Keeping Tryst: A Tale of King Arthurs Time
Taliesin guided Merlin to the spring, and when he drank the water, his sanity had returned to him. The healing spring became known as the fountain of Barenton. Upon hearing of Merlin being healed of madness, the people of Demetae Dyved wanted the prophet to become their ruler, but he refused on the ground that he was old. One day, Merlin met another madman in the forest, whom he recognised to be Maeldin. The prophet brought his friend to the magical spring, curing and restoring Maeldin's sanity.
At that same time, Ganieda was overcome with a frenzy that gave her the ability to foretell the future. The tale ended with Merlin announcing that his retirement as a prophet, and that his sister had taken over his task. The Vita Merlini was derived from early Welsh and Scottish sources, which also tell of man gone mad, where he became the "wild man of the woods", and later became a prophet. Geoffrey adopted the stories of Lailoken and Myrddin. Myrddin was a fictional bard and seer, who supposedly lived around the year AD The earliest reference to Myrddin comes from Armes Prydain Prophecy of Britain from the 10th century, where he foretold the future of Britain.
Myrddin was also in a number of poems in the Black Book of Carmarthen , a Welsh manuscript of In each poem, part of it deals with the legend of Myrddin, while other part of poem deals with the prophecy of Britain. In this poem called Afallenau "Apple Trees" , we find that Myrddin had been hiding from Rhydderch's men among the apples trees. Though, Gwenddydd Ganieda was Myrddin's sister, she was married to Rhydderch, whose son he had killed. As the narrator of the poem, his name is not given.
Myrddin was horrified of the slaughter of his people and the death of his chieftain, Gwenddolau Gwendoleu, or Guennolous in Latin at the battle of Arfderydd probably in Cumbria. Gwenddolau was the son of Ceidio, and he was a chieftain in the Welsh-speaking North Scottish Lowland. Mryddin hid in the forest from the men of Rhydderch. Although, warriors were all around in the woods, the apple tree that he sat perch on the branch, hid him from Rhydderch's men.
In the poem Oianau , Myrddin lamented the death of Gwenddolau, his lord, and of how low he had fallen. Isolated from his peers, with only a small pig for company, Myrddin talked to the pig as if he was human. Here, the poem had for the first time, mentioned the name Arfderydd as the place of the battle. Again, we still haven't seen Myrrdin's name in this poem. The narrator of the poem Myrddin talk of the prophecy.
The poem involved the discussion between Merlin and the great mythical bard Taliesin , over several battles and some prophecies over Britain. Overwhelmed with remorse from the death of his sister's son, Myrddin fled to the Coed Celyddon Caledonian Forest in Scotland , where madness overcame him and he lived as the "wild man of the woods". Myrddin found sanctuary among the Apple Trees, where he hid from the men of Rhydderch. It was during his madness that Myrddin became gifted with the prophecy. Myrddin foretell a less than bright future for the Welsh people. At the end of the poem, Gwenddydd urged her brother to accept communion from God before he died, but Myrddin refused to receive communion from excommunicated monks.
If he was to take any communion, he would receive one, directly from God.
It is in this dialogue, that we will find that his father was named Morfryn. We also find out that Myrddin and Gwenddydd are twins. The part that mentioned "Merlin went mad", was most likely a late addition to this line. In the Scottish legend of Lailoken, he went mad when he heard voices from heaven in the middle of a battle.
Le Morte d'Arthur
Lailoken foretold many events including the death of a king and his own doom. The queen's shepherds murdered Lailoken. It is amazing of the similarity of Geoffrey's work with these other legends, yet the tale of Merlin Calidonius in Vita Merlin conflict with the events of Merlin Ambrosius in Historia regum Britanniae.
Some experts and scholars suggested that Geoffrey may have been be writing about two different Merlins. The time different between Merlin Ambrosius with Vortigern and Merlin Calidonius was over a hundred years. Which is also quite possible. Strangely enough, Merlin or Myrddin doesn't appear in any of the Welsh narratives in the Mabinogion. The sorcerer who appeared in the Mabinogion that have any superficial resemblance to Myrddin is Menw fab Teirgwaedd, or Menw son of Teirwaedd. Menw is wizard and one of the advisers of Arthur. I have already mentioned that Geoffrey of Monmouth had told of Merlin's incredible birth in Historia regum Britanniae c.
Geoffrey doesn't actually go into great detail on the account about Merlin's birth, but Merlin had appeared as boy when Vortigern tried to build his castle in Wales, but the walls would always collapse the next day. See House of Constantine about Merlin and Vortigern. Geoffrey's episode was not very detailed. So it rest on other writers to flesh out his legendary birth. Layamon added a little bit of detail to his birth. Perhaps the most detailed account can be found in the Prose Merlin c. The story had changed to account for the wizard's role in the Grail legend.
