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Merlin – The Man behind the Myth

Merlin reads his prohecies to King Vortigern. British Library MS Cotton Claudius B VII f.224, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Prophetiae Merlini. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (PD)

Merlin reads his prohecies to King Vortigern. British Library MS Cotton Claudius B VII f.224, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Prophetiae Merlini. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (PD)

Graham Phillips, author of King Arthur: The True Story, shares findings of his research on the historical origin of Merlin. Via Graham Phillips.net

From the time the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century, until the Norman Conquest of 1066, civilization fell apart in Britain, and the country endured an era of chaos and warfare known as the Dark Ages.  Few written records have survived from this time; consequently, the fifth century, when Arthur and Merlin are said to have lived, is an historical period steeped in mystery.  The records that do survive only provide a rough outline of events, and most contemporary figures went completely unrecorded.  Although, like Arthur, Merlin is mentioned in a few surviving Dark Age manuscripts, he is only referenced in passing.  The first author to provide any actual detail concerning Merlin’s life was the Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote in the 1130s.  In his History of the British Kings Geoffrey introduces Merlin by saying that he first proved himself as a youth when a British king named Vortigern chose him as a sacrifice.  According to Geoffrey, Vortigern was building a fort on a mountain in North Wales to protect his kingdom from the invading Anglo-Saxons, but each time the fort was close to completion the foundations mysteriously collapsed.  Vortigern’s advisors suggest that to put things right a boy must be sacrificed, and victim they pick is the young Merlin.  However, just as Merlin is about to die, he tells the king that the problems are being caused by two dragons that dwell in a pool, in a cave below the fort’s foundations.  When the pool is discovered and the dragons released, Vortigern is so impressed by Merlin’s mystic knowledge that he makes him his chief advisor and offers him the new fort as his own.   Although this story is obviously an imaginative legend, a Dark Age manuscript records a similar story which reveals an historical figure behind the Merlin myth.

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