Real Name: Arturia Pendragon
Titles: King of Knights, The Once & Future King
Participant in: 4th & 5th Holy Grail Wars
Featured In: Fate/Zero, Fate/stay night
Voiced By: Ayako Kawasumi (Japanese)
To speak of Arturia Pendragon, more commonly recognized by her Servant Class title of Saber, I must first speak of the series in which she originated. In a world where magecraft still exists and mages strive to their dying day to reach Akasha, the Root of the World where all knowledge past, present, and future, are kept, a deadly competition was created for the ultimate prize: the Holy Grail. Though not the actual Cup of Christ, the Holy Grail was a magical wish-granting device forged by an alliance of three of the most powerful magecraft families at the time alongside one of the last remaining Sorcerers, a practitioner of True Magic and not simple magecraft.
Unfortunately, powerful as the Holy Grail is on its own right, it alone could not open the way to Akasha and so a ritual was created around it dubbed formally as the Heaven’s Feel but more commonly referred to as the Holy Grail War. Powered by the leylines of the chosen battlefield for fifty years, the Holy Grail would then activate itself by choosing seven suitable mage candidates, or those close enough to fit the bill, and bestow upon them the title of “Master” in the War. It would then be up to those seven Masters to summon forth their Servants via special catalysts to choose a specific Servant to their liking otherwise the Grail would summon one for them on their behalf.
These Servants are often divided into seven classes those being Saber, Archer, Lancer, Berserker, Caster, Rider, and Assassin. Whatever the Servant Class, one thing of the Servants must be made abundantly clear. They are all Heroic Spirits, people who have transcended into a state of quasi-godhood thanks to the deeds that they committed in life. A Heroic Spirit is often placed into a Class suitable to them based on their prowess in life such as Alexander the Great being placed as a Rider or Robin Hood as an Archer.
Arturia Pendragon is one such Heroic Spirit, the one and only King Arthur of Camelot whose history is, for the most part, the same as legends tell save for the fact that she was born a girl and had disguised herself as a boy for the betterment of the people. Yet, though she is the very epitome of what a Heroic Spirit, she is not technically one due to the fact that she is still alive.
On the verge of her dying breath and filled with the regret and loathing that two civil wars and countless other tragedies that befell her once great kingdom, Arturia made a bargain with the Consciousness of the World to be allowed the chance to attain the Holy Grail and, with it, wish away her existence as King Arthur of Camelot though another would take her place and role whilst she remained forevermore as a servant of the World, a Counter Guardian.
Though not a true Heroic Spirit, Arturia still possesses many of the positives and negatives of being a Servant of the Holy Grail War. Her strength is greater than any average human could hope to attain, her speed virtually unrivaled, and her swordsmanship the stuff of legends as it had always been. However, though she still bleeds and requires sustenance in the form of food, Arturia must also have her magical energies, known as prana, given to her by her Master. If she doesn’t she will still retain many of her physical strengths for a time before eventually be declared as “lost” and return once more to the point of her dying breath until next she is summoned, but would be unable to utilize her Noble Phantasms.
Noble Phantasms are, by their definition, crystalized mysteries using the imagination of mankind as their core and are the most powerful armaments in a Heroic Spirit’s arsenal. A Noble Phantasm is a physical embodiment of the penultimate prowess of a hero that has grown so deeply ingrained into their histories and legends that it attains an entirely new level of power. Most Noble Phantasms are physical weapons but some, like Arturia’s “Invisible Air” can be made of abstract concepts.
Due to the fact that she is, essentially, a still-living Heroic Spirit, Aturia is always summoned with only two of her Noble Phantasms on hand rather than the full armament that she possessed in history and legends alike. However, seeing as her third Noble Phantasm is the chief catalyst to her summoning I shall discuss it and her most powerful Noble Phantasm.
The catalyst utilized to summon Arturia as a Saber is Avalon: The Everdistant Utopia and serves her first as the sheath for Excalibur and her ultimate means of defense. For with Avalon in hand, not one drop of her blood would spill and any wounds she should attain would vanish as though they never were. It is also the chief reason why Arturia looks as young as she does. Even without being in direct contact with her, had slowed down her aging to nearly a halt, all but making her immortal as it constantly healed her even from the effects of aging. It was only because it was stolen from her and lost to the farthest corners of the world that Arturia received her mortal wound.
As many have already surmised, Arturia’s strongest Noble Phantasm is Excalibur: Sword of Promised Victory. The pinnacle of holy swords and one of the last and ultimate of god-forged weapons, Excalibur was forged as the crystallization of the wishes of mankind stored and tempered within the heart of the World itself. There are few Noble Phantasms that can equal its splendor and destructive capabilities and, in the entirety of the mainstream series and not some spin-off or alternative retelling, there is but one.
Though quite powerful on its right, only by calling forth its name can Arturia utilize all of Excalibur’s potential in one massive swing capable. There is next to nothing that can withstand Excalibur’s might and the only known means to survive it is to run and hope that Arturia misses.
Being a Servant in the Holy Grail War, Arturia’s rivals are all the Servants and Master who stand against her and her Master in attaining the Grail. That’s not to say that there weren’t a few particularly nutty cases that focused on her with disturbing intensity.
The chief amongst them would be Gilgamesh from the Epics of Gilgamesh, the oldest story put to writing on Earth and one of the most arrogant heroes one could ever have the misfortune of meeting. During the Fourth Holy Grail War, Gilgamesh grew obsessed with Saber to the point that while he claimed to love her was more akin to thinking her as property that rightfully belonged to him as the “King of Heroes.”
Like many other heroes before her in various media, Arturia has a dark version of herself in the form of Saber Alter. This version of Arturia is one corrupted by the evil hidden within the core of the Grail and is literally a black knight version of herself with little to none of what makes Arturia the epitome of a holy knight. Saber Alter is still a hero but one whom firmly believes in the ideal that a hero’s duty is to be ostracized and hated and to utilize their full power against any foe no matter how weak or strong they may be.
As I refuse to spoil any more of this wonderful character and the sheer awesomeness that is her home media, be it the visual novel or the anime adaptations of its many paths, I will say one more thing of Arturia. In an unbelievably rare moment of seriousness from him, the wizard Merlin told Arturia before she pulled the sword from the stone that she would suffer greatly in the years to come but in death, she would find love and be loved in return so long as two miracles occurred. That she would wait endlessly for him and that her lover would pursue endlessly for her.
Thankfully, her latest Master happens to make it a life’s goal to make miracles happen.