The wizard was also a prophet who knows of the past and present, as well of the future. I like to apologise for telling of Merlin's birth, here rather than at the beginning of this page. I thought it would be best to tell this account here, in relation to his involvement with the Grail, in the next two articles. The tale actually began with a rich man, who lost his family and wealth, because he was tormented by the devil, demon or incubus.
This part of the tale, sort resembled the Biblical Book of Job , except it wasn't so much as test, as the devil's determination to destroy every soul in this family. This man had a large, rich land, a wife, a son and three daughters. To keep it brief, the devil first destroyed his livestock and cattle, which had greatly distressed the man. Then the demon strangled his son in bed. His son's death caused great sorrow in the household that with prompting from the demon the man's wife hanged herself.
Struck by this double tragedy, the devastated man never recovered from his melancholy, fallen ill and died. The demon wasn't satisfied, so he turned his attention on to the man's three daughters. The middle child was the first to succumb to temptation. She was caught committing adultery with a squire, and was buried alive for her sin. The surviving two daughters sought help from a priest, who was a confessor and a clerk, named Blaise also called Bleheris or Bleise in Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur , The good priest suspected that the family had been tempted by the devil, so he tried to counsel the two sisters to lead on the right path to God's salvation, through prayers and penances, and by avoiding sins.
At first, the demon's plan to destroy the rest of the family was disrupted by the priest, but the demon could not be denied. With cunning, the devil sent a woman to lure the youngest sister to sin and damnation. The woman advised the sister it would be wrong to lead a life without a man and sex. But the younger sister's fear of sharing the fate of her older sister who had committed adultery. The older woman told the maiden that to avoid punishment of the law, the sister should take on many lovers, by becoming a whore.
So the youngest sister sold her soul to the devil, when she started sleeping with every man in town. When the oldest sister found out what had happened to her younger sibling, she was distressed and fearful that she would also fall into temptation. So she sought help from the good priest again. The priest was amazed at the news of the younger sister's debauchery.
So the priest advised the young woman that she must avoid sin and believe in God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. She must pray each evening, and cross herself before going to bed. Blaise warned the girl to avoid anger or wrath, which was the easiest sin to fall into. So the young woman lived a life of prayers and chastity. Frustrating the demon's plan for another two years. So the demon cleverly sent the woman's younger sister with her lovers to her house. The woman tried to get her sinful to leave her home, but she refused.
The young woman became upset with her sister's sinful behaviour, and became increasingly angry that she soon forgot Blaise's wise warning to avoid wrath. Her sister's lovers started beating her, until she managed to escape. The woman fled to her room, and locked herself in from her sister's and her sister's lovers.
Distressed and angry, she collapsed on her bed, weeping until she fell asleep, but she forgot to pray and commend herself to God, by crossing herself. The devil, which was really an incubus, saw that the woman had forgotten the priest's warning and that she had sinned through anger. As she slept, the incubus came to her and had sex with her, causing her to conceive a child. When the woman woke she realised that she had lost her virginity, and couldn't figure out how, since all her doors and windows were locked from the inside.
She took her problem to Blaise, who did not think it was possible for to lose her virginity without knowing whom her lover were. So the priest thought she was lying. Yet, the woman was adamant that she had not committed any cardinal sin. Still, the priest was willing to help her, providing that she hadn't lied in her confession, so he placed her on penance. Blaise told her to send for him, if she was ever in trouble with the law because of mysterious pregnancy.
The priest as a precaution wrote down when she had lost her virginity. So she tried to live a life of penance, but soon she discovered that she was pregnant, and couldn't hide her condition from the others. The young woman feared that she would have to face a similar death that of his younger adulterous middle sister of being buried alive. Soon the judge arrived in town and discovered that she was pregnant and the judge thought that she was lying that she couldn't identified her lover, so she was imprisoned, and mostly likely she would die the same way her sister did.
Fearing to die, she sent for her confessor. Blaise failed to persuade the judge to spare the unfortunate girl, so he asked for the postponement of her execution, allowing her to give birth to the child; at least until the child was able to eat by itself.
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The judge agreed to the priest's proposal. The girl was imprisoned, and two women were to share her cell, to help with delivery and the care of the pregnant woman. Blaise told the unfortunate damsel that she should have the child immediately baptize after giving birth, before the priest departed. Months had passed, and the two women helped her delivered the child. They were all shocked and frightened to see her son was so hairy like a wild animal.
The young mother remembering her confessor's advice, so she told them to send her son to be baptised. She named the child after her unfortunate father, Merlin. No women in her town were willing to nurse Merlin, because they feared him. The devil had planned that this child of his would become the Antichrist that the Book of Revelation had foretold. However, the devil defeated his own plan, when the newborn baby was baptised, which free the child from being a demonic monster.
