Oberon is king of the faeries. He appears in medieval and Renaissance literature, most famously in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Oberon quarrels with his wife Titania, the faerie queen, over a changeling child.
But his legend in more deep-seated than people realize, and is a mysterious mythical figure worthy of some metaphysical musing.
The name Oberon first appears in a chanson de geste (medieval epic) entitled Les Prouesses et faitz du noble Huon de Bordeaux, a 13th century account which refers to the story of Huon, son of Seguin count of Bordeaux, who is quests to reach Babylon to be pardoned for killing the emperors son in self defense. To get there he must pass through an enchanted wood inhabited by ‘an elven man of the forest’. Huon was warned by a hermit not to speak to Oberon, but his aristocratic breeding and sense of chivalry forced him to answer Oberon’s greetings. Oberon then aids him in his quest.
The elf Oberon is said to have dwarfish height, a curse by an offended fairy at his Christening, another example of the primordial tradition of the wicked fairy godmother folklore. She then takes pity on him and grants great beauty and handsomeness. Oberon has other primordial and recurring traditional themes and affectations. In relation to the ancient holy grail mystery he has a holy cup 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.”
His legend is related to the character of Alberich from High German (alb- “elf” and -rîh-, “ruler”), a sorcerer in the legendary history of the Merovingian dynasty. Oberon’s status as king of the fairies comes from this older reference. Alberich also features as a dwarf in the Nibelungen, many would not know the relation between these Wagnerian/Shakespearean mischievous characters. He is also said to be the child of Morgan le Fay and Julius Caesar, relating him to both Nordic and Roman tradition.
Huon’s father Seguin from the chanson de geste story was a real historical count of Bordeaux, under Louis the Pious in 839. He was killed in battles with the Normans in 845. Charles l’Enfant was killed in 866 by a character named Aubouin (Oberon) in the circumstances very similar to the Emperors son of the fable. We can deduce from this that Oberon’s appearance in a 13th-century epic is a loose retelling of 9th century factual history.
Shakespeare likely saw a retelling the French heroic epic based on the 1540 translation of Huon de Bordeaux by John Bourchier. In Philip Henslowe’s 1593 diary, there is mention of a performance of a play called: Hewen of Burdocize.
Primordial myth is more than children’s stories, or entertainment. These fables resonate with Europeans because they have ancestral, metaphysical implications which influence us through inspiration. Aspects of these fables have origins from before recorded history, back into the murky Thulean past. Retelling these myths is how we practice distant ancestor worship; the magic of the Oberon myth is it’s ability to inspire art and create cultural cohesion around sacred mysteries. It’s ability to resonate and inspire is not explainable, and it is unique to Europeans.