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Arthurian legend features swords called "Excalibur" and "Caliburn". It is not clear to me whether these two swords are the same entity (at minimum, the names are clearly cognate), or whether they refer to different things. Or, perhaps, at some point in history, mythographers treated them separately before later unifying them as a single thing.

In particular, is either/both of these swords the sword that Arthur pulled from the stone? And is either/both the sword that Arthur received from the Lady of the Lake?

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Arthurian legend is essentially combined from a wide variety of sources, and there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer.

The first narrative account is from Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), 12th Century. He wrote, in Latin, of a sword called Caliburnus, which was made on the isle of Avalon.

Wace wrote Roman de Brut (12th Century), which is described as "an Old French translation and versification of [Monmouth]". According to Wiki, the sword is called Calabrum, Callibourc, Chalabrun, and Calabrun (with alternate spellings such as Chalabrum, Calibore, Callibor, Caliborne, Calliborc, and Escaliborc).

Chretien de Troyes wrote, in Perceval, (again in the 12th Century), of a sword called Escalibor or Excalibor.

Robert de Boron (late 12th/early 13th Century), in Merlin, wrote of the Sword in the Stone, and about the idea of only "one true king" being able to retrieve the sword. It isn't confirmed that this sword is Excalibur, but later versions took this story and called the sword Excalibur.

Later, in the Post-Vulgate Cycle (13th Century), French writers attempted to bring together some of the scenes and characters of the legends (Wiki calls it a "rehandling of the earlier Vulgate Cycle"). In this version, the sword is called Excalibur, and is given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake.

In Le Morte d'Arthur, by Thomas Malory, he gives both versions, and calls both Excalibur. Arthur receives the sword three different times in Le Morte, in three different ways (the stone, the lake and once in a battle).

Finally, according to the 15th Century Alliterative Morte Arthur, there is a sword called Clarent, a fragile sword designed for ceremonial purposes rather than fighting. The internet (though I haven't found an original source for this yet) associates this with being the Sword in the Stone.

In conclusion, there isn't a clear answer. The stories evolved quite a bit, and the sword that some writers took to be Excalibur was taken by others to mean Clarent.

However, it does seem that:

  • Excalibur and Caliburn do seem to be the same sword. It is a linguistic evolution. Both are taken to be Arthur's "main" sword, regardless of writer or name.
  • The Sword in the Stone, and the one from the Lake, may or may not be the same sword.
  • Clarent is not Excalibur, and is a different sword, wielded by King Arthur at points (and later, Mordred). It may be the Sword in the Stone, but is not the sword from the Lady in the Lake.
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    I'd like to know why this was down voted - the site is in its early days, it would be great to know how to improve the answer! – Luna Apr 28 '15 at 23:21
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It's fairly easy to imagine how Caliburn may have migrated linguistically to Excalibur, especially as spelling was not standardised until the end of the 18th Century and copying of manuscripts was a performed by hand.

They are indeed two names for the same sword. Roman de Brut has both Caliborne, and Escaliborc in various copies of the document.

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I only know a bit of both legends so I may be a little off in saying this, but from what I know, Excalibur is English mythos and is depicted as a large broadsword and is called the sword of the king. On the other hand caliburn is a normal sword and is called the sword of victory. I think it is either norse or Irish mythos. However in both mythos they both are refered to as a sword that can cut through anything so they both have slightly different wording but the same root.

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Everyone seems to have found different answers, and again after several years of obsessive research on the subject, I found a slightly different interpretation. What I found was that Caliburn was originally Uther Pendragon's sword, and after he died Merlin took his sword and stuck it into that rock, enchanting the blade so that no one could remove it. It later became known as the king's sword or the sword of the king when after many years of trying no one was able to remove it.

Obviously, Arthur removed it, and it became his main sword. Later, Arthur received Excalibur from the lady of the lake, then several years later returned it to the lady of the lake. The last part is kind of hazy, but, he ends up getting it again, for the final battle, and after his death, during the final battle, merlin throws it back into the lake; returning it to the lady of the lake.

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    Hello and welcome to Mythology. Perhaps you could share some of the research that points to Caliburn being Uther Pendragon's sword? – yannis Sep 1 '17 at 8:29
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Caliburn and Excalibur are two different swords. Caliburn is the "sword in the stone" which is used to prove king Arthur's right to the throne. He used this weapon in many battles and won but at some point the "King's sword" is broken, leaving king Arthur with no powerful swords

And by accident, king Arthur found the lady of the lake and was given the sword Excalibur which is made by the wishes of mankind and said to give him the ability to win wars. Though at his last battle with Mordred, he's been wounded very bad and cause his death but before he died he ask Merlin to throw the Excalibur back to "The lady of the lake" by means of throwing it back the lake therefore the sacred sword is never been found.

