Merlin the Magician

Merlin the Magician

A Story by avant security guard

a fragment of an old epic--I have been studying King Arthur tales, and Celtic language and myths--I have read Mort D'Arthur--the King Arthur story, his faithless Queen and her affairs


I have chased King Arthur from Wales to Brittany, and back again. I do not know if he speaks Cornish, Breton, of Welsh.

South Wales is just across the channel from Brittany.

Here is mentioned, in a very, very old lais, Gwendolin, by another name, but she seems the same.


The Life of Merlin

By Geoffrey of Monmouth


Part 1


Now, many years and many kings had come and gone. Merlin the Briton was famous throughout the world as king and prophet. He was law-giver to the proud South Welsh, and he foretold the future to their leaders.

A time came when it happened that a quarrel arose among several of the princes of the realm. In a savage war they had ravaged the unoffending populace in city after city. Peredur, prince of the North Welsh, was campaigning against Gwenddolau, who ruled the kingdom of Scotland. The day fixed for battle had arrived, and the commanders had taken the field. Their troops had begun the struggle, and on both sides alike men fell in the tragic slaughter.

Merlin had come to the war with Peredur, and so, too, had Rodarch, king of the Cumbrians, fierce fighters both. They killed the enemy before them with their dread swords; and three brothers of the prince, who had followed him to the wars, were everywhere in the fight, killing, and destroying the battle lines. So fiercely and impetuously did they rush through the dense ranks that they were soon struck down and killed.



Part 2


So Merlin came to himself, recollected what he had been, and thought of his madness with astonishment and loathing. His normal state of mind returned, and his power of feeling, too. His reason thus restored, he could sigh aloud at the names of his sister and his wife and be moved by their devotion. He begged to be taken back to the court of King Rodarch. His companion agreed. They set off at once from the woods and came in cheerful company together to the city of the king.

Then the queen was glad to have her brother again, and his wife overjoyed at her husband's home-coming. They vied in kissing him, flinging their arms about his neck in deep affection. The king, too, welcomed the returned wanderer with every due honour; and all the nobles who thronged the palace celebrated in the city.

But when Merlin saw such crowds of people there, he could not bear them. He went mad; and once more his derangement filled him with a desire to go off to the forest, and he longed to slip away. At that, Rodarch ordered him to be held under guard and music to be played on the guitar to calm his madness. He went sadly to him and begged and prayed him to be reasonable, to stay with him and not hanker after the forest and an animal life under the trees, when he might wield a royal sceptre and rule a nation of warriors. The king promised, besides, that he would make him many gifts. He ordered clothes to be brought, and hunting birds, and dogs and fast horses; gold, glittering gems and cups wrought by Wayland in the city of Segontium. All this Rodarch brought to the prophet, urging him to stay and forget the woods.

But the prophet rejected the presents in these words: "Let these things go to lords hard-pressed by poverty, such as are not content with modest living but covet everything. But I put above these things the woodland and spreading oaks of Calidon, the high hills, the green meadows at their foot-those are for me, not these things. Take back such goods, King Rodarch. My nut-rich forest of Calidon shall have me: I desire it above all else."

At last, finding that no gift would detain this sullen man, the king ordered him to be stoutly chained to prevent him setting off for the forest wilderness, if freed. The prophet felt the chains about him, and saw no way to be free to get to the woods of Calidon. He immediately fell into a gloom and stayed silent. His face lost its liveliness: not a word, not a smile would he vouchsafe. Just then the queen was walking through the hail looking for the king. He greeted her graciously as she approached, took her by the hand and begged her to sit down. He put his arm about her and kissed her; and in doing so he turned his head and saw a leaf hanging caught in her hair. So he reached up, pulled it out and threw it on the ground, with a cheerful joking word to his wife.

The prophet turned his eyes on this scene, and laughed. It made the men standing nearby turn to look at him in surprise, since he had been refusing to laugh. The king was also surprised, and pressed the madman to account for his unexpected laughter; and he reinforced his words with many gifts.

Merlin stayed silent, and avoided an explanation of his laughter. Rodarch continued to press him more and more, adding presents to prayers. At length the prophet grew angry at his generosity and said: "A gift is what a miser loves and a grasping man works hard to get. Such men are corruptible by presents and will turn their shallow minds whichever way they are told, because what they have is not enough for them. But for me the acorns of pleasant Calidon are enough, and the sparkling streams that run through fragrant meadows. Let the miser take his gifts: gifts do not buy me. Unless I get my freedom and may go back to the green woodland valleys, I shall refuse to explain my laughter."

So, since Rodarch had failed to change the prophet's mind by any gift or discover why he had laughed, he ordered the chains to be struck off at once and gave him permission to leave for the forest wilderness, so as to make him willing to give the explanation for which the king was eager. Merlin, his spirits rising because he could now leave, then said:

"The reason I laughed, Rodarch, was that in one and the same act you earned both approval and disapproval. When just now you pulled out the leaf the queen unknowingly had in her hair, you were more faithful to her than she had been to you when she crept into the undergrowth, where her lover met her and lay with her. As she lay there, a leaf fallen by chance caught in her loosened hair. You plucked it out, unknowing."

The moment Rodarch heard this grave charge, he was filled with gloomy anger. He turned his face from her and cursed the day he had married her. But she, unperturbed, hid her shame behind a smile and addressed her husband thus:

"Why so gloomy, my love? Why so angry over this, and so unjust in your blame of me, and why do you believe a lunatic who muddles lies and truth together because he is out of his wits? Anyone who believes him becomes many times more fool than he. Now watch, and, if I am not mistaken, I shall prove that he is talking nonsense and has not told the truth."

