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"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king."

Whether her gift to the hero is a Protective Charm, a MacGuffin, a fancy title, or something else, the Enigmatic Empowering Entity is the mysterious being behind his power and glory.

There is a saying that "Behind every great man there's a great woman", and this trope often follows this theme: The receiver tends to be a man, usually a mortal muggle, while the Enigmatic Empowering Entity tends to be female -- often a divine/supernatural female of mysterious origin and identity.

One of her most common incarnations is The Lady of the Lake, originally from the King Arthur mythos -- thus making this Public Domain Character an Internal Subtrope of this trope. Characters such as the Fairy Godmother, Santa Claus, and even God sometimes (but far from always) also fill this role. A person empowered this way may be Touched by Vorlons.

In The Hero's Journey, an Entity often shows up as the one providing Supernatural Aid. In completely different kinds of stories, however, it might turn out that The Presents Were Never From Santa. If the Entity is God Himself, it's a type of Divine Intervention. See also The Chooser of the One. May also be a Mysterious Backer.

Examples of The Lady of the Lake


General

  • In several versions of The Holy Grail, the Lady of the Lake acted on God's behalf when she gave King Arthur Excalibur and the right to rule over all Britons. (This may or may not include Monty Python's Film version, making the anarcho-syndicalist protester either a Flat Earth Atheist or someone correctly pointing out The Presents Were Never From Santa. In either case: The Dennis quote belongs in that trope, not here.) However, in most, it was the mysterious Sword in the Stone -- which is not Excalibur -- that announced he was the rightful king of Britain. Excalibur was just a sword.

Anime and Manga

  • Shamal of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha actually has the title "Lady of the Lake" and spends much of her time supporting, healing, and preparing munitions for her allies.


Comic Books

  • In the early 2000s Aquaman underwent yet another retooling, which involved him being named 'The Waterbearer' by The Lady of the Lake herself. Rather than a magic sword, he was given a magic hand made of water.
  • In Camelot 3000, the comic ends with her giving Excalibur to some alien who is obviously intended to be the next champion in the struggle against evil (and who may or may not be an reincarnation of King Arthur, considering that the protagonists was reincarnations of the king and his knights).

Film

  • Invoked in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. King Arthur plays the Arthurian legend straight; claiming his kingship was bestowed upon him by the Lady of the Lake, whose arm rose through the waters bestow upon him the sword Excalibur. A bolshy peasant begs to differ:

 "You can't claim supreme executive power, just because some watery tart lobs a sword at you!"

Live Action Television

  • The Lady of the Lake appears in Merlin as Freya, a young Druid girl who dies in the same episode she first appears, only to return as a spirit the following season and deliever Excalibur into Merlin's hands.

Literature

  • In The Mists of Avalon, The Lady of the Lake is a Machiavellian politician who supports King Arthur because she believes that it will save her people... much to the sorrow of our poor protagonist, Morgana Le Fay.

Theatre

  • In Spamalot, The Lady Of The Lake is one of the main characters of the musical. She is also a Cher impersonator.

Video Games

  • Parodied in World of Warcraft: In Northrend, there's a lady in every lake. And yes, her job is to distribute swords.
  • A very dark twist on this is in Alan Wake: The Dark Presence is Cauldron Lake, and takes on the form of an old hag in a burial shroud.
  • Subverted and parodied in Armed and Dangerous. The Lady of the Pond exists in the universe, but when the heroes seek her out for her MacGuffin she takes so long to appear that Jonesy starts skipping rocks in her pond out of boredom. His rock ends up beaning her by accident and gives her amnesia.

Western Animation

  • In Gargoyles the Lady of the Lake appears in Central Park and helps King Arthur regain excalibur

Examples of other Enigmatic Empowering Entities

Anime & Manga

  • C.C. from Code Geass does give the protagonist the eponymous Geass power. With the show's running theme of Arthurian myth and legend, she can easily be seen as a stand-in for the Lady of the Lake (and in fact, a popular Epileptic Tree suggested that she actually was the Lady, until it was Jossed in the second season).
  • Yoruichi from Bleach, due to her training of Orihime and Chad.
  • Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Extra emphasis on "enigmatic," since there's a lot about being a magical girl that he doesn't tell those who make contracts with him.

Fan Works

  • Played with in With Strings Attached. A mysterious priestess gives George his powerful shapeshifting ring after he does a minor favor for her, but it's clear to the reader that the Fans manipulated her into this role.
    • The Fans themselves both avert this trope and play it straight. They play it straight from the viewpoint of the four, who always see them as Enigmatic Empowering Entities (though they get a bit chummy with them at the end), and avert it because the reader always knows they're just a trio of alien college undergraduates, and everything they do is made very clear in the story.

Film

  • Red Sonja: Sonja encounters one of these (who might be a Goddess, it's never clarified) right after she got raped. The encounter gives her courage to fight the evil hordes.
  • In The Wizard of Oz (film version only), the wizard ends up in this role. He gives everyone symbolic gifts that are exactly what they need. And symbolic gifts are perfectly valid, since it's All Just a Dream. (That's why it doesn't work in the book version, where Oz is a real place.)

