E is for Eternal Ennui

We are pleased to participate in the A to Z Blog Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/). The Story Crossroads theme for this year is Dual Natures in Folktales Around the World – opposites, contradictions & paradoxes.


From literary works that go back to King Arthur times

Again, not exactly folktale. More literary combined with legends. But, hey, we’ll let it roll. Unless we want “ennui” simply for this part. Though, the ennui is really about Balin and Balan of the Round Table during King Arthur’s times.

These brothers were opposites of each other. Both fighters though. Oftentimes, Balan was there to assist his brother get past his self-harm or violent tendencies. We live in a world where many youth and adults go through suicidal and even homicidal ideation. This story feels more important than ever to share, though it really is best for middle school and older audiences. Maybe upper elementary.

Balin and Balan are part of the following literary pieces:

  • “Idylls of the King” by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1867)
  • “Suite du Merlin” – lost French epic poem written by Robert de Boron (12th or 13th centuries)
  • “Le Morte d’Arthur” – Middle English prose reworked by Sir Thomas Malory (15th century)

What is so fascinating? What dualities have surfaced?

As we have two brothers that both are intense fighters yet having opposite personalities, that almost feels like one person who has those dark and light sides. Some Celtic lore actually have Balin and Balan as a symbol for winter/summer. In the stories, they fatally wound each other – unknowingly – and thus the tragedy. These brothers have been symbolized as two giant knights at a fountain who challenges anyone who comes near. The constant battle for winter/summer. The constant battle we have of dark and light.

Interestingly, Balin is sometimes known as “Balin the Savage” yet there is not extra name for Balan.

50-word-or-less summary:

King Arthur duels Balin and Balan (brothers). Invites brothers to Round Table. Balin has rage episodes! Balin earns sword with warning that it will kill who he loves most. Balan goes on solo quest. Balin runs into woods after witnessing Lancelot/Guinevere together. Questions much. Unknowingly fights brother. Both die.

Finding the Story: 

CliffsNotes for “Idylls of the King” by Alfred Lord Tennyson – found here

Fascinating Article about Balin and Balan – found here

Read all of “Le Morte d’Arthur” – found here

The Camelot Project by University of Rochester (a Robbins Library Digital Project) – found here

Could have shared so many other resources, but stuck with these!

Please share thoughts in the comments. While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings.

As for our past A to Z Challenges…

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has been “dual” in our offerings of our hybrid summit & festival on May 9-12, 2022 – yes, in-person and virtual – and would be honored for you to join us. Explore the schedule and register here: http://www.storycrossroads.org/Festival

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