The brother of Balin and born in Northumberland. He seems to fit the pattern of a twin but Malory never
specifies that he is directly. Indirectly, there are indicators; including the similar name structure, the fighting skills that
seem so evenly matched. My own reasoning points to two other incidents. When
Balin answers the queries of the dwarf as
to who he is, he states you can see that he carries two swords, therefore you can call him the knight of two swords. At the end,
Balin requests that they be buried in the same grave since they came from one mother's womb. Neither of these is
explicit but it is as if the original story did: that the way to tell the two brothers apart was that Balin carried two swords
and that they should be buried in the same tomb because they came from the same womb, not that they were born of the
same mother, else why not be buried in side by side graves as is standard for family members.
Balan assists his brother in the capture of Rience and in Arthur's battle against Nero and Lot. He disappears
from the story to reappear at the end. Having defeated a knight that guarded an island, he is required to take his place as
protector. Dressed as a red knight, he battles his brother Balin to the death, not having recognized him because Balin had
accepted a different shield that did not bear his coat of arms. Balin and he are buried together on the island.
One aspect of the story of Balin and Balan that is never clarified is the original quest. The damsel comes to
Arthur's court to seek the noble warrior that will avenge her lover's death, notably against her own brother.
Yet, once Balin achieves the sword, he never directly kills any person with the sword (except in the capture and battle
against Rience) until his battle with his own brother. This twists the story around, leaving the reader grasping to understand
what the true facts are. Was the damsel Balin and Balan's sister, whom Balin did not know or
recognize because he had not seen her for many years? Were her warnings to him indications that after he had drawn the
sword, she suddenly realized or recognized him (remember that he was in poor condition having just recently been released
from prison and without funds) and was struck by the horror that she had become the instrument of destruction of both of
her brothers? In the end, did Balin achieve the quest and kill the brother that had killed the damsel's lover?