Merlin; Myth Or Reality Essay, Research Paper
Merlin: Myth or Reality? Merlin, the greatest magician of all time. He lived, if indeed he lived at all, in Wales and southern England during the dawn of Christianity in those lands, long before written historical records were kept. Yet, his name is universally recognized around the world as synonymous with magic, and his popular image is almost as well known as that of Santa Claus. The beginning and ends of all things are all within Merlin s sight. he keeps the prophecies of the future, he holds the memories of all that has passed. When you hear the name Merlin an immediate image springs into the mind of an old man with a flowing white beard and bushy white eyebrows, dressed in a midnight blue robe and a tall pointed hat covered with stars. He is the prototypical wizard. Merlin is best known as the teacher and advisor of Arthur Pendragon, king of all the Britons. The legends of these two mythical figures are linked, but there is no certain proof that either man existed. Supposedly on Merlin s advice the famous Round Table of Arthur s court was built and he helped select 50 of the knights who were to sit at the table. The popular myth of Merlin, as we know it today, has come down to us primarily from two sources; one, the historian Geoffrey of Monmouth and the other, a writer, Sir Thomas Malory. Both men collected bits and pieces from earlier sources. Most of Malory s work was based on the French Arthurian prose cycle, a group of French medieval romances centered around the court of King Arthur. Before Malory, both Merlin and Arthur were better known on the Continent than they were in England. Malory s work crystallized the Arthurian legend into the form we recognize today. We know Merlin as a mysterious figure whose origin is uncertain. he has the power to communicate with animals, to see visions of the future, and to work miracles of magic. he has no specific home but dwells in the forest. After Arthur s ascent to the throne, Merlin lives with him for a time in Camelot. Merlin usually first appears in the modern stories as the teacher of young Arthur, although he sometimes is mentioned briefly in his role as advisor to Arthur s father, Uther Pendragon. Employing both his wise advice and his magic, Merlin helps Arthur to prevail in his wars against the Saxons. he uses his magic to construct Camelot. Shortly after the victorious Arthur has been betrayed by his queen, Guinevere, and his best friend, Sir Lancelot, Merlin mysteriously disappears leaving Arthur to find his own way out of his difficulties. The ancient legend of Merlin is fragmentary and sometimes self-contradictory, because it was assembled from a variety of sources over a long span of time, but we can sketch out the most important details in the mythical life of Merlin with some assurance. One which conspired about the birth of the antichrist by sexually uniting a mortal woman with a demon to produce an unnatural offspring. A particularly devout family was selected and made to suffer torments in order to weaken the faith of its members. One by one they died horrible deaths, until at last only a young woman remained. She placed herself under the protection of the Church, but in a moment of despair opened herself to the intrusion of the demon. The child Merlin was the result of this union. Merlin was destined to be the Antichrist, but the quick action of the woman s confessor, a priest named Blayse, prevented this outcome. When the child was born, his mother protested to her holy protectors that she had not had sex with any man. Immediately the child was baptized, and by this act placed Merlin under the protection of Christ and gave him a new destiny. Even as an infant, Merlin showed signs of his demonic origins. He saved the life of his mother from her enemies, and displayed his prophetic gifts by proclaiming the dark family secrets of those who accused his mother of sorcery. At that time, Vortigen was king of the Britons. The king was greatly troubled by a mysterious difficulty while trying to build a stone tower on a projection of ground surrounded by a lake that was to act as the tower s natural defensive moat. The foundation of the tower appeared solid enough, but every night the ground beneath the tower would shake and cast down all the stones that had been placed the day before. Vortigen consulted with his diviners. They told him that it would be necessary to bathe the foundation of the tower in the freshly-spilled blood of a child that never had a father. Agents were sent across the land in search of such a child. They came by Merlin just as the young seer was being driven away by a group of boys who were loudly declaring that they would not play with Merlin because he had no father. The men of the king viewed this as a sign that they had found they child that they were in search of. Merlin amazed Vortigen by fearlessly telling the king that he was aware of the fate Vortigen was king of the Britons. The king was greatly troubled by a mysterious difficulty while trying to build a stone tower on a projection of ground surrounded by a lake that was to act as the tower s natural defensive moat. The foundation of the tower appeared solid enough, but every night the ground beneath the tower would shake and cast down all the stones that had been placed the day before. Vortigen consulted with his diviners. They told him that it would be necessary to bathe the foundation of the tower in the freshly-spilled blood of a child that never had a father. Agents were sent across the land in search of such a child. They came by Merlin just as the young seer was being driven away by a group of boys who were loudly declaring that they would not play with Merlin because he had no father. The men of the king viewed this as a sign that they had found they child that they were in search of. Merlin amazed Vortigen by fearlessly telling the king that he was aware of the fate Merlin, along with Uther, led an expedition to Ireland to procure the stones of the Chorea Gigantum, the Giant Ring. Merlin, by the use of his extraordinary powers, brought the stones back to a sight, just west of Amesbury, and re-erected them around the mass grave of the British nobles. We now call this place Stonehenge. This tale gives indication to how highly he was regarded as a worker of magic. Uthur developed an irrational passion for Yguerne, the beautiful wife of the duke of Cornwell. He came to Merlin to change his appearance to resemble the duke. He then made love to Yguerne. On the same night the duke died, and Arthur was conceived. At birth the baby was given to Merlin, who placed him in a foster home. After Arthur proved his royal blood by drawing the sword from the stone, Merlin informed the young man of his royal origins and helped him attain the throne. For years Merlin continued to act as court soothsayer and advisor to Arthur, as he had done for Uther. Merlin Abruptly vanished from Camelot and was never again seen in human flesh. There are various accounts of Merlin s disappearance. The most popular states that Merlin was seduced and betrayed by a beautiful undine (water spirit) named Nimue. She first tricked Merlin into teaching her magic, then cast him into a magic sleep and imprisoned him, still alive, in a tomb of stone. Sometimes this undine is described as a princess, and is called different names in various tales. Another claims that Merlin was imprisoned by his spirit lover in a prison of air, where he r4emains invisible, but can still hear and see everything that goes on around him. One legend even says he forgot about the seat that was reserved for whoever found the Holy Grail at the Round Table and sat in it only to be instantly swallowed by the earth, like many other sinful men had done before him. Common to most of the accounts of Merlin s end is the assertion that he did not die, but continues to live in a walking dream to this day. If Merlin did exist, he was very likely a Welsh bard and soothsayer. The Welsh legends of Merlin characterize him as poet and musician. It is also likely that he was a druid. The druids were a Celtic priest-cast in England, So great was the reverence, fear an respect of the common people, that a druid walking between two warring armies could halt the battle. Eventually the druids degenerated into little more than a society of Celtic poets. The modern belief is that the wisdom of Merlin stemmed, not from some supernatural coupling between a demon and a women, but from long years of training as a druid. Druids were famed for their ability to create poetry spontaneously to suit ant occasion, and for the superhuman memories. The fable that Merlin was the child of a demon form hell is a slander of the church. It was most likely based on an older Celtic legend that Merlin was the product between a god and a woman. In one later version of the tale, Merlin s father is supposed to have been a glorious supernatural being who appeared to his mother in her dreams. It was a common Celtic belief that magicians were the product of unions between sprits and mortal women. the same belief was held by the ancient Greeks regarding their heroes such as Hercules, but instead of magic powers these Greek heroes were gifted with warrior skills. Girls born from such sorcery was considered by the Greek to be unmanly or dishonorable. the Celts had no such prejudices against magic. When all the stories concerning Merlin s supernatural birth and miraculous powers are stripped away, it seems as though a druid named Merlin (or a similar name) did live around the fifth century in Wales, and did serve as the soothsayer and advisor to a local Celtic king. more than this cannot be said. If Merlin was a real man and not simply a legend, the fame that surrounds his memory in later years is a testimony to his achievements and authority during his lifetime. Merlin s greatest power was fabled to be his ability to see events in the future. It was this gift of sight that made him so valuable t Arthur and the other kings he served.. We do not know for certain what methods Merlin used in his foretelling tales, but in many accounts Merlin is refereed to as using a crystal ball. Crystal scrying was in widespread use in Roman times, so it is quit possible that Merlin did employ a crystal. There is no sign that the legend of Merlin is fading into history. Just the opposite, it grows stronger with each passing year. Merlin has become a kind of demigod of magic, a hero9 for all modern magicians to inmatate and admire. he comes to life each time the tales of his exploits are told, and between the telling of his story he sleeps, but will never die.