Among many others in the hall there was one particular boy. This clever woman noticed him and then and there thought of an ingenious trick to show up her brother. She called the boy over and asked her brother to predict the death the boy would die. So her brother said to her: "Dearest sister, when he is a man, this lad will die by falling from a high rock."

The queen smiled at this, and then told the boy to go away, take off the clothes he was wearing and put on others, and cut off his long hair. She told him that he was then to come in again, looking like another person. The boy did what he was told, for he returned to them in different clothes, as instructed. After a little while, the queen once more appealed to her brother, saying, "My dear, tell your sister what the death of this one will be."

Merlin said, "When this boy grows up, he will meet a violent death in a tree though misjudgment."

So he spoke. The queen, addressing her husband, said, "Has this false prophet been able to deceive you so far that you could think I had committed such a great crime as this? If you consider how much sense there is in what he has just said about this boy, you will realise that what he has said about me has been made up so that he can be off to the woods. As if I would do such a thing! I shall keep my bed chaste, and chaste shall I ever be while there is breath in me. I showed him up in questioning him about the boy's death. I shall now show him up again: you must watch and judge." So saying, she whispered to the boy to go out, dress himself in woman's clothes and then come back. He soon after slipped away and quickly carried out her instructions. He returned dressed in woman's clothing, looking like a girl. He came and stood in front of Merlin, to whom the queen said jokingly, "Well, brother, tell me of the death of this girl."

"Girl or not," said her brother to her, "she will die in a river."

This made Rodarch laugh loudly at his powers of reasoning. For to a question about the death of a single boy he had given three predictions. Consequently, he thought Merlin had spoken falsely about his wife, and would not believe him. He bitterly regretted having believed him earlier and having condemned his wife. Seeing this, the queen forgave him. She kissed and caressed him and made him happy again.

Meanwhile Merlin was thinking of his journey to the woods: he left the house and ordered the gates to be opened. But his sister came and stood in the way. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she begged him to remain with her and put aside his wild ideas. But he was determined and would not give up his plans. He continued to try to open the doors and strove to leave. He raged, he fought, and his raging forced the servants to open. At last, when all had failed to turn him from his resolution to leave, the queen sent for Guendoloena, who was elsewhere, to come as quickly as possible to see him depart. She came, she went on her knees to beg her husband to remain. But he rejected her pleas-he would not stay, and he would not look at her in his usual cheerful way. She was hurt; she dissolved into tears, tore her hair, scratched her cheeks and collapsed on the ground as though dying.

At the sight of this the queen said to him, "See, it is Guendoloena, dying for you here-what shall she do? Is she to re-marry? Do you tell her to remain as a widow?--or to go with you wherever you travel? She will go with you to the forest and will be happy to live in the green forest clearings, if only she can keep your love."

To this speech the prophet replied, "[Sister, I do not want a cow that pours water in as broad a stream as the Virgin's Urn in flood. Nor shall I change my care as Orpheus once did when Eurydice gave her baskets to the boys to hold before she swam across the sandy Styx.] I shall remain clear of both of you and undestroyed by love. So let her have her due chance of marriage and choose of her own accord whom she shall wed. But let the man who weds her take care he never gets in my path or comes near me. Let him tread another road. For should it chance he meets me, he may feel my flashing sword. Yet when the day comes for the solemn joining in marriage and the elaborate banquet is set before the guests, I myself shall be there, provided with fine gifts, and shall endow Guendoloena handsomely when she is given away in marriage." He finished speaking, and, saying farewell to each of them as he went, set out for the woods he loved: no-one stopped him. Guendoloena stayed sadly watching in the doorway, the queen beside her. Both were moved by the fate of their dear one. They thought how remarkable it was that a man deranged should have so much secret knowledge and that he had been aware of his own sister's love affair. Still, they thought he had lied about the boy's death, in speaking of three deaths when he ought to have spoken of only one. So for many long years his pronouncement seemed an empty one, until the boy himself reached manhood. Then its force became universally apparent, and many were convinced.

While hunting with a pack of dogs, the youth saw a stag hiding in the forest undergrowth. He unleashed the dogs: at the sight of the stag they tore upwards along the rough tracks, filling the air with their baying. He spurred his horse in pursuit, directing the huntsmen by sounding his horn and by shouting, and urged them to come on with greater speed.

There was a high hill, ringed with rocks, with a river running across the plain at its foot. The quarry crossed the hill and fled towards the river in search of its usual type of cover. The young man pressed on and took a straight course over the mountain, looking for the stag among the scattered rocks. But, in his headlong course, his horse happened to slip and went over a high precipice, and its rider plunged down the steep cliff slope into the river. But he fell in such a way that one foot caught in a tree and the rest of his body was submerged in the flowing stream. So then, he fell-he was drowned-he hung from a tree; and by his triple death he proved the prophet a true one.


© 2016 avant security guard

Author's Note

avant security guard
it is rough going
skim through it, then read from the bottom up--this might help

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Added on November 4, 2016
Last Updated on November 4, 2016
Tags: romance, epic, celts, King Arthur


avant security guard
avant security guard

Atlantica, NY

actor, artist, filmmmaker, novelist, novelost, wegetonabus--among pen names: Ebooks by John Blandly Smashwords home page Nook home page .. more..