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Most versions of the Arthurian legend relates that, after the Battle of Camlann, a dying King Arthur ordered a surviving knight - usually Sir Griflet or Sir Bedivere - to dispose of Excalibur in a nearby lake. The knight however hides the sword twice and lies to Arthur, who sees through the deception, before finally throwing Excalibur into the lake. Then a hand reaches out from the water and snatches it.

In Sir Thomas Malroy's Le Morte d'Arthur, the scene is described as:

Then Sir Bedivere departed, and went to the sword, and lightly took it up, and went to the water side; and there he bound the girdle about the hilts, and then he threw the sword as far into the water as he might; and there came an arm and an hand above the water and met it, and caught it, and so shook it thrice and brandished, and then vanished away the hand with the sword in the water. So Sir Bedivere came again to the king, and told him what he saw.

It is commonly said that the sword was thus returned to the Lady of the Lake, but how is that known? It doesn't seem to be the same lake where Arthur received the sword from originally. Moreover, which lady would it be? Nyneve, Nymue, or some other unnamed entity?

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Excalibur was returned to the lake from whence it came. Most accounts have it that Sir Bedivere took it there from Camlan.

Malory is the only source that I know of that mentions an arm taking the sword.

According to the monks of Glastonbury Abbey, it was returned at what is now Pomparles Bridge over the River Brue. Just to the southwest of the Isle of Avalon. In the dark ages, this was undrained marshland. The whole area would have been a collection of lakes that changed position with the seasons. Therefore, almost anywhere could have been described as being the same lake as the origin.

There are many other myths of geomancy surrounding this part of the world. As mentioned in my answer to this question the lake itself could easily have been regarded as possessing female energy, particularly at this location. This would mean that the answer to "to whom was Excalibur returned?" being "the lake herself".

Indeed, the area flooded every year until the drainage was improved in the 1970s, each year seeing floods in different parts of the moors. And as seen in 2014, can still flood badly.

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    Could you quote from the texts you are discussing? It would add a lot of context to this question if it included the quote from Malory, and it would be great if you linked to the source that discusses the monks of Glastonbury Abbey – user62 May 6 '15 at 18:46
  • Can you cite anything to show that Excalibur was returned to its lake of origin? It doesn't seem like Bedievere was travelling very far - Arthur was dying. – Semaphore May 7 '15 at 23:54

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