So months have past, as she raised her son in the prison cell, until the eighteenth month. The two women finally decided that it was time for them to leave, but leaving would mean that the young mother would be executed soon. No matter how she would plead, they refused to stay any longer, now that her son could walk and eat by himself.
As the two women were petitioning to leave, Merlin tried to comfort his mother by telling her that he would save her from execution. Stunned that her son could talk, she dropped him on the floor, causing him to wail. The women returned, where the mother told them that her son could speak.
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The women thought she was mad and trying to kill her own son. Her son did not say anything. The three women tried to trick Merlin into speaking, but he wasn't fooled, but he again tried to comfort his mother. When news of this wonder became public, the judges had decided that it would be time to execute the mother. When she was brought before the judges, Merlin's mother continued to plea her innocence, saying that she never saw the man who had sex with her while she slept.
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The judges didn't believe that was possible. So Merlin intervened on his mother's behalf. All the judges were amazed that the boy could talk at this age. Merlin challenged the chief judge that if need be, he would prove everyone's guilt and his mother's innocence. Merlin told the judge that he knew of the judge's father better than he did.
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Merlin told the judge that if he could prove her innocence, then the judge must spared his mother Merlin's ; the chief judge agreed, but warned that if he failed then Merlin would share his mother's fate. So the execution of Merlin's mother was delayed until they can be bring judge's mother before the judges, to prove Merlin's abilities. Merlin tried to persuade the adamant judge to free his mother without revealing the secret of the chief judge's true father, because he knew that the chief judge may not like what he hear.
But the judge stubbornly insisted Merlin to prove to him, who is his real father. So when the chief judge's mother arrived, Merlin revealed to everyone that the judge's father had not died, because his real father was a priest, whom the judge's mother had committed adultery. Everyone thought that the judge was the son of his mother's husband, and no one suspected that the judge was really the son of the priest. The colour drained from the mother's face, as she weakly deny the accusation of adultery from a boy, who was no more than 18 months old.
She thought Merlin was the devil. Merlin also mentioned that she had continued to have her long, secret affair with the priest to this present day, because she had most recently slept with priest, as late as last night. In despair, the judge's mother pleaded with her son for mercy, since she had confessed that her accuser was right.
The judge realised that everything Merlin had told them was the truth. The judge acquitted Merlin's mother of all charges, since he could not condemn his own mother, who had been secretly committing adultery. The judge asked who Merlin's father really was, and Merlin reply that his father was incubus, a demon who could entered a locked house and ravished his mother while she slept. For this reason, Merlin had a great deal of power, which included ability to see everything of the past. Yet, he also revealed that since his mother's goodness and frequent prayers to God, as well as his baptism after birth, this allowed Merlin to break his tie with demonic father, but still retained this awesome power of foresight.
God also gave Merlin the power to see into the future. Then Merlin privately talked to the judge, revealing that the judge's mother will go to the priest with the news of the revelation. The priest would fear the judge and flee into the woods, before drowning in a pond. Merlin urged the judge to send two men to follow the judge's mother, to prove without doubt of his power. The judge did what Merlin advised him to do, sending two men to secretly follow his mother, who went to the priest.
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As Merlin had predicted, the priest thought that now the secret was out, the judge would probably have him tried and executed, so the priest fled from his home, into the woods. Since the devil had used the priest to commit sin, with the judge's mother, now demon hounded him to commit suicide. Rather than go through the ignoble execution that he thought he would receive from his own son, the priest leaped into the lake.
The two men witnessed the priest's death and returned to the judge with the news of his father's death, everything as Merlin had predicted. The judge now believed all that Merlin had claimed, naming him wise. When Merlin departed with his mother, Blaise decided to accompany the prodigy. Blaise tried to test Merlin's remarkable abilities, yet the priest was fearful of his power.
Merlin reassured Blaise that it was God's will that he retained his ability of the devil to see the true past, but the devil's hold on Merlin was broken, when Merlin's mother had followed Blaise's own advice, having Merlin baptised at birth. Blaise became Merlin's life long friend. It was said that Blaise was the chronicler of the reign of Arthur and the high adventure of the Holy Grail. Blaise otherwise known as Bleheris was also said to be either Welsh or Breton poet, who composed the lost archetype legend of Tristan , which the poet Beroul and Thomas may have used as their source for their own poems.
Yet despite Merlin' assurance to the words that he work on behalf of God and Jesus Christ, some people were still suspicious because he was the son of the devil, so many still didn't trust him, including the Lady of the Lake. It was Geoffrey who invented the episode of Arthur's magical conception and birth. When Uther fell in love with Gorlois' wife, Igraine , Merlin helped the king, by transforming Uther to resemble Gorlois duke of Cornwall.
