Oberon, also Auberon, King of Shadows and Fairies, is best known as a character in William Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, written in the mid-1590s. He is Consort to Titania, Queen of the Fairies.
The medieval concept of the character Oberon arose from a multitude of earlier sources.
status as king of the elves
comes from the character of Alberich
(from Old High German alb-
"elf" and -rîh-
, "ruler", "king"), a sorcerer
in the legendary history of the Merovingian
dynasty. In the legend, he is the otherworldly "brother" of Merowech
, whose name is the eponym
of the Merovingians
. Alberich wins for his eldest son Walbert the hand of a princess
. In the Nibelungenlied
, a Burgundian
poem written around the turn of the 13th century, Alberich guards the treasure of the Nibelungen
, but is overcome by Siegfried
Alternatively he could be a reference to Freyr or Ing, who is the traditional 'King of the Elves' in Germanic mythology.
French heroic song
The name Oberon got its literary start in the first half of the 13th century from the fairy dwarf Oberon that helps the hero in the chanson de geste
, titled Les Prouesses et faitz du noble Huon de Bordeaux
. When Huon, son of Seguin count of Bordeaux, passed through the forest
where he lives, he was warned against Oberon by a hermit
, but his courtesy had him answer Oberon's greetings, and so gain his aid in his quest
: having killed Charlot, the Emperor's
son, in self-defense, Huon must visit the court of the amir
and perform various feats to win a pardon, and only with Oberon's aid does he succeed.
This elf appears dwarfish in height, though very handsome; he explains that at his christening, an offended fairy cursed him to the height (an example of the wicked fairy godmother folklore motif), but relented and as compensation gave him great beauty. As Alberich features as a dwarf in the Nibelungen, the dwarfish height was thus explained.
The real Seguin was Count of Bordeaux under Louis the Pious in 839, and died fighting against the Normans in 845. Charles l'Enfant, a son of Charles the Bald, died in 866 of wounds inflicted by a certain Aubouin in the circumstances of an ambush similar to the Charlot of the story. Thus Oberon appears in a 13th century French courtly fantasy that is based on a shred of 9th century fact. He is given some Celtic trappings, such as a magical cup (similar to the Holy Grail) that is ever-full for the virtuous: "The magic cup supplied their evening meal; for such was its virtue that it afforded not only wine, but more solid fare when desired" according to Thomas Bulfinch. In this story he is said to be the child of Morgan le Fay and Julius Caesar.
A manuscript of the romance in the city of Turin contains a prologue to the story of Huon de Bordeaux in the shape of a separate romance of Auberon, and four sequels, and there are later French versions as well.
Shakespeare saw or heard of the French heroic song, through the ca 1540 translation of John Bourchier, Lord Berners, called Huon of Burdeuxe. In Philip Henslowe's diary there is a note of a performance of a play, Hewen of Burdocize, on December 28, 1593.
Role in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream
Oberon is the king of the fairies in William Shakespeare
's A Midsummer Night's Dream
who is feuding with his wife Titania, the queen of the fairies. They are fighting over a baby that Oberon wants to raise as his henchman. Titania wants to keep the baby because he is the child of Titania's mortal friend who died, and Titania wants to raise the child for her friend. Because Oberon and Titania are powerful fairies, their arguments affect the weather. Titania describes what happens to nature when they argue, saying:
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents:
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable:
The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.
(Act 2, Scene 1)
Furious that Titania will not give him the child, he puts juice from a magical flower into her eyes while she is asleep. The effect of the juice is that it will cause Titania to fall in love with the first thing she sees. Titania awakens and finds herself madly in love with Bottom, a weaver that has been given a donkey's head by Puck. Oberon also sends Puck to put some of the juice in Demetrius' eyes to make him fall in love with Helena, after he witnesses him rejecting her. As the play commences Oberon looks upon Titania and her lover, Bottom and feels sorry for what he has done. He reverses the spell and when Titania awakes the two reunite.
Other historical references
- Oberon is a character in The Scottish History of James IV, a play written ca. 1590 by Robert Greene.
- In 1610, Ben Jonson wrote a masque of Oberon, the Fairy Prince. It was performed by Henry Frederick Stuart, the Prince of Wales, at the English court on New Year's Day, 1611.
- Johann Wolfgang Goethe took the figures from Shakespeare's work to Faust I. Oberon is married to Titania, and the couple are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in Faust I.
- In 1826, Carl Maria von Weber's opera, Oberon, (written after a poem by Christoph Martin Wieland) debuted at Covent Garden in London.
- The name Oberon was chosen for the outermost natural satellite of the planet Uranus in 1847, as an homage to William Shakespeare and his literary character.
- Oberon was a popular name for fairy Familiars in 15th and 16th century England.
- Oberon is also the name of the space station in the recent Planet Of The Apes film.
- Oberon is a town in Australia, located in the Greater Lithgow region in New South Wales.
