Greatest Knights of Fantasy Literature

Great knights of fantasy literatureA long time before I wrote Knight of Aslath, I was inspired by fantasy knights created by other authors. When you consider the greatest knights of fantasy literature, have you ever tried to rank them? Or even wondered who would beat who? If we saw a group of the greatest ‘warriors’ settling who was the best, there would no doubt be hard stares, posturing and comments like “My one armed blind grandmother has spit out men tougher than you…” We’re talking about men like Logen Ninefingers, Druss the Legend and Kvothe, they can give and take a bit of trash talk… or in the latter case perhaps something more gentile and witty.

But Knights… Well they’re generally a more civilised bunch, aspiring to the ideals of the chivalric code, more likely to help an old lady against a robber than raise arms against a fellow gentile for the sake of point scoring (in most fantasy worlds at least). So lets help them settle once and for all who are the greatest knights of fantasy literature.

Who is the greatest knight of fantasy literature?

Need help deciding? Read on for suggested criteria and my personal shortlist of Greatest Knights of fantasy literature.

Criteria for greatest knight

Firstly, there’s the question of how we define a knight? We could argue that they need to:

  • Have been formally given the title ‘knight’, and are not not ‘just’ a warrior
  • Have made some attempt at the chivalric code – so no Gregor Clegane’s here. Or Ser Robert Strong – nah, you’re not fooling anyone.
  • Not be a king or royal prince – arguably titles which would take them away from the business of being a knight. This might rule out otherwise compelling candidates like Rhaegar Targaryen. Harsh? Ah well, it’s my blog.

In this post my favourite knights are ranked on these criteria:

  • Kickass points – They would probably describe it more as ‘martial ability’, but kickass sounds like more fun. It’s good to see knights kick ass, because invariably someone deserved it.
  • Honour – How much they live and breathe the chivalric code. Not all knights are equal in this regard. Sir Lancelot?
  • Reputation – How well known they were as one of the greatest knights.

My shortlist of Greatest Knights

These are in my opinion some of the greatest knights in fantasy literature. Are some missing? Probably! Whilst I’m fairly well read, there are no doubt others I don’t even know of, so if you think there’s a major omission, please let me know and we can add them in!

Arthur Dayne (George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire)

  • Kickass points: 10
  • Honour: 9 (slightly tarnished by serving/not speaking out against the sadistic King Aerys II)
  • Reputation: 10
  • Most famous for: Killing the Smiling Knight, and generally being the most awesome knight anyone had seen.

A legend of Westeros, Ser Arthur Dayne was the deadliest member of King Aerys Targaryen II kingsguard. He defeated the Smiling Knight and other notable opponents, but later died in King Robert’s rebellion, long before the events of A Game of Thrones. He died in somewhat unclear circumstances when fighting Eddard Stark and his companions as they tried to free Eddard’s sister Lyanna, after her kidnapping by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Eddard Stark described Ser Arthr Dayne as the greatest knight he ever saw, and other great warriors including Jaime Lannister and Barristan Selmy held him in great reverence. George R.R. Martin was once asked who would win between Arthur Dayne and Selmy, and if not for Arthur’s greats word Dawn, it would be a fairly event fight.

Barristan Selmy (George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire)

  • Kickass points: 9
  • Honour: 10
  • Reputation: 9
  • Most famous for: Many great deeds, including slaying Maelys the Monstrous in single combat, and single-handedly rescuing King Aerys II Targaryen from imprisonment during the Defiance of Duskendale.

Barristan Selmy (called ‘The Bold’) was born the son of a knight and entered his first tourney at the tender age of ten, where Prince Duncan Targaryen agreed to joust with him, when others laughed. He was finally knighted at 16 after distinguishing himself in tourneys, unseating Prince Duncan and the head of the kingsguard. He fought during the war of the Ninepenny Kings and defeated Maelys the Monstrous in single combat, ending the line of Blackfyre pretenders. He later became a member of the kingsguard and gave a distinguished service over many years, rescuing the king himself from imprisonment during an uprising. He served King Robert Baratheon loyally after Aerys was killed, however was later forcibly retired after Prince Joffrey took the throne. After his dismissal he left Westeros to seek service under Daenerys Targaryen, and was rewarded with a place in her queensguard.

Brienne of Tarth (George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire)

  • Kickass points: 9 – could be a 10 but we just don’t know yet.
  • Honour: 10
  • Reputation: 4
  • Most famous for: Being a woman in a world dominated by male knights… Oh and beating every other knight that had the poor sense to fight her (so far).

Now, I know what you’re going to say, “Brienne isn’t actually a knight”. You would be right, technically speaking. By her own admission, she is no ‘Ser’. When you think about her sense of honour and devotion to duty however, she’s actually a lot better at living the chivalric code than many who would call themselves knights. On the subject of knightly prowess, she’s beaten many of the greatest warriors of her generation, including the famed Knight of Flowers Loras Tyrell and the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister.  Could she have beaten Ser Arthur Dayne or Barristan the Bold in their prime too? Her (so far) un-besmirched honour ranks higher than some of our contenders, many of whom have had a stumble or two along the way. However, she is not yet as well known, being at the beginning of her rise to fame. Only time (and George R.R. Martin’s character killing machine) will tell if she ever gets there.