Literature

  • In Harry Potter, Dumbledore and other living characters sometimes fill a bit of this role for Harry. However, they are all overshadowed by the one who truly gave Harry special powers (beyond being a wizard) and made him The Chosen One... His mother, Lily Potter. Much of his powers actually come from a part of Voldemort's soul trapped inside him, but all he is including that is because of Lily's sacrifice.
  • Sephrenia, in the Elenium trilogy by David Eddings, turns out to be one of these. A side story (presented as a prologue to one of the three novels) gives the entwined history of the royal house of Elenia and the house of Sparhawk. Both the Elenian monarch and the current generation of Sparhawk wear a special diamond ring, which this story reveals was given to their ancestors by Sephrenia, who most likely was acting on the orders of the delightfully meddlesome Child-Goddess Aphrael. Notably, this revelation is provided for the reader only -- not to the characters.
  • Common to all versions of "Cinderella". Where the Perrault and Disney version have a Fairy Godmother, other versions include a magical tree, the bones of a fish, a talking bird -- which always connect somehow to the spirit of the girl's departed mother. Some versions, such as in Mexico, have the actual Blessed Virgin Mary herself act as the Fairy Godmother. This entity is often very cruel to Cinderella's tormenters -- in The Brothers Grimm, her friendly birds peck out the eyes of her sisters in retaliation. Ouch.
  • In The Bible, this role is fulfilled by God as he shows himself to Moses in a burning bush.
  • Valis: A rather weird example. In Philip K. Dick 's novel, an alien godlike being takes over the hero's mind and transmits to him messianic messages. Sadly, one of them wasn't "Stop doing all that speed, Dick!"
  • The alien godlike being "Old One" in Vernor Vinge 's A Fire Upon the Deep is even weirder: the final "messages" aren't conscious thoughts, just subconscious instructions describing how to stop Old One's murderer.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Miranda's Lady.
  • Dr. Halsey from Halo could technically count, as she was the one who started the SPARTAN II project, making the test subjects super-soldiers, though most did not survive the process. It is also unique in that the way she gives you "powers" is done mostly through drugs and machines rather then magic.

Video Games

  • Well written questgivers in computer RPGs and MMORPGs often fill this role: Their purpose is to give the character some MacGuffin or similar, but they have a good in-universe reason to do so.
  • The Water Dragon from Jade Empire is a good example of this. She frequently gives the player character new powers, but is doing so so that the PC can help her in return.
  • In The Legend of Zelda a Link To T He Past, fairy queens in aquatic temples upgrade Link's equipment.
  • Arguably, the original The Legend of Zelda game contains a trio of male embodiments of this trope -- the three old men who provide Link with his swords.
  • .hack: Do you know why Kite, a level 1 Noob gets to become The Hero? Because Aura gave him a Bracelet that gives him hax powers. To be fair, the real Chosen One Missed the Call, and he had to pick up the slack.
  • Kuryuu Tokio in LINK. If it wasn't for Amagi Saika giving him the black device, he won't be The Hero in it.
  • This is what ultimately composes Cosmos' Thanatos Gambit in Dissidia Final Fantasy; by siphoning out what remained of her power into the crstals that her warriors had been collecting for their Destiny Odyssey storylines, she weakened herself enough for Chaos to take her down, but empowered her warriors enough to defeat him, too, and finally break the cycle... Unfortunately, it didn't quite work.
  • Izanami acts as this in Persona 4. The twist is, you're not the only one to get this special treatment, and you might not even realize it unless you take a certain path. It was part of her labyrinthine social experiment in which she gave powers to both you and Adachi, to test human wishes.

Web Animation

  • This trope goes through a Double Subversion in the first episode of Doraleus And Associates. The being called "The Lady of the Lake" is obviously supposed to be a Enigmatic Empowering Entity, guarding the Zephyr Blade in waiting for The Chosen One to wield.
    • However, she turns out to instead be be a case of The Presents Were Never From Santa, handing out increasingly random things like a tiny dagger, a biscuit and a branch, and asked Doraleus to use them to fight an incredibly deadly beast hidden in the darkness, until Doraleus got fed up and left.
    • Later on, it turns out that while she's clearly insane, the branch really was the Zephyr Blade!

Web Comics

  • In the Sluggy Freelance filler story "Stick-Figure Tales of Cotton", both Captain Hippity and Science Guy were empowered and given the start with their superhero careers by a group of mysterious aliens. The villain in the story wanted to oppose the aliens, having figured out that they were actually the disguised hand of the author of the comic himself, messing with continuity in order to create the filler strips to take a break from the main comic.

Western Animation

  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the power of Castle Greyskull is guarded by a enigmatic woman called The Sorceress. In most continuities, she is the one who give He-Man the magic sword that makes him He-Man. Her own nature is usually undefined (as in "remains a mystery"). At least one continuity treats her as a personification of Castle Greyskull itself, while another continuity have her as a human who is also the mother of Teela. In one timetravel episode taking place in the future, Teela is the Sorceress.
  • In the second season of Storm Hawks, Piper develops a technique that can grant Aerow various powers, but only while she channels them. However, this is something of a Dangerous Forbidden Technique since it's slowly killing her. However by the finale, she learns that being "in synch" with the recipient makes the technique lose all harmful side effects, and of course, they're both perfectly in synch. Cue Villainous Breakdown by Cyclonis and the Dark Ace.
  • Cinderella: In Disney's version, the Fairy Godmother fills this role.
  • Pinocchio: In Disney's version, the Blue Fairy fills this role.
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