Tuesday 26 January 2016

Forget about Arthur -- Let's take a look at Merlin!

 Higitus Figitus zumbabazing! 

Today, I am going to blog about....
( Imagine John Hurt saying that - It makes it sound so much more majestic).

Oh my days...now here's a topic. I fear it will take more than one post to talk about this rather interesting chap.

Okay. Lets start with the basics...

When I think of Merlin, I think of several things.

1. He was a wizard.

(Maybe not this Wizzard, but you get the idea...I hope!)

2. He was Welsh

( A Welsh mountain.)

3. Colin Morgan


4. Myrddin Emrys 

( Colin Morgan again!) 

5.Higitus Figitus


Today, for simplicity's sake, I am going to look at the legend.

The name Emrys means immortal and that was exactly what Geoffrey of Monmouth did to Merlin when he wrote his wonderful  Historia Regum Britanniae. Which - we all know - is the most fascinating factual book ever to be written. Fascinating, yes. Factual...not so much. But then again, maybe one day someone will find Monmouth's mysteriously lost manuscript - where he claimed he got all of his sources from. Wouldn't it be marvellous if they did? Can you image the uproar that would cause?! Oh, I so want someone to find it. Hey, you know, that could be an interesting idea for a book - I could have fun with that! Monmouth's Lost Manuscript. Has a certain ring to it, don't you think? Watch this space...

Monmouth's, Merlin was incredibly popular. Particularly with the Welsh. The English may have some flimsy claim to Arthur, but the Welsh had Merlin and lets be honest - he was a far more interesting character than some knight who pulled a sword out of a stone.

Let me introduce you to Myrddin Wyllt (a.k.a. Myriddin the Wild / of the Woods / of Carmarthen). Now rumour has it, that Myriddin was driven mad by witnessing the horrors of war and he fled to the woods and became a bit of a wild-man. Monmouth had a very reliable source - here we go - he claimed to have the actual words of this mysterious hermit. Which he then tuned into a great work, which he aptly named Prophetiae Merlini (The Prophesy of Merlin).

Before we continue, we need to take a look quickly at Nennius works. Now Nennius famously listed Arthur's 12 battles, although he never mentioned that Arthur was a king. Who he did talk about was Aurelius Ambrosius...

....The British Warlord, Vortigern, was trying to erect a tower ( like you do), but the tower, for some unknown reason, always collapsed before completion. The solution was simple - all that was needed was the blood of a child born without a father - so simple, why did no one else think of that?! This meant they had to travel to a galaxy far far away, meet up with the Jedi -- hang on -- sorry -- wrong story....

...Luckily, for Vortigern and the tower, there was such a child. A boy called Ambrosius. He was brought before the king. He bravely told the king that the reason why the tower kept falling down was because the foundations were built on a lake where two dragons continuously fought each other. Obviously this was a not so subtle metaphor for the Saxon's and the Britons who were continuously fighting for dominance. The tower would not stand while Vortigern had the throne. It would only stand when Ambosius became king. Ambrosius then has the cheek to tell Vortigern to go away. Ambrosius says "I will stay here." I bet Vortigern didn't see that one coming.

But what has this got to do with Merlin?

Monmouth changed the story Nennius told -- such things happen now and then. The fatherless child is actually a prophetic bard, who goes by the name of Merlin.

Monmouth magically weaves Merlin into the stories of Arthur and his knights. And he states that it was Merlin that brought the stones for Stonehenge from the Preseil Hills. Stonehenge - according to Monmouth- is the burial place of Aurelius Ambrosius.

It was a good job Merlin knew a giant to help him build Stonehenge - I do not understand why archaeologists have never found any evidence for the giant race helping with Stonehenge - I mean, it makes sense and how hard can it be to find a giant's footprint?! I do not think they are looking hard enough.

 This depiction of Merlin and the giant can be found in the manuscript of Roman de Brut by Wace.

Monmouth is also responsible for the tale of how Arthur was conceived. If you are not familiar with it, you can read about it here. But to quickly recap... Merlin casts a magic spell on Uther Pendragon, changing his appearance so that he looks like Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. Uther creeps into the bedchamber of Gorlois's wife, Igrain, and begets her with child.

Monmouth caught, what I like to call, the King Arthur bug - I must warn you it is very contagious - He could not leave Merlin's story alone, just like he could not leave Arthur's. Merlin pops up again in Vita Merlini.

Once Monmouth finished his great works, that wasn't the end for Merlin and his story. In fact that old Wizard was just getting started. Keep an eye out for the next blog on Merlin and I will continue his tale...

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx