Sunday, January 20, 2019

Merlin—Mysterious Wizard

Best known and most recognized as part of King Author's legend, the earliest mentions of the character who eventually became wizard Merlin date back to the 6th century from old Welsh, a time when Britain was made up of small kingdoms.

In 573 when Cumbrian King Gwenddoleu was killed in battle, his warrior-bard went mad with grief. He ran into the forest where he became a wild man and made prophecies. His best friends were said to be an apple tree and a pig.

An 8th century monk wrote about an attempt to build a castle near Mount Snowdon. The tower kept collapsing. The king's magicians told him to sprinkle the site with the blood of a young boy born without a father. The boy escaped the sacrifice by explaining why the tower was collapsing—two dragons were fighting below the earth which undermined the castle's foundations.

In 1135 the Welsh poet, Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote a book that took the wild man in the forest, the boy seer from the collapsing tower, and other folk characters and combined them all into the character who became the magician Merlin. He then included this wizard in his book, The History of the Kings of Britain and later The Life of Merlin which contained the first mention of Avalon.

Geoffrey's Merlin appears whenever something supernatural or strange happens. The story of the battling dragons is retold with the dragons representing the Saxons and the British. Merlin arranges a liaison between Uther Pendragon and the wife of the King of Cornwall which results in the birth of King Arthur.

Merlin's popularity fell by the wayside under Henry VIII when a priest was executed in 1535 for preaching from The Prophecies of Merlin. John Dee, magician to Queen Elizabeth I, was a fan of Merlin and started a new craze.

Legend says a witch duped Merlin into revealing his secrets then trapped him in mists. Some believe that Merlin's mists lie in a legendary forest in France, an ancient standing stone in Brittany marking his tomb. Others say his remains are with King Arthur in Avalon where the mighty wizard waits for the hour of Britain's greatest need when he will be returned to the service of the reigning monarch.


Ashantay said...

Wow! Great stuff! Thanks for posting.



Ilona Fridl said...

Thank you for a great post! That was so interesting!

Mary Gillgannon said...

I adore Arthurian legend and loved this post. Cheers!

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: Glad you enjoyed my post.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Jennifer: Glad you liked it.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Ilona: Glad you found it interesting.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Mary: Me, too, on all the King Arthur legends. I saw an article about Merlin in a magazine a couple of years ago, cut it out, and saved it (as I often do with things that grab my interest). Finally decided to do a blog on it.

Thanks for your comment.