Annowre (Anouwre) is an evil enchantress who desires King Arthur in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d' Arthur. Malory based her on a character from the earlier Prose Tristan, who was named as Elergia in the Italian La Tavola Ritonda.
As told by Thomas Malory, Lady Annowre was a great sorceress from North Wales (Norgalles), who fell in love with King Arthur and tried to seduce him when he came to Cardiff. But when she could not get Arthur to lie down and make love to her even by the means of magic, as he would remain faithful to Guinevere no matter what, she plotted his death.
Lady Annowre entices Arthur to her tower in the heart of the Perilous Forest (Forest Perilous), where every day he is forced to fight for his life. The Lady of the Lake, Nimue (Nineve, Nyneve, etc.), learns of this peril. She finds Tristan (Tristram) and brings him to the tower where they arrive just in time to see two knights defeat Arthur. As Annowre is about to decapitate the king using his own sword, Tristan rushes in and kills her knights. Nimue shouts to Arthur not to let Annowre escape, and the king chases down the sorceress and unceremoniously beheads her with the same sword (in some versions, it is Tristan who cuts her head off). Nimue then hangs Annowre's head by the hair to her saddle as a symbol of victory.
Alan S. Kaufman connected Nimue's taking Annowre head to the classical legend of Medusa, whose head was taken as a trophy by Athena. Patricia Monaghan considered Annowre possibly the double for Morgan. According to Loreto Todd, "Annowre may be related to Aneurin, which is thought to come from Latin honorius; Annowre would thus mean 'honoured woman'." Lucy Allen Paton theorized that Annowre's name might have been related to Morgain (Morgan) and Anna.
According to Carolyne Larrington, Malory's Annowre is the same character as Elergia from La Tavola Ritonda, who herself is "an elaboration of the anonymous sorceress in some Tristan en Prose MSS. (Löseth S74a)." In Tavola Ritonda, Lady Elergia (dama Elergia) is the young and lustful daughter of Lady Escorducarla of Avalon (Vallone, here an isle in the "Sea of Soriano"). Escorducarla, who seems to be the same character as the "Dame d'Avalon" in the Prophecies de Merlin, has the marvelous castle of Great Desire (Grande Disio) created for Elergia to dwell in a dark and dangerous valley within the Forest of Darnantes (Andernantes) near Camelot. Elergia knows the seven arts and the works of magic.
Lady Elergia finds Arthur in the forest and slips an enchanted ring on his finger, causing him to fall in love with her and forget about Guinevere and everything else in the world. More than three months later, the Lady of the Lake finally breaks the spell, sending of one her damsels to find Tristan (Tristram) and help Arthur escape. The damsel and Tristan find the Great Desire, decorated with an imagery of orgies, and by chance come upon Elergia herself and her four brothers in front of the castle just as she orders then to kill the escaping Arthur. The four knights are no match for Tristan, who swiftly slays them all, and the sorceress tries to flee to her castle but the Lady's damsel tells him to capture her. Tristan catches Elergia and drags her by her hair before Arthur, and the king, "thinking of the evil that this damsel could do, and how it could be done to others," takes his sword and smites her head off, which is then taken by the Lady's damsel to Camelot.
Tristan is at first shocked by Arthur's violent act against a maiden, believing such a deed unfitting a good king, but eventually agrees with him after listening to his story. Arthur then tries to have Elergia's castle razed, but finds out it cannot be pulled down; according to Merlin's prophecy, as such a sinful place, that castle would stand until the end of the world, the fall of its great central tower signaling the apocalypse. Elergia's mother, who in her grief becomes the "saddest woman in the world", later obsessively plots revenge on Arthur and all the wandering knights. Escorducarla sends her lover Sir Lasancis (messer Lasancis) with an enchanted lance to trap and burn Tristan, Arthur, and the others in order to avenge her daughter's death, but Tristan defeats him. That story is also told in the poem Cantare di Lasancis.
In modern culture
Annowre appears in Clemence Housman's 1905 novel The Life of Sir Aglovale de Galis, in which Sir Durnor sends her to enchant and have her way with Aglovale, who spends a hard night with "the whore Annowre" against his will; later, Percivale tells the news of "King Arthur's coming to Cardiff on adventure, and of his ending of the wicked Annowre." Nimue mentions her saving of Arthur from "that poor, love-crazed enchantress Annowre" in Phyllis Ann Karr's 1982 novel The Idylls of the Queen: A Tale of Queen Guenevere, in which Morgan also mentions Annowre among her "old cohorts".
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