- In the comic book Mister Miracle, Oberon is the dwarf assistant and companion to the titular character.
- Oberon, with Titania, provides the characters of A Midsummer Tempest, by Poul Anderson, with magical assistance.
- In 2000, the series Lexx portrayed Oberon and Titania in the episode 4.11: "A Midsummer's Nightmare", in which Oberon tries to get first Xev and then Stan to marry him and turns Kai into a happy singing tree.
- Oberon was also a guest character in an episode of Pokey the Penguin.
- In The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, Oberon is the King of Amber and the father of all of the princes in the series.
- In the Warlock series of Christopher Stasheff, Oberon (alias Brom O'Berin) is the half-human King of Elves on the planet Gramarye, but poses as the Royal Fool to influence the human kingdom. He is also the father-in-law of the titular Warlock.
- In the middle-grade novel The Revenge of the Shadow King, by Derek Benz and J. S. Lewis, Oberon appears in the title role of the all-powerful and malevolent king of the Land of Faerie.
- References to Oberon and Titania appear as two of the mortal names given to the King and Queen of Faerie in Raymond E. Feist's 1988 fantasy novel, Faerie Tale.
- Oberon is a character appearing in Disney's Gargoyles as the ruler of the mystical Avalon and "king" of the Third Race. Also seen in Gargoyles is the Shakespearean trickster Puck, and Oberon's queen Titania
- Oberon has appeared in the comic books Sandman, Hellboy, and The Books of Magic.
- Oberon, along with his wife Titania, appears in the Nickelodeon show Fairly OddParents, and in the video games.
- The sword Firebrand in the video game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's information is 'Fire sword of Oberon'
- Oberon has also appeared in the novel Magic Street by Orson Scott Card.
- In David A McIntee's 1999 Doctor Who novel Autumn Mist, Oberon, the King of the fairie-like Sidhe, takes his name from the Shakespearean character
- In the Playstation 2 title Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne by Atlus, one of the attainable demons is Oberon. The game states that his wife is Titania, and a curse set upon him at childhood has stunted his growth.
- King Auberon Quin is the elven monarch of London in G. K. Chesterton's novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)
- In John Crowley's 1981 fantasy novel Little, Big, Auberon is the name of one of the principal characters, the son of Smokey Barnable and Daily Alice Drinkwater.
- Oberon is mentioned by name in the song "Hollow Hills" by Bauhaus. The song references burial mounds similar to the Barrow-downs in The Lord of the Rings.
- In the Double Edge series by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis, Oberon is the High King of the Sidhe (elves), and the overall ruler of most things Underhill. It is hinted that he is actually Zeus.
- In the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Oberon is mentioned as being the overlord of The Raven King John Uskglass' fairy kingdom.
- In the "I've Grown a Costume on Your Face" segment of The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XVI", Martin dresses as Oberon for Halloween.
- Auberon is the King of the Seely Court in the role-playing game Castle Falkenstein.
- In Garry Kilworth's 1996 fantasy novel A Midsummer's Nightmare Oberon appears as king of the elves, which have to leave the sherwood forest in an old bus, to find a new home , their travel wakes up old fairy and magic folk, good and sinister ones, and as Titania falls in love with a human baby and steals /(borrows)it, their adventure becomes even more turbulent and funny.
- Oberon is the name of a wheat beer ale brewed by the Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
- Oberon and Titania are a king and queen in Gene Callahan's novel PUCK.
- Oberon was the name of a British prog-folk band who released the album a Midsummer's Night Dream in 1971.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game there is a card named "Yousei-Ō Oberon" meaning "Fairy King Oberon". Oberon was changed to Truesdale for American audiences.
- Oberon is the name of one of the seven heroes in Overlord (2007 video game). He is a sleeping elf hero whose nightmares haunt the forest of Evernight.
- In "The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke", a song by English rock band Queen, one line says "Oberon and Titania, watched by a harridan, Mab is the Queen and there's a good apothecary man". The song takes it name from the painting of the same, which it describes.
- In the eroge Yume Miru Kusuri, a girl who believes herself to be a fairy claims to be a servant of Oberon.
- In the video game King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride, Queen Valanice meets Oberon and Titania in Etheria at the end of chapter 5.
- The line "Oberon, Miranda and Titania" is included in the lyrics of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine"
- Oberon and Titania also appear in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 as Persona that the main character can acquire and use. Oberon is in the Emperor Arcana and Titania is in the Lovers Arcana.
- Oberon and Titania appear in Voyage of the Unicorn.
- Oberon and his wife Titania also appear in the video game "The Sims 2"
- Oberon and Titana appear (although not mentioned by name) in Terry Pratchett's book Lords and Ladies where he defeats the queen of the elves. He is described as having goats legs and stags horns.
- Oberon and Titana also appear in Frewin Jones's novel The Faerie Path, The Lost Queen, and The Sorcerer King.
Bell's Brewery sells a named after Oberon