Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Tarot Tales: K is for Kings and Knights

Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Blogging Challenge! My theme this year is Tarot Tales. I am making a selection of folktales, legends, and other traditional stories that correspond to tarot cards. Storytelling and tarot go well together. Do other stories come to mind? Let me know in the comments!

This post is the first one about the Minor Arcana. So, instead of one card, I'll be focusing on eight: four Kings, and four Knights. Comments will be shorter, but since Kings and Knights are very common in folklore, the selection process was also a lot easier. 
(If you have suggestions for Kings and Knights from more non-European cultures, let me know!)

CUPS (emotions, water)

King of Cups: Zal (Persia)

The King of Cups is emotionally mature, compassionate, caring, and kind. He is diplomatic, intuitive, warm-hearted, and an excellent mentor. For these reasons I chose my favorite hero from the Persian Book of Kings, Zal. Born with white hair, Zal was put out into the mountains by his father to die, but the mythical Simurgh bird raised him. As an adult, he returned to his kingdom and became a wise, level-headed and diplomatic ruler - and a kind and loving father to one of the greatest Persian heroes, Rostam. He also has a gorgeous love story.

Knight of Cups: Oisín (Ireland & Scotland)

This is my favorite guy in the deck. Romantic, creative, charming, and on top of that just as caring, kind, and compassionate as the King. He is all about beauty and love, all heart and imagination. He is the downright knight in shining armor. I chose another old favorite of mine: Oisín (or Ossian), the famous bard of Irish and Scottish legends. Oisín is the son of the legendary hero Fionn Mac Cumhail, part human, part fae. He is the odd one out of the rowdy warriors of the Fianna, more a musician and a diplomat than a fighter (although he can definitely hold his own in an adventure). He is most famous from the love story where he runs away with the Queen of the Land of Youth.

WANDS (action, fire)

King of Wands: Setuli, King of the Birds (Eswatini)

This king is THE King. He is a true leader, a great role model. He takes on challenges, defeats obstacles, makes dreams into reality. He is a visionary, all energy, action and innovation. If I was going to put Arthur in the deck, this would be him - but I wanted to pick someone less obvious. So, let me introduce you to Setuli, King of Birds, from the tales of Eswatini. He is born deaf and mute, but when his magician brother takes him into the wilderness, he meets a wise old woman and she helps him gain magic powers through his own bravery and determination. Setuli then uses his new powers to turn birds into people, and sets out on a journey. He ends up breaking a curse on another kingdom, and those people join him too; he defeats monsters and makes daring plans, and in the end he lives happily ever after as the ruler of a prosperous land. 

Knight of Wands: Astolfo (Italy)

This Knight is daring, enthusiastic, and passionate. He has a lot of energy to go around: he gets into spontaneous adventures, sweeps damsels off their feet, helps out friends, goes on quests, makes magic happen. He has as much charm as Cups, but in a less dreamy and more adventurous way. For these reasons I chose Astolfo, one of the heroes of the Italian epic Orlando Furioso. He is an English prince, one of Charlemagne's paladins, most famous for riding the first hippogriff recorded in legends! After rescuing the magic steed from a wizard, he flies it to the Moon to find the lost wits of his friend Orlando. It is quite an adventure story!

SWORDS (intellect, air)

King of Swords: Solomon (Jewish, Christian & Muslim traditions)

This King is all about wisdom, knowledge, and intellect. He makes good, impartial judgment, he is respected and trusted by everyone, and he always finds the truth. He follows logic instead of emotions, and he is good at what he does. He is also a strong authority figure. I thought the legendary King Solomon would be a good fit for this card. Recently I was doing some research on Solomon's judgment (the baby-cutting-in-half thing), and it is a lot deeper than most people realize.

Knight of Swords: Mercury Ali (1001 Nights)

Knight of Swords is a bundle of energy and intellect. He is unstoppable, always up for a challenge, good with words, and usually the smartest person in the room (sometimes annoyingly so). He is all about action and winning (I love it that Telluric Tarot symbolizes him with the coffee plant). Now, I could have picked a lot of heroes for this one, but I wanted to highlight the intellect part. So instead of a knight I chose a trickster: the infamous Mercury Ali from the 1001 Nights. He is a legendary rogue from Cairo, who travels to Bagdad and gets into an endless prank war with a clever lady named Zaynab. He goes through many adventures, sometimes fighting with wits, and sometimes with a magic spear, until he can marry his lady love.
(CW: this story has a few seriously problematic parts, but in my opinion none of them are essential to the plot, and can be easily skipped.)

PENTACLES (material things, earth)

King of Pentacles: Laurin (Germany)

This King symbolizes wealth, abundance, and material security. He is grounded, respected, traditional, and successful in making his domain flourish. He is also kind of a fatherly figure and a family man. I immediately thought King Laurin would be a good fit. In German legends he is the Dwarf king of the mountains of Tyrol. He reigns over a wealthy underground kingdom full of treasures, and has a beautiful rose garden in the mountains. He features into a long and amazing legend about the struggle between humans and Dwarves.

Knight of Pentacles: Kay the Senechal (Britain)

He is not a very knightly Knight. This guy is about hard work, planning, and practical things. He is patient, responsible, reliable, persistent, and honorable. He is also, to me, one of my favorite knights from Arthurian legends: Sir Kay the Senechal. Kay is generally known for his sharp tongue and grumpy demeanor (and for being King Arthur's mean foster brother), but behind the scenes, he is the one that keeps the lights on in Camelot. In the old Welsh legends he literally keeps everyone warm by the heat radiating from his body. He might not be a good fighter, or a romantic hero, but he keeps all of them housed, clothed, and fed. You're welcome. 

Who are your favorite heroes, kings, and knights in shining armor?
(And don't worry, we'll get to the queens too!)


  1. Interesting selection! My favourite king, hero and knight in shining armour is King Arthur :-)

    Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Kappa

  2. Oisin sounds like my kind of knight (which may also have something to do with the fact I love Irish and Scottish folklore).

  3. Emotion, and action! I would pick Zal or/and Setuli ;))

  4. A really interesting piece today. Oisin really stands out for me!

    Here's my K!

  5. Of course the best one is the Scottish one! ;-)

  6. So many great legends amongst all those kings and knights. I think my favourite of these is Astolfo.

  7. Solomon has always stood out for me, and his wisdom and judgment are something most judges should try ruling by, in certain cases. Of course he knew that the real mother would do anything to keep her child alive.
    Another King is one you mentioned in passing as being too obvious. Arthur has always been my favorite, perhaps because there are family legends that we are his descendants...

  8. All heart and imagination, that king works for me, especially that he is more musician and diplomat than fighter.

  9. I love your Tarot posts! I also have a programm with 101 very short wisdom stories where people can pick from and the Tarot inspired me very much. So when are you going to publish? I would absolutely buy it! Thank you so much for all of your sharing!

  10. I LOVE the stories of Finn MacCool and Ossain. I did not know about their tarot associations though.

    Tim Brannan, The Other Side: 2021: The A to Z of Monsters

  11. I like the guys you've selected. It is finding them in real life that is trick!