Thursday, November 19, 2009

BBC - Merlin: The Legend

It was the little-known clergyman Geoffrey of Monmouth who first wrote about Merlin in the 12th century in his book The History of the Kings of Briton. Merlin is also a re-appearing figure in the famous Black Book of Carmarthen, which was written 750 years ago. In other medieval texts, it seems Merlin's character becomes more established and art historian Peter Lord says the reappearing character of an old, bearded man in a long gown makes him seem like a "medieval hoody".

Stories about Merlin have also been linked to the creation of Stonehenge

During the time of the Tudors, it is thought the character of Merlin and King Arthur were used to bring stability to the country after the wars of the Roses. This is demonstrated in Thomas Malory's epic Le Morte D'Arthur. Here Merlin is depicted as an advisor to his king and a stabilising influence from the old world in the tumultuous modern times.

In the 17th and 18th Centuries, a growing interest in ancient Britain led to Merlin being depicted as a druid and bardic figure in both literature and art.

And in the 19th Century, as the world went industrial, Merlin was depicted more as a romantic figure. He is overwhelmed by the seductive wiles of a woman in stories and art.

So, was there a real Merlin and how can we distinguish the man from the legend?

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