When Gorlois died, Uther married Igraine, but she was already pregnant. According to the earlier authors about Arthur Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace and Layamon , apart from his involvement in the incident of Arthur's conception and Merlin's foretelling of the Britons defeating the Saxon with the help of the future king Arthur , Merlin was never present during Arthur's reign. However, many later writers say that Merlin was involved in Arthur's education. Antor was the father of Kay , later a knight who served as his foster brother's seneschal.
When Uther died it was Merlin who informed the barons of Logres that only a person, who could draw the sword from the stone, would be the rightful king. Merlin was largely responsible for putting the crown on Arthur's head. Some lords were discontent when only Arthur could draw the sword. Merlin was also involved with Arthur, providing strategy to win the war against the rebel barons. When Arthur broke this sword that had named him king in a fight with King Pellinor Pellehen , Merlin brought Arthur to the lake where he received a new sword from the Lady of the Lake. Merlin told the young king that the scabbard was better than the sword, because it would prevent him from bleeding from his wounds.
Merlin wasn't only an adviser to Arthur. In the Didot Perceval , he aided Perceval in several adventures. Merlin foretold of the greatness of Lancelot and Tristan, though Merlin had died shortly after Lancelot was born. Merlin was heavily involved with the Grail in later legend. In Boron's one of trilogy, Merlin c. Merlin had modelled the table from the Grail Table created by Joseph of Arimathea , centuries earlier. According to the legend, Blaise was responsible for the chronicle of Arthur and the Grail. Blaise was also a confessor of Merlin's mother, at Merlin's conception and was still alive when Arthur's Golden Age had fallen apart.
This seat was called Siege Perilous. Only the pure and best knight in the world could sit on the Siege Perilous. The knight who sat on the Siege Perilous would also be the eventual champion of the quest for the Holy Grail. Merlin became Perceval's adviser in the quest. Merlin had disappeared shortly after Lancelot was born and long before Galahad's time. Merlin continued his usual role in the later legend as a prophet. In Suite du Merlin Post Vulgate romance , during the time of Balin's adventure, Merlin foretold a lot of events that had to do with the Quest.
The wounding of the Grail King was known as the Dolorous Stroke. The Dolorous Stroke not only maimed the king loved by God, but had devastated and lay waste to the kingdom of Listinois, and placed a great enchantment upon Logres Britain. Merlin foretold particular events surrounding the Grail quests. Apart from that, Merlin had foretold the greatness of Lancelot and Tristan , the two greatest lovers of the ages, as well as their great duel they would fight.
Merlin had foreseen that Arthur desire to marry Guinevere would one day bring ruin to Arthur and the kingdom, yet he was powerless to dissuade Arthur from the love match. Merlin also foretold the treachery of Morgan le Fay, who stole Excalibur from her brother Arthur. Merlin foretold the death of Balin, Pellinor and Arthur.
Last of all, Merlin foretold his own death, at the hand of the Lady of the Lake. One day, a young stranger walked up to the stone and pulled the sword from it effortlessly. The peasants cheered because they finally had a king again. In some stories, the sword that Arthur pulls from the stone is Excalibur. In others, he is given Excalibur after he breaks his first sword. This sword comes from a woman known as the Lady of the Lake , a mysterious, nymphlike person eternally associated with the magical island of Avalon.
Arthur goes out onto the lake in a barge, and the Lady called anything from Nimue to Viviane in various stories stretches her hand up from the lake holding the sword. In some stories, Merlin, a wise old magician, appears at this point in Arthur's life, while in others he appears in Arthur's childhood. Like the Lady of the Lake, he's often associated with Avalon and also with pagan legends, but he's sometimes depicted as a prophet of the Holy Grail as well. After Arthur becomes king, he builds Camelot , a castle stronghold.
In order to fight the evil forces still sacking and pillaging the countryside, he recruits the best knights in the country to join him. These knights become the Knights of the Round Table. Some knights appear again and again in the legends and have stories of their own, apart from Arthur , including Lancelot, Gawain, Bedevere and Galahad. During his travels, Arthur meets and marries a beautiful young woman named Guinevere. After Arthur and his knights defeat all outsiders and calm reigns over Britain, there is a period of peace and happiness at a utopian Camelot. However, Lancelot , Arthur's most trusted knight and companion, falls in love with Queen Guinevere.
In some versions of the legend, this secret affair is what leads to the fall of King Arthur and of Camelot. The affair is exposed, and Arthur goes to war with Lancelot after condemning Guinevere to death. In other tales, man named Mordred tries to take both the throne and Guinevere for himself. Sometimes this is with the assistance of Arthur's half-sister, a pagan named Morgan le Fay. Ultimately, Arthur and Mordred meet at the Battle of Camlann.