Camaris sa Vinitta (Tad Williams, Memory, Sorrow & Thorn trilogy)

  • Kickass points: 10
  • Honour: 8 (if you read to the end of ‘To Green Angel Tower’, you’ll know why it’s not higher)
  • Reputation: 10
  • Most famous for: Being the mightiest knight ever to walk Osten Ard.

Camaris sa Vinitta was the last royal prince of the Nabbani house, which according to our criteria might rule him out – but as the royal line was no more after Nabban was conquered and became a province of Prester John’s realm, one could argue that he fell out of the ‘royal’ category. Plus, he’s too amazing to leave out. He first came to fame after fighting King Prester John in single combat on the battlefield, at the age of 15. After disarming John Camaris spared his life, but the king returned the favour by kicking him between the legs. After the battle, John spared Camaris and the pair became great friends. Camaris became renowned as the greatest knight and warrior of his generation, one whose skill at arms was a burden to him, as it brought opponents against him that he did not seek. His great sword Thorn was forged of black metal from the heart of a meteorite. After Prester John’s wife died in while giving birth to Prince Josua, Camaris left the King’s service and was rumoured to have drowned at sea. That was not the end of the story, but no spoilers here. you might find one or two in the following article if you would like to read more about him:

Decado (of ‘The Thirty’, David Gemmell, Drenai Series)

  • Kickass points: 10
  • Honour: 5
  • Reputation: 10
  • Most famous for: Being Decado the ‘Ice Killer’, the deadliest swordsman in the world.

Decado first appears in The King Beyond the Gate, a swordsman virtually without peer but whose past life as a cold-blooded killer haunts him. He turns his back on the past by becoming a pious warrior priest, however when he is chosen as the new leader of the knightly order The Thirty, he takes up arms once more. His bloody past causes concern among the other knights who wonder how he could be chosen to lead them, but as always with The Thirty the leader is chosen as the one who is least perfect. Over the story he journeys toward redemption, and his clone appears in The Swords of Night and Day.

Huma (Richard A Knaak, The Legend of Huma, Dragonlance Heroes series)

  • Kickass points: 10
  • Honour: 10
  • Reputation: 10
  • Most famous for: Saving the world…. seriously. Come on, who else can beat that?

Huma out-trumps the deeds of almost any other knight you can think of. Did he ride a dragon? Check. Did he save the world? Check. He even fought a duel with the goddess of darkness Takhisis herself. He rose to his moment of greatness in the Third Dragon War when the forces of evil had almost taken over all the world of Krynn. Cometh the hour… Huma was a devout paladin dedicated to the gods of good. Suffice to say he and those standing with him fought a titanic battle which saved the world and cemented his place in history. Not much more to say really. One of the greatest knights of any fantasy world.

Lancelot of the Round Table

  • Kickass points: 10
  • Honour: 5 – Adultery with the queen… Shame, after such a promising start too.
  • Reputation: 10 – Although he had a moment of poor judgement, people love a gossip, and we’re still talking about him. He was real, wasn’t he?
  • Most famous for: That tragic fall from grace.

The most famous Knight of the Round table of Arthurian legend, first appearing in the work of Chrétien de Troyes. Brought up by the Lady of the Lake he is sent to King Arthur’s court and becomes one of its greatest knights, skilled, virtuous, pious, until eventually he and Queen Guinevere give into passion which ultimately brings about the end of Camelot. Lancelot takes part in the quest for the Holy Grail, but as an adulterer is not virtuous enough to find it himself, a task which falls to others.

Sparhawk (David Eddings, The Elenium and the Tamuli series)

  • Kickass points: 10
  • Honour: 10 – giving godlike power away so he can live a normal life. How many people would do that?
  • Reputation: 10
  • Most famous for: Being the living embodiment of a god. Yeah, maybe that out-trumps Huma, though Huma did for a moment become a godlike manifestation.

Sir Sparhawk was a knight of the Pandion order and champion of Queen Ehlana. After being exiled to keep him out of the way, he returns home to confront evil forces. He and fellow knights embark upon a quest to find the Bhelliom, a magical artifact with the power to heal the queen, who has been poisoned. He later marries the queen, and throughout the two series goes on to fight the forces of not one but a number of dark gods, and generally help save the world. He is known as the Anakha, one who is ‘without destiny’ as his fate cannot be predicted by the gods.

So, that’s my list. Is someone truly great missing from this list? Who’s the greatest of all?

Vote for your Greatest Knight of fantasy literature

Who is the greatest knight of fantasy literature?

Greatest Knights: Further reading

About Scott Foley

Scott Foley is a British fantasy writer based in Manchester. He is author of Knight of Aslath and the Dreaming God Chronicle. Brought up on a steady diet of Tolkien, roleplaying games and a never-ending fascination with the question ‘what if?’, writing fantasy novels seemed the only sensible and worthwhile thing to do with his life. Knight of Aslath is his first novel, and he is currently working on the sequel Warlords of the Dreaming God. Both novels form the beginning of the Dreaming God Chronicle and are set in the fantasy world of Teth-Kiran. Knight of Aslath is available on Amazon, and you can find out more about Scott's work at: