I’ve been kicking around some ideas of where Ethan can go after he finishes his current quests. I’ve been thinking about bringing one of the other characters to the fore for a couple of books. Then there’re my adult works, which deal a lot with magical folks with several characters having some type of innate magical ability outside of the weapons given to them by the gods. With that in mind, I went back into my stuff on Merlin to see what I could come up with. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve delved into these works, and I’m finding that I’ve missed them.
One of the most popular wizards in all of mythology is Merlin from the Arthurian legends. This figure is sometimes seen as a wise man and father-type figure to Arthur, but at other times he’s seen as something a bit more sinister. His origin is ambiguous at best, and his abilities vary depending on the source.
Merlin first appears in the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Here, he is a youth who never had a father and is brought to the attention of king Vortigern because the king needs the blood of a ‘youth without a father’ to build his tower. In this passage, Merlin’s mother speaks of a man who appeared and disappeared and got her with child, and the creature is identified as an incubus. Merlin, not wanting to be killed, informs the king that something else is causing his tower to fall. The workers dig beneath it and find this to be true. There was an underground pond and two dragons beneath that. Vortigern then admired Merlin.
In later years, Merlin is able to identify the king of Britain (Uther, after seeing a comet), and it is Merlin who causes Uther to look like Ygrain’s husband so he can lie with her. This begins the life of King Arthur, and it is in these legends that we see the most of Merlin. In most of these tales, the wizard is a wise father figure to the boy who becomes king, and it is Merlin who orchestrates the sword in the stone. However, if we watch the movie Excaliber (yeah, I know, it’s not mythology), we can see that Merlin here is much more sinister than the kindly wizard of many of the tales. I always think of Gandalf as just another version of Merlin, but not when compared to the wizard in Excaliber.
There are other legends concerning Merlin. In these Welsh tales he is called Myrddin and is a prophetic madman in the woods. Here, he has a wife and a sister, and his prophecies are true, yet laced with madness. Few of these tales are related to King Arthur in any way, and they’re a fascinating read for those who want a different take on this legendary wizard.
Merlin finally dies because he cannot control his lust for a woman (moral lesson for guys anyone?). She is called Morgana, Morgan le Fay, and other names, but, in the end, she wants Merlin’s power and isn’t above using her womanly wiles to get it.
Merlin appears in many other works, including the romances of Chretien de Troyes and Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Mallory, and just who he is changes from story to story. In some stories he’s a wise man, a wizard, someone who has all the answers. In other stories, he’s a conniving, somewhat morally ambiguous character who manipulates others for his own ends. There are even times when he’s considered to be a wild man, a madman, and lives deep in the woods. He’s a bard, a Druid, a failing old man with uncontrollable lust. He’s both British and Welsh, wise and foolish. He’s both great and fallible, and he’s one of the most fascinating characters in mythology and legend.