolftails,
GenderMale
OccupationWarrior, Soldier, Champion, Monk
TitleLord Derfel Cadarn, Champion of Dumnonia, Brother Derfel
FamilyAelle (Father)
Erce (Mother)
Linna (Half-Sister)
Several Half-Brothers
Arthur-Bach (Grandson)
Seren II (Granddaughter)
Spouse(s)Lunete- former love
Nimue - former love
Ceinwyn - "Wife"
ChildrenMorwenna (daughter)
Seren (daughter,deceased)
Dian (daughter,deceased)
Unnamed Sons (deceased)
 
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Derfel Cadarn
The Warlord Chronicles character
First appearanceThe Winter King
Last appearanceExcalibur: A Novel of Arthur
Created byBernard Cornwell
Information
AliasesWygga (birth name),Warrior of the Cauldron, Leader of The Wolftails,
GenderMale
OccupationWarrior, Soldier, Champion, Monk
TitleLord Derfel Cadarn, Champion of Dumnonia, Brother Derfel
FamilyAelle (Father)
Erce (Mother)
Linna (Half-Sister)
Several Half-Brothers
Arthur-Bach (Grandson)
Seren II (Granddaughter)
Spouse(s)Lunete- former love
Nimue - former love
Ceinwyn - "Wife"
ChildrenMorwenna (daughter)
Seren (daughter,deceased)
Dian (daughter,deceased)
Unnamed Sons (deceased)

Derfel Cadarn ("Derfel the Mighty") is a fictional character and the protagonist in The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. He is a straightforward and gifted warrior who is loyal and trustworthy. He is a highly fictionalized version of Saint Derfel Gadarn of Wales.

Biography

Born of a Saxon woman named Erce and the Angle warlord Aelle, Derfel and his mother were captured in a raid by Britons and enslaved. Their British captors were later raided by the British King of Siluria, Gundleus, and his Druid, Tanaburs. Derfel was to be one of twelve sacrifices to the gods as a tribute from the victorious raiders. Derfel survived being thrown into the "Death Pit" and is henceforth considered by Merlin to be favoured by the gods. Having survived the failed sacrifice, he is also entitled to take the life of the Druid Tanaburs.

Derfel was then adopted by Merlin into his community on the Tor at Ynys Wydryn (the isle of Avalon, modern Glastonbury) where he became friends with Nimue, otherwise known as Vivien, another child believed to be touched by the gods and Merlin's apprentice. He was present at Caer Cadarn for the birth of Mordred, and was sent to Morgan when Christian priests were unable to safely orchestrate the child's birth. He then traveled to the meeting at Glevum where the guardians of Mordred were selected. Following the death of Uther the Tor was attacked by Gundleus, and Derfel was forced to escape with Nimue. While escaping he took the sword of his dead swordmaster Hywel and later named it "Hywelbane" after his dead master. On the way to Caer Cadarn, Derfel killed his first man when the convoy was attacked by sentries and Derfel goes to attack them. Derfel then meets Arthur for the first time in front of Caer Cadarn.

Derfel joined Modred's guardian Owain's troops, and participated in an illegal raid on Kernow for which Owain is later killed in a duel against Arthur. Derfel then joined Arthur's spearmen and after several years became one of Arthur's warlords and acquired the surname of Cadarn, which means "powerful". Derfel took his troops to Brittany in place of Arthur in order to help fortify King Ban at Ynys Trebes (Mont Saint-Michel) against the Franks. Derfel met Lancelot and Galahad, and found Merlin in Ynys Trebes. When the city was taken and destroyed by the Franks, Galahad returned to Dumnonia with Derfel and Merlin on Merlin's boat.

Upon returning to Dumnonia, Derfel rescued Nimue from the Isle of the Dead (Portland Bill), which is where the insane were exiled. After rescuing Nimue, he fought in the desperate battle at Lugg Vale against the combined armies of Powys and Siluria. After Arthur's army won the battle, Princess Ceinwyn of Powys, who had previously been betrothed to Arthur until his elopement with Guinevere, chooses Derfel and they become, in essence, husband and wife. Under an oath to Merlin he and a small contingent of his warriors aided Merlin in a successful quest for the most powerful of the thirteen mythical Treasures of Britain, a Cauldron (based on the Quest for the Holy Grail). Afterward, Derfel continued his warlord duties to Arthur, fighting in numerous battles against the Saxons in eastern England, and against Lancelot's rebellion. In the third book, Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur, Derfel plays a crucial role at the battle of Myndd Baddon. In this battle Derfel slays his father Aelle, following the prophecy "that a son will kill his father". His final action was at the Battle of Camlann in which Arthur was taken away in an enchanted boat after being, apparently, mortally wounded. This was the epic battle between Arthur and Mordred, the latter one to be killed in this battle. At this point Derfel only had 40 of his warriors left.

In his old age, Derfel retires to a monastery in Powys where he befriends the queen of Powys, Igraine, wife of King Brochvael of Powys who also happens to be the grand nephew of Derfel's life partner, Ceinwyn. The queen asks him to write his story for her, and Derfel writing his memoirs forms the frame of the series. Sansum, the Christian bishop in charge of the monastery, was an enemy of Derfel's for many years who wanted Derfel to convert to Christianity. Sansum hates paganism and is particularly antagonistic towards the story of Arthur, so Derfel pretends that he is writing the Gospel in Saxon when he writes down the story of Arthur for Igraine. Derfel only converted to Christianity under duress - he had to sever his connection with Nimue and convert in order to save Ceinwyn from a deadly curse - and became bound to obey Sansum. As Derfel writes his story he begins to re-convert back to paganism, revealing that the he organised a pagan burial for Ceinwyn (who converted to Christianity with him) and through his writings requests that Igraine will also grant him a pagan burial. As the novels progress it becomes apparent that the Saxons are approaching Derfel's monastery. As an ex-warrior, Derfel is ordered by the bishop Sansum to defend the monastery. It is at this point that Sansum gives Derfel his old sword 'Hywelbane' back. Although it is not written, it is reasonable to surmise that Derfel dies a warriors death and "crosses the bridge of swords" to meet his family and his spearmen in the Otherworld. As Merlins says, "fate is inexorable."

Relationships

Throughout the story Derfel is involved with numerous women, but three are featured most prominently. His youthful relationship with an Irish girl named Lunete rapidly becomes unhappy and they part company but remain civil in later meetings. Derfel has, during most of his youth, a burning love for Nimue that is mostly not returned, and in his old age he admits that he tried to preserve her memory as the young and wild girl he loved, not the harsh and miserable woman she became as result of her obsession with magic power, and of fulfilling Merlin's own ambition of restoring the old pagan religion. He later fell in love with Princess Ceinwyn of Powys, and eventually they lived as husband and wife, and she became the mother of all his children, although they never formally married.

Trivia

Derfel bears a strong resemblance to Sir Bedivere. Like Derfel, Bedivere is one of Arthur's closest advisers and friends, is one-handed (in Welsh legends) and in many versions of the legends, casts Excalibur into the sea after the Battle of Camlann.