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Caliburn was what Excalibur was made to be first, then when Arthur broke it, Merlin took it to the Lady of the Lake to make it whole again. So Caliburn got reforged into Excalibur. I found this out by reading the Timeline Story of Arthur Pendragon. If any of you do the same, you will see this, and that there is a blade that is Excalibur's dark — almost evil — equal made by those who wish to see the blade have a counter, a way to handle the fabled sword Excalibur.

  • This is a very unclear answer. It may be improved with editing. – Sean Duggan Dec 25 '17 at 21:18
  • Hopefully, my edit is helpful. I can't figure out what book they're trying to describe. – Sean Duggan Dec 25 '17 at 21:22
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I had heard a "traditional" version of the Arthurian legend that was from a source like the Brother's Grimm. The CALLEBURNE was a the lightning-struck sword in the stone. Until it had been hit by lightning and basically re-forged by the intense heat and electrical current, it was a cheap, plain iron sword. The moss, rust, and scale had built up on it for years and the bolt from the blue added in some new minerals from the moldstone and coke/charcoal from the lichens growing there: re-making it to fine steel. Some even say that it was one Merlin's early attempt at sword smithing and that he had abandoned the mold as the sprue of steel had run throughout his mold.

Something like this:"Mother nature split the rock from way on high and broke away the Sword from the sprues and the lichen, slime, rust, other bits of dead corruption, and the living vines that had over-grown the mold that had become a Stone (in appearance anyway.) The pelting rain that follows the fireworks quenched the nearly molten steel. And perhaps the celestial arch even rendered lodestone (magnetized) of the blade in the process. As the Ore around the now-separated blade remained energized for hours after the jolt, the Field of current at the precipice of that hill would align every sliver of iron as it cooled with the very energy of all the metals deeply within the earth... What had been Merlin's last failure as a Blacksmith and a beginning Alchemist had been corrected by the powers of the earth itself.

It is apparent to all that knew; Merlin had never actually been wrong, merely a sign of the impatience of his long-forgotten youth... as he could have certainly re-forged the weapon after that first casting went side-wrong. He simple moved on to his next pyromancing adventure and experiments with new and better alloys of metal."

As I remember reading it... It had to be over 30-35 years ago. It seems to me that it was a collection of Irish Folk tales. Though it may as well have been more generically Gaelic tales that were a combination Welsh, Scottish, Norwegian, Belgian, Bretton, or Burgandy French. It was definitely translated/adapted from a non-english European language tale about the British Isles and a Wizard/Druid.

It was told from the POV of one of Merlin's relatives or at least a Druidic practical follower of the old ways of magic and enlightenment. +I'll continue.This great sword was stolen from the corrupt regime of Arthur as he grew lax in the enforcement of his codes. It was sold and cut into two separate swords by an opportunistic blacksmith that could make two fantastic single-sided blades from the double-edged Great Sword wonder. These monstrosities were returned to Merlin, who re-forged them again back to a whole blade as one of his last acts for King Arthur. To quench the sword, Merlin flung it into the edge of a lake that was drained by a powerful river; while the tip and edge of the new blade was white-hot. It sang and shrieked as it flew through the night air. (at this point it is supposed that the location of the river is not in England, but Africa. What would later be Lake Victoria, Victoria Falls and a branch of the Nile. The pieces of Calleberne were found by Merlin on a quest of his own, only tangentially related to anything Arthurian.

He retrieved the pieces from the deserts of Arabia, and borrowed a kiln from an Alchemist in the area to re-forge the pieces into what would become Excalibur. Again: Forged by Merlin; perfected and blessed by nature...Then left to be claimed by Arthur, if he was noble enough.) To retrieve the new sword Arthur would have to make peace with nature and pray to the water sprites that guarded that part of the world. Then the Lady of the Lake would reveal its location at a bend of the river in a shallow pool, where it had been deposited within the night of it's re-forging. All that had to happen was for the Queen of Water Nymphs to remove the fog from the King's eyes. He had been fighting in a Crusade and perhaps looking for the Holy Grail. Generally, just lost. Merlin hoped to give him the path to settle his spirit and the tools to get back to being a decent human again.

How I remember bits and pieces of the story that connect the legends of two swords. One sword that became two and then was made into yet another.More importantly, the connections and emotions that intertwine the lives of men and women with each other and the world around them are explored in a hopeful, romantic, and mystical tale. Like all myths and legend; they are bent and adapted to the culture to tell the story according to how the Minstrel doing the singing wants to see the story unfold.Of course there is an agenda. Or two.

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